Monday, 1 July 2019

Seminar Planning

I was writing a reply to a former colleague's inquiry recently about running seminars. He was going to be charging his clients to attend his seminars, and I realised that I was about to give away my twelve years worth of experience without charging.

Instead I sent a response detailing what I could do to help.

However, I kept thinking about what it is that I have learned in that twelve years that now makes putting together lectures so, so easy.

I don't do a lesson plan. I use my PowerPoint structure to plan what I want to deliver. I print my notes pages out to take with me, which means that on a nice day I can ditch the slides and go outside with the group and enjoy some Dr Green. Those learning sessions are very, very 'sticky', and anything that helps learners to remember what is being delivered will add value. 

What are the key things that I do when using PowerPoint without even thinking about it? I decided to write a list. Then of course I decided to give it away anyway, by posting it on my blog, as follows:
  • The script does not equal the slide. The slide has fewer than 40 words. It is not what I say. The script goes in the Notes area, and is roughly what I will say, probably around 700 syllables, or 280 words
  • PowerPoint slides should have a max of 40 words/slide (Tufte, 2003)
  • Don’t go smaller than 24 font on the slide
  • Average timing is 2 mins talking/slide. BUT an absolute max of 20 slides in an hour (fewer is better - I aim for 20-25 slides for a two hour session including bibliography)
  • Break up each hour into 15 minute blocks of combined theory and activity. I tend to do 5-10 mins theory then 5-10 minutes activity for each quarter hour. A two hour session for example might look like: 10 mins intro – 5 mins activity – 5 mins theory – 10 mins case study & discussion – 10 mins theory - 5 mins quiz – 10 mins theory – 5 minute break. Rinse repeat.
Activities might include watching a video, reading a case, doing a third-party quiz, researching something in small groups, small group discussion, large group discussion, whiteboarding ideas, mind mapping, sociometrics, card sorts, student stories, or any combination of any of these.

Each activity needs to be chosen to build application of the theory that has just been taught. The combination followed by reporting back helps us reflect on what we have learned. And once we have reflected, then we have a framework that anchors that idea so it can be remembered and used as tool later.

Then learning is interactive, easier to absorb, and should be fun.

  • Reference: Tufte, E. R. (2003). The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within. Cheshire CT, USA: Graphics Press LLC.

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