Have you ever been really psyched about attending a lecture only to find yourself falling asleep or losing interest 15 minutes into the presentation? Of course you have—we ALL have. Do you dread going to training lectures because you are going to see the same presentation that you have seen 100 times before? Yep! Been there, done that! What’s wrong with these presentations? The information is important, the material is interesting, but something is missing. It just doesn’t … pop!
David Peterson feels the same way and he is doing something about it. For his Wednesday Firehouse World presentation, “Make Your Training Session Pop!” Peterson plans to “walk the walk,” as they say, by grabbing attendees’ attention right away and keeping them interested the whole session. I caught up with Peterson—a 35-year veteran of the fire service and a retired fire chief who is currently an EMS and fire training coordinator for Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, WI—before his session and asked why this class is so important.
“This presentation is about making a better mousetrap when it comes to EMS and fire training sessions,” he explained “Why? Because all of us have been to training sessions that were a waste of our time, boring, not memorable, and mind-numbing! And those were the good points.” He added, “Many of those mundane sessions abused PowerPoint software and should have landed the instructor/presenter in PowerPoint Prison!”
The breaking point for Peterson was when he recently attended a conference where the keynote speaker, a PhD, used white PowerPoint slides and small black letters in her presentation. “I resisted my urge to rush the stage and fling her laptop into the Netherlands,” he said. “Consequently, I can show people in our first response business new ways around the ropes in terms of instructing and presenting with effective audio-visual aids and teaching methodologies in order to not only leave them with indelible memories, but have them anxiously await the next show!”
Peterson begins his presentation by contrasting an opening that “pops” versus one that is sad and drab. “Popping” is a marketing term that refers to methods of getting images, logos or ideas to stand out and be noticed. “As presenters, we need to get ideas noticed and form positive connotations in viewer’s minds,” he said. Peterson described the sad and drab presentations as having little to no color, no contrast in words, boring graphics/images, too much verbiage and too many slides. Presentations that pop, according to Peterson, have effective use of colors and images, they use gifs or images with motion, little verbiage and a small amount of slides with great visuals. “The key is to appeal to emotions through a variety of images with visual appeal,” he said. “For instance, a full-screen image of a majestic eagle flying overhead is much more impactful and memorable than talking about an eagle.”
Perhaps the first item of effective training to look at, Peterson noted, is developing sessions that use an active mindset for students. “I like to get students up and moving when showing them how to do something,” he explained. “While we do this frequently with hands-on activities, we need to do this in the classroom also. Simply put: Physical activity is cognitive candy! This concept is based on years of research where people learn best by doing the real thing, talking about it while doing it, and reflecting on it later. Lectures do not work!”
Next is how to show students what he is talking about. Peterson said presentation software is powerful in the form of PowerPoint, but most people do not unleash the power of the medium. “PowerPoint is so much more than just showing pictures and typing verbiage on slides,” he said. “We’ll look at what makes PowerPoint pop through effective images, animated images, gifs and special effects. We’ll also look at Prezi as software that offers a very different perspective when presenting. There is online learning systems that offer unique training experiences in the form of Blackboard and Moodle that we’ll examine.”
Prezi is a presentation platform that provides the developer a large canvas to place ideas in smaller areas for navigation. “The path is non-linear and allows the presenter to zoom in and out as needed,” Peterson explained. “It is a refreshing departure from the linear PowerPoint presentation.”
Blackboard is a service that costs over $200,000 per year, but it enables instructors at Blackhawk Technical College to post quizzes, tests, videos and PowerPoints so students can learn in their non-classroom time. It offers many learning tools that enhance learning greatly. “We use it a lot and it works for us very well, but, it costs quite a lot,” Peterson said. “Moodle, on the other hand, is a free and easily available learning platform that offers most of the same tools that Blackboard does.”
Peterson concludes his presentation with a look at classroom practices and classroom adjuncts that really engage the newer students such as games, videos, simulation software and electronic devices. “The plan is to arm attendees with great ideas to go home and make their own training sessions pop,” he said. “They will soon find out how rewarding teaching can be and see how exciting learning can be with their own personnel.”
More from Firehouse World 2016
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- FHWorld16: Firehouse Ambassadors Get Lessons in Values
- FHWorld16: Fireground Air Management - A US/UK Perspective
- FHWorld16: Building a Robust Fire Dynamics Training Program
- FHWorld16: The Halligan Is a Valuable Tool on the Fireground
- FHWorld16: Sendelbach Poses Challenge to Fire Service
- FHWorld16: Chief Hood Says It's 'Time to Own It'
- FHWorld16: Leading Health Risks on the Modern Fireground