Creating a 40 minute presentation in just 5 minutes

Let’s look at the stumbling blocks that some people have when it comes to developing a 40 minute training session.

Firstly, it can be the subject itself. What should I train? Where do I start?

This should be the easiest step to overcome, but I have seen people paralysed at this point for what seems like days. My solution is this – ask yourself what skills and knowledge you want to transfer to a new audience. Think about your workplace – what are you good at? What hobbies do you have that might incorporate some interesting skills?

For example, I thoroughly enjoy playing the guitar. So, perhaps I could teach a few skills relating to that? OR – I might really enjoy my work as a hairdresser – so I’ll look at transfering some kowledge around selecting colours for a new client.

Pro tip #1 – think of just three or four key points you’d like your audience to remember. A 40 minute training session is not 40 minutes of you talking.

Secondly, be clear about your purpose. What three or four things do you want your audience to know or do by the end of your session. Remember – it’s about them, not you. You’re simply the conduit for the skills and knowledge. They’re the receivers, and therefore the most important people in the room.

Pro tip #2 – You shouldbe able to state your purpose in one sentence. For example, by the end of this 40 minute session, my learners will be able to name and form three chords of a guitar. (see how I kept it simple? I didn’t add anything like, “and they’ll be able to discuss why music history has established the use of these three chords in hundreds of hit songs). Know when you’re going too far. Simple is best, because then you can concentrate on the best ways for your learners to retain that key information

Thirdly, research your topic and have your presentation aids ready.

One way I approach building the presentation, is to quickly Google or similarly research my topic to make sure what I’m teaching is current and accurate. As I do this, I might see new images/graphic or slides that I could use in the presentation. Always consider copyright, but this is still a critical step in the process.

If I’m using PowerPoint (or similar), I’ll have three of four blank slides ready and I’ll drag and drop these images/figures or information into the slides as a basic draft. I can also use this as a basis of my session plan and any handout or activity I’m going to create.

A quick review....

1. Decide on the subject

2. Be clear about what your learners will be able to do or know by the end of your 40 minute session

3. Researach the topic and start to draft your sesion plan, slides and handouts

Next, create a list of the three to four key points. This will form the outline of your session plan, slides, activity and handouts. For simplicity sake, let’s just say we’re going to do a PPT and run and activity. In this instance, my first PPT slide will be a high quality picture relating to my subject. My second slide will have my dot-points of the key learning outcomes.

Pro Tip #3 – Don’t rely on your slides to guide you. They’re a visual aid for the learner – not a session aid for the trainer.

Fifth step is to design one slide for each key point. This MUST include images directly related to what you want the learner to remember. Not a lot of text, as this can always be transferred to a handout if necessary. That means you now have four – six slides for a 40 minute presentation. That is AMPLE and as loing as they’re visually appealing, on messgae, and flow logically, your work with these is now done.

Sixth step is to draft your session plan.

With the flow basically outlined in your PPT presentation, you can now flesh out the way you want your 40 minute session to run. A key pro tip in this instance is to allow no more than 10-15 minutes for you to talk, and the remaining 25-30 minutes for your class to do and learn. Let’s see what that looks like:

1. Start with a question or two that hooks the learners into what they’re about to learn. Write them down expplicitly into your session plan and practice them. In my example I might ask “Who has ever played the guitar?... Would you like to know the three chords that you can use to play hundreds of songs?” Note that the first question gives me a heads up as to the learning levels of the audience – this may only be necessary if they don’t know what you’re about to teach them.

2. Look at each key point. Ask yourself “what can I get the audience to do to learn this best?” – is it an activity, a research task, a discussion, and quick quiz followed by a debrief, a group exercise, or maybe a paired activity… your options are limited only by your imagination, and the results you want to achieve.

3. After writing down the learning process for each of the key points, consider what phyical resources you’ll need, including handouts and equipment, and make notes in the resources cvolumn of your session plan.

4. Review your timing. Run it through in your head and always allow more time for the activities than you first think – as people will always learn at different rates and perhaps ask questions.

5. Create a killer ending. Wrap up the session plan by reviewing the key points (perhaps via a quiz, Q&A, or demonstration) and make a statement that encourages the learners to reflect on what new skills or knowlkedge they’ve just gained. In my example, I might say “So using an E, D and Am chord, you can now play anything from the Beetles to Ariana Grande. What an exciting start to your home-based music career!”

Pro tip #5 – don’t end with the words “Any Questions?” – this is a rhetorical and often uncomfortable question. Those who may have a question will not necessarily answer for fear of looking silly, and generally everyone just nods so the session can be completed. Rather, if you want to double check for understanding – ask specific questions of specific people.

One last review:

1. Decide on the subject

2. Be clear about what your learners will be able to do or know by the end of your 40 minute session

3. Researach the topic and start to draft your sesion plan, slides and handouts

4. Create a list of the three to four key points and begin to develop you visual aids (PPT, handouts etc)

5. Design one slide for each key point – If you’re not using PPT , this might mean one poster for each key point, or one photograph… etc..

6. Draft your session plan – include the questions and activities you’ll use to tranfer to learning in an engaging and effective way.

This whole process can take as little as five minutes. Especially if you really know your subject and are adept at cutting and pasting images into handouts or PPT slides. I know this because I’ve demosntrated exactly how to do this dozens of times, and usually ask my class to come up with the subject so I can show them that expertise in the subject matter is not essential.

While this is aimed primarily at people undertaking the Cert IV or Diploma in vocational education. It can be applied in any corporate or workplace context. No matter what the context – consider my pro tips and make sure you keep the audience at the centre of your decision-making. It’s up to you to fit the content into the session in such a way as to engage and develop the skills and knowledge of your audience. It’s not about making you look good. Believe me, you’ll look great if you put your audience first!

Check out the audio version at

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