I have to confess that I hate PowerPoint. To be clear, I do not have an issue with the software usability or feature set. I just dislike having to sit through training, especially product training, that is done through PowerPoint. The only thing worse than sitting in a classroom looking at product specifications on a slide deck is being on the phone hearing about product specifications.

I realize that it is important that our learners are exposed to the details of the product, but how can we make training more impactful to make sure that they actually retain something from the training and walk away with knowledge they can use? As the director of training for a technology company, I know I can’t always avoid training that involves PowerPoint slides, especially when it comes to training our technical sales teams, but over the years I have created some best practices that makes product training less painful and boosts knowledge retention.

Flipped Classroom

We have changed much of our product training to a flipped classroom approach. In a flipped classroom, learners watch the lecture in short video clips or recorded trainings before the actual in-class session. These trainings might include detailed product information, competitive comparisons, etc., and the time in the classroom is spent on active learning and workshop exercises. These activities help learners apply the new information they learned before the class in different scenarios.

There are numerous advantages to this style of learning. In a flipped classroom,  participants have increased input and control over their own learning. By providing short lectures outside the classroom, we give them the freedom to learn at their own pace. The classroom experience, then, boosts collaboration and teamwork.

Hands-On and Hand-Outs

We try to include hands-on sessions for most of our in-class product trainings. They may be as simple as having teams label parts on an actual system or may include taking systems apart and putting them back together. They may have read about a certain product features, but retention is better when they can visualize and touch them.

Another rule of thumb is to leverage handouts or online links for detailed information. After a traditional classroom, the learner will probably only retain 10 percent of detailed product information. However, they may need detailed product information during the sales cycle. Why not just give them a handout that they can access on demand and skip the PowerPoint slides with detailed specifications?

Teach-Backs

Almost all of our new-hire training includes teach-backs, or sessions where the students have to teach the class what they just learned. These sessions not only provide the participants with a refresher on what they just learned, but they also require the presenter to internalize the knowledge in order to teach it. Our participants enjoy these sessions and build their product knowledge during the process.

Gamification

Why include games in your training programs? Learners are more engaged when they are playing a game; as Dr. Seuss said, “These things are fun, and fun is good.” We always try to weave in some form of game or competition to make learning fun. These games may range from simple crossword puzzles to competitive rap battles.

These ideas are just a few ways to move away from PowerPoint slides and increase knowledge retention. Product training is something most companies need to do; we owe it to our learners to make it fun, informative and worth their while.

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