Presentation & E-learning Starter Kit

Over on the past several months, I’ve written about some of the things anyone can do to make better presentations and e-learning courses.

A recent discussion prompted a thought that it might be helpful to assemble a ‘starter kit’ of resources for anyone involved with these types of projects. Here are a few of the things that have helped me over the years and which will give anyone doing these types of projects a good head start.

If you’re looking at this in any type of training context, be sure to look at the “21 Questions to Ask Before Starting Any Training Program” before moving on to the following steps.

Understanding Your Audience

Getting to know your audience significantly increases the odds you’re work will have a meaningful impact. This important step can help you glean the insights and context required to truly connect with your audience.

“Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: To Whom It May Concern.”

– Ken Haemer, former Presentation Research Manager, AT&T

To help with this, here are Nancy Duarte’s (@nancyduarte) “Seven Questions to Knowing Your Audience” from her book, Resonate.

Grab a copy of Nancy Duarte’s Audience Needs Map here.

Organizing Your Message

Overloading your audience with too much information leads to LESS understanding – not more! Nobody enjoys the dreaded data dump and telling them everything means they won’t remember anything.

As you consider what to include, be sure to do it in a way that gives you the confidence your audience will easily be able to answer these two questions:

  • What three points do you want them to remember?
  • What do you want them to do?

One of my favorite ways wrangle the messy pile of random thoughts into a cohesive structure built around this context is the Beyond Bullet Points story template. Unlike native PowerPoint templates, Cliff Atkinson’s (@cliffatkinson) super helpful approach is based on brain science to help get your message through and move your audience to action.

Looks really DO matter!

First impressions are critical for capturing attention and establishing credibility. While we might not always admit it, we do judge things based on what they look like. Our lizard brains can make snap judgments in as little as 17 milliseconds. Literally faster than the blink of an eye! (Your eye is a relative slowpoke taking 300-400 milliseconds to blink.) In some studies, as much as 94% of the factors involved in judging credibility were design-related.

People regularly make credibility judgments “based on the content presentation rather then by evaluating the content’s or creator’s authority, trustworthiness, reputation, or expertise.” source

For many, finding the right look and feel for their content can a challenge. Wisely selecting from a seemingly endless set of possibilities for fonts, colors, icons, and images is not easy.

Fortunately, David Anderson (@elearning) has got you covered with a visual analysis process that makes it easy for anyone to quickly identify the right visual elements that make up the “visual voice” of your project.

Grab David’s visual design mapping template here or take a deeper dive over on the Articulate site.

Putting It All Together

Once you’re armed with a relevant, focused message tailored to your audience and a vision for the appropriate look and feel, you’re ready to start building. That means you’re going to need design assets like photos, fonts, icons, etc.

The majority of us working on these types of projects are faced with the additional constraint of having a limited budget….or often no budget at all. To help you over that hurdle, I’ve collected my favorites into this free e-book.


Download your own free copy of “Filling Your Design Toolkit: Premium Assets on Shoestring Budget”

If you’re not the type of person who likes to wade through that many options, here are three of my favorites to get you started. (But bookmark those resources anyway in case you ever anything else in the future.)

Photos: Everypixel

Save time and money by simultaneously searching multiple free and paid sites for stock photos, vectors and graphics.

Noun Project



Over a million icons and counting plus apps for PowerPoint, Google Slides, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and more.

Google Fonts

Google’s catalog of free and open source fonts is a great way to make beautiful type accessible to anyone for any project.

If you would like to take a deeper dive or to get notified about new discoveries, plug-in to this more extensive collection of the best free and inexpensive design assets that I curate.


Published by Mike Taylor

Born with a life-long passion for learning, I have the great fortune to work at the intersection of learning, design, technology & collaboration.

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