Some companies believe that safety and health training means reading written safety procedures or rules to the audience after handing out copies for them to follow along. While this may be the quickest and easiest way to put together a training session, a program like this will be very ineffective. The attendees will probably leave with a poor view of the topic at hand and of the company safety program.

If you have not yet discovered the wonderful world of Microsoft(R) PowerPoint(R), this article will introduce you to the basics, as well as share some tricks. You will also learn some of the traps that some people fall into when using PowerPoint.

PowerPoint is one program many people are able to open up and learn on their own. You will probably be able to start making slides within an hour. There are also tutorials available that you can follow to learn the basics more quickly. If you have a multimedia projector at your facility, you will be able to plug in your laptop and your trainees can easily view the slides you created. If you do not have such a projector (they can be expensive), you can print out the slides onto transparencies and use an old-fashioned overhead projector.

In 451 B.C, Confucius said, "What I hear I forget; what I see I remember; but what I do I understand." With this in mind, in addition to the numerous other studies that show visual aids to be very important to the effectiveness of training, you should consider using the tricks and treasures of PowerPoint to spice up your safety training. Here are nine tips to consider when using this popular program:

1) Get interactive

While PowerPoint will help your audience "see" what you are talking about, it can also help guide the group through interactive activities. For example, if you are teaching a class on lockout/tagout you could use your slides to show the lockout/tagout procedure step by step. Then before advancing to the next slide, have the group perform their own lockout/tagout as directed and guided by the slide.

Similarly, if you are training a group how to read a material safety data sheet, you can scan a sample MSDS and point to certain sections as you explain them while the group has the same sheet in their hands. The scanned pages will be projected much larger on the screen and make it easier for you to instruct the group.

2) Don't overdo it

PowerPoint is sometimes overused. Overuse tends to be a problem for people very accustomed to using (and relying on) this software. These people love to put as much information up on the slide as possible and then practically have the class go through the training themselves. Safety and health trainers like this become nothing more than someone to click the "next" button.

Training like this is not interactive and in cases where the trainees have limited ability to read, very ineffective. PowerPoint can be a fantastic tool in your safety training tool box if you know how to use it properly.

3) Utilize printing options

PowerPoint's printing options take PowerPoint from being good presentation software to a great training aid. From the print dialog box you can not only print out full size slides but you can also print handouts, note pages and outlines. The last two are generally used by the trainer. Handouts are just a smaller version of the slides with anywhere from two to nine miniature slides on a page. If you select three slides per page, there will be a lined area for notes next to each slide, which makes this option especially good for class handouts.

4) Choose interesting templates

Most versions of PowerPoint come with over 20 templates available for your slides. These are the backgrounds you most likely see when you attend training classes as a trainee. If you want a little variety, you can purchase additional templates or, better yet, get them for free from various Web sites such as As you become more proficient with PowerPoint you can even make your own templates that closely relate to your topic.

5) Make it easy reading

When creating your slides, remember that the fewer number of words the better. You don't want your audience to have to squint or strain to see what you have written. The fewer number of words will allow you to make the font size bigger, which, in turn, makes the slide easier to read.

6) Use colors wisely

Also when creating slides pay attention to the colors you use. Color theory could cover a whole other article, but just know that you want to have a good contrast between the background and the words. Some people try to get fancy and start changing colors, but the end result can be anything from annoying (like a lime background with yellow letters) to text impossible to see (like white letters on a light gray background). If you are someone who has trouble matching your clothes, you may want to run your color scheme by a few co-workers before using it in a training class.

7) Say it with pictures

Another key when creating slides is something that we hear all the time: A picture is worth a thousand words. Whenever possible use a picture to show what you are talking about. If you are familiar with clip art available through Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, you know it is easy to add a picture to your slide. If you can add a related photo from your plant, that would be even better.

Many people don't know that Microsoft has an extensive supply of free clip art available online. When you insert a picture from clip art, click on the "Clips Online" link to be taken to the site. Once there, you can search by keyword, type of clip art including animation, sound or photos, or by category.

8) Don't "hide" behind slides

Now that you have your slides looking great, you want to use them effectively. Regardless of how you are showing them, do not "hide behind the slides." Some people, especially if they are nervous, will try to put as much information as possible up on the slide with the hope that the audience will pay attention to the slides and not them. Don't fall into this trap. However, there is nothing wrong if you use the slides rather than notes as an outline to keep you on track.

9) Add movies, animation

Many experienced PowerPoint users add "movies" to their slides. This is a great way to keep the group's attention - particularly if the movies are of them or their co-workers. If you do not have the equipment to do this, you can always add animation to keep things moving. A great Web site for animation is Although Animation Factory does offer a fee-based subscription service, it also has free samples and a free newsletter available at the site.

Used correctly - as a tool and not the main show - PowerPoint can help you effectively get your safety message across in a meaningful and memorable way.

SIDEBAR: Outside the classroom

If you have been using PowerPoint for your safety training for some time, you may want to try to start using it a little differently than you have in the past. You can utilize the program in the following ways so that training doesn't always have to take place in the classroom:

  • Email your presentation to management or even everyone with access to a computer so they could go through the training on their own time.

  • Load the presentation onto your laptop and take it out into the plant or field.

  • Burn your presentation to a CD and distribute it. You can set up the file so that it runs automatically.

  • Add talking characters that can lead others through the training. This can be done using software such as that found at This is helpful if your trainees are going through the presentation on their own, and especially if they do not read well.