Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Full Results of the Annoying PowerPoint survey

As I analyzed the responses and comments in the survey of “What annoys you about bad PowerPoint presentations?”, a clear theme emerged. Audiences are fed up with presenters who fill their slides with too much content and are then compelled to read it all to those seated in the room. Let’s look at the responses first and then the comments.

In looking at what the 603 respondents said were their top three annoyances, it was clear that reading the slides is by far the top thing that presenters do that annoys their audience. This has been in top spot for all five of the surveys I have done going back to 2003. Moving up one spot from the last survey, the second most annoying thing is the presenter filling the slides with full sentences of information instead of summarizing the key messages in bullet points. And rounding out the top three, is the presenter using fonts that are too small to read, probably because they are cramming too much information on the slide.

Here are the top five annoyances along with the percentage of respondents that selected them as one of their top three:
The speaker read the slides to us – 73.8%
Full sentences instead of bullet points – 51.6%
The text was so small I couldn’t read it – 48.1%
Slides hard to see because of color choice – 34.0%
Overly complex diagrams or charts – 26.0%

It is clear that the top three annoyances are separated from the rest by a significant distance and are clearly the areas presenters need to focus on. And yet, I think that these are only symptoms of the bigger issue of information overload. When a presenter feels that they have to include everything they have done or all they know on this topic, the slides will be a confusing mass of text and numbers that give the audience no clue on what the important takeaway should be. Presenters need to make better decisions on what content to include in a presentation so that the message is clear and understood.

In the survey, I also ask how many presentations people see on a weekly basis. The number of presentations people see is on the rise. When I look at the responses for people who see one or more presentation each day, it has risen 38.7% from the last survey in 2009 (from 14.2% in 2009 to 19.7% in 2011). Presentations are becoming a more common way of communicating in organizations and the quality of the presentations doesn’t seem to be getting better. This is reinforced by the result of the last question I ask on the survey. Almost 43% of the respondents said that over half of the presentations they see suffer from the one or more of the annoying problems I ask them to select their top three from. This is up from 39% in the 2009 survey, so the problems are more prevalent than before.

I also ask respondents to write in what else bothers them about the poor presentations they see and as in every other survey, people take the opportunity to tell me their strong feelings. The comments filled ten and a half pages of eight point type! As I read them all, three themes

First, their comments reinforced my conclusion that the root cause of the annoying behaviours was really due to presenters attempting to cram too much information in to the presentation. Many commented that presentations have become reports that are read to the audience. It is a trend that I am seeing in my workshops as well. Attendees are asking how to determine what should go in and what should be left out of the presentation. Because they are unsure, they default to including everything. Another contributing factor is the need to send the presentation by e-mail to those who could not attend the live presentation. In order to make the presentation make sense, the presenter basically writes their script on the slides. This will be a key area of focus in my writing and work over the next year. I am starting to teach strategies for questioning each piece of content to determine if it really contributes to the goal of the presentation. I am also teaching ways to include additional detail that is not on the slides presented during the live presentation, but is available when the slide file is sent to others (or used as a record of what was presented at the meeting).

The next theme is that presenters need to be better prepared to deliver the presentation. Some of the comments related to presenters who did not create the slides themselves and had not practiced with them before the presentation. The presenter ends up reading the slides and is not able to add anything to what is written on the slide. Audiences feel that this shows a lack of respect. Presenters need to be familiar with their presentation and invest the time to rehearse and make the presentation their own, even if the slides were prepared by someone else. Respondents also commented on presenters who lack the skills or knowledge of how to speak effectively or don’t know how to use the equipment when presenting. If you aren’t comfortable speaking or don’t know how the equipment should be used, ask someone. Get some training so that you don’t embarrass yourself at the front of the room.

The third theme was the continuing problem of poorly designed slides. From poor color choices to unreadable fonts, to spelling and grammar errors, the basics are still not being understood by too many presenters. If the content of the slide can’t be understood because of poor design, there is no way it can be an aid to the presenter. You don’t have to be a designer to create slides that are visually appealing. Select colors that have enough contrast, use sans-serif fonts in large enough sizes, and double check all text on your slide before presenting. When the presenter doesn’t even bother to get these basics correct, the audience feels that the presenter doesn’t care about the presentation, and the audience will naturally be less willing to listen and act upon the message the presenter is giving.

So what do I conclude from this survey? That presentations are becoming a more important vehicle for communicating, but presenters aren’t really getting any better at effectively using this important vehicle to get their message understood. To change the current state, it will take awareness on the part of the presenters and a willingness to do things differently. I ask that we all do our part. I will continue to share my insights and suggestions. I ask each of you to take the message to those who need to hear it. Together we can make a difference.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Survey Reveals What Annoys Audiences About PowerPoint® Presentations

Here is the press release that will be going out that summarizes the results from the recent survey. More detailed results and analysis will be available next week.

Mississauga, Ontario

September 19, 2011

For immediate release

The most annoying thing a presenter can do is read their slides to the audience. This is the conclusion of the recent survey of over 600 audience members by author and consultant Dave Paradi. Almost three-quarters of the respondents to the fifth biennial survey cited reading the slides as one of the top three choices from a list of twelve annoyances.

Paradi said, “From the comments and responses, it is clear that too many presentations suffer from information overload. There is so much on each slide that the presenter is actually reading a detailed report instead of presenting the key insights or conclusions that the audience wants to hear. Audiences are left confused, leading to a lack of action and wasted effort in organizations of all sizes.”

Other top annoyances included using sentences instead of summarizing the key point as a bullet point, and using text that was too small to read. Paradi sees these as further indications that presenters are not doing the work of summarizing the information for their audiences. He added, “Instead of analyzing their information and creating a concise summary of the key message, presenters are putting everything they know on slides, leading to paragraphs of detail in fonts that are far too small.”

Paradi has joined other presentation experts from around the world this week at The Presentation Summit in Austin, Texas. The attendees will discuss ways to improve the presentations that corporate, government, and educational organizations create and deliver. The detailed survey results and further analysis will be released next week on his website at www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com.

The top answers to the question, “What annoys you about PowerPoint presentations?”, according to 603 respondents:
The speaker read the slides to us – 73.8%
Full sentences used instead of bullet points – 51.6%
Text so small I couldn’t read it – 48.1%

Dave Paradi is an author, consultant, and speaker who helps presenters communicate effectively using persuasive PowerPoint presentations. He is available for interviews at 905-510-4911.

The Presentation Summit is an annual conference dedicated to improving presentations. More information can be found on their website at www.PresentationSummit.com.

PowerPoint® is a registered trademark of Microsoft Inc. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Dave Paradi and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization, including Microsoft Inc.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Amazing pre-made animation effects

At the end of this week I’ll be travelling to the Presentation Summit in Austin, Texas. It is the only gathering of presentation professionals and I look forward to seeing all of my colleagues and learning about the work they have been doing in the past year. One of the people that always gets a lot of attention is Julie Terberg, a presentation designer from Michigan. Her makeovers session is always packed and she has our jaws dropping at what can be done with PowerPoint.

A couple of years ago she showed us some templates she was working on for Microsoft. She was designing more than just a look and feel template. This was a template that showed you how to create a certain effect using the drawing tools and animation effects in PowerPoint. We were amazed at what we saw and were looking forward to these templates being available for everyone to use.

I had forgotten about this until recently when someone asked if there was a way to create a slide that made it look like the page of a book was flipping over from right to left. I recalled that this was one of the effects that Julie showed during her session. All of her templates are now available online for you to use, but Microsoft hasn’t made a big deal of them so far.

To see these pre-made animation effect templates, go to this link. The collection is on the Microsoft Office site in the Templates section and is not easy to find. The collection is called Example slide effects with instructions, but the search function doesn’t do a good job of finding the collection all as one. The link above takes you to the category listing. You can also see the listing of templates for PowerPoint 2010 through the support section of the Office site here.

These templates have the examples for you to see and use. They also have instructions in the Slide Notes section below the slides that tell you how to customize the slide and even how to create it from scratch yourself. If you are looking to take your slides to the next level, check out these free templates. And if you want to see Julie work her magic live, join me at the Presentation Summit at the end of the week in Austin; all the details are at www.PresentationSummit.com.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Last Day for What Annoys You About Bad PowerPoint Presentations Survey

Tonight I'll be wrapping up my survey of audience members on what annoys them about bad PowerPoint presentations. I conduct this survey every two years and the results get published in my own newsletter, other people’s newsletters and in books by different authors. It only takes a couple of minutes to complete the survey and everyone who delivers PowerPoint presentations will appreciate knowing your opinion. If you haven't completed the survey yet, please click on this survey link now and share your thoughts since today is the last day to complete the survey:


Feel free to forward this link to others who see PowerPoint presentations and are interested in improving presentations in the future.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Survey: What Annoys You About Bad PowerPoint Presentations?

At the end of this week I'll be wrapping up my survey of audience members on what annoys them about bad PowerPoint presentations. I conduct this survey every two years and the results get published in my own newsletter, other people’s newsletters and in books by different authors. It only takes a couple of minutes to complete the survey and everyone who delivers PowerPoint presentations will appreciate knowing your opinion. If you haven't completed the survey yet, please click on this survey link now and share your thoughts:


Feel free to forward this link to others who see PowerPoint presentations and are interested in improving presentations in the future.

Thanks for your time and participation in this year’s survey. I’ll be releasing the results in September at the Presentation Summit conference (if you’d like to be at the conference, register at www.PresentationSummit.com).

Friday, September 02, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: How animating a graph makes it easier to understand

I spoke last week to a group of executives and one of the challenges that I saw in their presentations was the tendency to put spreadsheets on their slides when talking about financial topics. A graph is better than a spreadsheet to illustrate numeric information to your audience. Use a pie chart to show proportions, use a column chart to compare measured values, or use a line chart to show a trend. Showing the point instead of asking the audience to do math to figure it out is far more effective.

By default, the graphs in PowerPoint appear all at once. In this article I want to suggest that by animating the elements of your graph, you can make it even more meaningful for your audience. When you build each part of the graph one at a time, it allows you to discuss just that data and the audience can focus on each point you are making.

For example, you can show each set of data in a line chart so that you can discuss the trend in each set of data and what it means to the audience. If you have a pie chart, build each wedge, discussing the importance of that part of the whole picture. With a column chart, as you show each column, talk about what that value represents and how the audience should interpret the information. It makes the graph easier for you to present and much easier for the audience to understand.

When you are building the graph using the Animation feature in PowerPoint, don’t use any of the fancy swirling or twirling effects. Use the simple Appear effect or use the Wipe effect to show a line drawn from left to right or a column grow from the x-axis. The default setting when a graph is animated is to have all parts of the graph come on at once. You will need to change the option to build the graph by series or category, so that your graph is built piece by piece. Take some time to think through how you want to explain the graph in support of the points you are making so you can set the animation to match your plan. You can even bring related parts of the graph on at once, such as three related pie wedges that appear at the same time.

Many graphs benefit from adding descriptive labels that explain each data set better than the default legend does. You can animate these labels to come on while the parts of the graph are being displayed. To do so, set the timing parameter to With Previous and move the text label animation element right after the element of the graph in the animation list. This looks great when presenting using PowerPoint, but be aware that some web meeting services do not recognize this type of animation when they convert your slides (I know from personal experience). Always test how these slides look after being converted by a web meeting service.

Animating graphs to make them more effective is one of the topics I will cover in my courses to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ontario and Alberta this fall (see the listing to the left for dates and locations). I also covered animation and many more techniques in my Advanced Graph Techniques webinar earlier this year. You can get the recording here. Take the time to build your graphs using the Animation feature of PowerPoint and the message will be clearer for your audience.