Geetesh: Tell us about your 2010 Presentation Impact Survey, and what do the results speak about — what are the reaffirmations, and the surprises?
Jim: The goal of our annual impact survey has always been pretty straight forward – to better understand the needs, issues and concerns of active presenters. They are group of people we talk a lot about and make assumptions about, but too seldom do we ask them directly about their needs. Probably one of the more challenging parts of doing a survey of presenters is that they are so diverse but there were some data points that hardly wavered from the previous year.
This year, 86.0% said “Communicating with a solid level of clarity and confidence directly impacts my career and income.” (2009 results – 86.1% chose this option). It seems this is the one thing we can all agree on. The skills associated with delivering a presentation (face-to-face or virtual), are ones that impact us all, both personally and professionally, and at every level of our careers.
Also for the second year in a row, people continued to rank “Presentation technologies don’t always work predictably” as their greatest frustration ahead of creating slides, time to practice, getting feedback and collaborating with others. As far as things have come in the technology area, this area continues to bubble to the top every year. More questions need to be asked about their out-of-box experiences because there still seems to be a lot of angst.
On the slide creation side of things, more people thought they were doing a better job. 36.8% believed their presentations were “High-caliber and well-designed visual tools” (26.1% in 2009) and 30.8% believed their presentations were “too simple or too complex” (58.5% in 2009). Then there were the 32.2% of people who thought theirs were “just average” (15.4% in 2009). The big question for all presenters probably is…. would their audiences agree?
Geetesh: You conduct this survey every year — and looking back through the years, you must have witnessed trends in presentation patterns that eventually became mainstream — tell us about some of these trends.
Jim: I’ve been in the service support side of the presentation industry since 1984 and have seen the progression from acetate overheads created in photocopiers to presentations delivered off of smart phones. But in reality, the vast majority of presenters change very slowly. A few of our largest client companies (Fortune 500) are still using PowerPoint 2003. And if you saw the vast majority of visuals that are being created, most still struggle with how to create good ones. (I have not seen 36.8% of our clients creating “high-caliber” presentations).
I believe trends fall into several categories; the tools we use and the approaches we take. There are some very progressive companies that have been making compelling progress in the art of presenting. And within many other companies today, there are some shining stars who are elevating the caliber of their company’s presentations – often fighting corporate cultures that are very slow to change. My advice to them… make the corner of the world you own better and others will follow.
In considering changes & trends in the art of presenting, the challenge most of us will struggle with has to do with what we believe the “end game” is for our efforts. It is all too easy to become preoccupied with the mechanics of “giving” a presentation (technology, software, add-in, conversions) at the expense of coming up with new ideas and approaches that actually help our audiences “get” our messages and remember them later on (compelling messages, confident delivery, understanding how to cause people to think more deeply about a topic).
As long as the art of presenting advances both the tools and approaches we are using, I think we’ll see more memorable presenters supported by dynamic visuals. Distinction will continue to do these surveys every year because they give presenters a voice. And in a world where the stakes are so high, we need to better understand the things that keep them awake at night before we can offer relevant resources. More results can be found at our website.