Bob Befus is passionate about helping scientists and clinicians present the results of their research. In the 1980s, he co-founded Spectrum Multi Media Inc. as a full-service presentation graphics company servicing medical and pharmaceutical organizations. In later years, the company name was changed to Research Presentation Strategies (RPS) to reflect its focus on helping customers with high profile regulatory and scientific presentations. RPS developed and manages SlideSource.com, a presentation management tool that lets you organize and share your presentations from one secure online library anytime, anywhere.
In this conversation, Bob discusses ways of coping with the challenges of managing many slides.
Geetesh: Bob, your research shows that 76% of PowerPoint users have trouble locating the slides they need. Moreover, even if they find what they need, 80% of users have a tough time combining slides from different presentations. Can you share why people face these difficulties for such seemingly simple tasks?
Bob: In a recent RPS survey of 1,300 individuals, 47% of respondents indicated that they used PowerPoint to some extent in their work. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are more than 56 million white collar workers in the United States which means that there may be as many as 26 million workers in the US who use PowerPoint to some extent in their jobs.
That is a lot of people making an awful lot of slides. And when building presentations, we found that 60% start from an existing set of slides to create a new presentation, so managing versions of presentations is an important part of their work. This is especially true for the 30% of users who work in PowerPoint frequently.
The problem is that 76% of all the PowerPoint users who responded said they have trouble locating the slides and presentations they need when they need them. This is very consistent with research in the area of knowledge management where it's been well documented that employees spend a great deal of their time searching for… not finding… and recreating information1.
57% of PowerPoint users said they had experienced version control problems, and in general, the more frequent the user, the more frequent the problems.
While managing files and versions seems like it should be a simple task, when it comes to PowerPoint, it turns out it really isn't simple at all. That's because PowerPoint presentations are mutable mobiles, meaning that, unlike a PDF file for example, PowerPoint files change as they travel through an organization.
This creates some major challenges for those who have the responsibility for managing presentation content.
Geetesh: Your research also shows that 90% of users have never used a slide or presentation library. Would using such a library help? Do you have any recommendations?
Bob: Slide libraries have been around for a while, but we were surprised to find that the vast majority of PowerPoint users have never tried one. I think there are a number of reasons for this. First there is just a general lack of awareness about slide library tools and their benefits. For those who have looked into them, many are complex and restrictive. They may not have been designed for how people and organizations actually use PowerPoint. While in theory it might seem effective to provide controls on how people create slides, what templates, fonts and colors they can use, in real life I don't think this is practical or even desirable. Secondly, most require significant modification of user workflows and processes. I believe a tool should be able to easily conform to your process, not the other way around.
When we developed SlideSource.com, we knew how people actually used PowerPoint in organizations because we had been helping them do exactly that for many years. So we tried to design a simple and intuitive online library that took into account PowerPoint’s strengths and weaknesses as well as how people actually used it day to day. SlideSource.com enables slide library managers to easily organize the slides they want to make available, but at the same time, make it easy for users to download and edit their presentations as needed.
1 Coveo Research: The Knowledge Report, 2015
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