Geetesh: Thank you for doing this survey each year – and then sharing the results. Each year, these results shed light on changes happening in the world of presenting — what’s are the biggest changes this year?
Jim: Over the years we’ve established a baseline response on a few topics and we revisit those each year to spot any trends. One of the most relevant questions is this one… “How would you rank the importance of personal presentation skills on your career and income?”. This year 89% of respondents, nearly 9 in 10, are saying that presentation skills directly impact their careers and income — up 3% from last year. As much as information has gone virtual, the human conduit for delivering information and ideas (in person or via the web) has become even more essential for most of us. ‘How’ we deliver it matters a lot. And those who struggle in this critical personal skill area will most likely find themselves at a disadvantage.
Since these skills seem to be so important to everyone year after year, we wanted to understand the challenges presenters are experiencing in getting better. This year 61% indicated they receive ‘little or no feedback’ and only 31% said their companies ‘support the ongoing development’ of good presentation skills. This points out a unmistakable irony that exists today. Companies place a very high value (as do individuals) in being a good communicator yet when it comes to making that investment in time or money, it’s not happening very often.
It’s probably the one skill we all share that can make the most significant impact on our professional lives.
Geetesh: While so much changes, some things remain the same. Not much has changed as far as irritating presenter behaviors are concerned — can you share some thoughts?
Jim: We added a few new questions this year around that area. I suspect we all have our pet peeves but we wanted to be able to give our respondents a chance to rack and stack their own. No matter where we come from, the categories seem to be universal.
Rank these presenter behaviors from most to least irritating or distracting, 1 being the worst (listed below from most irritating average score to least)
Here was the collective feedback.
- Reading directly from notes or off the screen
- The use of umm’s and uhhh’s (filler words)
- Pacing or nervous movement
- Eyes wander and won’t make eye contact with the audience
- Presenter wants to stay behind a podium or lectern
Another irritation we all have is how people approach their visuals. After all, as audience members we have to stare at them for an hour or so we all have an opinion. This year we wanted to see how presenters assessed their own visuals.
What best describes the PowerPoint (or equivalent) presentations you or your team deliver? (Be as objective as you can)?
- 12% — Very simple, sometimes bordering on too elementary
- 16% — Overly complicated, way too much information on a slide
- 50% — Average visuals, no better or worse than others I see
- 22% — Awesome, high caliber and well-designed presentation visual
What should probably disturb us most is not the high and low responses, rather the big chunk of people in the middle who think their visuals are “average”. As most of us suspect, the bar seems to be set fairly low in most companies today so being “average” is probably not a very good thing — mediocrity rarely is. Next year we will ask survey respondents to reflect on the presentation visuals of others and I doubt they will be as gracious as the presenter’s self evaluation was this year.
One thing is for sure, there aren’t many natural born presenters, most of us have to work at it and we need more practical resources to do that.