Dave Paradi has been recognized by the media and his clients as a presentation expert. He has authored seven books on effective PowerPoint presentations and he consults on high-stakes presentations including one used to brief one of President Obama’s cabinet ministers. Dave is one of two Canadians, and one of only twelve people in North America to be recognized by Microsoft with the PowerPoint Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the PowerPoint presentation community. His ideas have appeared in publications around the world.
In this conversation, Dave discusses the results of the 2013 Annoying PowerPoint Survey.
Geetesh: Thank you for doing this survey, Dave – what I found striking in this year’s results is that while they do follow the trends from previous surveys, this time those very directions have taken a big leap compared to the small jumps we witnessed before – can you share your thoughts?
Dave: Yes, the movement in certain directions in this survey was more dramatic than in previous surveys. I think it is a two part answer. First, as the survey showed, presentations are becoming a more popular form of communication in organizations. People find PowerPoint easier to use than Word when they want to include visuals, so they end up using it as a desktop publishing tool. While that is fine, the issue comes when they call the output a presentation. They end up reading it to the audience, which annoys the audience. The ease of use has led to greater usage of PowerPoint, but presenters don’t always understand that the output of the tool is not always a presentation.
The second factor is that audience expectations have gone up. In the past, many audience members had never seen a great presentation using PowerPoint slides effectively. Now, with the popularity of TED videos, people know what a great presentation looks like. They have raised the bar for all presenters, expecting that every presentation should come close to the quality of a TED talk. Presenters can’t get away with the old way of creating confusing visuals and mostly reading text slides to the audience. I think this contributed to the increased frustration we saw in the results. Audiences don’t understand why more presenters can’t create effective, clear presentations. They know it is possible because they have watched the videos.
This word cloud summarizes the responses when Dave asked people for three words or phrases (positive or negative) they hear most often in their organization when referring to PowerPoint presentations. You can see the prominence of negative words such as boring, long, many, much, read, and death. This reinforces what the respondents said in the other questions in the survey: presenters need to focus their presentations with a better structure, less information overload, and more meaningful visuals.
Geetesh: What message does the results of your survey provide to those who create, deliver, and view PowerPoint slides – or even slides created with other products?
Dave: You are right to point out that the tool presenters use doesn’t matter. Whether it is PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, or any other tool, audiences gave a clear message. They are no longer satisfied with mediocre slides and poor delivery. Presenters need to improve their skills in planning their message, creating slides that support that message, and delivering those slides effectively. Audiences expect presenters to plan a clear, compelling message that makes sense. They expect presenters to know how to use visual support effectively, whether it is PowerPoint or any other tool. And audiences want the delivery skills to be top notch. Audiences have raised their expectations, and those involved in any aspect of creating or delivering presentations need to raise their game. For those who view presentations, keep up the pressure. Only by letting presenters know that there is a better way than reading the slides off the screen can the situation improve. Presenters need to get the type of training I deliver in my workshops on how to create and deliver effective PowerPoint presentations. The result will be improved sales, increased efficiency, and faster decisions.