Dave Paradi has been recognized by the media and his clients as a presentation expert. He has authored eight books and four Kindle e-books on effective PowerPoint presentations. He consults on high-stakes presentations including one used to brief one of President Obama’s cabinet ministers. Dave is one of only fourteen 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 2015 Annoying PowerPoint Survey.
Geetesh: Dave, what did the respondents tell you in this survey and how does that compare to previous surveys?
Dave: In this survey, the trend of presentations being used as the default method for communicating in organizations continued. Even more people said that they see at least one presentation every day of the work week. The percentage of people seeing one presentation per day has doubled in the last eight years. Presenting effectively is now a critical skill for professionals, as the expectations of audiences have increased.
I also unfortunately saw that overloading slides with text and reading them to the audience continues to be the case in far too many presentations. The top issue of reading slides has not changed in the seven surveys I have conducted – it is always the most common response by far. It happens when the presenter overloads the slides with text and feels compelled to share everything with the audience.
What emerged as a growing issue is the use of visuals that are too complex. As presenters start to use more visuals, they need to make sure the graphs, diagrams, and images are clear and relevant. Just using visuals instead of text isn’t the solution. The visuals must be effective in order for the audience to understand them.
Geetesh: In this survey for the first time you asked what advice audience would have for presenters. What did they say?
Dave: The key message for presenters from the survey respondents was a strong one, and one that presenters need to listen to. Audiences are upset that too many presenters don’t take time to properly plan the presentation, create effective visuals, and prepare to deliver the presentation. Audiences feel that the presenter doesn’t care enough about them to spend time doing a good job on the presentation. It is really an issue of feeling disrespected by the presenter. It is a harsh message for presenters, and one that all of us need to take to heart.
Audiences want presenters to tailor their message for that audience and focus the content on what the audience needs to hear. They have had enough of presenters just throwing together slides from past presentations and hoping the audience figures out a message. They want slides that have one message each with a summary headline and a clear visual. Don’t overload your slides because that indicates you didn’t take the time to focus your message. When a presenter apologizes for something during the presentation, the message the audience hears is that the presenter couldn’t be bothered to test the slides or technology in advance. The audience just isn’t important enough for the presenter to have solved any issues, like spelling mistakes, unreadable fonts, and poor visuals beforehand.
Audiences have seen enough great presentations online, through TED talks, and at product introductions that are covered by the media. They know what a good presentation is supposed to look like. They want presenters to invest the time and effort creating and delivering a good presentation.