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 fifteen 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 his new State of Financial Presentations 2016 survey.
Geetesh: Dave, tell us more about your new survey. Also, how can exploring results from such surveys help us create more effective, financial presentations?
Dave: In 2014 I decided to do a more specific survey than my biennial survey on what annoys people about PowerPoint presentations. I chose financial presentations because my clients struggle with them more than other presentations. I wanted to know what makes those presentations so challenging to understand. By getting the audience perspective, it can help financial professionals make clear, understandable presentations. I am now updating that survey to determine the state of financial presentations in 2016. If you see financial presentations such as budget reviews, monthly financial results, cash flow analysis, capital project rankings, or any other presentations where the goal is to review and discuss financial analysis and decisions, please take the survey.
Why did I want to update the survey? Because I saw how much the results of the previous survey helped professionals who present financial information. I have seen my clients go from using spreadsheets with hundreds of numbers on a slide to clear graphs that tell the important story senior executives need to know. This leads to quicker decisions and better results. Financial presentations are important to all organizations and are required to be delivered regularly. By adopting the best practices that we learn from the survey, professionals can reduce the time they spend creating these presentations and increase their effectiveness.
Geetesh: You have been regularly creating these surveys which explore reasons for and returns from business presentations. From the findings, what is one thing that has been consistent, and what is it that evolves?
Dave: The unfortunate consistency in the results from all of my surveys is that the major issue in presentations today is information overload. Professionals have difficulty focusing their content down to just what the audience needs to hear. Whether it is a slide full of product features when only two or three are important to this prospect, or a slide full of numbers when only the trend in an important metric illustrates that urgent action is needed, or a slide with a complex process diagram when only a high level of the process is needed, professionals tend to put too much on slides. It leads to audience confusion and delayed decisions. This is probably the key issue I address in my customized workshops.
What I have seen change is organizations starting to see the bottom line impact of poor presentations. In the past, poor presentations were tolerated. I see that changing. Executives who have to summarize the presentations of their staff to present to senior levels are fed up with the hours they spend at nights and on weekends away from their families trying to figure out what the key messages are from the overwhelm of information they have been provided. They want clear, focused presentations that they don’t have to redo when presenting to the next level up.
Senior decision makers have also run out of patience with overloaded presentations that they have to try to figure out. They need to make quick decisions in today’s competitive market. They can’t be spending time hoping they figure out slides full of numbers. They pay their staff to figure out the conclusions and they expect a clear conclusion from the analysis that has been done.
Organizations are seeing that delayed decisions and executive overwork have a clear bottom-line impact. They know they need to improve their presentations. Surveys like the one I am conducting now give insight into what audiences think and what they want presenters to do better.