Dave Paradi helps corporate professionals use PowerPoint to visually communicate the messages in their data so they don’t overwhelm and confuse executives. He is one of sixteen people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the PowerPoint Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the PowerPoint community. He has authored nine books on effective PowerPoint presentations and has written his newsletter every two weeks for over fifteen years. His website is www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com.
In this conversation, Dave discusses the results of his The Annoying PowerPoint Survey 2017 survey.
Geetesh: Please share some thoughts about the results of your recent 2017 Annoying PowerPoint survey. Also, what compels you to do these surveys at regular intervals—is there a story behind your motivation?
Dave: In almost every survey I have done, there are results that are similar to past surveys and always at least one new theme that emerges. This year, I continued to see an increase in the popularity of PowerPoint presentations as a method of communication in organizations. The percentage of people who say they see at least one PowerPoint presentation every business day increased to 27.8%, and 74% reported seeing two or more PowerPoint presentations each week. The top four annoyances did not change: Reading slides, Putting sentences of text on a slide, Using too small of a font, and Visuals that are too complex to understand.
I conduct this survey every two years so presenters can see what is staying the same, what is changing, and identify emerging trends. In the last survey, I observed a trend of visuals being too complex to understand, as that annoyance jumped in popularity. The idea that just changing all slides to visuals is not adequate. If the presenter chooses to use visuals, they need to be clear and easy to understand. This issue remained in the top four choices this survey, indicating that it was not just a one time result, but an issue presenters need to address.
My corporate clients appreciate me bringing the survey results into the workshops I conduct because it shows how the issues they see in presentations are broad issues, not just in their organization. It then allows them to adopt best practices from outside the organization knowing that those techniques work on the same issues that all presenters face.
Geetesh: What according to you was the most interesting result in this year’s Annoying PowerPoint survey, and why? What message do these figures provide to us for the future?
Dave: The most significant result in this year’s survey was the strong trend of audiences seeing documents being presented on screen as presentations. There seems to be some confusion as to when a document should be created and emailed vs. a presentation created and delivered live to the audience. The trend seems to come from executives wanting more information in the presentation, resulting in an overload of text and numbers that is actually a document.
Organizations are wasting millions of dollars by gathering people together to have a presenter read a document to them. As one respondent put it, “Many times a mass email would serve the purpose of transferring the needed information without having to gather dozens of people together at the same time.”
I asked the respondents to the survey what advice they had for presenters to improve presentations. After reading through hundreds of comments, a theme emerged: Presenters should be clear and concise with the content of the presentation, the slides they use, and the delivery of the presentation. This advice is not new, but presenters are not practicing it often enough. Time is tight in every organization, but spending time determining the goal, planning the content, focusing it down to just what is needed, creating slides that have a headline and a clear visual, and rehearsing the presentation will pay great dividends in the effectiveness of the presentation and in your career.
The full survey results are available here.