The cost of a poor PowerPoint presentation is staggering. Ian Parker in The New Yorkermagazine states that according to Microsoft estimates, there are more than 30 million PowerPoint presentations made each day. If we assume some relatively conservative meeting parameters of four people per presentation, a half-hour presentation on average and the wasted time due to a poor presentation is one-quarter of the presentation time, we arrive at a waste of 15 million person hours per day. At an average salary of $35,000 per year for those attending the meeting, the cost of that wasted time is a staggering $252 million and change each day.
So many people today cringe when they see a presenter fire up a computer and launch into a PowerPoint presentation. We have seen so many bad presentations that we get fearful every time we see another one start. In actual fact, it isn’t the tool that we dislike, it is the way that the tool is used that we dislike.
Too many presenters think that just by using the PowerPoint tool, they don’t need to properly plan their presentation. Any tool is useful only if it is used properly. Here are four specific reasons that we don’t like most of the presentations we see.
We Can’t Figure Out the Point of the Presentation
When a presentation has not been planned well, there is no identifiable goal to the presentation. Without an end in mind, the presentation tends to meander all over. We want a presenter to decide what type of presentation they want to deliver (most business presentations are either informative or persuasive) and what the goal should be. Then the presenter should analyze the audience and plan the message to move the audience from where they are today to the desired goal. Without a clear message, the presentation wastes the audience’s time. In a management setting, regularly wasting time with ineffective presentations to decision makers can waste tens of thousands of dollars each year due to the extra time that must be taken to get the proper information to make the decision. In sales situations, the lost sales due to ineffective presentations can total in the six figures.
We Can’t See What is On the Screen
If the audience can’t see what is on the screen, they certainly won’t be getting the message. Too many presenters choose text and background colors that have little contrast, so the words blend into the background instead of standing out. The font choice is also a problem, from too many fonts used, using hard to read script type fonts or using a font size so small that noone sitting further than 12 inches from the screen has any hope of figuring out what it says. And if the room is too bright due to sunlight or the projector has a weak bulb, we are hard pressed to see anything on the screen at all. We would like to see color, font and room choices that result in clear slides that are easy to read.
We Can’t Understand the Points
Too many presenters simply put up a page full of text and read it to the audience. This insults the audience and usually is not clear because the full text gives no context or illustration of the points to help us understand the ideas. For text, we would like to see a presenter build bullet points that take us step by step through a logical progression of ideas. We would like to see graphs or tables to give visual life to concepts and diagrams that can break down and illustrate complex ideas.
We Are Distracted By What Is On The Screen
Just because the software has all these wiz-bang features, doesn’t mean that every presenter should be using them. We get so distracted figuring out where the next thing will fly in from or spin around that we have no time or mind energy to focus on what the message is. We would like to see relevant images and a clean presentation of ideas that gives enough visual variety to keep our mind working, but also gives the majority of the mindshare to the message being delivered.
Next time you consider putting together a PowerPoint presentation, start by thinking about what the audience wants instead of what the tool can do. Then use the tool to help the audience understand your message through clear, proper usage of the features that PowerPoint offers.
Special Note: If you want to calculate how much your organization is wasting due to poor presentations that cause extra work, click here to see an article that will explain how to calculate the cost.
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Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don’t overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 3.5 million times and liked over 14,000 times on YouTube.