Issue #196 October 20, 2009

PowerPoint Tip: Results of the Fourth Annoying PowerPoint Survey

The message from my biennial survey of what annoys audiences about bad PowerPoint presentations is that audiences are fed up with the overload of text on slides and how that text causes presenters to read the slides to them. A total of 548 people responded to the survey over a six week period. Can we trust those who responded? I sure do. Over 65% of them said they see more than 100 presentations a year, so they know what they like and what is annoying. In the survey, I list twelve annoyances and ask people to select the top three. Here are the details of the top five things that annoy audiences about bad PowerPoint presentations. The percentages refer to what proportion of the responses listed that item and the percentages don’t add up perfectly since some people selected more or less than three. The speaker read the slides to us 69.2% Text so small I couldn’t read it 48.2% Full sentences instead of bullet points 48.0% Slides hard to see because of color choice 33.0% Overly complex diagrams or charts 27.9% It is no surprise that reading the slides came first again by a large margin. It has topped the survey every time I have done it. The next two issues are the same as the last survey, they just switched order in the results. All of the top three increased in popularity from two years ago, suggesting that audiences are getting even more upset about paragraphs of text being read from the slides. Audiences are just plain fed up and presenters who ignore this should expect poor results from their presentations. What can presenters do? Buy a copy of my book The Visual Slide Revolution and follow the five-step method for creating persuasive PowerPoint visuals. The method works, my clients keep saying they’ll never create a presentation the old way again. The last two items in the top five are common issues that can be solved. If you are unsure whether your text color has enough contrast with the background color, check it using the two international standard tests for contrast. I’ve created a Color Contrast Calculator on my web site that is free to use and will tell you if the colors you have selected work or not. Overly complex visuals are caused by trying to pack too much on the slide. We can reduce the complexity by eliminating any data or graphics that are not core to the point we are making and splitting complex slides into multiple visuals that each illustrate a point on their own. If you’d like to see makeovers that show visuals and data being made clear, check out my new collection of makeover videos. It is clear to me that I still have work to do in order to help presenters stop using annoying slides that poorly communicate what the presenter is trying to convey. If your organization is ready to move from overloaded text slides to using persuasive visuals, check out my workshops and seminars. Let’s all work together to help the audience understand and apply our messages. In the next few weeks I’ll be going through the comments that people wrote in and seeing what conclusions we can draw from them.