Why Audiences Detest Presenters That Abuse or Avoid PowerPoint

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Presentations are the business currency of today. PowerPoint® is often the legal tender of those presentations. We trade and share PowerPoint presentations like baseball cards, stamps and money.

Viewing a presentation without PowerPoint (Keynote or Prezi) is like listening to a TV show over the radio. We expect and want the visual to help keep us focused.

PowerPoint is nearly unavoidable. However, misuse of PowerPoint is avoidable!

Audiences Fed Up!

Author and consultant Dave Paradi has researched what audiences dislike about PowerPoint presentations since 2003.

Results from his survey highlight what many conference attendees already know.

Audiences are fed up with presenters who fill their slides with too much content and are then compelled to read it all to those seated in the room.

…Too many presentations suffer from information overload.

Dave Paradi

Top Five Reasons We Hate PowerPoint Abuse

Nearly 43% of those surveyed said that more than half of the presentations they see suffer from one or more of the following top five PowerPoint misuses.

1. Speaker reads slides that contain too much content – 73.8%

The audience feels that the presenter is reading a detailed report to them.

The speaker has misused PowerPoint to create a report, not a presentation.

Typically we put too much info on slides for those who will not be there.

This is backwards as the presentation is for the registering attendee not those who did not come.

And the audience wants to hear a presentation with key insights or conclusions.

2. Slides contain full sentences instead of phrases – 51.6%

Attendees cannot read and listen at the same time.

Putting too much information on a slide distracts the attendee.

3. Text on slide too small to read – 48.1%

Presenters often decrease font size to include more data on slides.

Instead the presenter should summarize the critical points.

Presenters should use at least 40 pt font size.

4. Color choices on slide make it difficult to read – 34%

Too many presenters put lots of white or bright text on dark backgrounds.

This is difficult to read.

Use a color wheel or the PowerPoint font color suggestions to choose the right colors that match.

5. Overly complex diagrams or charts – 26%

Use the squint test.

If you can’t see the results when you squint your eyes, there is no way the audience will be able to see it either.

Instead, put diagrams and charts in handouts.

Put the results on the slide.

Five Tips From Comments And Research

Paradi received more than 10 pages of comments from the open-ended question, “What else annoys you about poor presentations?”

Three themes emerged from those comments. Additional themes come from attendee evaluations VCC’s team members used in their conference planning.

1. Presenters attempt to cram too much information into their presentations

Audiences feel like presenters are reading reports to them.

Presenters feel they need to include everything because they share these presentations with people who did not attend.

So they write their script on the slides.

Tip: Include script on the PPT notes section and distribute with slides in PDF format via email. Or distribute your notes in a separate word-based document.

2. Speakers not prepared to present

Frequently, the presenter did not prepare the slides or rehearse so they were unaware of what each slide said.

Audiences lose respect for presenters that are not prepared.

Audiences also do not like presenters that do not have good delivery skills or don’t know how to use basic AV equipment.

Tip: Secure speakers that are proven presenters and know how to use images. If you are using a first-time speaker, spend additional time coaching and preparing them.

3. Audiences do not like poorly designed slides.

Audiences have little respect for presenters that lack design skills or don’t use resources to help them create better looking slides.

Tip: Avoid PowerPoint templates and layouts. They are overused!

4. Audiences despise conference branded PowerPoint/Keynote templates.

Really? I mean really? Don’t you think that the majority of the attendees already know what conference they are attending and the host organization?

Plus your conference template gets really old by the second presenter. And it’s the exact opposite of what our brains crave when it comes to design.

Trying to use novel images when the darn conference template gets in the way (watermarks, a reinvention of the conference logo at the top or bottom or sides, or all of these combined) kills creativity.

Tip: Remember why you are using a branded conference template! It’s usually for those who did not attend the conference. If you must use them, create a branded cover and closing slide template only. Or just put your brand and conference image in the walk-in and walk-out loops. Encourage presenters to think about effective design for the rest of the presentation using great images and limited text.

5. Use striking, unusual, novel images.

Research from neuroscientists Dr. John Medina, David Rock and many others, illustrates that we are all visual learners.

Our brains thrive on and operate with images. So much that 80% of your brain’s processing power is devoted to images.

When you sleep, do you dream in words or images? Images!

MRI scans show that when visually impaired people read Braille, it’s their brain’s image processors that light up.

Retention and recognition dramatically increases with images.

PowerPoint-free sessions go against the ways our brains naturally process information.

Tip: Try to keep your text to 10 words or less with an emphasis on the image to convey the information. Another great tool to help you design effective presentations is Haiku Deck for the iPad. They work on a Web-based version so all you non-iPad presenters can access it, as well.

By Jeff Hurt

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