Thursday, January 30, 2014

Annoying PowerPoint - and How to Avoid It

How to Avoid Annoying PowerPointPowerPoint expert Dave Paradi recently released the 2013 version of his "Annoying PowerPoint" survey.

According to the survey, here are the top 7 most annoying things about PowerPoint presentations:

  1. The speaker read the slides to us: 72.0%
  2. Text so small I couldn’t read it: 50.6%
  3. Full sentences instead of bullet points: 48.4%
  4. Overly complex diagrams: 30.8%
  5. Poor color choice: 25.8%
  6. No clear purpose: 22.1%
  7. No flow of ideas: 21.0%

I'm sure many of these are corporate presenters rather than professional speakers, so they might not have had any experience in using PowerPoint well. And I'm sure the same would be true if of other presentation tools, like Keynote and Prezi, except they just aren't as popular as PowerPoint. But this is still a scathing report on the state of business presentations.

It doesn't have to be like this!

The worst part of this is that it's so easy to prevent most of these mistakes. For example, to tackle just a few of the points above:

  • The speaker read the slides to us: Put your notes in the Speaker Notes area. Even if you have to obviously refer to them, that's better than a slide full of text.
  • Text so small I couldn’t read it: This information belongs in a handout or other reference document.
  • Full sentences instead of bullet points: Don't even use bullet points; use diagrams and models instead.
  • Overly complex diagrams: Build complex diagrams step by step using PowerPoint's animation feature (yes, animation can be good if used properly!)
  • Poor color choice: Use the built-in PowerPoint themes, which have been designed to use good colour combinations
  • No clear purpose: State the purpose early, and keep referring to it
  • No flow of ideas: Have a clear structure to your presentation, and keep referring to it

Some of these might be obvious and simplistic, especially if you're an experienced presenter. But it's still surprising how often I see presenters (even those who should know better) make these mistakes.

I recently presented a webinar, for Citrix in the U.K., about how to prepare better webinar slides. Although it was aimed at online presentations, most of the things I said applied to other presentations as well. And it also addressed many of the issues above. More than 2,000 people registered for the webinar, which just goes to show that presenters are interested in improving their presentations.

The webinar has finished, but the recording is available to anybody who wants to watch it.

Watch the recording here.

By the way, if you would like to read more about Dave's survey - and download the survey results in full - you can find it here on his Web site.