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5 Common Barriers to Effective Presentations – And How to Overcome Them. The Popularity – and Futility – of Today’s Presentations

10 years later now, we invite you to take part in this survey again!

Date Created: June 30th 2004
Last Updated: June 30th 2004

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If you are making more PowerPoint presentations in your job these days, you’re not alone. According to findings of a recent poll conducted by Geetesh Bajaj of Indezine and Claudyne Wilder of Wilder Presentations, 61 percent of professionals say they will make between one and thirty presentations this year -- two-thirds of whom expect to deliver 30 presentations or more by year’s end. Everyone, it seems, has more presentations to give.

Interestingly, most people are not happy with the quality and impact of their own presentations. In the aforementioned poll, only 22 percent of respondents said they are “very satisfied” that their presentations convey the messages they intend to send, and 25 percent indicated that they actually thought that at least some of their presentations were a waste of time.

Survey Snapshot

Pre-built presentation outlines provide much-needed for today’s professionals

  • Only 22% are very satisfied with their presentations

  • 42% said 10 to 20% of their presentations were a waste of time

  • 58% of presenters spend over 3 hours organizing content for each thirty-minute presentation

  • 52% said they could save from 45 minutes to 3 hours if given outlines for specific types of presentations

  • 67% are not provided these outlines by their company

If you give only 20 presentations a year, you can save a minimum of 40 hours a year using specific outlines and professionally designed slides. Multiply 40 hours by the number of presenters in the company, and you can quickly see the impact of pre-built presentation outlines and slide templates on professional productivity. People are eager to be as productive as possible. They just need the right tools for the job.

5 Common Barriers to Effective Presentations

In a recent Internet survey, 750 professionals shared their successes and frustrations with presenting and designing presentations. Five key barriers were identified:

Barrier #1: Excessive Length

When asked what they would change about their presentations if given the chance, 88% said they would provide less information, shorten their presentation and/or make their slides more readable. Nearly half believe their presentations are at least 20% too long, and most of these people attribute the excessive length to an excessive number of slides. In fact, about half of those surveyed admit to running through 20-30 slides on average during a 30 minute talk. That’s one slide every 60-90 seconds.

“The story is the same everywhere,” says Bajaj. “Presenters mistakenly assume that if the number of slides is modest, the audience will not believe the presentation adds much value. Consequently, people tend to present too much information too quickly. Ironically, the result for the recipient is to absorb less information and lose the most salient points in the minutiae”.

Barrier #2: Excessive Preparation Time

When asked how much time is spent deciding what to put in presentations, 58 percent of the professionals surveyed said they spend more than three hours for each 30 minute talk. In reality, most presenters start with a blank screen when they sit down to create a presentation. Some use a canned template, but it rarely meets their specific needs. In fact, 61% of those surveyed who use canned templates sometime or always redo them.

60 percent of our respondents said they could save between one to three hours if they did not have to redo the company presentations.

Barrier #3: Lack of subject-relevant images and graphs

When asked, “What can your company do to help you improve your presentation quality?”, 33 percent of the people surveyed said, “give me more effective PowerPoint slides to use.” When it comes to designing slide images to make a point or background to fit the topic, not everyone has the skill or time to create sophisticated, subject-relevant graphics.

Only 15 percent of the professionals say their companies provide sophisticated graphics such as tables, arrows and images relevant to their presentation subject matter. The other 85 percent resort to designing their own charts and images. Among those professionals for whom company-designed PowerPoint templates or backgrounds are available, more than 40 percent think they are ineffective or not worth using.

Barrier #4: Failure to Rehearse

Making a confident, credible presentation takes more than fancy graphics; it takes practice, practice, practice!

While more than three-quarters of presenters agree that practicing in advance is a good idea, only 38 percent say they actually practice. Among those who do not practice, 83 percent agree that practice could help improve their results.

“One reason people don’t practice is that they are busy trying to organize content, formatting charts and graphics, or animating their slides,” says Wilder. “But practicing is essential to a successful outcome. Even most seasoned presenters practice each and every time.” says Wilder.

Barrier #5: Failure to Systematically Gauge Audience Feedback

When asked, “What would it take for you to be satisfied with your presentation performance?”, the survey respondents in our survey consistently answered “audience feedback”. Presenters want and need feedback from the audience that their message got through.

But the indicators used to assess audience reaction vary greatly from presenter to presenter. Some say they look for smiling faces during the talk or “attaboys” at the conclusion. Others measure success based on closing a sale or gaining acceptance for a new idea. To say the least, they are less than objectives measures.

The Solution: Pre-Built Presentation Outlines and Slide Templates

This burgeoning use of PowerPoint presentations, coupled with the less-than-sterling results they produce, has spurred the demand for tools for building more effective presentations in far less time.

Today, scenario-specific formats are readily available on a range of presentation topics – from convincing people of a problem, strategy recommendations, to new project proposals. Each provides customized outlines, executive summaries to fill out, talking points and custom graphics.

But according to our findings, only 20 percent of companies today supply these tools to their presentation designers or presenters. “It costs companies thousands of dollars each month in lost productivity”, says Wilder. “Providing effective story boarded outlines and professional slides will allow presenters to spend less time logically sequencing their data and trying to make their PowerPoint slides look professional. They will have more time thinking about relevant examples to share and practicing out loud,” adds Wilder.

More than 90 percent of the people surveyed said scenario-specific presentation outlines would help them save time; 43 percent predicted these outlines would save between one to three hours on each thirty-minute talk.

“Presenters are struggling to create professional presentations that deliver their message and it is taking time away from what they were hired to do,” says Wilder. “For companies who provide professional, subject-relevant graphics, the productivity gains can be enormous.”

Bajaj adds “The corporate world needs to realize that not anyone can create an effective PowerPoint presentation without access to good quality slide elements like intelligent, custom templates and slide design elements. And sometimes even that is not enough.”

“Companies can help presenters by providing systematic tools for pursuing and learning from audience feedback,” says Wilder. “The important thing is to find ways to receive objective, honest feedback from audiences. That usually means more than getting a sale or hearing someone say, ‘nice job.’”

Next Step

To learn more about presentation outlines and slide templates, contact Geetesh Bajaj by sending him feedback and questions through the feedback form on this site


  1. The poll, designed by Geetesh Bajaj and Claudyne Wilder, was conducted between March 17 and May 30, 2004. Data was collected on the Internet by people reading about the survey in newsletters and on presentation Web sites.

  2. Geetesh Bajaj is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP and runs the Indezine.com site. He also designs presentations and templates that help presenters get their message across. Geetesh is currently writing his first book on PowerPoint for Wiley.

  3. Claudyne Wilder is author of several presentation books and CD’s. She teaches her seminars, Winning Presentations and Creating PowerPoint Presentations That Get Your Point Across to many Fortune 500 companies. She consults with companies on how to effectively develop, design and deliver their presentations.

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