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Survey Shows How to Stop Annoying Audiences With Bad PowerPoint

Dave Paradi shares findings from his recent survey about PowerPoint.


Product/Version: PowerPoint

Dave ParadiDave Paradi is known as The Office Technology Lifeguard because he rescues people from "Death by PowerPoint" and other electronic sins. His articles, special reports and books help you quickly and easily leverage the technology you already own to save time and make money. Get your free 5+1 day Leveraging Microsoft Office course with 20 tips on Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook and more great tips every two weeks by signing up at his web site: Comunicate Using Technology

Rating the Annoying Elements
Themes in Audience Comments
Scope of the Problem


Too many experts look at PowerPoint from the technical perspective – what features do people use and how to use the features. My recent survey took a different perspective. For the first time, the audience perspective on PowerPoint presentations was considered. In September of 2003, I asked 159 people what they found most annoying about the PowerPoint presentations that they see. The results of this survey have important insights for presenters at all levels.


Rating the Annoying Elements

The respondents to this Web-based survey came from all levels in a variety of organizations and in different countries. I asked each person to select the top three annoying elements from a list of elements and then asked for extra items in a free-form question. The top things that audiences find annoying about bad PowerPoint presentations, with the percentage of people citing this element are as follows.

The speaker read the slides to us 60.4%
Text so small I couldn't read it 50.9%
Full sentences instead of bullet points 47.8%
Slides hard to see because of color choice 37.1%
Moving/flying text or graphics 24.5%
Annoying use of sounds 22.0%
Overly complex diagrams or charts 22.0%

It is clear from the responses that the most annoying aspect of bad PowerPoint slides is the text, not the graphics or multimedia. It is important that a presenter focus on getting short, relevant and readable text on the slides and add to each point with what they say. Simply reading the slides that are jammed with text to the audience is an insult to the audience and the results indicate that by doing this, presenters are severely damaging the message they are trying to deliver.


Themes in Audience Comments

Three common themes emerged from the free-form comments:

  1. Poor Preparation of the Presentation – People are very annoyed when the presenter does not even think about the structure of the presentation and simply copies the text of a report onto slides. PowerPoint slides should support the message, not substitute for the presenter or for a more detailed handout. Presenters need to connect with the audience instead of hiding behind the slides.
  2. Balance of Slide Elements – People find too much text or too much fancy graphics and multimedia a big turn off. These two extremes do not work well. A balanced approach is called for – text to give context for the audience’s understanding of what the presenter will next be speaking about, and graphics and multimedia to add flavor to the text.
  3. Not Knowing How to Use the Technology – If presenters are going to use technology during a presentation, they should learn how to set it up, start it up so it looks professional and smoothly move between the slides. Awkward usage of PowerPoint and presentation technology was mentioned a number of times as detracting from the message being delivered.

Scope of the Problem

I also asked what percentage of the PowerPoint presentations that people see suffer from these problems. A surprisingly high percentage of presentations suffer from the problems that annoy audience members. A total of 41.5% of the respondents said that more than 40% of the presentations they see contain annoying elements. This indicates how wide-spread the problem is and how much of an issue this is becoming for organizations. Microsoft’s statistics indicate that there are 400 million copies of Microsoft Office installed and there are 30 million PowerPoint presentations done each day. The increased reliance on the PowerPoint tool for communicating a message has not worked as well as hoped given the results of the survey. It is clear that many presenters need help structuring their presentation, especially the crucial text aspect.



Organizations must take steps to properly train their staff in the use of PowerPoint to present information in meetings. It is clear that the tool is a good one, it is just the use of the tool that is at issue. Too many presenters have used PowerPoint slides as a substitute for themselves and think that the slides are the presentation instead of the slides supporting the presentation that they must deliver.

A clear structure to the presentation should be created, research done to support the key points and an analysis of the audience to take their needs into account. When creating the slides, presenters must only put the key points on the slide and add to the point with the depth of information that they share verbally. This will lead to more effective presentations and less wasted time. Organizations who find that their staff are primarily reading reports and calling them presentations may want to eliminate many of the presentations and simply distribute the report electronically for others to review on their own time. This would free up large amounts of time for professionals to attend to higher value work.


Dave Paradi on Indezine (Glossary Page)

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