Two months ago, I wrote a blog post called The Most Annoying Presenters where I detailed nine of the worst public speaking habits that I’ve seen over the years. That post was mostly my opinion, mixed with feedback from clients, audiences, reading, and some general common sense. You may know that I try to research nearly everything presentations, pulling articles like psychology studies to explain human behavior on why people are scared so I can better understand glossophobia (the fear of public speaking). I didn’t think there was any research on annoying presentations — little did I know. Last week, a subscriber to my blog tweeted (@speak_simple) me the 2017 Annoying PowerPoint Presentation survey. Who knew there was an annoying presentation survey? They even did the Annoying Presentation survey in 2013 and 2015!
The team at Think Outside the Slide surveyed 439 people in their research and their findings aren’t that surprising to me. I’m excited to say that their survey validates my thoughts and the recommendations I’ve been sharing with you and my audiences for years.
4 Most Annoying PowerPoint Presentation Features
- 68.7% – The speaker read the slides
- 51.6% – Full sentences of text
- 49.3% – Text too small to read
- 33.6% – Visuals too complex
As part of the commentary for the survey, Dave Paradi notes “Presenters [are] still not prepared enough when they deliver the presentation. Rehearsal, which is saying your presentation out loud using your slides, is so valuable. You will become comfortable with the material and be less likely to read the slides, and you will also make sure you stay within the time given for the presentation.”
Sound familiar? He and I are definitely on the same page and I doubt we’ve seen the same horrible presentations so these problems are obviously widespread.
Many presenters (especially “experienced” ones) think they’ll save time by “winging” a presentation, and they think the audience won’t notice that they didn’t practice. The audience can easily tell the presenter didn’t practice when he is fumbling for words, running way over or under on the allotted time, bouncing back and forth with his thoughts and slides, and often speaking off topic and on unrelated tangents.
While this survey focused on the visual aid (PowerPoint), it does cite the need for simplification, starting with that visual aid. Too many presenters overload their slide decks, and therefore they confuse their audiences, with too much information. I always suggest 5-7 words per slide MAX. Your slides should be a short title and a large image that illustrates your thought.
Additionally, your charts and graphics need to be easily legible from the back of the room or you shouldn’t use them. I hate when a presenter says, “I know you can’t read this…” (and I’m sitting in the front row squinting.)
Even worse than that annoying habit, audiences hate when a speaker reads the slides to them. This horror is first on the survey because it is irritating in multiple ways:
- Reading the slides shows the audience that you didn’t prepare, which is disrespectful.
- You speaking while I’m reading is obtrusive because most people read faster than a presenter can talk.
- If the audience can glean everything by reading the slide deck than the presenter is useless. You might as well email the slide deck to everyone and cancel the presentation. (I’ve seen multiple webinars where the speaker is reading the screen and a few slides in someone asks if the slide deck will be emailed out. Once the speaker confirms he is emailing the slide deck, everyone jumps off the webinar.)
Take a look at the survey (and my annoying blog post) to make sure you’re not doing anything to annoy your audiences. Then practice your presentations to improve your public speaking abilities.
- Sign up for my newsletter, Simply Speaking, and get my strategies and insights on improving your presentations sent to your email.
- Download 6 Amazing Ways to Overcome Presentation Fear, a free guide.
- Follow Speak Simple on Facebook and YouTube for more ways to improve your presentations.
How Speak Simple Can Help You
Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.