What is the number-one PowerPoint annoyance?

The history of the PBJ

If you think that a core dump and recitation of your entire store of knowledge on a particular subject makes for a captivating PowerPoint presentation, think again. According to a survey conducted by renowned PowerPoint expert Dave Paradi, a whopping 73.8% of the 603 respondents chose “The speaker read the slides to us” as the number-one most annoying thing that can happen at a presentation.

There’s a time and a place for reading things verbatim to an audience. As a matter of fact, I’ll be doing it all the time as a volunteer in my son’s Kindergarten classroom, where my audience will be learning to pair my vocalizations with those squiggly marks on the page. But when you do this to an audience of people who already know how to read, such as college students, seminar attendees, or the prospects you’re trying to win over, you are communicating very well. But you’re probably not sending the messages you think you are.

Here’s what you’re telling your audience by reading off of your slides during your presentation:

  1. I have no idea what I’m talking about. People will be able to tell if you’re doing a cold read off your slides, and they’ll conclude that you not only have no knowledge of your subject but you’re unprepared.
  2. I don’t value your time. In Galaxy Quest, a sci-fi comedy about a TV show much like Star Trek, Computer Officer Tawny Madison’s only job is to repeat what the computer says to the rest of the crew. At one point in the movie she yells that she knows her job is stupid, but it’s the only thing she does on the ship and she’s gonna keep on doing it. Similarly, if you aren’t improving the presentation experience then why are you in front of your audience? Why not save everyone’s time and just email the presentation to everybody? Oh, and by the way, create it in Word so at least you’ll have a little more control over formatting, page flow, and layout.
  3. I don’t have a compelling story. Some of the best presenters don’t use PowerPoint at all. (Yeah, I know: “GASP!”) But if you have a great story and are animated when you tell it, then you sure don’t need to read it to your audience. Memorize the fundamentals and then improvise each time you present, changing little details here and there but basically sticking to the script. Your knowledge and passion for the subject will stay with the audience a lot longer than ten bullet points per slide ever could.
  4. I need to use my deck as the handout. No you don’t. Your presentation is the teaser, the invitation to your audience to learn more. When they need more information, you can direct them to your Web site, send them documentation (professionally designed, of course), or schedule a one-on-one meeting.
  5. No, my boss said I have to use the deck as the handout. What, your boss hasn’t seen a TED talk? Ok, then put all your information into the Speaker Notes and distribute that. Then tell your boss to stop hassling you and let you do your job as a stunning presenter.

So stop reading and start communicating!

Read the interview with Dave Paradi on the Indezine blog to discover the other top four biggest PowerPoint annoyances.

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