According to a recent survey conducted by PowerPoint designer Dave Paradi, the number-one PowerPoint annoyance is when presenters read their slides to the audience. In fact, “reading from the slides” has been one of the top five most annoying PowerPoint habits since he started conducting this survey in 2003! So why do people continue to do it? It’s simple.
Presenters read from their slides because they are unprepared.
Do Broadway stars read from scripts on opening night? Did Steve Jobs have a fistful of index cards at the ready during his legendary Apple keynotes? Of course not. Great presenters know what they’re talking about, know their lines, and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
If you are guilty of reading to your audience from your slides, stop it right now. Though they might not come right out and say it, inwardly they’re seething, counting down the seconds until the end of your presentation, and tweeting snarky comments about #DeathByPowerPoint.
Why you shouldn’t read from your slides
If consistent survey results over the past nine years and nasty anti-PowerPoint posts in Twitter don’t convince you, here are five more reasons you shouldn’t be reading from your deck:
- You look unprepared. The only reason to read from a PowerPoint slide is if you don’t already know what’s on it. If you don’t know your subject inside and out, then why are you presenting?
- You waste people’s time. If everything you want to communicate is on each and every slide, why are you asking people to give up the time it takes to attend your presentation and listen to you read? Wasting people’s time costs money—estimate the hourly salary of each attendee in your presentation, add it together, then multiply that amount by how long it takes to read your deck to them. Do the world a favor and if you’re gonna stuff all your text into your deck (which you shouldn’t do, by the way), just email it to people. They read the deck on their own time and get your message. Maybe.
- You waste your own time. You have a captive audience in the room with you, listening in silence to your every word. Don’t blow this golden opportunity to tell your story, to lead people to the conclusions you want them to reach, to add your perspective and insights, and—most importantly—to engage with your audience.
- Your slides look ugly. PowerPoint is a visual medium. When you cram loads of text onto a slide, it just looks bad.
- You look stupid. The bottom line is that if all you do is read your slides to the audience, you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Have you ever sat through a boring presentation where the presenter reads directly from his slides? If you have read from your own slides to an audience, why did you do it and what was their reaction?