PowerPoint presentations in India are fast becoming the part and parcel of everyone’s life. You make sales presentations to get potential clients. You make presentations to train your employees. You make presentations for your quarterly business review. You even make presentations at press conferences. If you are a student, you make presentations as part of your final project. If you are a doctor, you are invited to make presentations at medical conferences. And the list goes on. If you are reading this, chances are you also make some presentations every once in a while.
Because we are making so many presentations we should definitely be very good at it. After all practice make perfect. But the truth is that the quality of presentations made in India is not good. There is immense scope for improvement.
This brings us to today’s topic:
- What is wrong with presentations in India today?
- What is the reason for this presentation problem?
The cure for this problem will form the second part of this article.
What is wrong with presentations in India?
Choose any random sample of managers and executives and ask them what they did not like in the last presentation they attended and you will have your answer. Ask any customer who sits through a long sales presentation and you will know what to cure. All of us think we are doing a great job. The only reason we don’t know about our flaws is because we don’t ask.
Dave Paradi, a popular blogger, conducted a survey in 2009 where he polled 548 people on what annoys them most in a PowerPoint presentation. The top 5 factors which annoy our audience were found to be:
- Presenter reading from the slides
- Text too small I could not read
- Full sentences instead of bullet points
- Slides were hard to see because of wrong colour choice
- Overly complex diagrams or charts
Dave’s survey was not an India-focussed survey but the analysis still applies to us. From my experience and from surveys, I have compiled a list of the 10 most common problems which plague our presentations today:
- Excess text on slides
- Presenter reading from the slides
- Too much content in the presentation / Presenter overshooting the time limit
- Lack of passion on part of the presenter
- Text too small to be read
- One way communication / The presentation is not interactive
- Too many animation effects and slide transitions
- Poor slide aesthetics
- Over-used and clichéd templates
- Nothing new and refreshing / Extremely boring
Think about these aspects before you read on. How often have you been the culprit? Are you also boring your audiences to death?
What is the reason for this presentation problem?
Making a presentation is a skill. And like any other skill, it has to be learnt. We are taught about mathematics in school, we are taught physics, we are even taught singing and dancing but not much time is spend behind making us better communicators. Communication is highly under-rated.
A PowerPoint presentation is nothing but a communication exercise. You have a message and you pass it on to the audience with the help of images/text/videos, all put on a slide. Sounds simple, isn’t it? Then what makes us such bad presenters?
There are many reasons. While some can be overcome easily the others might take time. It all depends on our mindset. Here is the list:
- Worrying more about how the slides look and less about what we have to say
- Poor knowledge of the software (MS PowerPoint)
- Treating the slides as a word document and making slides like we make a report
- Using the slides as a cue and writing everything down (so that we do not forget anything)
- Failing to prioritise what is important and what is not. This leads to excess content on our slides
- Lack of rehearsal which leads to presenters reading from slides
- Not willing to try out new things. Not willing to challenge the status quo
- Lack of seriousness about presentations
- Not seeking regular feedback from audience after a presentation
- Lack of proper planning and preparation. Working during the 11th hour to make a presentation.
I would like to leave you with this list so you can mull over it. Go back to the 10 most common presentation problems and see how many apply to you. If not sure, seek feedback from the audience you last spoke to.
I made a point that communication is an under-rated skill. I would like to add that in this increasingly complex world where competition is growing and people have no time. In this instant gratification world, the future belongs to the effective communicators. People who talk less and say more.
Author: Vivek Singh