Sunday, September 2, 2012

PowerPoint Flaws and Failures: Survey of Common Flaws and Annoyances














At PubMed Central I saw the full text to a 22-page article titled PowerPoint® Presentation Flaws and Failures: A Psychological Analysis that had appeared in July in Frontiers in Educational Psychology. That article was written by Stephen M. Kosslyn, Rogier A. Kievet, Alexandra G. Russell, and Jennifer M. Shephard.

It’s of considerable interest because Stephen M. Kosslyn also has previously written a pair of books titled Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations (2007), and Better PowerPoint: Quick Fixes Based on How Your Audience Thinks (2010).

The article describes three different studies. Yesterday I discussed the first one, about commonly broken rules. In this post I will discuss the second one, which was an online survey of 205 adults, (112 females, 83 males, and 10 who didn’t report their gender).

Participants were asked 42 questions divided among the following seven topics:

Appropriate Knowledge - 8 
Compatibility - 3 
Discriminability - 5 
Informative Change - 2 
Limited Capacity - 7 
Relevance - 12 
Salience - 4 

There also was one question about an unprepared speaker.

For each question the participants were asked to provide two rankings. The first was the proportion of presentations that had that flaw, as ranked on a zero to four scale where:

0 = None
1 =  Some 
2 = Half 
3 = Many 
4 = Virtually all 

The top ten most prevalent flaws (and their average ratings) were:

1. Presentation failed to convey a meaningful message because the main point was obscured by lots of irrelevant detail. (1.363) 

2. Slides contained too much material to absorb before the next slide was presented. (1.356)

3. Speaker read word-for-word from notes or from the slides themselves. (1.348)

4. Speaker did not inject any humor or illustrations to lighten complex material. (1.299) 

5. Speaker did not use a pointer or otherwise direct audience attention to important details on the slides. (1.279)  

6. Speaker went through the presentation too slowly. (1.265)

7. Speaker presented slides with a lot of text and then proceeded to talk while the audience was trying to read. (1.255)

8. Speaker used too much jargon. (1.249)

9. Speaker assumed the audience knew more than it did. (1.205)

10. Presentation failed to convey a meaningful message because not enough information was provided to support the main point. (1.201).

The second ranking, on a zero to three scale, was about the degree to which that problem bothered or annoyed them where:

0 = Not at all 
1 = Somewhat 
2 = A fair amount 
3 = Extremely annoying

The top ten most annoying flaws (and their average ratings) were:

1. Presentation failed to convey a meaningful message because the main point was obscured by lots of irrelevant detail. (1.340)

2. Speaker read word-for-word from notes or from the slides themselves. (1.315)

3. Presentation failed to convey a meaningful message because not enough information was provided to support the main point. (1.274)

4. Speaker went through the presentation too slowly. (1.262)

5. Slides contained too much material to absorb before the next slide was presented. (1.225)

6. Slides had text or graphics that were too small to see clearly. (1.195)

7. Presentation failed to convey a meaningful message because there was no main point. (1.170)

8. Speaker was talking about a topic that the audience did not care about. (1.162)

9. Speaker went over the allotted time (or rushed to finish in time). (1.117)

10. Speaker presented slides with a lot of text and then proceeded to talk while the audience was trying to read. (1.116)

Detailed results are shown in the Appendix to the magazine article. This survey provides a different perspective than Dave Paradi’s 2011 survey and 2009 survey, which had larger sample sizes but reported results from fewer questions.

1 comment:

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