Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How to spin the results from a survey

Last week we got an excellent example of how to shift the emphasis on a set of survey results. Prezi hired Harris Poll to do a survey about presentations in collaboration with Carmine Gallo. Some of the results first were reported on September 23rd in a press release at Marketwired titled Presentations Are Critical to Success According to Nearly 1 in 2 of Employed Americans. Curiously there is no link to a file containing detailed results. Under key survey findings they noted that:

“Of those who present, nearly 70% agree it's critical to their success at work.

Three quarters (75%) of those who present agree they would like to be better presenters.

Almost two thirds (63%) of those who present agree slide-based presentations can be boring and ineffective, with many nervous about not being able to captivate the audience (33%) or create visually appealing presentations (23%).”

They added that:

“Of those who are employed, close to half (46%) admit to having done something else during a co-worker's presentation, including:
Sent a text message (28%)
Checked email (27%)
Surfed the Internet (19%)
Posted on/checked social media (11%)
Fallen asleep (17%)”

They also mentioned what people do to calm nerves, as shown above in a chart.

The fine print at the end described who was surveyed, as shown above. Note that we are being told about the 984 employed, while the other 1,047 (over half) are ignored. (I’ve estimated that about 700 employed people present).

When we compare the nearly 1 in 2 headline from the press release with the 46% having done something else, we find the curious hypocritical balance shown above. About half think presentations are critical, but the other half don’t even bother to listen.    

On September 25th Carmine Gallo wrote about that survey at Forbes in an article titled New Survey: 70% Say Presentation Skills Are Critical For Career Success. His opening paragraph says:

“Seventy percent of employed Americans who give presentations agree that presentation skills are critical to their success at work, according to a new Prezi survey. My first reaction? The other 30% don’t know it yet.”

I had another first reaction - that he cherry-picked a statistic describing just 35% of those who were surveyed. What did the rest think?

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