Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Do 80% of presentations fail? Are you sure?

On April 11th Corrie Miller had a post on Janice Tomich’s Calculated Presentations blog titled 80% of Presentations Fail - Do yours? She began by appealing to an authority and stating a startling statistic:

“According to Phillip Khan-Panni, UK Champion business speaker and author, 80% of presentations fail to deliver their objective.”

That’s startling because it’s a failure rate over FIVE TIMES higher than the 15% sometimes quoted for condoms. (Sex is a more interesting topic than death, the fear of which is often compared with fear of public speaking). But, is that what Mr. Khan-Panni had been saying? Well, not quite. He made narrower and weasel-worded claims on his web site and at LinkedIn that:

“It is often said that 80% of business presentations fail.”


“Research reveals that over 80% of business presentations fail...”

I searched on Google to see if I could find who did that research, when and how it was done, and where it was published. All I found was a 2006 web page from Oatmeal Training that claimed:

“A recent survey suggests that 80% of business presentations fail as a consequence of poor preparation...”

Last September I blogged about a study in a magazine article by Stephen M. Kosslyn et al titled PowerPoint Presentation Flaws and Failures: A Psychological Analysis. That study surveyed over two hundred people, and asked them to rank how prevalent (and how annoying) ten specific failures were on a scale from zero to four where:

0 = none
1 = some
2 = half
3 = many
4 = virtually all

The table shown above (click on it for a larger, clearer version) summarizes their results on prevalence for those ten questions. In it I have listed the percentages who ranked them 0 to 2 (half or less). About 84% to 92% said that half or less of the presentations had failed. Half is way less than the 80% quoted by Ms. Miller. So, I highly doubt that 80% of presentations fail.   

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