What is the cost of a presentation?

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“You get taught a lot of things in the world of business, but presenting is rarely one of them”

Terry O’Reilly – CBC Under The Influence

Presentations can persuade, inspire, enlighten or clarify, OR they can have no impact at all, and even waste the most precious resource – time.

What if, at a corporate meeting, there are 400 employees each with an average wage of $30 per hour who attend an hour long presentation. The “cost” of this presentation in terms of time is $12,000 (number of employees x hourly wage).  What if the main point or message of the presentation isn’t communicated effectively?  Then the organization did not get value for the $12,000 investment (plus other costs associated with a meeting).  If you extrapolate this concept to a large organization of 100,000 employees, where on average 25% of employees attend a presentation (or webinar) once a week, then the cost of less than memorable presentations could be as high as $30M per year.  I am not the first person to think this way. In his blog post, Are We Wasting $250 Million per Day Due to Bad PowerPoint?, author and presentation consultant Dave Paradi discusses just how much time and money we may be wasting with ineffective presentations.

Using the presentation “slides” as handouts doesn’t help much either.  In their article The PowerPoint Presentation and Its Corollaries: How Genres Shape Communicative Action in Organizations, JoAnne Yates and Wanda Orlindowski from the MIT Sloan School of Management discuss using presentations slides as documents. They state “PowerPoint texts created with this dual purpose typically have too much content to be effective presentations aids and too little content and context to fulfill the expectations for the report genre”.  In other words, presentation slides can have the dubious distinction of being both poor presentation visuals and poor documents.

The solution is to educate presenters on presentation design/delivery. Make it a priority; it is too important a function to be allowed to “just happen”. When organizations roll out new software there is training and support for employees, however employees deliver important information and ideas everyday via presentations and typically have no training in how to do this effectively. Live presentations can be a powerful form of communication; it’s interesting that many organizations assume employees have the skill to do them well. It is a dangerous assumption to make from a productivity and financial point of view.

What was the key message, the point, of the last internal presentation or webinar that you attended?

Boring presentations are not only ineffective, they can also be expensive.

Joe Pops

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