Here’s What Annoys Your Audience

By Heather Baldwin

Ever wish you could get into the minds of your audience and find out what – if anything – might be annoying them about your presentation? A new survey did just that. It asked respondents to identify the three most annoying aspects of the PowerPoint presentations they have seen. Their most common complaints were speakers who read their slides to the audience (60%), text on the slides that is too small to read (51%) and the use of full sentences instead of bullet points on slides (48%).

The survey was conducted in September 2003 by Dave Paradi, CEO of Mississauga, Ontario-based Communicate Using Technology. Subscribers to Paradi’s online newsletter were invited to participate and to ask others to participate. In all, 159 people responded. Their other complaints about PowerPoint presentations included slides that were hard to see because of poor color choice (37%), moving/flying text or graphics (25%), annoying use of sounds (22%) and overly complex diagrams or charts (22%). These qualities weren’t rare occurrences, said respondents. Of those who see 100 or more presentations per year, more than half said 40% or more of the presentations they see suffer from one or more of these annoying traits.

One question asked respondents to answer in free form about other things that annoy them regarding PowerPoint presentations. Three common themes emerged from the 94 comments received. First, audiences are annoyed by poor preparation, such as simply copying the text of a report onto slides or trying to cram too much information onto slides rather than preparing a more detailed handout and using slides to support the message. Second, respondents cited annoyance with the balance of slide elements. Too much text or too many fancy graphics and multimedia were a big turnoff. They wanted a more balanced approach. Finally, audiences cited frustration with presenters who don’t know how to use their technology. Paradi says that awkward use of PowerPoint and the technology to deliver it was mentioned a number of times as detracting from the presenter’s message.

“It is clear from the responses that the most annoying aspect of bad PowerPoint slides is the text, not the graphics or multimedia,” says Paradi. “It is important that a presenter focus on putting short, relevant and readable text on the slides and then adding to each point with what they say. Simply reading the slides that are jammed with text to the audience is insulting. The results indicate that presenters that do this severely damage the message they are trying to deliver.”

For more information on the study, visit