The Scientific Reason No One Wants to See your PowerPoint Presentation


Jun 22, 2008
Instead of heading to that morning presentation by your recently appointed CTO, you try to figure out ways to avoid the meeting. Guess what, there is a reasoning for your lackadaisical behavior towards the boring Power Point presentation coming your way. It turns out that if slides were less linear and static, but actually had moving images that panned and zoomed, folks with short attention spans will be far more engaged. The study compares the use of Prezi, an online presentation tool that focuses on a ZUI (zoomable-user interface), PowerPoint, and oral presentations. Presentations that had ZUIs and animated features were considered better as it helped in visual and spatial awareness. Makes some sense as I am easily delighted in whatever dumb gif that's sent my way. From the article: (Note that the study was funded by Prezi, though it was published in PLOS One, an online peer-reviewed journal.)

Audiences consistently prefer animated websites and advertisements over their static equivalents, the researchers said, and tend to rate presentations that use them more highly, regardless of content. "Because ZUI presentations are more engaging than slideshows, ZUI presentations and presenters are judged more positively than slideshows," the researchers said.
That bemusement when the whole room waits 5 seconds until the title and bullet points scroll into place on each and every page :D
The reason people do not want to read you article... WALL OF TEXT!!!!!
I do remember one time in frustration I made an entire PPT using just cheesy animated clipart, no text whatsoever.

I just hit the button to show a item of specific clipart to punctuate a point.

Amazingly people came up to me years later laughing saying "I remember that presentation you gave with all the cheesy animations...."

So it must have been the only memorable PPT ever.

I did used to say if you got rid of PPT in your business you could sack 50% of your staff (the ones that sit in PPT all day, you know who they are) and actually increase productivity.
When I was tasked with giving the IT part of our state agency's new employee presentations, I was the only presenter during the two day sessions that didn't use powerpoint. Instead I used a laptop and demonstrated actual things the new folks needed to know, complete with live working screens. Had several folks tell me that the IT part of the presentation was the only thing that they learned useful stuff from. Apparently the other presenters, usually managers from the various divisions, didn't like being upstaged. It was suggested from the PHB's in charge that an IT manager should be giving the presentation. He, of course, used powerpoint and the entire session became the normal two day nap inducing event.
The article seems convincing until they stated "Audiences consistently prefer animated websites and advertisements over their static equivalents, the researchers said..." Animated ads over static ones are PREFERRED? I call BS here considering the study was done by a competitor to Powerpoint. PP could look to incorporate some of these features in a later release, however.
After years of being exposed to these things, I swore I would never subject anyone to a sleep inducing PPT presentation myself. I've always preferred to be illustrative and interactive instead of reading back to you what is on a screen.
Anyone who doesn't have attention span enough to follow a powerpoint should be immediately fired.
I hated using Powerpoint when I worked in the corporate world.

In the end I used powerpoints with just one page.

It just read -


Bahaha, I used to do this when I was a BA for a call center. It worked super well.
Of course, the answer is to dumb everything down to appeal to people with short attention spans.

Wait a second! I think business might have already picked up on this. Just a hunch.
Prezi has its place but bad presentations in it are horrendous. Absolutely needs a specialist to get the best out of it, even then it only works well for certain types of messaging, journeys/roadmaps basically.

Anything you present is defined by its content. There is some amazing stuff out there, there's a lot of dross.

That said, PowerPoint is more often used for slidedocs than presentations in my experience. In this I find it quite useful as its format forces you to be succinct and anyone competent displays things quite visually anyway. If you're smart about it you get a designer to turn rough content into slick packs without spending a week dragging boxes around to line them up.

It upsets people that haven't lived it but try getting an exec to read a word document, not gonna happen. In most large corporates they just want the rigorous work to read by people they trust and distilled into a succinct version they can understand in a few minutes. I can and have convinced them to start the investment process on multi-hundred million dollar pieces of work in less than 15 slides.