According to a survey conducted with 273 people working in large organisations, presentations directly cause a waste of 8 to 17% of their time:

  • On average, employees spend more than 9 hours a week delivering, attending or preparing presentations.
  • 45% of all presentations are too long or much too long.
  • In 47% of the cases, the attendees have learned little or nothing.
  • Only 24% of all presentations actually produce a marked effect.


It’s hard to imagine our daily, professional lives without presentations. They are the pre-eminent tool to prepare important decisions, to inform employees, or to follow up on projects.  And yet, they are often a source of irritation and wasted time: unclear, bloated, dull, and unattractive.  Many hours of useless work are lost in presentations that lead nowhere.

To test this perception, we have interviewed 273 employees and managers in mainly large organisations. Together they have evaluated a total of 780 presentations.

The ‘Presentation Paradox’ confirmed.

On the one hand, the survey confirmed that presentations are the pre-eminent communication means. They are much more effective than email or other electronic media to inform colleagues, prepare decisions, develop strategies and plans, and follow up on them.

The interviewees spend on average more than 9 hours per week on delivering presentations, preparing them, or attending to one. 20% of the managers spend in excess of 20 hours per week on this.

On the other hand, there’s a strong feeling that the quality of these same presentations leaves much to be desired.  45% of presentations contain a superabundance of irrelevant information.  In 47% of the cases, the attendees say they have learned little or nothing. Presentations are often perceived as a total waste of time.

Presentations are a hidden source of waste.

Only 24% of all presentations actually lead to some conclusion or have a marked effect on attendees’ opinions or attitudes. So, 76 % of all presentations are at least a partial waste of time. Time wasted for the audience as well as for the presenters who spent so much time and energy in preparing them.

17% of the working week is spent on presentations that have little (8%) or no (9%) effect. That’s a substantial portion out of the salaries budget, and in any case, it represents time better spent elsewhere.

It is shocking to notice that companies make no effort whatsoever to measure the return on time invested in presentations. And yet that represents 22% of their managers’ total time.

Content is King.

All tests in the survey show that the amount of information is the key to the success of a presentation. Concise presentations are much easier to remember, yet 45% of all presentations contain too much information.

The sample also dispels the illusion that a talented speaker can redress overloaded slides with his or her rhetorical talent.  82% of all attendees learn little or nothing from a presentation with an overabundance of information, even when it is brought by a talented speaker.

Therefore, employees have to learn, first and foremost, to select and structure information, because that’s what they’re not so good at, at least according to their colleagues.

Only the tip of the iceberg?

Of course, the problem runs much deeper: if every decision is based on a Powerpoint presentation, and the quality of that presentation is subpar, what is than the quality of those decisions?

Maybe it’s time to think about the quality of their presentations in your organisation?

Ed Gruwez

Kaat Vanseer