The Omnipresent Presentation: Does It Offer Good ROI?


Presentations are one of the most used and abused instructional methods.

They are everywhere. Conferences, meetings, webinars, board rooms, seminars, workshops, exhibit halls, online learning.

Worldwide, presentations are the most common method for training adults. (What’s The Use Of Lectures? by Donald Bligh). Most conferences rely 100% on lecture-based presentations.

Show-And-Tell Revisited

Remember show-and-tell from elementary school?

You’d bring something from home to show your classmates. Then you would talk about it.

You would tell the class what the object was. Why you chose it. Where you got it. What it means to you.  How to use it. And other information. It was your first attempt at public speaking.

Most of today’s presentations are nothing more than show-and-tell revisited. Information is delivered to listeners who have minimal opportunity for active engagement. Instead of a prop brought from home, many presentations are supported by PowerPoint slides.

The assumption is that listening to the information means that you learn it and retain it.

Unfortunately, content covered does not equal content learned.

Presentations Continue To Dominate

I believe that presentations will continue to dominate conferences. Why?

  1. They are relatively fast.
  2. They are easy to prepare and share.
  3. They are fairly inexpensive to create.
  4. They are efficient to distribute whether via the Internet, Slideshare or organization content capture program.
  5. They allow the host organization to document that content was covered.
  6. They allow for sponsors to market their product or services to a captive audience.

Slow Death By (PPT) Bullets

PowerPoint governs most presentations around the world. Every minute slides flood screens.

Unfortunately, the factors that contribute to learning are not always present when PowerPoint is used. Too much text for the mind to comprehend covers a slide. Visuals that augment and hook learning are ignored in favor of bullets of text.

Why Don’t Organizations Invest In Presenter Training?

With so many presentations offered in business and conferences, how effective are they? How many of these presentations offer a solid return-on-investment?

If we are going to live with presentations and they dominate conferences, why don’t more conference organizers leverage them more effectively for learning? Why don’t more organizations invest money in “Train the Trainer” programs, helping their industry speakers improve their presentation development, delivery and use of PowerPoint?

If education is one of the top two reasons people attend conferences, isn’t it time for meeting professionals to budget to incrementally help speakers improve their presentations?

Ultimately, investing in speakers means a return in audience learning.

What are some of the areas that meeting professionals can help industry speakers improve their presentations? What are some things you like about presentations that help you learn and retain information?

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  1. William says:

    I’ve introduced a free speaking training day this year for all of my speakers and it is proving really popular and we are seeing much better presentations too. One tip is to avoid PowerPoint and delegates aren’t complaining about that!

  2. It’s so funny you posted this. I was just laughing about Meeting Boy’s Top-10 PowerPoint Tweets ( that he’s making into a PowerPoint presentation, natch.

    I’m eagerly awaiting your rant about Prezi …

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Yeah, I’m fairly tenacious and patient. Will continue to beat this drum! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I know that your events don’t fit with the plain vanilla type conferences of most associaitons. They could learn some things from your model for sure. Thanks for reading and providing feedback.

      You might try crescents of six instead of rounds of ten. Then they can still have lunch and mingle with each other. I suspect what all three of us, Traci, Adrian and myself, would say to you is consider mixing up your format some. How much time do you give your participants to process information and discuss with each other. Are the conversations all one way from the stage to the floor? If so, it’s time to think about nixing the sage on the stage and getting a guide on the side, so to speak.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Bullseye! You bring up an extremely valid point. Most organizations duplicate last year’s marketing material with the same format. Thanks for bringing that to the discussion.

      Ha, ha. Prezi. I’m not a fan yet. I like the way you can control your adventure and customize the presentation for the audience in Prezi. I don’t like the fact that rarely is good design or striking graphics used with it. Most of the time it just createa motion sickness with the overused bullets and text. 😉

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