Last night, I discovered that after dinner speeches don't always take place after dinner. I'd been invited to talk about PowerPoint to the Council of the Management Consultancies Association between the starter and the main course, with a Q-A session scheduled to take place after the diners had finished eating their main courses.
As after-dinner speeches are normally expected to be vaguely entertaining, it was a chance to combine a bit of amusement with some opportunistic research into something that, as regular blog readers know, is one of my recurring obsessions - namely the increasing use of PowerPoint-style presentations during British television news programmes (for more on which, see 'Related Posts' at the bottom of this page).
So I ended my talk with the following clip from a BBC Television News broadcast on the financial crisis, in which business editor Robert Peston gives us a 36 second presentation from the other side of the studio.
The diners were given no advance warning that, about half-way through the main course, they would be issued with a short quiz aimed at testing their retention of Peston's words of wisdom.
If you'd like to join in, don't read down to the questions below, watch the video first and then wait 10 minutes before coming back to have a go at answering them.
MCA Council Dinner Quiz
- How much is the recue deal going to cost the government?
- How much is that as a proportion of GDP?
- How much a year will it cost each tax-payer?
- How does Peston describe the recovery in bankers' willingness to lend?
- What reason does he give for that?
- No conferring.
- To be completed before the end of the main course.
- In te event of a tie, the result will be decided by the judge.
As there was only one prize (a signed copy of Lend Me Your Ears), I had to allow for the possibility that everyone might score 100% - which I did by preparing a few tie-breaker questions.
It came as something of a surprise, even to me, that none of the 40 or so participants was able to answer all 5 questions correctly.
Only three of them (7.5%) managed to answer 4/5 correctly - so it didn't take long for the tie-breaker questions to produce a winner.
I wouldn't want to give too much weight to a research design that was intended partly as entertainment and partly to illustrate one of the themes of my talk. But I do think it's interesting that 92.5% of an audience of highly educated professionals - with far more experience of watching PowerPoint presentations than most ordinary viewers of BBC Television News programmes - were only able to remember three (or fewer than three) of the main points in Peston's report/presentation.
P.S. to visitors from countries outside the UK:
I've been trying to find out whether this trend towards PowerPoint-style TV news reports is a peculiarly British trend, or whether it's also happening in other countries. If you've any information on this, please let me know.
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- Objects as visual aids: UK Speechwriters; Guild Conference 2010