In an attempt to work out out how much boring presentations were costing the UK economy, I came up with the figure of £7.8 billion a year (HERE).
I was aware that this was probably a serious underestimate of the actual wastage, as it was based entirely on the estimated salary cost per hour of audiences listening to such presentations, and took no account of the time spent preparing slides, hiring venues, audience travel costs getting there and back, tea, coffee, meals, accommodation, etc.
But a recent news story highlights yet further costs that I missed in my earler estimate: management consultants McKinsey & Co were paid £500,000 for a report on the Welsh National Health Service described as 'a compilation of slides', an 'appalling waste' and 'the most expensive PowerPoint presentation ever' (at £6,500 per slide) - for more on which, see HERE).
Although I noted in a recent post that I'm beginning to think that the PowerPoint problem is getting worse, with more and more companies and organisations trying to kill more and more birds with one stone (HERE), what intrigued me about this particular story was that the alleged culprits were top management consultants.
Such companies were not only among the first I ever saw using PowerPoint to collapse two key communicational tasks (written detail + spoken summary) into one, but were also completely resistant to any news or advice about how audiences react to such presentations, let alone how they could improve things.
They know best
On one occasion, I did my best to explain all the obvious problems for speakers and listeners during presentations like theirs - and made the equally obvious point that readers find slides made up of shorthand sentences arrayed as bullet points far less readable than conventionally structured written prose.
"It would work much better" I ventured to suggest "if you got one of the recent MBA graduates on your staff to prepare a detailed written (and readable) report for the client, and then give a presentation to them summarising the main findings and recommendations, and doing so in way as to motivate them to read the detailed material for themselves afterwards."
"Oh no" came back the reply. "That would take far too much time."
The real costs
I remember being amazed by the thought that the cost of this alternative approach would be a miniscule fraction of the daily rates the company was charging their clients - and that the gains being missed out on by both parties were potentially immense.
The news that one such company has just inflicted 80 slides on a public sector client at a cost of £6,500 per slide suggests that, 20 years later, little has changed.
It also points to a serious omission from my original calculation of the annual loss to the UK economy from boring presentations as a mere £7.8 billion and points to an important question that I'd failed to take into account:
How much a year are UK companies and organisations wasting on paying other companies and organisations to have their staff bored, baffled and bewildered by slide-dependent presentations?
Further research is clearly needed...