Our survey results: The average work presentation isn't good enough

April 20, 2020

We commissioned a survey of 2,000 office workers to get an insight into the presentations taking place in workplaces today. The results are rather interesting.

It will probably come as no surprise that a significant proportion of people who sit through presentations at work are left underwhelmed. 

In a world where PowerPoint presentations are too often filled with chunks of text, endless bullet points and uninspiring images, the infamous “Death by PowerPoint” is an all-too-common occurrence. 

Here at Future Present, we’re leading a revolution against dull, boring PowerPoint presentations. Through expert design and by paying close attention to the technology, storytelling and dynamics of presenting, we transform presentations. 

But until we’ve had a chance to get our hands on every single presentation in the UK, the situation will remain the same: work presentations usually do not inspire. 

To deepen our understanding into people’s experiences with presentations at work, we commissioned a survey of 2,000 office workers with OnePoll. We asked office workers how frequently they listened to work presentations, as well as how long it usually takes them to start losing focus. 

Here are the results.

Presentations at work

Something our survey confirmed is that presentations continue to play a significant role in our working lives. Our respondents listen to an average of 1.95 presentations at work per week. However, 55.7% of people listen to at least 2. In fact, 16.1% of our respondents attend more than 3 presentations at work every week. Now that’s a lot of presentations.

When we delved a little deeper, we were shocked to discover just how quickly our respondents lost their focus in these frequent presentations.

Drifting off

Maintaining the focus of an audience can be a really tricky task. It’s also one that many presenters struggle to carry out successfully. Our survey’s findings support this idea, and paint a rather bleak picture of today’s presentation culture. 

We found that on average it took just 10.71 minutes for office workers’ minds to drift off during a presentation at work. Almost half of those we interviewed couldn’t even last that long. 48.7% said their minds start to drift off less than 10 minutes into a work presentation. 

Looking into the responses by region, those in London seem to have a slightly longer attention span, lasting an average of 11.89 minutes before losing focus in their work presentations. Our East Anglian and Northern Irish respondents find remaining alert in presentations the most difficult. They said they can only last 9.09 and 9.11 minutes respectively before their minds start to wander. 

The fact that the majority of office workers listen to at least 2 presentations a week yet only remain focused for around 10 minutes means hours of company time and energy are wasted. 

Putting an engaging PowerPoint presentation together can be a difficult and time-consuming task (we should know). The hours it takes for the presenter to pull their content together, plus the minutes their listeners waste sitting absentmindedly in the audience, equates to a lot of unnecessarily lost time. 

Sex, food and movie streaming

With all these office workers struggling to remain focused on their presentations at work, we wondered: if they’re not thinking about the presentation, what are they thinking about? Our findings were quite interesting. 

We asked our respondents what they think about when their mind drifts off during a work presentation. These were their responses:

  • 64.1% of those we asked said they think about other work they need to do
  • 53.0% think about food
  • 49.5% think about plans for the weekend
  • 38.7% think about their relationships
  • 36.8% think about what they’re going to watch in the evening
  • 33.2% think about their other jobs
  • 31.0% of our respondents’ minds jump straight to sex. 

Looking at the responses by gender, men are far more likely to think about sex when their minds drift off during a work presentation, whereas women are more likely to think about other work they have to do. Interesting. 

By region, Londoners were the most likely to think about food. 65.0% admitted that this is where their mind drifts off to when they lose focus in a work presentation.

Snooze by PowerPoint

If your presentation is so dull that members of your audience start to actually fall asleep, you know you’ve failed. As it turns out, lots of people have failed. 

When we asked our respondents if they have ever fallen asleep or felt drowsy during a presentation at work, a whopping 58% said yes. 

Looking at the results by age, the highest proportion of people reporting to have fallen asleep in a work presentation came from those aged between 18-24, with 60.0% saying they had. 

Although, those in the other age groups are not far behind. Over 50% of people from every age group reported the same. Falling asleep or feeling drowsy in a presentation at work seems to be a far more common occurrence than we expected. 

Our survey says

Our survey of 2000 office workers gathered some enlightening results. Firstly, it taught us that office workers sit through a lot of presentations, with over half listening to at least 2 every week. 

However, despite this relatively high number, the quality of these presentations doesn’t appear to be very high. In fact, many struggle to engage with them in their entirety. Over half of our respondents reported that their minds start to wander within 10 minutes of a work presentation. 

When they lose focus in these presentations, our respondents’ minds drift off to a number of areas, including other work they have to do, food, plans for the weekend, relationships, TV, other jobs and sex.

Our survey’s most shocking finding was the high proportion of office workers who admitted to having fallen asleep or felt drowsy during a presentation at work. A massive 58% said they had. 

The results of the survey reveal that the majority of our respondents have had (and continue to have) negative experiences with their work presentations. This says a lot about the quality of the majority of presentations taking place in our workplaces today. 

The solution to this worrying problem is simple: make better presentations. 

With more engaging PowerPoint presentations, presenters will be more successful in delivering their message and listeners will be able to engage with the content more effectively, remain focussed throughout, and definitely not fall asleep in the middle of it. 

This is where professional presentation development can be a game-changer. Investing in impressively designed slides, or a custom-built company template, can make uninspiring work presentations become impactful, engaging and successful. It’s what we do

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