Married to Powerpoint

The following is a post written by my friend and client Leigh Mires, Principal and Training Director of Walter P Moore Engineering.  She and I have been working for seven years to train their engineers to reduce their dependence on PowerPoint.  I guess we have more work to do!


Married to PowerPoint

Cate Blanchett, portraying Queen Elizabeth I in the 1998 film Elizabeth, held out her hand to display her royal ring and exclaimed to her close advisor Lord Burghley, “Look Lord Burghley, I am married to England!”  When it comes to making presentations, we spend so much time over the glow of our computers creating slides that we might as well be married to Powerpoint.

Typically a presenter will spend an average of two minutes of time per Powerpoint slide.  I often quote this rule of thumb to course developers when they send me a 157 slide presentation designed to be delivered in 90 minutes.  When I send the presentation back telling the developer to cut their slides in half, I’m usually met with a response like, “oh, I’m only going to spend a few seconds on most of those slides!”

So, I decided to conduct my own research.

This week one of our senior leaders delivered a new course in our Business Development Training Series titled

An Introduction to the Basic Business Development Process.  He delivered this course to our offices in two different ways – one way by webcast to non-Houston offices and another by live presentation in the Houston office.  Both presentations utilized PowerPoint.  I timed him when he delivered his webcast to the Austin office and had a co-worker time him when he did his live presentation in Houston. Here are my findings:

Via Webcast – average time spent per slide = 73 seconds

Live seminar – average time spent per slide = 85 seconds

Note that the webcast delivery method had no audience participation until the presentation was finished and our executive opened it up for questions.  Otherwise, there was no planned audience interaction designed for the training.  And, I believe it is safe to say that there was no surprise that the live seminar clocked longer per slide due to the live, open access the presenter had to the audience.

While these findings show an average of less than 2 minutes per slide, based on the density of slides I typically review for technical seminars and client training, I believe the 2 minute rule is pretty accurate.  It especially holds true since effective training usually has built in methods for audience interaction.

Leigh A. Mires

Director of Organizational Development + Training


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