Is Bad PowerPoint a $100 Billion Problem?

A silly PR gimmick called the Anti-PowerPoint Party has sparked talk about the true cost of bad PowerPoint. Despite its queer mandate – to replace PowerPoint with flip charts – it asks a question that demands an answer:

Is bad PowerPoint just an irritant? Or does it cut into a business’s hard-earned profit?

My best estimate is that, just for the Fortune 1000, it costs $100 billion annually in lost employee productivity. Assume each manager spends an hour a day creating slides or 250 hours per year. At $50 per hour for wages and benefits, that’s $12,000 per year per employee. If 25 million workers at the Fortune 1000 could spend 30% less time creating slides, or about $4,000 per employee, it would save the Fortune 1000 over $100 billion.

This doesn’t count time wasted by executives, who may read a deck two or three times to understand it. This also doesn’t include smaller companies or those outside of the U.S.

Now, companies may not actually lose $100 billion per year if salaried staff just work the extra hours without extra pay. But what if that $100 billion in intellectual horsepower was aimed at other things – improving customer satisfaction, building innovative new technologies, or just enjoying a healthier work/life balance to stop rising health care costs?

Is it really a $100 billion problem? More? Less? No one really knows. There has been no dedicated study so it’s an educated guess at best.

But here’s an easy way to see what it costs your business. Just ask your staff how much time they spend creating slides and divide that number in half. Then multiply that number by their hourly wage plus benefits. If that number is more than $1,000 per employee, PowerPoint training will have a positive ROI.

Rather than silly cries to ban PowerPoint, we need a long-term campaign to ask businesses to invest in PowerPoint training. The alternative is not just boring presentations, but giving back some of their hard-earned profits.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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