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Every Slide Counts

How much is a post-it note worth? The answer might be less than half a penny if you buy a 12-pad pack at Staples for $5.99. Most people won’t stop to pick up a penny on the street, even fewer worry about wasting a post-it note.

every-slide-counts-03-506pxThen again, you might get a different answer if you ask my friend Roger. You see, Roger organizes his life with post-it notes. His office is a matrix of 1.5 x 2 inch color squares. They are everywhere. Lined up in rows on the desk, stuck onto stuff on the walls, attached to piles of paper stacked here and there. Each note carries a coded instruction – a critical word or two or three in Roger’s impeccably neat printing. Red notes for the most important tasks, yellow for less critical and other colors to denote various types of actions needed.

If you ask Roger what a post-it note is worth, he might tell you that a note to follow up with an important new prospect attached to her business card could be worth a six figure account.

So let me ask you, what is that PowerPoint slide you just created worth?

PPT is so ubiquitous and is used for so many things, it is easy to think of slides as nothing more than digital post-it notes. If it takes 30 seconds to bang out a simple bullet slide, then it costs a company about 21 cents to make that slide (based on a $50K annual salary). Now I am not sure a good slide can be made in 30 seconds, but a fast keyboarder could certainly come up with 4 or 6 bullet points in half a minute.

So is a PowerPoint slide worth 21 cents? (Or if using office supply accounting, is a slide worth 42 post-it notes, 885 staples or not quite 12 rubber bands?)

Although I am not aware of any formal research in this area, I believe the cost of creating and maintaining business presentations in the United States is enormous. Below, I have pulled results from several surveys conducted by Research Presentation Strategies (RPS) in order to take a very rough stab at how much US businesses spend on making PowerPoint presentations.
Based on the 2006 RPS PowerPoint Use survey, a typical presentation consists of 25 slides and includes, on average, the following:

  • 1 title slide
  • 16 bullet slides
  • 1 ordered list
  • 2 charts
  • 5 graphic slides that include a combination of clip art, images or illustrations.

Based on our experience creating presentations, this typical presentation would take a total of 54 hours to create and cost $3,147. This estimate is based on a person making $80,000 total compensation doing most of the work, but also assumes 4 other team members/managers are involved in reviewing the presentation at various points during development. The average cost of each slide in this model is $125.89.

Now let’s try to generalize this a bit. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that there are 56 million white collar workers in the US. Another RPS survey earlier this year found that 47% use PowerPoint to some extent in their job. That’s a whopping 26 million people who might be using PPT on a regular (i.e. monthly) basis.

We know that most people collaborate on presentations, so let’s assume that only one out of 10 individuals are working on unique presentations and that individuals create only 1 presentation per month (the RPS 2014 PPT Use survey found that 89% create 1 to 5 presentations per month).

We also know that 88% of PPT users will re-use slides, so let’s assume that all slides created will be re-used in 5 presentations. That means that only 20% of presentations created use new and unique slides. That would result in the creation of about 500,000 new presentations each month.

At $3,147 per presentation, we are talking about a cost of almost 19 billion dollars per year. (500,000 x $3,147 x 12 months.) If that sounds like a big number to you, well it is – but it is just barely 1 tenth of 1% of the US GDP. So, is it possible that we spend 0.1% of our GDP creating PowerPoint presentations?

While no company is likely to have a line item on their P&L for PowerPoint presentations, it seems reasonable to think that the cost of developing presentations is significant. Keep in mind that we have not even attempted to consider opportunity costs, as in my friend Roger’s critically important post-it note.

The big question is, how can companies manage their presentation development to ensure that every single slide counts?

After all, for every $126 slide you create, you could have bought 25,242 post-it notes.

. . . . . . .

Your turn: Do these back-of-the-envelope calculations match your experience? What’s your estimate of what a slide is worth or what making all these presentations is costing US businesses? Let us know in a comment. We’re very interested in hearing what you have to say.

3 Signs Your Presentations Are Out of Control

3-signs-that-your-presentations-are-out-of-control-506pxMany of the difficulties that occur when using PowerPoint can be traced back to the way it has so completely infiltrated almost every aspect of the corporate world.  You would be hard pressed to find a knowledge worker or college student that doesn’t have as least a passing knowledge of how to use it. 47% of respondents in a recent Research Presentation Strategies (RPS) survey said they use PowerPoint as a regular part of their job. That represents 26 million people in the US, and an awful lot of presentations. Working with PowerPoint files in todays highly networked and connected world can present some unique challenges that can result in a lot of frustration, not to mention wasted time and money. PowerPoint slides are easy to create, edit, and project, but they are also extremely easy to duplicate, delete, damage, and misplace. You might say that digital presentation files are “slippery”. They can be hard to manage and easy to lose. The problem gets compounded when a team of people are working together to build, organize, and use presentations.

Here are three signs that your slide and presentation management is slipping out of control:

1) Once again, you find yourself desperately looking for that slide or presentation you know you made a few months ago.

More is not always better. Knowledge workers have many, many options available to them for saving and storing their work. There are so many places for you to stash a slide, it can be easy to forget exactly where you put it. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, 76% of the responders in the RPS study have trouble locating presentation files. is a new, powerful, cloud-based slide and presentation library that eliminates the possibility of ever losing another slide. Just upload all your slides and drag them into folders to organize them. Once in, all your slides and presentations will be in one place, always available and always easy to locate through a robust search interface that allows you to search by keyword, slide title, slide content and more.

2) Your presentation starts in 5 minutes and the slide you need is on a USB drive in your colleague’s pants pocket… at the dry cleaners.

For most of us, collaboration is a key aspect of what it takes to get our job done. Digital presentation tools like PowerPoint have supercharged our ability to collaborate by making it relatively easy to work with your team on a presentation. In order to get simultaneous work done when teams are geographically dispersed, the presentation is usually divided up and sent around in sections to different team members. Getting all the pieces back can be a challenge. When you do get them back, there is the chance for version errors, template problems and even file corruption. solves this problem by creating a truly collaborative environment where you and your team members organize and edit slides from a central, shared library that can be accessed from anywhere. Your co-workers may be not be available, but the work they have done on their slides and your presentation will be.

3) Surprise! A new version of the presentation just landed in your mailbox — now you’ve wasted a whole morning finalizing the wrong presentation.

Version control. Are there any other two words more likely to drive you to despondency when coordinating with a team to create a presentation?  File distribution via email increases the likelihood that you will have version problems. You may be able to control who you send a file to, but you can never completely control who they, send it to (or when this new mystery copy will be returned to you). keeps a single copy of each of your slides in a central location that is accessible to everyone on your team so you always know where the latest and greatest version of each slide is and you always know it is firmly in your control. When team members edit their slides in the presentation is automatically updated with their changes. And if team members download and edit a presentation offline… no problem at all. knows your slides are offline and will update the version history for you when they are re-uploaded to the library.

With so many people creating so many PowerPoint files, who has time to waste looking for missing slides or dealing with version issues. was designed from the ground up to make managing your PowerPoint slides and presentations easy and efficient. is currently in a public beta and is launching next month.

Make every slide count with

What comes first?

I have always been amused by the Flannery O’Conner quote that goes “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” The act of writing coalesces thoughts and shapes vague notions into actual words and sentences. A possibly more reckless variation of this quote goes “I don’t know what I think until I hear what I say.”

What Comes FirstTranslating this idea into the rhetoric of business presentations, one might ask “what comes first, something to say, or the need to say it?” In other words, do people have presentations milling around in their brains just waiting for an opportunity to be delivered to an unsuspecting audience? Or, and I think this is more generally true, do people find themselves needing to deliver a talk, which then requires them to figure out something to say and how to say it. This is the process of preparing a presentation — turning wispy thoughts and vague notions into content that will communicate a specific message to a particular audience.

Certainly some presenters (those who get $50K+ per event, for example) have a prepared speech that they want to deliver to as many audiences as they possibly can. But most of the presenters I work with find out they have to give a presentation (they have a need to say something) and then go about figuring out exactly what they will say and how best to say it.

The process of figuring out what to say can be pretty straightforward if you are the only person doing the figuring. If however, the presentation must be developed by a team of individuals with different expertise, different organizational roles and competing agendas (and egos), well, the process can be anything but straightforward.

And guess what tool is used most often to mediate this most unwieldy process? That’s right. PowerPoint.

As teams go about deciding what to say, many parts of the process actually seem to be measured in PowerPoint slides. Progress and time are measured in slides (we have talked for 2 hours and have only reviewed 3 slides!), who wins and loses content disagreements is measured in slides (Jack, your slides are out!), time is measured in slides (we only have 12 slides to go!) in fact, the ability to have a strategic discussion at all can be dependent on whether or not the current versions of slides are available for review and correctly formatted.

So, in the proverbial argument about which came first, chicken or egg, the answer may actually be PowerPoint.

Olly Olly Oxen Free: When Your Slides Want to Play Hide and Seek (Part 3)

In part one, we talked about how being able to find the right slide, right when you need it can be pretty important. Especially when you consider the enormous resource investment that can be tied up in creating the perfect slide. Part two looked at how often we end up needing to play slide hide and seek and started to consider why we find ourselves in this situation so often. Some of the problem may be due to a lack of organization. But often, it’s our own work routines that get in the way of easy access to our existing presentation assets.

According to the study conducted by Research Presentation Strategies (RPS), 73% of PPT users store presentations on their desktop or laptop often or very often. While storing presentations on their computer may make them easier to locate and transport, they are not readily available to other team members. For others to access them additional copies of the slides must be sent via email, uploaded to a network or copied via USB or other

Email is the most frequently used method of sharing presentations, used by 90% of PPT users. 61% of overall responders share via email often or very often.

All of these options run the risk of lost files, as well as version conflicts, file corruption and conflicting presentations (two people presenting the same slide with different content to different audiences).

We will be writing more about effective and ineffective presentation management techniques in future posts. We will also be sharing some ideas about how SlideSource can make sure you are getting the most out of the slides you worked so hard to create. In the meantime, please take a moment to let us know in the comments section about any experiences you might have had when searching in the digital playground for that one last slide that refuses to come out of hiding.