You’ve heard it before. It’s probably the one presentation tip that gets repeated time and again: bullet points do nothing to help you get your point across. Some bloggers have even gone as far to say that it’s actually harming your presentations. Do a quick Google search on bullet points in presentations and you will get results like these:
For presentation expert Seth Godin, bullet points hold a status of notoriety. The general consensus is to get rid of them altogether and make use of images instead. While this is definitely good advice, is there still room to reconsider the value of bullet points in PowerPoint presentations?
Bullet points and death by PowerPoint
Bullet points are often cited as the main culprit for the “Death by PowerPoint” phenomena, and it’s pretty clear why. Some presenters like to bore their audiences with tiny bullet that correspond to a disproportionate amount of text. This is a scenario almost everyone has experienced, regardless of field or industry.
Outside of presentations, bullet points are used to enumerate key information in a document. They help readers draw out and remember the most important points. On a resume, for example, a candidate will use bullet points to list down achievements or awards. And unlike most PowerPoint decks, bullet points are written in short phrases or sentences.
It seems that ‘PowerPoint death’ isn’t caused by bullet points, but by our constant misuse of them. Instead of insisting on the “no bullet points” rule, it’s better to take a step back and review the proper way to use them.
How to use bullet points properly
If you’re willing to give bullet points another shot, try these tips to make sure you’re using them correctly:
1.) Key Points: Use bullet points to enumerate key points and important details. As the presenter, it’s your job to explain these points further to your audience. Your PowerPoint deck is a visual aid. They will list down a few key words they need to remember, but the bulk of it should be explained in your delivery.
2.) Consistency: Make sure you use the same writing style for all bullet points throughout. Be consistent in your capitalization, use of verbs, and whether to use simple sentences or phrases.
3.) 6 X 6 Guideline: Maintain a professional look to your slides by following the 6 x 6 Guideline. You should have six words per bullets and only six points per slide. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, always aim to have slides that look neat and concise.
4.) Variety: Even if you follow these rules, your PowerPoint deck will look monotonous if you use bullet points on every slide. Add a bit of variety by integrating pictures, videos, graphs, and other visual elements. Remember that bullets are used to enumerate key information. If your content doesn’t call for that, use something else on your slides.
“Bullet Points.” Oxford Dictionaries. Accessed August 22, 2014.
“Most presentations aren’t bullet proof.” Seth’s Blog. Accessed August 22, 2014.
Featured Image: s_p_a_c_e_m_a_n via Flickr