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How to Tame the Bullet Points in Presentations

The brain is efficient at discarding useless chunks of memories, but the most embarrassing and boring ones never leave the brain. Flashbacks from a long, drawn out lecture enter the mind out of nowhere. Most of the time, the boring lectures come with a hail of bullet points. Then another flashback sets in… and it turns out you were giving that presentation riddled with bullet points.

There are no set rules for using the bullet point, which makes it difficult to know how to use it successfully. Technically, bulleted lists are only a matter of format. They should contain key points that will be discussed during the presentation.

Let’s take a look at this example:

Tame Bullet Points

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Bread

The above is a simple grocery list. It’s composed of three distinct items, which are then separated from each other through bullet points. Even without writing these items down in a list again, they’re easy to understand and recall. Now, compare it with this bullet list:

Wild Bullet Points

  • Milk
  • The eggs should be brown.
  • Bread
    • Sandwich
    • Toast
    • Banana bread

The latter looks disjointed and confusing for different reasons: inconsistent formatting, too many bullet points, and difficult recall. The first two items nested under “bread” are different ways to prepare bread, while the last item is a type of bread. Eliminate the three items under bread to maintain the general idea of the list, since the three sub-bullets are specific.

The list is more difficult to recall than the former because the general and specific ideas are mixed together. A specific list will have different kinds of bread, and other types of milk and eggs. Ideas need to be refined further and follow consistent formatting.

Troubleshooting

If a bulleted list looks too much like the latter example, there are several ways to simplify it and make it look more like the former.

1. Don’t play mind games

In the context of creating a deck, if the bullet points only make sense in the mind of the speaker, then the audience takes the burden of trying to understand the information. A presentation has new information for the audience, therefore it’s wrong to assume that they possess this information beforehand.

2. Hold their hand

The poorly made bullet list in the latter example branches off wildly in all directions, completely disregarding the audience. According to Think Outside the Slide‘s Dave Paradi, a consistent style is necessary to avoid confusion. Hold their attention by showing bullet points of the main topics, then explaining each topic.

3. Prevent a bullet point tragedy

The most boring kind of bullet list is the kind that pretends to be a bullet list. A group of sentences is called a paragraph, but a bullet list of sentences is a paragraph formatted unnecessarily. Be careful not to mislead the audience into thinking that the bullet-list-paragraph is a bullet list.

4. Maintain harmony

Ideas get along well with each other through formatting and style. Format the topics as a sentence, phrase, or a single word for a bulleted list. If the bullet point begins with the first word capitalized, then the rest of the list should follow the same format. Consistency is important since discrepancies are distracting from the flow of thought and information.

5. Use Bullet Points Sparingly

Bullet points are key points for the audience, not a series of cue cards for the speaker. Use as few bullet points as possible to break up a presentation visually and to avoid overloading the audience with information. Insert an image between slides, and make sure to break up big chunks of information down for the audience.

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The Verdict

It’s important not to accidentally play a game of PowerPoint-Karaoke by reading bullet-list-paragraphs throughout the presentation. Break up information by using a bulleted list with proper formatting and just enough information for easier recall. The proper usage of the bullet list is important to successfully get a point, or several points, across.

Finally, free yourself of the flashbacks of bullet list tragedies and exercise the responsible use and control of bullet points.

 

References

Paradi, Dave. “How to Write Powerful Bullet Points.” ThinkOutsideTheSlide. Accessed on October 2, 2015. www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com

 

Featured Image: Bearpit Karaoke” by sfreimark from flickr.com

5 Effective PowerPoint Delivery Methods for Presentations

Most presenters barely notice what particular presentation technique they’re using whenever they take the stage. This is because they’re not fully aware of how it could influence both their performance and their audience. When you prepare your pitch, decide whether you want to use a fast-paced approach or spend more time discussing your main points.

This provides a guide for organizing your ideas and translating them to your slides. While there are many presentation styles which work best for different speakers, there are also PowerPoint delivery methods that they can use to optimize their slides. Here, we’ll define some techniques introduced and practiced by popular presenters:

The Takahashi Method

Named after Masoyoshi Takahashi, this approach relies heavily on keywords with one main point placed per slide. Instead of using images, bullet points, or other visual elements, words are used as visuals.

This method requires many slides (depending on your content) since each one only has a few words displayed. Applying this method encourages your audience to pay more attention to you as the speaker, since you are the one explaining what’s projected on-screen.

The Kawasaki Method

Named after Guy Kawasaki, and also known as the “10-20-30” method (10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 font size). This approach is commonly used for investor presentations where a short yet impactful approach is needed to stand out among the competition.

This allows you to give brief but understandable messages within a limited time.

The Lessig Method

Used by Lawrence Lessig, this style has a limited use of images, relying more on words, similar to Takahashi’s style. Concise words or statements are used and slides are changed around, depending on the words the presenter delivers.

This focuses more on telling a story and injects a more synchronized approach, generating interest and allowing audiences to be more attentive.

The Godin Method

Seth Godin’s technique is a combination of texts and images, where the speaker uses striking photos to let the pictures speak for themselves. This lets him explain what he’s trying to point out and reiterate his main ideas through images.

This approach differs from Takahashi and Lessig’s, since they’re more focused on conveying their message primarily with text. The advantage? Using this appeals to the audience’s passions and establishes an emotional connection with them.

The Steve Jobs Method

Steve Jobs’ style concentrates on large images and texts, focusing on one statement per slide and combining it with visual elements. This gives the presenter the chance to offer demonstrations and allow a more interactive way of communicating his ideas.

This method enables your performance to be more interesting and powerful, allowing the audience to get the message easily for maximum impact.

In Conclusion

Let your objectives dictate your manner of presenting. Situations requiring brevity and conciseness might require the Kawasaki Method. The Takahashi and Lessig methods favor a confident presenting style to better focus attention on the speaker. The Godin and Jobs methods use strong images that create strong emotional connections.

The key is to understand and identify your objective as a presenter. Once you know this, you can then decide on what presentation style to use. Choose which one of the delivery methods suits you the most. Let SlideGenius experts help you out!

 

References

5 Examples of Great Presentation Design.Advise America. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Finkelstein, Ellen. “Presentation Styles – What Style Should You Use?Support.Office. n.d. Accessed June 11, 2015.