I’m always open to new and dynamic ways to use Microsoft PowerPoint* (*other presentation software applications are also available). I’ve found Cliff Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points really helpful for encouraging users to drag themselves away from the bullet-point-heavy templates that they immediately open the application up to.
Bullet-points can kill
Presentations do not have to be packed full of bullet points. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that much of the time bullet points actually hinder your presentation. Why? Because if you flash up a screen-full of words people will start reading the words and stop listening to you. You will immediately lose most of your audience.
Unless you are also juggling with fire while talking. Assuming that you’re not, you might as well just sit down and let the audience read the content for themselves. And if that is the total content of your presentation you might as well save your time and your audience’s time by sending it to them beforehand so that at least they can read it in the comfort of their homes or offices.
Be aware of yourself the next time you are sitting through a presentation riddled with bullet-points. Try looking away from the screen and just listening. Try focusing on the presenter and not on the words on the screen. It’s hard, isn’t it. You feel like you have to read it. I mean, what if you miss something?
What I like about Cliff Atkinson’s approach is that he focuses on story telling. He encourages the use of large images to help deliver your message. And the only text he uses are brief headings that help to give shape to the presentation.
One of the most effective uses of presentation software I have ever experienced is watching Dave Gorman. His slides add to the story, they don’t distract.
If you ever give presentations, I urge you watch this presentation and absorb something of how Dick Hardt engages with the audience through words, images, humour, repetition of themes. Quite inspirational, even if you have no interest in the subject.