Bullet-point-free PowerPoint

Identity 2.0

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.

Another way

My friend Mike Arthur pointed me towards a presentation about Identity 2.0 by Dick Hardt at the OSCON 2005 conference . He uses a presentation style influenced by Lawrence Lessig.

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.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

One thought on “Bullet-point-free PowerPoint”

  1. It’s an intersting style; over the last year I have been trying to apply it powerpoints for sermons. I’ve used single words (in white) on a black background in simple fonts, different positions on the screen. I’ve left the words up anywhere from 10 seconds to 5/10 minutes. I have also interspersed these with photos taken from flikr and similar sites connected to the theme or words in an abstract words. It’s provoked a reaction in people, and been particularly good in a big church building like the one where we hold our evening service, giving the people at the back a more immediate visual connection.

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