PowerPoint Bullet Points: Do we need them?

PowerPoint Bullet Points: Do we need them?
January 24, 2012

 “Never use bullet points in your PowerPoint and Brainshark presentations.”

We often hear this advice from presentation experts, but like most directives, it doesn’t apply to every situation.

When you’re giving an important, high stakes presentation, or you’re creating a marketing piece, or you’re delivering an internal presentation that needs to stand out from your day-to-day communications, bullet points won’t generate the impact you seek. For these types of communications it makes sense to invest the time to develop a great script and, together with a talented graphic designer, create attention-getting visuals that complement your story.

But what about for every day, routine business communications? Let’s say that you need to create a Brainshark presentation to update an internal audience. And you need to get it done quickly. Like most of us, you may have limited design skills and you can’t ask the graphics team for help with this task. What do you do?

Turn to a more text-based approach using bullet points, but follow these key guidelines:

1. Show no more than 6 words per bullet point and no more than 6 bullet points per slide – so says the rule of thumb.  That’s a total of 36 words on a slide! Try bringing it down to 3 words and 4 bullets per slide.  Use them to summarize your statement and let your narration expand on the topic. The objective is to have your audience listen to your presentation, with the bullets acting as guides to the main points. For more insights on using bullet points, read David Paradi’s brilliant article “How to Write Powerful Bullet Points".

2. Keep your slides moving at a pace of no slower than 30 seconds. If you need more time to communicate your idea, add another slide. Or add animation to the slide to give a sense of movement. Check out this Brainshark presentation for more tips.

3. Add relevant images for visual interest. For example, when I’m discussing a specific web page, a marketing piece, or a product feature I’ll use the Windows Snipping Tool to grab an image off the page or a screenshot and include it in the slide.  Don’t use clipart or random images just to have a graphic on your slide. A picture is worth a thousand words, but if it’s the wrong picture, your words will be wasted.

4. Go beyond the PowerPoint bullet layout.  We’ve provided some creative examples and eye-catching designs in this Brainshark presentation.  Download the deck from the attachments section and use these designs in your own presentations:

View the presentation in a separate window.

Do you have bullet point slide examples that have worked especially well for you? If so, please send me a copy (pcrerar@brainshark.com) or leave us a comment. We’d love to share them with our readers.