Ok, it’s time for me to admit the truth: I don’t hate bullet points.
In fact, I even use them sometimes.
What’s even worse, I sometimes tell my students to use them! That’s an unpardonable sin in the eyes of other presentation experts.
So, why do I do it?
See, the thing is that bullet points have always been the main excuse for bad presentations. If a presentation turned out to be a disaster, we’d just blame it on the poor bullet points.
But the truth is that when a presentation is a disaster, it has nothing to do with the fact that we used a couple of bullet points on our slides.
Presentations are bad because we overload slides with irrelevant text. And what’s even worse, we ONLY use bullet points to format that text.
Presentations aren’t bad because the content is too lengthy. Not even that. Presentations are bad because the content looks like a passage from a Proust book structured like a report.
Presentations are visual. And no one will read a long paragraph of text on the screen. This is why sometimes it’s better to use bullet points than pack your slides with too much text! I’ve seen presentations go wrong so many times because the author tried to overdo them just to avoid using bullet points.
So, let’s get this straight. Here’s when you shouldn’t use bullet points:
- In stage presentations whose purpose is to edutain or infotain the audience with a visual show.
- If they are used too much throughout the presentation, or if they are the only visual formatting on every single slide.
Now, this is when it’s fine to use bullet points in your presentations:
- In business presentations or slide docs (presentations sent via email, without the presence of a presenter), when you have to make a list of something.
- When used on every other slide. I suggest using bullet points not more often than on every 3rd or 5th slide.
- When most of the visuals on the slides are icons, images, diagrams, schemes, or charts, and the bullet points are just a tiny addition.
In fact, the bullet points rule is simple: instead of writing a long paragraph with complex sentences, structure out the same text into a couple of bullet points.
Unless you can make it into an infographic or another visual form. If you can, then do that. If you can’t or don’t have enough time to do it, go for the bullet points.
The thing is, this is not about the bullet points at all. This is about learning how to write correctly on slides. And I’m here to help my clients do just that.
What is your opinion on using bullet points in PowerPoint presentations? Do you think bullet points are evil, or would you recommend using them? I’m curious to hear your opinion!
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