Born again powerpoint

26.10.2017 13:15

Are Bullet Points Worthless in Event Presentations?

From client presentations to those of your speakers, are bullets worthless in slide decks? Google thinks so. Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced at the 2017 developer’s conference that ”stories are best told with pictures. Bullet points and text-heavy slides are increasingly avoided at Google.”

So if they’re moving away from bullets, what makes a great presentation or slide? Here are a few tips that can be assessed from Pichai’s slide deck presentation.

Tips Garnered from Pichai’s Presentation

  • Use lots of white space. It makes things easier to read and provides a dramatic backdrop for what’s being said or discussed. A work of art should never compete with its frame, as an important concept should never compete with a busy slide.
  • Keep the phrases short. You need to convey concepts. You’re not writing a Victorian novel with an extensive setting.
  • Use impactful images. A photo is worth 1,000 words. Don’t try to cram that many words on a slide…ever. Use a photo to convey your message instead and save the space.
  • Don’t be afraid to use animation or video. Yes, you really can.
  • Beat the average. The average person uses about 40 words per slide. That’s twice as long as this bullet point.

Why Are Bullet Points Such a Bad Thing?

Bullet points are excellent to move someone through a lengthy article. I highlighted the main points behind Pichai’s slide deck because it allows someone to quickly scan the content. But a slide deck is different than an article. When you’re reading this article, you’re hopefully doing it with very little vying for your attention. If something is, ideally you’re blocking it out because this is a really important read, right?

But when you’re in an audience watching a presentation, you’re supposed to listen to the speaker AND read the slides. Our brains have a hard time with that. It’s like trying to write when someone is talking to you.

But if you use the slides as the emotional cues behind your presentation, your slides won’t be competing for attention with your speaker.

However, it’s not just the competition that factors in. A picture is easier to remember. In the book Brain Rules, John Medina writes that if someone hears a piece of information, three days later they’ll remember 10% of it, but if there was an accompanying picture, 65% will be recalled. Plus, according to research from 3M, the Post-it note people, visuals process 60,000 times faster than text. Finally, according to the Social Science Network, 65% of people are visual learners. So giving them something to look at will improve what they get from your presentation. And in case you’re wondering – a bullet point doesn’t count.

When was the last time one of your attendees came up to you after the event and complimented you on the speaker’s ability? Ever hear anything like:

“That was a great speaker. Her outline was amazing. Can I get a copy of all those bullets?”

Bullet Points and the Experience

Attendees want an experience and bullet points just don’t provide that. When you want to move an audience emotionally, you need more than a black dot. Strong visuals make an impact on an audience. They help the speaker transport the audience to somewhere outside of the auditorium. Think about the impassioned pleas from non-profits. Are they bullet points? Not the most effective ones, at least.

Helping Your Speakers Overcome Bullets

Speakers hate to share their presentations ahead of time so it’s important that upon selection you explain what you’re looking for in a slide deck. If you’re interested in phasing out bullets, don’t tell them the week of your event. Let them know when they’ve been selected. Since some people won’t know where to go from there, give them these tips from Chris Anderson, the author of TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking:

  1. Make each bullet its own slide. These are major points, right? Give them their due. It may mean more slides in the deck but it will also mean faster flips, which will keep your audience focused.
  2. Delete, delete, delete. This idea is a favorite of writers and screenwriters everywhere. Often referred to as ‘kill your darlings’, remove everything that’s not necessary.
  3. Be different. Think of bullet points as something everyone else is doing. Find a way to create a standout presentation by saying good-bye to the bullet point crutch.

In Conclusion

Audiences are evolving. What they want – a good presentation – is still relevant, but what they consider ‘good’ has changed. Work with your speakers so that you share the same vision and expectations for your event’s presentations. Decide whether you want to embrace Google’s slide deck transformation or whether you’re content with things as they stand.

Slides are very effective ways to bring more emotion to presentations but only if the speakers step away from creating on-screen novels.

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