Involve the people around you.

Easy On The Bullet Points

I've heard people complain that PowerPoint imposes its own ideas of what a presentation should look like, in a way that a blank sheet of paper doesn't. The first slide of your new default presentation is always a title slide for instance.

There is a tangible fear in some users that they are controlled by PowerPoint, and not the other way around. PowerPoint defines your presentation, not you.

However, I don't see this ready made "template" as an imposition, or a limiting straight jacket. It is merely a suggestion of a structure you may want to follow. I would like to think that most of us possess enough creativity to ignore these suggestions when it's possible to use a better structure.

In fact, a ready made "template" to follow can be a godsend to those of us who are either unfamiliar with PowerPoint, or unfamilar with their presentation's subject matter. Or to those who have only 30 minutes to cobble something meaningful together.

Bullet points have often been seen in the work of Modernist designers of the 1920s and 1930s and the glyphs used have been in printers' typefaces since at least the 19th century. And, for better or for worse, bullet points have come to characterise PowerPoint.

Although every slide in your PowerPoint presentation is primed to use a heading followed by a list of bullets, it's not against the law to ban the bullets and insert your own content in your own structure. Sometimes, a Venn diagram may be just what the doctor ordered. Of course, our options expanded greatly with the introduction of all those lovely content rich diagrams in the form of SmartArt. One disadvantage of a bulleted list is that the reader must follow a linear progression from the start of the list to then end, traversing all elements in sequence on the way. However, many concepts can be better represented by other layouts than a sequential list. There are cyclical processes, pyramid structures etc (all covered by SmartArt, by the way).

In summary, we can take advantage of the content structures that PowerPoint gives us - ready made - to save time (and sometimes to save us thinking too hard!) and we can learn to replace those structures that are more effective at delivering our message.

What is a bulleted list? The bulleted list can define a sequence where order is important. It implies a structire; each item on the list is in some way related to the others, and all are constituent elements of a "category" of things. Arrival at any one item in a list can be a catalyst for uts further exploration. By their nature, bullet points tend to be concise and compact pieces of information, and are thus easier to understand than great swathes of paragraphs. They certainly have a greater impact and are pinchier.

Bullet points can help to increase your audience members' comprehension.

But whilst its' often useful to present information in lists, it's not always the best structure. The art is in knowing when to break free of the infamous bullet point.