How you should REALLY use bullet points in a presentation

I’m headed to the American Banker’s Association Regulatory Compliance Conference (yeah, that’s a mouthful…) and I’m thinking ahead to the slides I can almost guarantee I’m going to see there from other presenters. And I think of the slides I’ve seen from other presenters at other recent conferences.

I’ll see a lot of walls of text. Death by bullet point.

Figure 1: Image of a slide in PowerPoint showing a title and bullets. The bullets read ”There will be bullet points here, bullet points there, bullet points pretty much every where. You can go on, and on, and on… AND! When you run out of room, you can simply split your content in two and create TWO slides that have bullet points. Because of course everyone wants more bullet points.”

It doesn’t help that most people that are asked to do a presentation or even volunteer to do a presentation don’t have a background in teaching, or presenting, or even in communication. Couple that with the fact that most PowerPoint and Keynote templates encourage and facilitate this behaviour, and that it’s just easier to use the default, and you’re headed for trouble on the slide front.

So, what should you do? You need to make a change by taking one simple action.

Move your bullet points to the speaker notes

When you move your bullet points to the speaker notes, you’re treating your bullet points properly. Let’s be honest — those bullet points were really just you taking notes on what you wanted to talk about on that slide; you typed out those bullets so that you could remember them. They’re things you wanted the audience to know.

You’ve used the bullet points on your slides as a note taking device and memory aid for you, and as a reference for the audience for later. But you didn’t use it as a communication device.

So change that up. Write your bullets, and then move them to the speaker notes. Next, summarize all the things in those bullets with a single phrase, and put that on the screen. When you produce a copy of your slides, give out your speaker notes. That’s where the bullet points should live.

Your audience will thank you.