Bullet Points

May 3, 2011

Around the world, in every office, conference room and meeting room, every minute, of every day people are standing up giving presentations with a list of bullet points displayed on the screen behind them. Now just because millions of people do it does it make it right? The short answer is NO !

Ban the Bullets

Using bullet points in your presentations is:

  • Lazy
  • Ineffective
  • Futile

They rarely help the overall communications process which the presentation is trying to achieve.

While it is true that the human memory is better at retaining visual information rather than aural information, using bullet points distracts the listener from what the presenter is saying while they read the bullets. Then when the presenter repeats what the audience has just read, it is old news. And we all know how boring it is to hear old news repeated!

If, in an attempt to be more interesting, the presenter rephrases the bullet points in his oration this just ends up confusing the audience as they hear one thing but see something different.

So using bullet points in your presentation is a “lose-lose” situation.

Why do so many people use bullet points? I believe they are a bi-product of the presentation’s development. When you are developing your thoughts for a presentation is very useful to write down short bullet points and to be able to re-order, add and delete points as you think through your presentation. The result being a sheet or sheets of paper covered with a long list of bullet points. The problem comes when people transcribe these bullets into the presentation software.

This usually happens for one of to reasons:

A)     The presenter doesn’t know any better.

B)     The presenter feels that he/she needs the reminders to help them present the information and keep the presentation on track.

In the latter case, I would suggest that the bullet points are transcribed on to the speaker’s notes, not the slides. That way the speaker can be reminded of what to say, without broadcasting it in advance to his audience.

Using the slides to remind you what to say turns the whole process of giving a presentation on its head. Rather than the presenter leading the presentation with the visual aids supporting what he says, it makes the slides lead the presentation with the presenter demoted to the role of describing what the slides say. In the worst cases the presenter becomes completely redundant as the audience can read the slides and understand the points themselves. The “presenter” would have been better off sending everyone an email, far more efficient.

Hopefully, I have now convinced you that bullet points are not good for your presentations. This raises the next question; what else should you put on our visual aids, or should we do away with the slides altogether?

Personally, I believe slides can help get your message across and help to make it more memorable. After all it was Confucius who once said, “I hear I forget, I see I remember”. What should go on the slides though? Well the clue is in the name, “visual aids”. Your slides should conjure up strong mental images which reinforce what you are saying.

The best example of this I have come across was in a presentation about global warming. The speaker was making the point that what happens in relation to global warming is all down us as individuals. To illustrate the point that one person can make a difference he put up a slide with three images: “American policemen beating up a black person”,”Martin Luther King” and “President Barack Obama”, what a change in one generation!

So I appeal to your better judgement, Ban the Bullets, be more creative and make your presentations work.

If you’d like to see examples of replacing bullet points with images take a look at my Brief History of Slide Design blog listing.

All the Best

Graham Young

http://www.businesspresentation.biz

 

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Plan B

April 12, 2011

These days every presentation seems to have some technology associated with it. If it’s not Powerpoint, Impress or Prezi, it may be a live twitter feed or video clips. The problem with technology is that it can go wrong and sod’s law says it will do at the moment when it will cause the most embarrassment for the user.

For this reason alone, it is always a good idea to have a Plan B, which can be called upon if and when the technology fails. I have seen very experienced public speakers thrown by something going wrong but if in your rehearsals you have already practiced what to do if the technology goes wrong, you can remain calm and confident when disaster strikes. For instance in rehearsals try giving the presentation without looking at your slides, then it won’t matter if the projector fails.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever


Beginnings

April 12, 2011

“How shall I begin my presentation?” is probably one of the most often asked questions and possibly one of the most important questions.

Everyone knows that first impressions count, even if you know your audience and they all know you, the start of your presentation sets the scene for what is about to follow. Give a boring introduction and everyone mentally settles down for a boring presentation.

The most important thing you must do at the start of a presentation is grab. Make them listen. Do or say something unexpected. Challenge your audience. Make them think.

Telling them your name and the title of your talk will NOT suffice. I’m sorry but that’s just boring. Take a tip from the world of stand up comedy, where the comedian gives his/her name at the end of his act when people may actually be interested to know what it is, not at the start.

Rehearse your beginning by saying it aloud several times until you feel comfortable saying it. This will then help you get over the nervous bit at the beginning of your speech.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever


Body Language

January 6, 2010

Whole books have been devoted to body language.  This is not intended to compete with such texts but provides a few basic pointers on how to stand and the effect your posture has on yourself and your audience.

When you slouch on to the stage, staring at the floor, and mumble your presentation, no matter how fantastic the words are you will not get a good reaction.

Likewise, if you stand up proud, talk clearly with variation in pitch tone and speed and recite nursery rhymes to senior executives you probably will not sell any products.

When you are presenting stand proud with your stomach in, chest out, head up and look the audience in the eyes.  This will make you feel more confident, and you will come over more confidently as well.

A lot has been written about hand gestures and moving around on stage when you are presenting.  Rather than worry too much about what to do with your hands, my advice is to act as naturally as you can. Stop worrying about what your hands are doing.

The main thing to remember is that little things tend to irritate.  So, try to avoid small repetitive movements.  If you normally use your hands to emphasize what you are saying, then carry on and use them when presenting.  However, remember that you are on stage so you need to be more dramatic than when talking one-to-one.  Hand movements should start at the shoulder not the wrist or elbow.

Use gestures to help create a mental picture in the minds of your audience. 

Feel free to move around the stage, but watch out that you are not constantly walking across the beam of your projector, if you are using one. 

Another thing to avoid is tottering or walking up and down or side to side repetitively, or swaying back and forth on the spot.  That is the type of little thing which can become irritating to your audience.  If you find yourself starting to move, move properly, walk right across the stage.  After all like it or not, it is you that they have come to see and the more you move around, in a purposeful way, the better it is likely to be.


Breathing

January 4, 2010

‘B’ for Breathing is probably almost as important as ‘A’ for Audience, because if you do not breath the presentation will not last long!

When we are nervous, it is all to easy to forget to breath properly.  You stand up ready to present, start your opening sentence and find that you are out of breath before you finish it.  This starves your body of oxygen and increases the state of anxiety.  There is of course a simple cure, before you start to talk, take deep breaths using both your abdomen and chest to fill your lungs with lovely fresh invigorating air. 

In the same way as athletes start deep breathing before they start running to maximise the amount of oxygen in their blood stream, you should adopt the same practice.  When you first stand up in front of your audience, smile, look around the room, take a few deep breaths and then start your presentation.  Do not rush in and do not wait until you are out of breath before you start to breath deeply.

Taking deep breaths is also one of the best ways of countering the fear, which is often associated with public speaking.  So if you are nervous beforehand, which is a perfectly normal, practise breathing deeply.  Place you hand on your abdomen and feel it go out and in with each breath, counting to five when you breathe in and again when you breathe out.

Try it now, put your hand on your stomach just below your rib cage and take a deep breath in.  Did you hand you in or out?  It should have gone out as your diaphram pushes down on your stomach. Don’t worry if your hand went in, just try again pushing your stomach out and then your chest out to really fill your lungs wirth fresh air.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever