Living with Bullet Points

This from one of our readers, Melanie Bozzelli of Twinsburg OH:

I hope you can help settle a friendly debate we are having over the use of bullet points. In your book, you argue that bullet points should be displayed all at once on the slide, and then the presenter will discuss them with the audience.

We prepare many presentations for an online audience and our research and testing have shown that if the slide loads all at once, then the user may go off and look at other things online, and not pay attention to the presentation. They typically scan the bullets, realize they have a few minutes to wander off while the narrator is speaking, and then check in to see if the presentation has advanced to the next slide.

If the bullets load one at a time and are “spoon-fed” to audience members, they stay engaged with the online presentation.

Since our presentations are often created with multiple contexts in mind (live audience,on-demand online, etc), I wonder if there may be a solution to accommodate each audience, without losing or insulting them.

Melanie brings rise to a very interesting point: how the webinar culture influences conventional thinking. A lot of this comes down to your take on protocol during webinars; here is mine: I don’t try to fight the impulse that webinar audience members have to multitask; I consider it to be a fact of life.

This has been a liberating conclusion for me. Instead of fighting it, I try to cater to it. If my audience members are going to multitask anyway—and if they can’t, they might choose to tune out altogether—I feel as if I can make it easier on them by doing an all-at-once slide build. If I try to string them along, they might resent it. If I give them the download all at once, they can then keep one ear on me while they are checking their email or hanging out on FaceBook. Then when I change topics, they are in a position to tune back in.

I’m not sure this is a majority viewpoint; I’m sure there are some who tilt at this windmill and hope/expect to garner 100% attention from their webinar audience members. I just don’t think that’s realistic.

Better to swim with this tide than against it, I say. Should you adopt that point of view, your life is made easier by not having to create multiple decks for multiple audiences.

Other principles of presentation design still prevail, I must add. This is not permission to overload your slides with superfluous verbiage. Keep those on-screen points short, sweet, and pithy!

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