How do you feel about bullet points?

What do you do if you’re watching a bullet-point presentation and you just can’t take it anymore?  An anonymous writer describes the pain we’ve all felt in that situation in an eloquent and witty article in Managing Information Strategies magazine, saying:

"I’ve been tearing my hairs out – both of them – trying to work out how to communicate my frustration and boredom to the usually oblivious presenter.Nobullets_5   But being in an audience is like being in a restaurant: it’s against the rules to wave, stand or call out – you can only communicate by eye contact and, in extreme circumstances, by closing them. No one ever asks for feedback, so I do what everyone does: stay quiet and just never buy from that person again."

It would be too easy to blame the presenter, because we have all been that presenter. My theory remains that we collectively have simply not seen a better way to do things yet, so we quietly endure the unendurable.  But that aside, it does strike me in postings like these that there is a strong undercurrent of emotion when it comes to such presentations, as indicated by terms such as "frustration" and even "evil."

It would be interesting to take the PowerPoint temperature and see where we are today when it comes to the typical bullet point presentation. As an audience member, do you think things are getting better, or do you detect a simmering sentiment of frustration? Leave a comment with your take on today’s temperature….

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6 Responses to “How do you feel about bullet points?”

  1. Great little article by “anonymous,” Cliff. Where do you find these? Nice.

    When I see a typical bullet point prezo, 99% of the time it is a disaster. Though, oddly, the presenter is very happy with his work. “Boring,” “shallow,” “disconnected” is so “normal” that presenters seem happy if they can just “get through” their material. The presenter is so focused on his own material and getting through it all that he is quite satisfied when it is *done.*

    I think presenters often mistake the audience’s relief that the presenter is done for a satisfied audience.


  2. Cliff says:

    It is odd that there can be such a disconnect between presenter and audience perceptions. I wonder how the two can be aligned more closely together.

  3. MikeB says:

    SSM Health Care in St. Louis is a Baldrige Award winner. Their CEO is a nun, Sister Mary Jean Ryan. In line with the corporate mission, staffers are forbidden from using “violent” words. “Bullet points” is one of the bannned terms.

    On the surface, it may seem a little silly, but when I think about it, if I have to sit through another boring “bullet point” presentation, I may just blow my brains out.

  4. Josh says:

    I’m a student and I’ve been experimenting with different presentation methods lately…but sometimes it’s hard to stray from the norm. I try not to bore my audience, but don’t want to go so far as to risk my grade (I can’t imagine how it is for those whose sales, and therefore livelihoods, depend on good presentations). It’s hard to come up with presentation methods that are different, especially for those of us who are not trained in visual design!

  5. Robin Curry says:

    A Picture is Worth At Least 2 Words, If Not More (Snag It!)

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