Storytelling Presentations: Bullet points are such a bad idea

Sundar Pichai, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and most of the world’s most inspiring speakers, do not use bullet points.

Why don’t they use bullet points?

If you have bullet points, you are making the audience listen to you and read the bullet points. That creates cognitive load.

*University of Washington biologist, John Medina, has done extensive research into persuasion and how the brain processes information. His advice is to burn most PowerPoint decks and start over with fewer words and more pictures. According to what he says in his book, Brain Rules, “We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10 percent of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65 percent.”

Slide design guru Nancy Duarte recommends following a three-second rule. If viewers do not understand the gist of your slide in three seconds, it’s too complicated. “Think of your slides as billboards,” says Duarte. “When people drive, they only briefly take their eyes off their main focus, which is the road, to process a billboard of information. Similarly, your audience should focus intently on what you’re saying, looking only briefly at your slides when you display them.”

When is the last time you saw a billboard with a bullet-point list?

In his book TED Talks, Chris Anderson writes, “Those classic PowerPoint slide decks with a headline followed by multiple bullet points of long phrases are the surest single way to lose an audience’s attention altogether…. When we see speakers come to TED with slide decks like this, we pour them a drink, go and sit with them at a computer monitor, and gently ask their permission to delete, delete, delete.” 

Storytelling gets people to act, not bullet points.

*Source: Carmine Gallo, Talk Like TED

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