PowerPoint and bullet points have gone hand in hand since the first release of the design program. Bulletpoints are part of its default settings, meaning users will automatically have them pop up while their design process and often leave them due to a lack of time or skill. It’s completely understandable considering PowerPoint makes it very simple to include bullet points while removing or avoiding them takes a little more know-how.
Many will have their own rules about bullet points and text, limiting points, lines, and words on a slide. None of these rules are entirely correct or wrong, but as we always say here, ‘keep it short and simple’.
Text on a slide will usually entice your audience into reading, thereby taking attention away from what’s being said/presented. Also, through no fault of PowerPoint or audiences, people often associate bullet points with boring and generically designed presentations. This triggers negative memories and subconscious reactions with audiences, meaning many tunes out at the sight of them.
How to avoid bullet points using PowerPoint
Bullet points have commonly been used for outlining or listing ideas, which often precede further exploration and explanation. This further inclines people towards ignoring on-screen content – bullet points serve as preludes to more critical and well-developed discussion points.
How PowerPoint offers visual support
PowerPoint slides are visual aids for presentation, so their primary purpose is to provide visual support and context to the content you’re presenting. As we’ve said before, PowerPoint is there to support your argument, not make it for you.
Whenever presenters use their slideshow as a crutch, it becomes clear the presenter hasn’t prepared adequately as they’re reading from the screen, often from bullet points. Anything you put on the screen should reinforce your message rather than convey it directly. Rather than scatter bullet points across your slides, use your visual aid for visual elements such as infographics, diagrams, photos, and charts. This will help illustrate your most salient points and help express your points visually to audiences.
Expand your bullet point into the slide
Since bullet points are generally used for listing, it can be useful breaking up lists and ideas onto individual slides. Take your bulletpoints and expand them out into individual slides so each statement has more weight and meaning to audiences. Then you can have a bulleted slide at the end to recap the previous content.
This allows you to explore each point in detail, include some more relevant graphics, and minimize your bullet points use. This will also be helpful for audiences reviewing what has been presented since each point was reinforced with its own slide. Concluding basic points with bulletpoints will be better for audience retention as these points were saved for the end and are only being used to reiterate what was already presented.
Lists of text during the main body of your presentation can significantly impact on audiences’ attention and retention. It can be tempting to list out your main points or outline an agenda, but PowerPoint being a visual aid, limit your text use, and make better use of other visual elements.
Any important lists you need your audience to see can always be shared as a handout. This can be useful for people to take notes to get information, or leveraged for attendees’ email after the presentation. We’ve explored the value of handouts during presentations before, but any detailed insights and lists that are better read than presented should be provided as an additional resource for audiences. No one likes being read to, especially lists and points they could more easily read themselves.
If you insist on presenting a list – ensure its as concise as possible. Furthermore, be creative with its layout and avoid default bullet points or numbered lists. Include some visual elements that will connect with audiences or reflect the brand/messaging you’re trying to convey to them. Rather than a list or agenda, consider a visual timeline.
Bullet points and lists can be useful sometimes, but rarely during presentations. Limiting ideas to one per slide lighten the load on your audience, ensuring your presentation is easier to follow. PowerPoint is a visual aid and bullet points are not visually based, which means they should be used sparingly. Only as a way to visually express something that is better seen than explained.
If you’re looking to create engaging PowerPoint presentations that minimize PowerPoint use and look awesome, check out our free PowerPoint template, available for download here