By Presentation Studio

July 13, 2016

The Do’s & Don’t of Dots

In the world of PowerPoint Presentations, bullet points have got a bad wrap. We can blame poor Presentation Design, but really, isn’t the problem with Presentation Skills _?_ or lack there of?

How did this seemingly innocuous dot come to contaminate the corporate world with such voracity? And why is the cure so hard to find? We can send a man to the moon. Can’t we cure the bullet point epidemic?

Lets go back to the first case. It all started in 1958 when Vice President of Standard Oil (now Exxon), A.F. (Corky) Kaulakis claimed the basic quality of work behind peoples written presentations was being lost. _??The problem, to my mind, came down to a lack of clarity that stemmed partly from poor organization of the story that had to be told and partly from unattractive graphic appearance.” [i]

Corky recommended writers use bullet points (originally called Corky Dots) to clarify key concepts in their reports _?_ it quickly became a business standard.

Concurrently, business communications evolved; the use of “foils”, overheads, 35mm slides and eventually PowerPoint.

It seems we are still applying a 1950’s method for clarifying key messages in large documents into modern day multi-media presentations. What’s not changed is our need for clarity. What has changed is our scientific understanding of how the mind processes information.

We now know 70% of sensory receptors in the body are in the eyes.[ii] Three days after hearing a piece of information we recall about 10 per cent _?_ if we add a visual, recall rises to 65 per cent[iii] and we don’t need stats to understand the term _??death-by-bullet point._?? But we’re not suggesting death to bullet points: it’s not the ‘dot’, rather:  

When to use bullet points 

When not to use bullet points 

Paragraphs of text with endless hierarchy: 

Points of Bullets

But there is a faux pas greater than any bulleted list. When the presenter turns their back to their audience to READ their bullets. Frankly, send me a pdf that I can scan-read and save me an hour of my life.

Since most of the population are literate, you immediately lose the connection between yourself and the audience. Worse _?_ you’re creating an active barrier. Yes, your audience is now thinking, _??Why are you in the room?_??

I have no problem using bullet points to anchor descriptive words but prolific use is best kept with their original intent: printed documents.



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[i] Sociablemedia, 2010,  _??Beyond Bulletpoints_??, viewed May 31, 2016, link.
[ii] McNamara, L. 2015, _??Sensemaking in Organizations: Reflections on Karl Weick and Social Theory_??, Epic, viewed May 17, 2016, link.

[iii] Medina, J. 2015 _??Vision: Rule #10, vision trumps all other senses_??, Brain Rules, viewed May 17, 2016, link.

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