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6
Ways to Quit
Bullet Points
with Style
Open any book on how to
design presentation slides,
and you’re guaranteed to see
an entire section on why
bullet points suck.
This isn’t unjustified.
After all, we’ve all suffered
from this experience…
Yucks
(See Fergus McAuliffe’s full
TED talk on how to tell a
captivating story of science)
So ok, we don’t want to do
that… but what are some
alternatives?
How can we not only quit
the bullet point, but quit it
with style?
Let’s look at 6 designs that
are simple yet effective.
Let’s look at 6 designs that
are simple yet effective.
BTW: The 6th option is the
most difficult yet offers the
biggest potential payoff. Stick
with me ‘til the end to see
what it is!
Before we dive in, let’s cover
some ground work.
Here’s an example of your
typical, brain death-
inducing bullet point slide:
A Good TED Talk:
1.  Should offer new value, new insight to the
audience, something they’d never heard before.
If people already know it, why do they need to
listen to you?
2.  Should be passionate and authentic. The
speakers must live and breathe their messages,
and be ready to show their true, even vulnerable
selves
3.  Should use stories and examples. Stories are the
killer app of presentations. People simple love
stories. They trigger the senses and help the
audience see, smell, and touch – not just hear –
your talk.
Disastrous.
The first thing to do is to
identify the key words.
Luckily they’re already there
for the plucking.
A Good TED Talk:
1.  Should offer new value, new insight to the
audience, something they’d never heard before.
If people already know it, why do they need to
listen to you?
2.  Should be passionate and authentic. The
speakers must live and breathe their messages,
and be ready to show their true, even vulnerable
selves
3.  Should use stories and examples. Stories are
the killer app of presentations. People simple
love stories. They trigger the senses and help the
audience see, smell, and touch – not just hear –
your talk.
Unless you have a great
reason for the audience to
see & remember every
single word, it’d be best to
keep the key words and
cut everything else.
A Good TED Talk:
1.  Should offer new value
2.  Should be passionate and
authentic
3.  Should use stories and
examples
Brain death averted!
But not all is well… because
such slides are simply not
pleasing to the eyes, and yes,
aesthetics matter!
Let’s look at the options.
1
One point,
One slide
This is the most widely-used
option.
Let’s take the earlier slide on
TED talks, and give each
point its own slide, with
awesome pictures, like this:
New & Valuable1
Passion & Authenticity2
Stories & Examples3
Different, isn’t it?
This puts more emphasis on
the individual points, and
gives them powerful visual
support.
“Then I’ll have too many
slides! It’ll take too long!”
Actually, it won’t.
If you’re going to cover each
point anyway, it really doesn’t
matter that the points are on
separate slides rather than one.
1 2 3 4
“Wait! But I prefer to give my
audience an overview, so I
need them on one slide!”
Fair point.
Let’s look at the next options.
2
Keywords
plus photos
on one page
Let’s keep all the points &
photos, but combine them
into a single slide:
Stories &
Examples
New &
Valuable
Passion &
Authenticity
Have the points appear one
by one so as to avoid
having the audience “read
ahead” while you’re talking.
As each new point appears,
de-emphasize the earlier
points, like this:
New &
Valuable
New &
Valuable
Passion &
Authenticity
Stories &
Examples
Passion &
Authenticity
New &
Valuable
This helps the audience focus
on the current point, while
still having access to the
previous points.
Got more items to talk about?
No problem.
*From People,Not Candidates by Dave Hazlehurst on Slideshare
Or you could try a
horizontal orientation:
Safe Nuclear?
Energy Efficiency
Renewable Energy
Recycling
Notice that the photos
are color-tinted green
so they seem like parts
of a whole.
This simple trick helps
maintain cohesion while
using photos from
different sources.
3
Keywords
plus icons
on one page
Another trendy option is to
combine key words not with
photos, but with icons.
Even the United Nations does
this, like with the Sustainable
Development Goals:
They went
from this…
To this.
More pleasing and inviting,
isn’t it?
Here’s another example.
I recently designed a client’s
presentation on 8 key factors
of Silicon Valley’s Innovation
Ecosystem.
A traditional slide might have
looked like this:
SiliconValley Innovation Ecosystem: 8 keys
1.  Many Silicon Valley companies have built-in exit strategy: e.g. to be
acquired by other companies.The founders can then move on to
build the next advance.
2.  Successful entrepreneurs often become angel investors that help
nurture the next generation of startup founders.
3.  Elite schools such as Stanford and Berkeley feature top research
programs that collaborate successfully with industry, and also train
elite talent that constantly bring new blood to the startup scene.
4.  A strong garage culture means anyone can be building the next
great business or technology anywhere.
5.  Silicon Valley’s unique environment also attracts the best and
brightest from around the world.
6.  One of the big factors in attracting talent is its incredibly hospitable
climate, Spring-like for 8-10 months of the year.
7.  Another factor is the infrastructure, which greatly facilitates both a
high living standard and the ease of doing business.
8.  Finally, Silicon Valley’s community and culture is incredibly
accepting – even encouraging – towards failure.Where other places
look down upon failed businesses, Silicon Valley folks would pat
you on the back and say:“Keep trying!”
I re-designed it into the
next slide for a Chinese-
speaking audience.
But you don’t need to
speak Chinese to see the
difference.
失敗
鼓勵失敗
從中學習
天使護航
Exit
Strategy
EXIT
頂尖學府
20 C
四季如春
車庫文化
完善支援
全球精英
矽谷創新
生態系統
Again, have the icons
appear in the order you’re
narrating the points, so as
to focus the audience’s
attention.
Ok. So those were three
rather common designs.
Now let’s look at three
less common ones.
4
Alternate
background
images
Putting lots of point + photos
on screen requires tiny, almost invisible
pictures…
What if you wanted every
point on screen, but to use
BIGphotos?
Here’s one way.
Keep the points on one side,
and just alternate the
background picture, like
these next slides on disasters:
This allows you to use larger
photos for impact, yet still
reminds your audience of the
previous points.
Bill Gates used this technique
beautifully in his TED talk
Innovating to Zero.
He explained different parts
of a key formula by switching
background pictures:
*Screenshot of Bill Gates TED Talk: Innovating to Zero,TED Global 2010
*Screenshot of Bill Gates TED Talk: Innovating to Zero,TED Global 2010
*Screenshot of Bill Gates TED Talk: Innovating to Zero,TED Global 2010
5
Highlight
different parts
of a text wall
Let’s say you have a huge list of
things to talk about.
The usual “expert” advice is to
cut it down. Drastically.
But let’s try something else.
Instead of cutting the list down,
just put all of them up – as a
“text wall”.
And selectively highlight
different parts:
il wells ran dry natural gas depletion peak coa
odiversity loss mass coral reef die-out fisherie
ollapse extinction mass forest die-off ocean ac
tion desertification all bees disappeared drou
e avalanches earthquakes tsunamis typhoons
ooding extreme weather hurricanes blizzards
nowstorm sea-level rise cities under water coa
eas retreat $trillions in damages insurance lo
splacement food production drops sharply
assive crises mass hunger social crises politic
pheaval depression violent conflicts political
il wells ran dry natural gas depletion peak coa
odiversity loss mass coral reef die-out fisherie
ollapse extinction mass forest die-off ocean ac
tion desertification all bees disappeared drou
e avalanches earthquakes tsunamis typhoons
ooding extreme weather hurricanes blizzards
nowstorm sea-level rise cities under water coa
eas retreat $trillions in damages insurance lo
splacement food production drops sharply
assive crises mass hunger social crises politic
pheaval depression violent conflicts political
il wells ran dry natural gas depletion peak coa
odiversity loss mass coral reef die-out fisherie
ollapse extinction mass forest die-off ocean ac
tion desertification all bees disappeared drou
e avalanches earthquakes tsunamis typhoons
ooding extreme weather hurricanes blizzards
nowstorm sea-level rise cities under water coa
eas retreat $trillions in damages insurance lo
splacement food production drops sharply
assive crises mass hunger social crises politic
pheaval depression violent conflicts political
The wall of text conveys
overwhelming abundance:
“Wow there’re A LOT of
disasters!” (You could also use
it to convey good overwhelm.)
And yet it allows you to drill in
on each specific item.
This idea has been used in
various designs, such as the
cover for Nate Silver’s superb
The Signal and the Noise.
And now…
The 6th option – the most
difficult yet with the greatest
potential payoff…
6
Rethink the
List entirely!
Actually, this should probably
be your first question:“Is
the list just a loose ‘list’?
“Or is there structure to their
relationship that can be
visually represented?”
If you can find a visual
structure, this can be a huge
help to the audience to better
understand and remember
your points.
Take this loose list, for instance:
•  Friendship
•  Family
•  Confidence
•  Sex
•  Loyalty
•  Creativity
•  Good food
•  Art
•  Leisure
•  Respect
•  Intimacy
•  Achievement
•  Meaning
•  Security
•  Expression
•  Music
•  Autonomy
•  Sleep
By organizing these into a
hierarchy, Maslow
made them more
memorable &
influential
*Source:Wiki Commons
Here’s another cool example.
At the recent TEDxTaipei event,
BMW’s Alexander Kotouc spoke
about the future modes of
transportation.
Thankfully, he didn’t give us a
boring list of transportation
technologies.
Instead, he re-organized these in
terms of his own journey from
Germany to Taipei.
Germany
Taipei
He took us through
each “leg” of
his journey…
*This is a mock-up of his slides, as the video
of his talk has not be released yet.
Germany
Taipei
... and outlined
the futuristic tech
that will likely
appear for each.
Germany
Taipei
*This is a mock-up of his slides, as the video
of his talk has not be released yet.
This was way, way
more memorable
than a simple list.
Here’re some other common ways
to organize a list:
By time
By location
By step in a process
By function
You could also find metaphors
to organize your points.
Take, for instance, how speaker
Roger Dooley organized his
ideas about persuasion:
Certainly more arresting and
memorable than a list!
Let’s look at one more example:
a hypothetical defense system:
Defense System
1.  Be able to detect threats well ahead of time, in
order to give the system time to react
2.  Be able to verify the nature of the threat so as to
distinguish between real danger and false alarm,
and to determine appropriate response
3.  Be able to move quickly to intercept the threats
before they cause significant damage
4.  Be able to quickly and effectively destroy the
threats once it has been intercepted
Boooooooooring as hell.
So let’s get a little playful with
this.Why not use, say…
Boooooooooring as hell.
So let’s get a little playful with
this.Why not use, say…
A guard dog?
Inu Defense, Inc.
Detect threat
Inu Defense, Inc.
Detect threat
Verify threat
Inu Defense, Inc.
Detect threat
Move to
intercept
Verify threat
Inu Defense, Inc.
Detect threat
Move to
intercept
Verify threat
Destroy threat
Inu Defense, Inc.
Inu Defense, Inc.
Disclaimer:
Only functional
with abundant
naps & snacks
Fact is, bullet points are
always the easiest option,
but rarely the best.
With just a bit of effort and
creativity, your slides can be
way easier to understand,
love, and remember!
6
Ways to Quit
Bullet Points
with Style
Thanks for Reading!
Find more goodies at www.podiumwisdom.com
Connect with me on Twitter: @podiumwisdom

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6 Ways to Quit Bullet Points with Style

  • 1. 6 Ways to Quit Bullet Points with Style
  • 2. Open any book on how to design presentation slides, and you’re guaranteed to see an entire section on why bullet points suck.
  • 3. This isn’t unjustified. After all, we’ve all suffered from this experience…
  • 4. Yucks (See Fergus McAuliffe’s full TED talk on how to tell a captivating story of science)
  • 5. So ok, we don’t want to do that… but what are some alternatives? How can we not only quit the bullet point, but quit it with style?
  • 6. Let’s look at 6 designs that are simple yet effective.
  • 7. Let’s look at 6 designs that are simple yet effective. BTW: The 6th option is the most difficult yet offers the biggest potential payoff. Stick with me ‘til the end to see what it is!
  • 8. Before we dive in, let’s cover some ground work. Here’s an example of your typical, brain death- inducing bullet point slide:
  • 9. A Good TED Talk: 1.  Should offer new value, new insight to the audience, something they’d never heard before. If people already know it, why do they need to listen to you? 2.  Should be passionate and authentic. The speakers must live and breathe their messages, and be ready to show their true, even vulnerable selves 3.  Should use stories and examples. Stories are the killer app of presentations. People simple love stories. They trigger the senses and help the audience see, smell, and touch – not just hear – your talk.
  • 10. Disastrous. The first thing to do is to identify the key words. Luckily they’re already there for the plucking.
  • 11. A Good TED Talk: 1.  Should offer new value, new insight to the audience, something they’d never heard before. If people already know it, why do they need to listen to you? 2.  Should be passionate and authentic. The speakers must live and breathe their messages, and be ready to show their true, even vulnerable selves 3.  Should use stories and examples. Stories are the killer app of presentations. People simple love stories. They trigger the senses and help the audience see, smell, and touch – not just hear – your talk.
  • 12. Unless you have a great reason for the audience to see & remember every single word, it’d be best to keep the key words and cut everything else.
  • 13. A Good TED Talk: 1.  Should offer new value 2.  Should be passionate and authentic 3.  Should use stories and examples
  • 14. Brain death averted! But not all is well… because such slides are simply not pleasing to the eyes, and yes, aesthetics matter! Let’s look at the options.
  • 16. This is the most widely-used option. Let’s take the earlier slide on TED talks, and give each point its own slide, with awesome pictures, like this:
  • 20. Different, isn’t it? This puts more emphasis on the individual points, and gives them powerful visual support.
  • 21. “Then I’ll have too many slides! It’ll take too long!” Actually, it won’t.
  • 22. If you’re going to cover each point anyway, it really doesn’t matter that the points are on separate slides rather than one. 1 2 3 4
  • 23. “Wait! But I prefer to give my audience an overview, so I need them on one slide!” Fair point. Let’s look at the next options.
  • 25. Let’s keep all the points & photos, but combine them into a single slide:
  • 27. Have the points appear one by one so as to avoid having the audience “read ahead” while you’re talking. As each new point appears, de-emphasize the earlier points, like this:
  • 31. This helps the audience focus on the current point, while still having access to the previous points.
  • 32. Got more items to talk about? No problem.
  • 33. *From People,Not Candidates by Dave Hazlehurst on Slideshare
  • 34. Or you could try a horizontal orientation:
  • 36. Notice that the photos are color-tinted green so they seem like parts of a whole. This simple trick helps maintain cohesion while using photos from different sources.
  • 38. Another trendy option is to combine key words not with photos, but with icons. Even the United Nations does this, like with the Sustainable Development Goals:
  • 41. More pleasing and inviting, isn’t it? Here’s another example.
  • 42. I recently designed a client’s presentation on 8 key factors of Silicon Valley’s Innovation Ecosystem. A traditional slide might have looked like this:
  • 43. SiliconValley Innovation Ecosystem: 8 keys 1.  Many Silicon Valley companies have built-in exit strategy: e.g. to be acquired by other companies.The founders can then move on to build the next advance. 2.  Successful entrepreneurs often become angel investors that help nurture the next generation of startup founders. 3.  Elite schools such as Stanford and Berkeley feature top research programs that collaborate successfully with industry, and also train elite talent that constantly bring new blood to the startup scene. 4.  A strong garage culture means anyone can be building the next great business or technology anywhere. 5.  Silicon Valley’s unique environment also attracts the best and brightest from around the world. 6.  One of the big factors in attracting talent is its incredibly hospitable climate, Spring-like for 8-10 months of the year. 7.  Another factor is the infrastructure, which greatly facilitates both a high living standard and the ease of doing business. 8.  Finally, Silicon Valley’s community and culture is incredibly accepting – even encouraging – towards failure.Where other places look down upon failed businesses, Silicon Valley folks would pat you on the back and say:“Keep trying!”
  • 44. I re-designed it into the next slide for a Chinese- speaking audience. But you don’t need to speak Chinese to see the difference.
  • 46. Again, have the icons appear in the order you’re narrating the points, so as to focus the audience’s attention.
  • 47. Ok. So those were three rather common designs. Now let’s look at three less common ones.
  • 49. Putting lots of point + photos on screen requires tiny, almost invisible pictures… What if you wanted every point on screen, but to use BIGphotos?
  • 50. Here’s one way. Keep the points on one side, and just alternate the background picture, like these next slides on disasters:
  • 51.
  • 52.
  • 53.
  • 54.
  • 55.
  • 56. This allows you to use larger photos for impact, yet still reminds your audience of the previous points.
  • 57. Bill Gates used this technique beautifully in his TED talk Innovating to Zero. He explained different parts of a key formula by switching background pictures:
  • 58. *Screenshot of Bill Gates TED Talk: Innovating to Zero,TED Global 2010
  • 59. *Screenshot of Bill Gates TED Talk: Innovating to Zero,TED Global 2010
  • 60. *Screenshot of Bill Gates TED Talk: Innovating to Zero,TED Global 2010
  • 62. Let’s say you have a huge list of things to talk about. The usual “expert” advice is to cut it down. Drastically.
  • 63. But let’s try something else. Instead of cutting the list down, just put all of them up – as a “text wall”. And selectively highlight different parts:
  • 64. il wells ran dry natural gas depletion peak coa odiversity loss mass coral reef die-out fisherie ollapse extinction mass forest die-off ocean ac tion desertification all bees disappeared drou e avalanches earthquakes tsunamis typhoons ooding extreme weather hurricanes blizzards nowstorm sea-level rise cities under water coa eas retreat $trillions in damages insurance lo splacement food production drops sharply assive crises mass hunger social crises politic pheaval depression violent conflicts political
  • 65. il wells ran dry natural gas depletion peak coa odiversity loss mass coral reef die-out fisherie ollapse extinction mass forest die-off ocean ac tion desertification all bees disappeared drou e avalanches earthquakes tsunamis typhoons ooding extreme weather hurricanes blizzards nowstorm sea-level rise cities under water coa eas retreat $trillions in damages insurance lo splacement food production drops sharply assive crises mass hunger social crises politic pheaval depression violent conflicts political
  • 66. il wells ran dry natural gas depletion peak coa odiversity loss mass coral reef die-out fisherie ollapse extinction mass forest die-off ocean ac tion desertification all bees disappeared drou e avalanches earthquakes tsunamis typhoons ooding extreme weather hurricanes blizzards nowstorm sea-level rise cities under water coa eas retreat $trillions in damages insurance lo splacement food production drops sharply assive crises mass hunger social crises politic pheaval depression violent conflicts political
  • 67. The wall of text conveys overwhelming abundance: “Wow there’re A LOT of disasters!” (You could also use it to convey good overwhelm.) And yet it allows you to drill in on each specific item.
  • 68. This idea has been used in various designs, such as the cover for Nate Silver’s superb The Signal and the Noise.
  • 69. And now… The 6th option – the most difficult yet with the greatest potential payoff…
  • 71. Actually, this should probably be your first question:“Is the list just a loose ‘list’? “Or is there structure to their relationship that can be visually represented?”
  • 72. If you can find a visual structure, this can be a huge help to the audience to better understand and remember your points.
  • 73. Take this loose list, for instance: •  Friendship •  Family •  Confidence •  Sex •  Loyalty •  Creativity •  Good food •  Art •  Leisure •  Respect •  Intimacy •  Achievement •  Meaning •  Security •  Expression •  Music •  Autonomy •  Sleep
  • 74. By organizing these into a hierarchy, Maslow made them more memorable & influential *Source:Wiki Commons
  • 75. Here’s another cool example. At the recent TEDxTaipei event, BMW’s Alexander Kotouc spoke about the future modes of transportation.
  • 76. Thankfully, he didn’t give us a boring list of transportation technologies. Instead, he re-organized these in terms of his own journey from Germany to Taipei.
  • 77. Germany Taipei He took us through each “leg” of his journey… *This is a mock-up of his slides, as the video of his talk has not be released yet.
  • 78. Germany Taipei ... and outlined the futuristic tech that will likely appear for each.
  • 79. Germany Taipei *This is a mock-up of his slides, as the video of his talk has not be released yet. This was way, way more memorable than a simple list.
  • 80. Here’re some other common ways to organize a list: By time By location By step in a process By function
  • 81. You could also find metaphors to organize your points. Take, for instance, how speaker Roger Dooley organized his ideas about persuasion:
  • 82.
  • 83. Certainly more arresting and memorable than a list! Let’s look at one more example: a hypothetical defense system:
  • 84. Defense System 1.  Be able to detect threats well ahead of time, in order to give the system time to react 2.  Be able to verify the nature of the threat so as to distinguish between real danger and false alarm, and to determine appropriate response 3.  Be able to move quickly to intercept the threats before they cause significant damage 4.  Be able to quickly and effectively destroy the threats once it has been intercepted
  • 85. Boooooooooring as hell. So let’s get a little playful with this.Why not use, say…
  • 86. Boooooooooring as hell. So let’s get a little playful with this.Why not use, say… A guard dog?
  • 90. Detect threat Move to intercept Verify threat Inu Defense, Inc.
  • 91. Detect threat Move to intercept Verify threat Destroy threat Inu Defense, Inc.
  • 92. Inu Defense, Inc. Disclaimer: Only functional with abundant naps & snacks
  • 93. Fact is, bullet points are always the easiest option, but rarely the best. With just a bit of effort and creativity, your slides can be way easier to understand, love, and remember!
  • 94. 6 Ways to Quit Bullet Points with Style
  • 95. Thanks for Reading! Find more goodies at www.podiumwisdom.com Connect with me on Twitter: @podiumwisdom