By Cliff Atkinson
About the Author
Cliff Atkinson is a leading authority on how to improve communications across organizations using Microsoft PowerPoint. He is a popular keynote speaker, a writer, and an independent management consultant whose clients include companies ranking in the top five of the Fortune 500. He is president of Sociable Media in Los Angeles.
Cliff teaches at UCLA Extension, is a senior contributor for the MarketingProfs newsletter, and writes the Beyond Bullets weblog, at BeyondBullets.com
PowerPoint owns the presentation world. We've been cocooned by a blue gradient screen with six or more bullet points feeding information.
Or so we've been lulled to believe.
(see Edward Tufte's dissection of the Columbia PowerPoint disaster)
Cliff Atkinson takes a well researched, but almost heretical stand that a presentation is a story and that too much data plastered on the screen, dulls the audience's soul and actually reduces comprehension and retention.
Beyond Bullets walks the reader through the story process and provides tools to structure presentations to have the maximum impact.
The "PowerPoint" part of the process is easy to follow, even for a novice. The story telling sections will help improve the most experienced speaker's show.
"But what might not be evident in the simplicity of this slide is what happens when the audience experiences it along with your verbal explanation. Because the slide design is simple, the audience can quickly scan the headline and visual and understand the idea. Then their attention turns to the place you want it. — to you, the words you're saying, and the way the information relates to them. Instead of making everything explicit and obvious on the slides, you can leave the slides open to interpretation so the audience is dependent on you, and you on them.
What (the experts are) saying, basically, is that slides filled with bullet points create obstacles between presenters and audiences. You might want to be natural and relaxed when you present, but people say that bullet points make the atmosphere formal and stiff. You might aim to be clear and concise, but people often walk away from these presentations feeling confused and unclear. And you might intend to display the best of your critical thinking on a screen, but people say that bullet points "dumb down" the important discourse that needs to happen for our society to function well.
Somewhere in our collective presentation experience, we're not connecting the dots between presenters and audiences by using the conventional bullet points approach. This issue is of rising concern not only to individuals and audiences - even the major players of large organizations are taking notice of the problem. It seems that in every location where people meet, from small meeting rooms to board rooms to conference halls, people want a change."
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