Preparing For a Powerful Delivery
Avoid Bullet Points Like the
In his book, Beyond Bullet
Points, Cliff Atkinson provides the best explanation
I’ve ever read as to why bullet points can kill your
presentation. He explains that when an audience is
watching a presentation, there are two basic tracks of
information going into their brain. There’s a visual
track, and there’s an audio track. To maximize the
impact of the information for the audience, both tracks
should be used.
You’d think using bullet points
makes sense then, because when you’re speaking and
you’ve got a slide with bullet points on it, you’re
providing both the audio track (your speaking) and the
visual track (your slides). But there’s a problem with
that conclusion. When your audience is reading words,
they’re not using the visual track; they’re using the
That sounds very strange. How can
they be using the audio track when they’re reading the
words? Because, when we humans read words, our brain
translates those words into sounds so we can place them
into the context of language. This means that as you’re
delivering your speech, your audience is reading the
words on the slides at the same time, and since both the
verbal words and the written words are using the same
audio track, then the visual track isn’t being used.
Furthermore, our brain doesn’t
process verbal words and written words at the same
speed. When reading words, the neural processing is much
slower, because our brain has to translate those words
into sound. Verbal input doesn’t have to be translated.
So, we end up with two flows of information coming
through the audio track at different speeds. This
dilutes the learning process for your audience.
The net result is that your
audience is trying to both listen to your words and
to read your bullet points, which means the impact of
both is reduced.
So, what’s the lesson? Avoid the
use of bullet points if at all possible.