Bullets are for guns – alternatives that won’t send people to sleep

The bullet point was invented some time in the 1950s.

It’s 2017, it’s time to move on.

Surely we can find some alternatives to bullet points?

What’s the problem with bullets?

Number 1: they’re over-used meaning they’re boring and you won’t stand out using them

Number 2: they’re mis-used because people take a full sentence and just put a bullet in front of them

Number 3: they were never designed to use with PowerPoint

Probably the best business presenter of all time was Steve Jobs.

I don’t think he ever used a bullet point.

What, not for Powerpoint?

Bullets were designed to break up long blocks of text in written reports.

The idea was to make long paragraphs easier to read.

Then PowerPoint came along and people started cutting and pasting the list of bullets from their reports into a PowerPoint slide.

But PowerPoint is for creating visual aids that help bring your messages to life.

Bullets do the opposite in most cases.

3 alternatives to bullet points:

Grab a slide of bullets from your last presentation and give these ideas a go.

1. Turn into a Jobs-style list

Steve Jobs would often use a list in his slides, almost always following these rules:

Rule 1: no bullets

Rule 2: no more than 5 items in the list

Rule 3: no more than 3 words per item

This is great for your audience because they can very quickly read the whole slide and get back to listening to you (remember your audience can either read your slide or listen to you, not both at the same time).

It is also great for you as the presenter, because you still get prompts to keep you on track.

So let’s take this fairly standard finance summary slide of bullets:

Here’s how Steve Job’s might have built the same slide:

2. Simple text visuals

Using a list like above is better than bullets, but it’s still pretty dull.

Simple text is one of my favourite alternatives to bullet points.

Here’s an example:

3. A bit of design

Once you’ve stepped away from bullet points you can start to have a bit of fun with some super-simple design techniques.

Here’s a few examples, all created in Powerpoint in just a few minutes.

So what next?

You don’t have to be a designer or a whizz on Powerpoint  to create interesting slides that will wake people up.

Next time you present give some of these alternatives to bullet points a go.

Not only will your message be more memorable, but so will you because you’ll be the only one not using bullets.

To make it easier you can download the slides I’ve used below, just change the numbers for your ones and off you go.

And remember…bullets are for guns, not presentations!


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