Why You Should Minimize The Use of Bullet Points in Your Presentations
Don’t make points using bullets.
In theory, bullet points help you organize your key statements in an easily-digestible format: the list. The truth is, there are usually better ways to display that text other than a simple list.
You may be crafting your slide with good intentions by breaking your argument into multiple pieces to make it easier to read. That’s not how it always works out.
For one, bullet points are hard to scan. A long list of bullets on a single page can overwhelm the brain. This makes it harder than necessary to comprehend what you’re trying to say. Adding to that stress is the tedious task of switching between reading and listening during the presentation.
Dr. Christ Atherton, an award-winning lecturer for psychology confirmed this in her 2011 lecture. She claims that the use of bulleted lists in a presentation causes the audience to switch between listening and reading causing cognitive exhaustion.
According to Dr. Atherton, minimizing the cognitive exertion allows audience members to use their cognitive abilities to process and understand the information being presented.
In 2014, further research conducted by the International Journal of Business Communication (IJBC) backs up the inefficiency of bullet points in presentations.
“Subjects who were exposed to a graphic representation of the strategy paid significantly more attention to, agreed more with, and better recalled the strategy than did subjects who saw a (textually identical) bulleted list version.”
Basically, if you can make something more visual instead of just text, do it.
So now that we know bullets are not the best option, what’s a good alternative layout in communicating your core message?
Choose Columns Over Bullets
Consider columns as your new best friend. Displaying your key statements in a series of columns translates text-heavy bullet points into an easy-to-digest visual layout. This makes it easier for audience members to process and understand the information presented to them.
Columns are also more scannable and legible. They help spread text evenly throughout the slide, giving the elements on the page enough breathing room so the eyes can focus on your key statements.
There are also a lot of ways to integrate design elements into this slide layout. Columns give you the opportunity to add icons and photos which help increase comprehension 60,000 times better compared to reading standalone text.
Putting It In Action
How you present your message is just as important as the message itself. Because of this, it’s important to find better ways to communicate your message.