bullet points are for wimps

bullet points

One of the main reasons why i design an image every day is to try and sum up blog posts visually. As the saying goes, “a picture speaks a thousand words”. One massive problem i have with formal learning is sheer volume of padding in any document you read…

Presentations, diagrams, whitepapers, books… the formal language, the structure, the bullet points, diagrams… there’s just no fun in them. We’re all in agreement bullet points don’t work – scientifically proven. Yet walk in to any lecture, and what will they all have in common?

1. Microsoft PowerPoint.

2. Bullet points.

3. Bored Students.

It’s crazy. We’re often taught not to pad slides and not to have full sentences on slides… it’s visual clutter and i know my own mind just switches off if i see too much text or detailed diagrams. Black and white stuff of course, just to make it even more boring.

I’ve seen a few presentations from students over the years and although we’re not masters at talking & presenting (understandably, as we’re all just learning & developing our own techniques), some are incredibly smart & powerful. I’m talking about the slides. They have taught me a lot about what i like and how i learn best, so naturally i’ll build that in to my own presentations.

Allow me to give an example of something very random. Let’s say i’m giving a presentation on why bullet points shouldn’t be used… i could write about;

  • advantages
  • disadvantages
  • history of bullet points
  • evidence that suggests bullet points don’t work

Hopefully, at this point the image below will have caught your attention and you’ll be so bored with this text that you won’t have noticed the irony in my use of bullet points above 😉 I could just go on and on and draw matrix diagrams and perhaps a swot analysis on bullet points…. perhaps just add some padding here and there. The quick brown fox jumped over the fence. Testing 123.

Bullet points
Creative Commons License photo credit: earth2marsh

But no, that’s just boring and safe and therefore forgettable. That image above screams out at me. It’s big, it’s bold, and it sums up my opinion perfectly. If you do like bullet points, it’s also gonna provoke a strong reaction from you… it’s gonna ruffle feathers much more than text will. Images are very powerful weapons when used right and they usually provoke a much stronger reaction from people than plain text.

Sticking an image and nothing else up on a screen also take a huge amount of confidence which is perhaps why it’s not done more often. Bullet points act as reminders and checkpoints should you forget what you’re talking about or lose your train of thought. So the chances are if somebody presents something with nothing but images they know what they’re talking about…

So yeah, don’t ever expect bullet points from me, unless i’m playing it safe in which case i don’t know enough about the subject or the people i’m presenting to. Bullet points are like life jackets when you’re up there in front of people presenting. Go in without life jackets and you gain more respect from people, even if you do end up drowning.

Just like blogging, i feel it’s important not to hold back your true feelings on subjects you’re studying. Even if you just don’t like something for no particular reason, it’s always entertaining to roll grenades out there and watch them explode. Like my ‘bullet points are for wimps’ statement – i know that’s gonna hit a nerve with a lot of people, or has the potential to… but that’s just me entertaining myself, i’m not thinking of certain people or certain groups of people when i make statements like that…

Chances are others will be entertained too by controversy because it’s different and a welcome break from the black and white text based learning environment we live in. It can all get very predictable and monotonous at times. A bit like this blog post… no headings at all, no real structure, just rambling. But you get my point thanks to the two images i’ve used in this post.

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