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When it comes to your presentation: Bullets or Blanks?

Yes, I did this. No, I don't recommend bullets for your presentation.

Participants in our workshops freak out a little when we recommend avoiding the use of bullets in their presentations. We hear things like

"Bullets help the audience learn!"

"My boss expects bullet points!"

"My audience will think I'm not prepared!"

"Then what the hell am I supposed to hand out?!?"

The problem is that first statement is not accurate. Research studies argue that audiences learn more when told (vs. reading text on a screen... or reading while being told).

Those other responses may or may not be accurate. But that's because of conventional wisdom, not because bullets are better. Just because your presentation follows convention doesn't mean it will have an impact on the people in the room that you desperately need to persuade (conventional presentations are awfully forgettable, but that's a whole other discussion).

So why are bullet points so common?

My theory is that they simply serve as the speaker's notes, reminding the presenter what to say. What does that imply about the speaker's preparation?

Be honest: Do your speaker notes belong up there, on the screen?

And think about all the other presentations you've suffered through where the speakers read their bullets to you. I have a sneaking suspicion you're capable of reading those bullets yourself.

And you probably did read them. At least most of them.

And while you were reading I bet you weren't listening to the speaker. Not really listening.

Don't you want your audience listening to YOU as you emphasize your key points?


  • If you have a list of things to rattle off, blank the screen and just say them

  • Use your notes (your Storyboard if you've been through our workshop) if you need a reminder, not a slide

  • Save PowerPoint for visuals

  • The only time bullets belong in a PowerPoint deck is in the hard copy you hand out at the end

Need help or confidence ditching your bullets for blanks? Let me know. I'm happy to help.

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