Bullets are not all bad. There are times when bullets are necessary for your audience, your message, and purpose. Learn about some examples of when and how to use bullets to help your message shine, and how they allow your audience retain the information
- [Narrator] There will be times when bullet points are perfectly appropriate depending on the nature of the content you are communicating, and for this, let's stop for a moment and think about what bullet points really are. They are a list. I don't know about you, but I write lists every time I go to the grocery store. If I don't, I end up spending twice as much time and money, and forgetting about half the things I meant to buy somehow. So in essence, this list is for memory, but it can be a little bit more than just that.
Lists are often used to weight options or to organize ideas, or to solidify structures, or the steps necessary for long-term planning. Likewise, it makes sense that in communicating these steps, these same structures might also be sometimes necessary to show. So, when do we use lists on slides? Well, we use lists to show or to communicate chronological steps, or how to do something in a specific order.
I need to go here, then I need to go here, and I should mention, that at this point, I use the term bullets interchangeably with numbers. A list is a list, in PowerPoint's eyes, whether it contains a symbol or not. In addition to chronological steps, we also use bullets to show the order of importance. This item is more important than this item, which is more important than this item, which is more important than this item, and so on, and we also use bullets to show group membership.
Everything in this groups belongs to this item, and everything over here, belongs to this item, and so there is meaning behind the structure of the bulleted list. One that should mirror the message you pair within that structure. The problem though, is that often times the presentations that I see, content is crammed into a bulleted structure, that would be better served in another structure. Take this slide for example. At a quick glance it looks like a fine bulleted list, not very pretty, we can apply a PowerPoint stock template or make a design ourselves.
It doesn't change the content though, or how the content is presented. Remember, content is king. So looking at the content, what is it trying to communicate? The second bullet point seems to answer a question contained in the first bullet point, and the remaining bullet points seem to offer some kind of pro and con comparison of social media strategies. As such, this type of information most definitely does not belong in a single linear list-like structure.
In fact, what we have here is not a PowerPoint problem, or a design problem, what we have here is a content problem. If a client handed me this slide, the first step would be to sit down and figure out what their social media strategy is, and what they were trying to express in this presentation, but without that information, if for some reason I couldn't get that information, here is how I would redesign this slide. First, I would split the content across three separate slides.
If I can't fix the content, at least I can break it up in a way that doesn't contradict visually what the content is communicating, and now that the content is broken apart, now I can go in and design each individual slide, in a way that fits each individual message. Tweaking the wording, here and there, hoping to cut some of the words, while preserving the message. It still won't fix the overall cohesiveness of the presentation or the content, but at least the design won't be in the way of each individual engagement tip, that is shared.
Here's yet another example of a bulleted list. Now let's examine this content. The title is in a different place, it's in a different location off to the left, instead of at the top of the slide, but that doesn't really make a different. It is still clearly the title that is describing the list off to the right, and the bulleted list, even though there are no symbols, it is still clearly a list. How can we make this bullet list better? Well, we can't. This is a perfect example of a perfect use for a bullet list.
These items are all members of a group. They are all examples of types of network cables. So, as you can see here, there are times when bullets do have their place. They just don't come up as often as you'd think, when giving a presentation. Just remember, double-check your lists and ask yourself when using bullets, is this information organized chronologically, by importance, or by group membership.
If your content is not, you should probably consider redesigning your slides.
- Designing as non-designers
- Key design components
- The need for hierarchy
- Hierarchy in bulleted slides
- When bullets are cognitively necessary
- Using space effectively
- Creating similarity and contrast strategically