8 Ways to Save Yourself from ‘Death by Bullet Point’

#2 in the ‘8 ways to save yourself from…’ series

It’s amazing that this phrase is still so well known, nobody ever requests the opportunity to listen to someone reading lots of text from a slide and yet every day around the world there are probably millions of people sitting dazedly through a set of bulleted slides. There’s nothing wrong with PowerPoint (or any of its relatives such as Prezi) – it’s just the way it’s used that isn’t brain friendly or sticky.

And often we hear people say ‘but I don’t know how else to share information’ or ‘we have to do it that way’. So let’s try eight new ideas instead – four with PowerPoint and four using entirely different media.

1. Turn your slides into a guessing game instead of a telling machine – put up a question or a puzzling picture and ask your audience to guess the answer. Research shows even if they guess incorrectly they’ll remember the real answer for longer, so long as you share it quite quickly.

2. Illustrate your point with a strong visual image and use your voice to tell the story – your visual cortex is the biggest sensory processing area of your brain so let it do what it does best.

3. Ask learners to engage with the information rather than be exposed to it. Here’s an example for a virtual classroom. Put information in a table on a slide (not too much information of course) turn on the drawing tool and ask people to circle what they think is the most relevant piece of information to them and then use the chat box to talk about their choices.

4. Use slides as a punctuation or set of road signs for all the other activities that you encourage people to get involved in so that you’re not telling; they are learning for themselves. The slides are really useful to refer back to as a review later but the more emotion, activity and attention people have paid to exercises the easier they will be able to recall what they learned in that session.

Or choose not to use slides at all and share your information in a different way.

5. Collect the information you have and split it into chunks of about half a page or less. Put each ‘chunk’ into an envelope and hand out the envelopes to the learners. In pairs, twos or threes ask them to read out the information. It’s much more intriguing to be handed a sealed envelope than wait for the next slide and you get to hear a range of different voices. You could do it in logical order or mix them up and get the audience decide on the order they think makes a good flow, so deepening their processing of the information, making it easier to remember later.

6. Instead of text or numerical data which is common in slides, create a short comic strip of information for people to read for themselves and then extract the relevance to them. If there are specific numbers or pieces of data people need to know you can include them in the ‘story’ as advertising hoardings, newspaper headlines, speech bubbles etc.

7. Or turn the information into a short video or a series of short videos that people can choose to watch at the right time for them. If up to now you’ve been doing ‘death by bullet point’ people will be so relieved to have something different that even short quick videos recorded on your phone will be welcome – you don’t need to be an expert in video.

8. If you’ve got a lot of slides and you need to use some of them then choose only the key points and put them up as posters on the wall. Ask people to walk around and read the information, discuss and then come back and share what they’ve understood or are curious about in your ‘gallery’.

For more ideas about how to avoid Death by bullet point come and immerse yourself in new ways to share information at How to be a Brain Friendly Trainer