One more time…

One more time… please stop using bullet points and text in presentations. Ask any audience member what they hate most about presentations and you will receive the same answer. There is an overwhelming volume of research data on why text on slides is a problem but what is most confronting is that those same audience members who complain about this use exactly the tool they hate, in their own presentations. One more time…please stop using text and bulletpoints in presentations; it doesn’t work.

“Too much text, text being read out, too much information, bullet points, lists, text-heavy slides, masses of data…” It doesn’t matter how the response is couched we all know that we really, really dislike such slides. This is much worse in online presentations. Cognitive load directly affects processing , text forces us to read it, even when instructed not to. The data is not retained. The spoken message is given less priority. There is no cognitive space for processing. There is a belief that information must have been transferred (false) and also therefore retained (false). Simple scientific literature searches will highlight the evidence of this but the personal proof is more reliably sourced; you cannot recall 3 pieces of new information from the last presentation you attended.

Simple maths would suggest that 3 facts might be retained from, on average, over 200 facts delivered in a 10-minute presentation. That is an entirely unacceptable 1.5% payoff. This is demonstrably worse online due to a multiplicity of reasons. Large quantities of text are put on the slide, read out and everyone knows, deep down, that it has been an almost complete waste of time.

one more time...

Lazy use of bullet points and text as structure, as a script, as handouts, as background, as references, for conformity or for lack of time, imagination or alternative are entirely unacceptable reasons to disrespect the information, the topic, the audience, the opportunity, and even oneself. Why do we continue to use a technique we hate and that we know is ineffectual? Organisations from Universities to Educational Departments in hospitals to scientific communities are complicit in this duplicity and even “teach” or insist on such approaches to continue this charade as “scientific” or “formal” or “effective“.

Change is always difficult. Breaking with tradition and conformity is not without its own challenges. There is no “right” way to do this, not even the p cubed approach. But, one more time… for those at the back who are on their phone, not listening, not taking notes, and completely disengaged from the presentation, but have given up their time for this “educational opportunity”, please stop using large quantities of text and bullet points in presentations; you hate it and you know that it doesn’t work.


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