A few months ago, we shared an article from Recruiter.com that asserted that the single most underrated career skill is PowerPoint. PowerPoint is the business tool of choice for communicating “our ideas, our recommendations, and our work in a form that is comprehensible.”
I’d like to propose an idea for creating better slides.
Don’t use bullet points.
The built-in PowerPoint templates come ready to add a title and bullet points. So that’s what most of us do. But there’s a better approach.
Use words to assert an idea or statement. Then provide the graphic evidence. This is known as the assertion-evidence approach. At the top of the slide is a simple sentence which expresses the message of the slide: the assertion. The rest of the slide supports or explains that assertion.
Place the details into the notes pages of the slides or in a handout. Remember the purpose of the PowerPoint slides is to help your audience understand the content, not to provide a script for the presenter.
This approach is often used in the scientific community. However, I think it is equally effective for business communication and presentations. Below are two different approaches to communicating the same idea. Don’t you agree that the second one is more engaging?
Typical bullet point slide
There is scientific evidence to show that slides full of bullet points don’t work. The results of a study done at Penn State by Michael Alley suggest that presenters using an assertion-evidence approach think more deeply about the content during the preparation of the slides than presenters following the typical approach. The study also showed that the audience recalled the information better when presented using the assertion-evidence approach.
Next time you’re asked to give a presentation, forget the bullet points and try the assertion-evidence approach. It takes more time and effort up front. But this approach will help you communicate more effectively by increasing your understanding of the story you’re trying to tell, as well as increasing your audience’s retention of the topic’s main points.