The Art of Using Bullet Points in a PowerPoint Presentation

Published on
September 16, 2019
PowerPoint presentations area great way of communicating your ideas or conveying a message to your audience.

But to be effective, they have to be understandable and interesting. They have to hold the attention and interest of the audience. So, the question is: how can we make them interesting, yet easy to understand?

There are various ways you can visualize written information and make your presentation more engaging. Using images and graphics certainly lend color to your presentation but sometimes they are not enough; a presentation is typically more meaningful when there are words to provide context. However, large blocks of text are hard to read and distracting to your audience. Cue in the bullet points!

Presentation design draft using bullet points

Why bullet points

Bullet points are a great way of creating a balance between text and visuals. They serve a critical visual purpose: breaking the monotony of large text into easily understood chunks while leaving ample white space on your slide.

Don’t think that bullet points must have an icon or Unicode character preceding the text—when we say ‘bullet points’, we really mean a list or series of key points. They can be accompanied with an icon or even sequenced as animations in PowerPoint. There is no need to limit your bullet points to just dashes and circles.

Here are some reasons why we need bullet points and how we can use them to our advantage.

Simple to understand

As a presentation design agency, we’ve had enough experience across a breadth of industries and presentation use cases to know that approaching text with a “less is more” mentality is not always appropriate. We understand that sometimes, you want the audience to thoroughly read the slides—for example, if the presentation is to be printed for self-reading. When we’re working with intentionally text-heavy slides, using bullet points is a surefire way to break out the information into easy-to-understand pieces.

Give an overview

Bullet points on a slide can act as a reference for your audience about what you are going to talk about, giving a sneak peek into what is coming next. They can also act as a summary of whatever has already been discussed. It is easier for the audience to follow and take more interest in what you have to say when the matter under discussion is clear.

Strength in numbers

Consider this: you’re reporting on an increasingly concerning issue that your organization has been facing. Or perhaps you’re convincing a panel of why your project is viable. Including a list of points will help emphasize the significance of your overarching message, whether it’s the number of factors contributing to the issue or the expected positive outcomes of your project. Bulleted lists allow the audience to see the amount of supporting points you have for your message.

Rank and compare

Bullet points can also help in ranking products or projects in your presentation. For instance, you can list characteristics of each candidate as a way to justify your ranking decisions. Making use of bullet points is especially handy when comparing options because their concise nature allows the audience to quickly grasp an understanding of each option in consideration.

Quick and easy

Adding bullet points does not take extra time and effort—it simply requires that you identify and highlight key points, which you likely already know! The most difficult part is choosing the right words to convey your message concisely so that all important information is still communicated. When done well, bullet points make for quick understanding of your content so that your audience can also focus on listening to you speak.

Easy animation options

As mentioned earlier, bullet points open a door of animation opportunities that you can play around with for varied impact. You can animate them in all at once or on-click if you want to explain each point in a step-by-step manner. By controlling the animation appearance and timing, your presentation becomes an informative and interactive video.

How to use bullet points effectively

While including bullet points in your presentation is generally a good choice, there are some things that you should keep in mind to maximize their use.

Keep them short

Nobody likes long, text-heavy slides. Avoid long sentences in your presentation—especially in your bullet points. Just one phrase or sentence is typically sufficient to give your audience an idea of what you are saying without going into detail. Then, your audience will have some context while listening to you explain these points and will not be distracted by trying to read what is written on the slides.

As many as needed, but as few as possible

A key to creating well-designed presentations is to thoughtfully use white space; it provides a visual break for the eyes and in turn, helps the audience process the information at a comfortable pace. Having to read and comprehend while actively listening will overwhelm the audience and result in little to nothing being retained. Again, use only as many bullet points as needed to convey your concepts. If you still find yourself with a slide full of bullets, don’t be afraid to split them across multiple slides.

Avoid using black dots

As we mentioned earlier, bullet points do not necessarily mean text written next to big black dots—it simply means presenting information in the form of shortened notes. The only restrictions on how to visually present these notes should be your brand guidelines and whether the content lends itself well to being presented in bits; do not limit yourself to using default bullet styles! Customization can be as simple as changing the color of the bullet points, or more complex like having an icon accompany each point. By switching up how you style your bullet points, you avoid visual monotony.

Do not use them on every slide

On the topic of visual monotony: it occurs in presentations that use the same design format for each slide or the majority of slides. If every slide looks the same (ex. A title, a bulleted list, and an image) then the audience will quickly disengage after seeing the same style over and over. Be sure to maintain a balance between text and images; when appropriate, make use of other visual elements in your presentations, such as full screen images or infographics.

Use animations

A basic list of notes is not particularly engaging. To help this, consider using animations that are synced to how you will present to your audience. You can make your points pop up one by one as you speak—this way, your listeners will only have to read one line at a time and will not be distracted by other topics. The style of animation that you choose will also affect the tone of your presentation; for instance, bullet points that appear with a slow fade-in have a calmer, sophisticated look than those that appear with an abrupt animation.

Takeaway

Bullet points remain important for presentations since, when used correctly, they have a number of benefits for the audience. Using bullet points is a good way to create a balance between the visual and text elements of your PowerPoint presentation. They help in making slides visually appealing and add a dimension of design into the text, all while conveying the same message as a lengthy, text-heavy slide—but in fewer words. Bullet points are important mainly because when used correctly, they help to keep your audience engaged with your presentation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Working with Stinson: The Presentation Agency

What exactly do presentation agencies do?

We provide all the help you may need to design presentations that achieve your goals. This can include content consulting, presentation slide design, custom icons and illustrations, and presentation handouts—ultimately, our team of PowerPoint designers and consultants develop a comprehensive presentation solution that meets your specific needs.

Why do companies work with presentation agencies?

Consider how much time you (or your team) spend making PowerPoint presentations for meetings. Think about the back and forth over which fonts, colors, icons, and images to use. Is it okay to use bullet points? Did you use the right brand colors? Does the slide look too crowded and busy? Or does it look too plain? How do you create the look and feel that you're picturing? After the design is done, do you have enough time to practice presenting?

As presentation experts, it is our second nature to understand your goals and work with you to create the professional PowerPoint deck that you envisioned. You can learn more about our 3-phase process here.

By leaving the presentation design to an agency like Stinson, you save yourself the time and worry over the look, feel, and progression of your presentation—we make your PowerPoint presentation-ready so that you can focus on the presentation delivery.

Which presentation design service will I need?

As a presentation company, we offer every service you may need to develop your you may need to develop your PowerPoint—however, it's tough to say exactly which services of ours would benefit you the most without having chatted about your company, industry, and presentation uses.

We've generalized the scenarios that we regularly see and help our clients with. If your situation is similar to any of the below, then rest assured that our presentation experts have proven success in developing solutions.

  • You have an upcoming presentation with investors or clients. You feel your slide deck looks outdated or dull, and you don't know how to help it. You're also not sure if the content in your presentation conveys your value. View our case study where our presentation development and content consulting services helped our client achieve their investor funding goals.
  • Your company has regular internal department presentations. Everyone works on their respective slides, which are then combined into one presentation deck. The resulting PowerPoint does not have a cohesive look and somehow, there are five new shades of your corporate colors. We can help you identify your common slide layouts and design easy-to-use custom PowerPoint templates so your team members can create seamless, unified slides.
  • Your company has a great PowerPoint template that strongly reflects your branding, but your team tends to include too much text and irrelevant images on their slides. During the presentation, key messages are lost. We offer presentation training for exactly this—we'll train your team to create better slides more efficiently.

Expectations when working with us

How does partnering with a PowerPoint designer work?

Once you contact us, we'll meet with you and ask for as much context as possible regarding the project: what materials you already have, who is presenting, who is the audience, and so on—this is our Discover phase. From there, we move onto Develop and Design where we start defining the narrative and visual characteristics of your new presentation. For more details, please read our process.

How long do projects take?

Our standard turnaround for presentation development is 2–4 weeks; for custom presentation templates, our typical turnaround is 3–6 weeks. We know this is a wide range, but due to the collaborative nature of our presentation design process (i.e. asking for and incorporating your feedback), our turnaround time also relies on your responsiveness and availability. We do offer a rush service if your timelines are short.

How much does a presentation design cost?

We price on a project-by-project basis, involving a number of key factors outlined in our pricing model. However, we do require a minimum project cost of $1,500.

We often see companies that do not have budget allocations for presentation design and are hesitant to make the initial investment. We understand—at first, it can be difficult to see the value and difference a well-designed, practical presentation can make. For our clients that started in this situation, we worked on a smaller pilot test project; when they saw the positive ROI of the presentation, they were able to secure larger budgets and found more presentations that needed our help.

What are the final files that I will receive?

All of our final PowerPoint (or other presentation software) deliverables are shared with you in its native, editable file format. We are also able to provide a PDF or video version of your presentation if you would like.

Any presentation collateral we design for your project is shared as a ready-to-print PDF, unless if you specify a different preference.

Have you worked with other clients in my industry? Can you share related samples?

Our list of clients spans a wide range of industries, some of which we hadn't known of prior to the client's project. Since our approach involves familiarizing ourselves with the client's business and industry, we've become a team of jacks-of-all-trades for industry knowledge.

We're able to share blinded, industry-specific samples of presentations that our clients have consented to. Contact us if you're interested!

Technology

Aside from PowerPoint, do you work in Google Slides? Keynote? Prezi?

Yes! While we prefer designing PowerPoint presentations due to its robust features that let us create advanced designs, we've created custom presentation designs in Google Slides and Keynote at our clients' request.

We generally do not design presentations in Prezi since it does not support the level of design customization that we need for our clients. Instead, we use PowerPoint to create the same animations and layouts that are characteristic of Prezi presentations—you can view examples in our portfolio.

Will we run into issues if we use Mac and/or Windows PC?

There are some differences in functionality between PowerPoint for Mac and PowerPoint for Windows—but these are not for your concern! We use both Mac and Windows computers at Stinson, so we're able to ensure cross-device compatibility with every PowerPoint presentation we design. During our initial call with you, we'll ask you for these tech specs so that we know to bear them in mind when working on your project.

Does it matter which version of PowerPoint we use?

Yes; the latest versions of PowerPoint have new functions and features that earlier versions of PowerPoint cannot load. We'll take note of your tech setup to ensure that our presentations for you run as intended.

Designing with branding

How are you able to design with our company's brand?

If you have any brand guidelines, we ask you to provide them early on in the process so that we can familiarize ourselves not only with your logos, colors, and fonts, but the overarching brand tone. Our collaborative process includes rounds of revision for you to provide your feedback on the presentation design.

Are you able to design within our very strict corporate brand guidelines?

Absolutely! Many of our clients are companies with well-established brand identities. We do our due diligence to maintain the integrity of their branding when designing their presentations and collateral.

Strict brand guidelines do not necessarily restrict the possibility of creating a sophisticated PowerPoint; our presentation designers thoughtfully use photos, animations, and other visuals to build the story.

We don't have concrete branding yet or we're in the process of updating our brand. Can you work without defined brand elements?

Yes! When we work with clients who are still ironing out the details of their branding, we ask them to provide us any materials they have already and to share their design inspirations. From there, we lay out moodboards of different tones and styles to see which resonates the most with what our client has in mind.

Security

We have highly sensitive information. Will my data remain confidential?

Absolutely—we respect the proprietary nature of businesses, and enforce a strict confidentiality policy company-wide. From the first point of contact with you, we assume a non-disclosure agreement (NDA); we are happy to sign your company's NDA as well.

Where do you store my files and data?

All of our files are stored securely in an industry-leading content server. The server exceeds regulatory standards and encrypts each file using AES 256-bit encryption in diverse locations.

Additionally, the Stinson team works completely in-house, so your files will not cross borders.

How secure is my data?

We take data security seriously. We enforce numerous internal policies and procedures to ensure that Stinson continues to meet compliance and security standards for data protection, including multi-factor authentication for all company accounts and access restrictions.

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