I try to buy as many books about presentation technique as possible given certain (and other) constraints such as money and time — and given that the book at hand looks sufficiently interesting, of course.
So, when I heard of Cliff Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points, I quickly put it on my Amazon wish list, because I hate bullet points on slides — they are misused, abused and what is even worse. Finally, this September, I got around to buying it. Here is my take:
The message of the book is essential: Stop using overcrowded slides, stop being bound by the standard bullet point template and start to think. I like that. And Cliff has a very good tool kit to use, if it is difficult for you to move from bullet point slides to “simple” slides with practically no text in them.
He introduces a running Hollywood metaphor and compares the making of a presentation to the making of a movie. It is a good and useful comparison — and his introduction of two techniques, namely the story template (equivalent to filmmakers’ manuscript) and story board comes directly out of this comparison. The story template tool is the single largest takeaway from the book — and you can download it for free (Word template) here.
On the negative side, the book is extremely repetitive and in some passages very basic. And, it, especially the repetition, becomes boring at times – very boring. And for savvy presenters (and savvy Keynote/PowerPoint users), it may not be a revolutionary read, in fact it may be the contrary.
Finally, let me just share a quote from the book, which is very true, but may be obvious, but nevertheless, sometimes, someone has to state the obvious. And Cliff does it well:
You use PowerPoint well when people don’t even notice you use PowerPoint at all. The last thing you want is for someone to compliment you on your slides — that would mean that the medium called attention to itself instead of your ideas. The most important outcome of the presentation is that the audience understands the meaning you intend to communicate. When you finish the presentation, you want the audience to talk about your special ideas, not your special effects.
You can also visit Cliff’s website and his blog.
All in all, the book is good, if you have difficulty in producing text-light slides, and seem to be stuck with bullet points. If that’s the case, buy it.