Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

Many regard the standard format for briefings and presentations — a series of slides containing so-called "bullet points" — as convenient, efficient, and effective, for both presenter and audience. Convenient and efficient they might be, but their effectiveness is questionable for what is perhaps their most important application — briefing decision makers.

Decision makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. That leads to trouble, because the bullet point form isn't capable of presenting faithful representations of every reality or every logical argument. And the root of the problem lies in the nature of the bullet point itself. Nevertheless decision makers persist in demanding the bullet-point format, and briefers persist in delivering it.

Bullet Point Madness

Round ball shot. One of the earliest forms of bullets.

We explore the inherent limitations of the bullet-point format, exposing how it tends to make briefers and presenters vulnerable to a cognitive bias that compromises their ability to deliver the message they intend. And we show how briefers and presenters can exploit other cognitive biases that make their arguments and assertions seem more credible than they actually are. Both sets of phenomena contribute to a risk of poor decisions on the part of decision makers.

The problem affects far more than the "standup" presentations that involve what we call "slides." People use bullet points in all forms of written communication, including documents, email messages, and some texts tweets. If you listen carefully, you can even hear the bullet-point format in spoken words at meetings.

Instead of briefers composing bullet points, and audiences reading them, we actually need to think. We suggest how briefers and their audiences can collaborate to accomplish just that.

Learning model

We usually think of presentation skills as rather technical — free of emotional content. We hold this belief even though we know that our most difficult situations can be highly charged. Despite our most sincere beliefs, taking a presentation to the next level of performance does require learning to apply insights about communication even in situations of high emotional content. That's why this program uses a learning model that differs from the one often used for technical content.

Our learning model is partly experiential, which makes the material accessible even during moments of stress. Using a mix of presentation, simulation, group discussion, and metaphorical team problems, we make available to participants the resources they need to make new, more constructive choices even in tense situations.

Target audience

Decision makers and anyone who must present material to decision makers. We provide insights useful to presenters who want to make effective presentations. But we also provide insights useful to decision makers who want to avoid being unduly influenced by presenters who exploit the weaknesses of the bullet-point format.

Program duration

Available formats range from one to four hours. In the longer formats, we provide opportunities for participants to practice the techniques we describe.

Public Events for this Program

Here are some currently scheduled public events for this program:

If you would like to observe any of these events to help you evaluate the suitability of this program for your organization, please rbrenEQuetChPjwYBDxmgner@ChacxXTxBssoFmfDfMugoCanyon.comcontact me to inquire about suitable arrangements.

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