Beyond Bullet Points – a review

I'd like to think I'm an objective reviewer, but I pay homage to the Transparency deities, so here I go. I work for Microsoft, and Beyond Bullet Points is published by Microsoft Press. So there.

The book
If your work depends on others' and involves collaborating with them, you need the ability to convey your ideas clearly to be successful. We have at our disposal powerful tools such as PowerPoint, and yet somehow most presentations end up having the same format - a list of bullets at varying levels, with hard-to-read text, given to a audience that will find it hard to focus on that and the handouts and oh yes - that fellow talking over there.

Cliff Atkinson says we can do better, and that's what this book is about. Basing his approach on cognitive research, he proposes getting rid of bullet points, and instead presenting a clear, well-structured story that can engage the audience at different levels. This book shows you how to do this, step by step, and includes plenty of practical tips. Although the book relies on PowerPoint, the ideas are applicable to any presentation software.

This is a relatively short read at 218 pages, with big fonts interspersed with many screenshots to illustrate concepts and present examples. Don't be fooled by its length - less is more when you want what you read to 'stick', and this book goes straight to the point and delivers. The accompanying website includes templates that are ready to be used and a blog that is updated regularly with case studies and new ideas.

My personal likes and dislikes
The content is good, and the ideas are presented clearly and in a well-organized and engaging manner. The text has a very practical orientation to it - it's about how to get results, not about the theory around it. Obviously Cliff knows how to get information across, and I'm very happy with the job he does. My pet peeves are a lack of a single cheat sheet with general structure and tips (think of the yellow tear-out found on the For Dummies series), and three blurbs in the text that have black text on blue background, which is simply impossible to read with bad lighting.

The bottom line
If you want to improve your effectiveness at delivering information and engaging your audience, this book will take you in that direction in a significant way.

This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights.

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