Books: Beyond Bullet Points

A while back I wrote one of my periodic rants against PowerPoint.  I’ve sat through so many horrible PowerPoint presentations that I’ve ceased to be patient with them.  When I occasionally get a good one, I stand up and cheer.  Of course – the problem isn’t PowerPoint – it’s the person that created the presentation in the first place.

After my rant, Cliff Atkinson sent me a copy of his book Beyond Bullet Points along with a nice note that said:

Brad, A complimentary copy hot off the press.  Hopefully this can ease the “tortuous world of PowerPoint” a little bit!  Enjoy, Cliff.

I’m usually pretty good about quickly getting to books that people send me.  However, this one sat on the pile for a long time.  Every time it got near the top, some mischievous book resorting goblin moved it back down in the pile.  I finally chased the goblin away and read Cliff’s book tonight.

If you have to create or give PowerPoint presentations, you owe it to yourself to read this book.  You won’t necessarily agree with everything Cliff says, nor should you slavishly follow his instructions, but his broad approach to using PowerPoint to tell a story – without bullets – is excellent and thought provoking.  Nicely done Cliff.

  • You should check out

  • It’s good stuff. Before Cliff published his book, he sold a litle tool kit on his web site, which I purchased. After I bought it, he emailed me and offered to work on my prez with me. Basically free 1-on-1 consulting. Now I’m integrating ideas into a workbook I’m creating for presenting entrepreneurs at a local angel group here…

  • Thanks for reminding me about Cliff’s book and what a resource it is for business people. I used his method recently – from start to finish – and was gratified at the response I got from the audience. I also noticed that they spent more time focussed on me rather than the screen.

  • sigma

    Great new ideas on how to give a presentation? Not really
    Vegas entertainment but on a serious subject — MONEY, in
    business, with a big role for high technology?

    Hmm …. Let me see, should I already know anything about
    such presentations? Should nearly anyone giving or listening
    to such a presentation already know?

    Well, commonly the people involved, giving or receiving, have
    spent some decades sitting in a class receiving serious
    presentations and some years at the front of a class giving
    such presentations. In all that experience, in the world’s
    best research universities from Berkeley to Harvard, from
    Chicago to Austin, all across the US Midwest, along both
    coasts, also in the laboratories of US national security, out
    on Long Island at Stony Brook and at the current Renaissance
    Technologies, in classes, seminars, conferences, there is a
    lot of uniformity in what constitutes a good presentation.

    Now, suddenly, for entrepreneurs and the venture capital
    community we have to set aside all that we learned, both
    giving and receiving, over so many years, stand on our heads,
    and start over, learning from whom? With what fantastically
    superior qualifications?

    First I would want to see his Ph.D. dissertation, peer
    reviewed papers of original research in some technical field,
    and student comments on his graduate school lectures in some
    technical field.

  • Sigma – I couldn’t disagree with you more. I’ve sat through numerous academic presentations at several of the first tier schools that you presumably are referring to, and I’ve seen some of the most abysmal presentations ever from academics. As a grad student, I even got to take an entire course on “communications” (which included detailed instructions on giving presentations) – not much better. Just because someone has years of experience giving or receiving a presentation doesn’t mean they are any good at it.

  • sigma


    “My goodness!”

    You wrote, “I’ve seen some of the most abysmal presentations
    ever from academics.” and “Just because someone has years of
    experience giving or receiving a presentation doesn’t mean
    they are any good at it.” Of course. There is no conflict
    here with what I wrote.

    To be more clear, from the “uniformity in what constitutes a
    good presentation” there are some solid norms, and, in the
    best parts of the US technical community, over 90% of the
    presentations are within the norms and plenty effective.
    Asking very well trained technical people to throw out the
    norms and start over is not reasonable.

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