Friday, February 01, 2008

Death by bullet points!

At a recent Microsoft get together, our local DE Josh Holmes gave us a book on creating better presentations (Beyond Bullet Points). After reading it I tried to adopt some its basic ideas around trying to tell a story and not using the standard bullet list approach to my presentations. I have to say I found it very hard to succinctly convey my ideas in a technical presentation without using bullet points at all. I found that my scripts became more essential, which was not bad necessarily, but it made the presentation as a stand along meaningless. So if I posted the presentation online without the notes, it provided little value.

I started looking at presentations from other speakers I had enjoyed in the past to get some ideas. I found this presentation by David Laribee which had no bullet points at all and was very stylized. While aesthetically pleasing, the presentation by itself held little value when you did not have David talking over it. I also found plenty of rote presentations with tons of bullet points with a few standard architecture diagrams sprinkled in for good measure. While those did have plenty of information contained in the actual presentation, I can see where sitting through them might have been pretty boring.

I came away thinking there is a good middle ground where you can effectively display your information (and yes use bullet points) while not resorting to just reading from your slides and not actually presenting the material. I am currently revamping my Scrum and TFS presentation in this manner and trying it out at several user groups in the Tennessee area over the next few months.

If you have links to good presentations done in this style, I would love for you to post them for me to take a look at.

4 comments:

Alan Stevens said...

Tommy, I saw Dave give the DDD talk at DevLink '07. I think the slides act as anchors for what he was saying. Just seeing the slides again brought back his point. I think the point of this approach is to use the slides as cues, instead of documentation. That deck would have been better, if it contained his notes for each slide, as suggested in BBP.

++Alan

Tommy Norman said...

I still think a good mixture is the best approach in my mind. You definitely do not want to simply repeat what is one th screen, but it is good to have major points reiterated on screen as well. Notes help with presentations like that, but they lack the structure and visual context since they are not a part of the slide itself. Which way to you tend to land in your presentations?

Jeff Hunsaker said...

Tommy, I'm working off the 2008 BBP book and it asserts one could/should place bullet-point or narrative copy into the Notes section such that your presentation can travel without you. J. Holmes gave me a copy of Secure Coding v2...not sure how to interpret that. ;-)

Tommy Norman said...

Jeff: I do put my talking points in my notes, but I guess my days of training using the three T's (tell them what you are going to teach, teach them, then tell them what you taught them) are very ingrained in me. I am trying to work on a balance of more visual slides with follow up summaries. It also depends on the style of presentation. If I am doing a more technical presentation, I might just let the code speak for itself with very few slides at all. My current presentation is around Scrum and has some more exostential content that I think deserves at least some summary points.

And I only think you need to worry if Josh gives you an Intro To Visual Basic book! :)