Beyond Bullet Points Book Review
This book is not specifically about designing a better-looking slide deck. However, it focuses on an important aspect of creating great presentations: visual storytelling. In other book reviews I’ve done (slide:ology, The Non-Designer’s Presentation Book, and Presentation Zen) all discussed having clarity of what your message is. Beyond Bullet Points takes you step by step on how to refine your message and tell a compelling story in a visual way. If you are looking for a book on advanced PowerPoint features and strategies, this is not that book. The book itself is not divided into sections or parts but the ten chapters can be grouped into the following categories: Focus on Storytelling, Constructing the Presentation, and Delivering Your Story/Presentation.
Overview of the Book
Part One: Focus on Storytelling
In chapter One, A Theater of Persuasion, Cliff Atkinson, shows the impact of a good visual story and how it can help persuade and inform the audience with an example of a lawyer who won a class action lawsuit based on using the approach. There are several examples of visual storytelling. Additionally, the author discusses how you can identify the potential of applying this method to your own presentations.
In Busting the Top 3 Myths About PowerPoint, the focus is on how working memory (a.k.a. short-term) works when it comes to understanding and remembering presentation content. Atkinson discusses many of the existing myths related to PowerPoint such as making a list is the most effective way to convey information. Atkinson provides alternate methods for addressing these myths by comparing the principles of BBP with conventional approaches.
The third chapter starts to get into the heart of Atkinson’s message of using visual storytelling. This chapter, The 5 Principles and 10 Building Blocks of Persuasive Visual Storytelling, focuses on how to build a visual story. By using the Beyond Bullet Points (BBP) Story Template a presenter can focus on clarifying their story before creating slides. The building blocks are the key aspects of persuasion like having a hook and providing relevance. Throughout the chapter there are examples and guidelines for writing headlines.
Part Two: Constructing the Presentation
Once you have a clear idea of your story, the next steps creating the overall structure. In this chapter, Crafting Your Story Structure, Atkinson shows the order your building block should be within the slide deck. While not adding content to slides yet, the focus is on creating effective headlines especially for the first few slides. scattered throughout the chapter are tips for making your ideas sticky and persuasive.
In Anchoring Your Story in Your Audience's Mind, Atkinson guides the reader on where to allocate time spent on the specific building blocks: anchor - five minutes, explanation - 15 minutes, and backup - 45 minutes. This approach uses a hierarchical pyramid as a way to create scalability but also refine your ideas to their core meaning. This approach allows the presenter to address three central decision points needed when constructing the story. Throughout the chapter there are quick checks for headlines and order of slides.
The chapter, Thinking Like A Storyboard, provides several strategies on how to convert a long script into a visual storyboard, which includes identifying the specific works you will speak while presenting. Similar to other chapters there are tips and checklist throughout.
Chapter Seven is a unique chapter and a strategy is that not always recommended by other presentation gurus. In The Magic of Sketching Your Graphics First, the reader is provided with a series of guidelines and prompts for sketching graphics. The focus is to help the reader consider all of the possibilities for types of graphics, media tools, and techniques.
Using quality graphics are in essential component of visual storytelling. Chapter Eight, Getting Graphics, Quick and Easy, provides guidelines for picking graphics that match the overall aesthetic of the presentation. It also addresses want to keep in mind it to avoid overuse of graphic elements through recommendation of custom layouts.
Part Three: Delivering Your Story/Presentation
Chapter Nine, Delivering Your Visual Story, focuses it on how to prepare for delivering your presentation and methods of presenting to best convey your visual story.
In the wrap-up chapter, Present This, Not That, Atkinson provides examples of using the visual storytelling presentation style along with techniques for a thorough review of your slides. There are many presentation examples on various topics that include opening statements, pitches, market analysis, and class lecture.
The book also provides three appendices. Appendix A includes the Beyond Bullet Points (BBP) guidelines. Appendix B provides a list of example challenge and desire headlines. Appendix C is a table to guide the headline mapping process.
The book Beyond Bullet Points is an essential book if you want to create memorable presentations. Cliff Atkinson provides an easy to follow process that will allow you to go from a text heavy bullet pointed slide deck to one that is not only visually pleasing but clearly conveys the core message.