No More Bullet Points! What Your Student Should Know for PowerPoint Presentations

If your child’s classroom routinely uses technology, s/he has most likely had to give a PowerPoint (PPT) presentation. Even though PPT is taught as early as the 4th grade, some teachers still adhere to 1990s design rules when Microsoft first introduced the software. For example, one student I tutored had a school PPT assignment where every word in his oral presentation had to be typed onto a slide lest grade points be deducted. Can you imagine listening to 30 sixth graders reading off of slides?

Two major innovations, the 2001 introduction of Google Images and the 2006 introduction of TED Talks, have led to a more elegant way to create PPT. With Google Images, users can quickly find, copy and paste images with abandon. TED Talks has shown that PPT presentations need not be dull, bureaucratic affairs with droning speakers reading off of bullet points.

Instead, the more enlightened PPT user understands that PPT is really a refined, adult version of the children’s picture book. Just look at any popular TED Talks. No more bullet points. No more text-heavy slides. Instead, a large visual hovers above the speaker who brings life to the material by walking, speaking and gesticulating on stage. Just like when adults read pictures books to children, the image and the speaker become integrated into one memorable and enjoyable experience.

Remember M O C K R: Five simple rules to make your PPT more like a picture book.

Make it big.

Big font size. Big visual image. Font size should be no smaller than 30 point. Think big image or close up image. If you can’t read it in the thumbnail or printout, you can’t read it from the back row of the room.

One thought, one slide.

Your oral presentation can further explain the one thought. Remember, PowerPoint is Picture Book.


Keep your design, font, images and colors consistent. Choose one type of font and vary it by using different sizes and styles (italics, bold). For graphic images, use the same style, images and color scheme. For example, if your images are photographs, stick with photographs. Consider extending images to the outer edge to eliminate prominent borders. Don’t mix photographs and cartoons. Keep sight lines (eye gaze, arrows and diagonals) pointed towards your important information and not pointing out of the slide frame.

Keep it simple.

White space is nice space. Don’t overwhelm the viewer with too much information on a slide. Keep text to a minimum. You can explain more in your speech. Use handouts with additional information. For charts and graphs, emphasize the top 3 numbers. No more bullet points!

Rule of thirds.

This is a visual design principle that divides the slide area into thirds, either top to bottom or side to side. Rather than center information on the page, place information so it takes up one or two-thirds of the area. Simple asymmetry creates a more appealing layout.

Remember to cite your sites and where you copied your images if you did not create your own. Creative Commons is an organization that works with many websites like Flickr and Picasa. You can customize a Creative Commons search by selecting “advanced search” from From there, click “usage rights.” Further narrow your searches with options such as “free to use or share.” The website has content that has been approved for commercial use or further modification.

So make sure your students (and you, if you choose) learn a better way to create PPT. Several teachers I know have already used MOCKR in their classes. Please spread the meme.

Suggested Reading or Viewing Interview with Robert Gaskin, credited with inventing Microsoft’s PPT. Within several years of launch, PPT had a 95% market share of presentation software. In his interview, Gaskin reflects how ubiquitous PPT has become, quoting the Harvard neuroscientist Stephen M. Kosslyn: “For many purposes, PowerPoint presentations are a superior medium of communication, which is why they have become standard in so many fields.”  Jennifer Lopez’s plunging neckline-to-the-waistline emerald green dress worn at the Grammy’s prompted Google to introduced Google Images. It was the most popular search the company had received up to that time. Accessed Sept. 2, 2017. Last Week Tonight HBO. First aired May 8, 2016. TED Talks have become so popular they are now parodied. See John Oliver’s hilarious send up with TODD Talks. Begins about minute 16.

Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen (Berkeley: New Riders Press, 2008). You need only look at Reynold’s makeovers with “before” and “after” PPT examples to understand his aesthetics. The book emphasizes Japanese Zen principles which I have translated into MOCKR. Reynolds’ book should be required reading or at least skimming for anyone who has to do PPT. His appendix showcases great PPT of different styles. Sophisticated business and professional users should also consider Nancy Duarte’s books Slide:ology and Resonate. Duarte’s firm designed the slides for Al Gore’s documentary The Inconvenient Truth and many TED Talks.

Luke O’Neil, “A Guide to Happy (and Legal) Tumblr-ing,” Wall Street Journal 21, May 2011.

No Comments

Leave a Comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that.
Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked