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Speaking and Presenting Tips - Bullets

I’ve heard this before, it came up in the Tufte seminar I took, and it also was something that grated on my nerves at TechEd recently. I was in a presentation and saw a slide titled “Agenda” that had bullet points like this:

  • History of xxx
  • Problem of DIY
  • Reference examples
  • Basic structure
  • Enhancements
  • Security
  • Common Uses
  • Expansion to other systems
  • Summary

These weren’t the exact items, but it didn’t matter. This was a BI course on a Microsoft technology, but a Microsoft PM, and he read each of these, giving a sentence or two about what it meant.


Don’t do that. Studies show that people can read much, much faster than you can speak. By the time you’ve started to talk about this, most everyone in the room has read the entire slide.

The same goes for any other slide. People read it, heck, as the speaker I’ll glance back and usually read the entire thing in a couple seconds and then start talking.

Give people information that’s not on the slide. They’ll read what’s there, so go into depth on what you actually want to say. If everything is on the slide, why are you there? Just send them an article, or move them all to Starbuck and hold a “reading” of your material there, similar to what most libraries do for 4 year olds.

Give people information that’s not on the slide, and don’t read what is.

The Voice of the DBA

Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by Gethyn Ellis on 25 June 2010

Was the person delivering an inexperienced presenter or was the guys just poor? It sounds like you didn't enjoy the session either way.

Posted by Steve Jones on 25 June 2010

He was older, not sure how experienced. My frustration was that he moved slow, too slow, IMHO, to explain things. I can't believe that someone doesn't go over this stuff with them. Don't read bullets.

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