Who has not fallen asleep while listening to a speaker showing the n-th slide filled with bullet points?

Being a GTD evangelist for over four years, I had to see the video of the talk that Merlin Mann gave at Google some time ago, name “Inbox Zero”. Since my initiation in the GTD framework I have been trying, with varying success, to keep my inbox empty. However, what got my attention in this talk was the way it was designed, that he detailed in his blog (43 folders). This made me buy the book “Beyond Bullet Points” by Cliff Atkinson.

The main thesis advocated in the book is that a public presentatin should follow the basic principles of dramaturgy, recorded by Aristotle 2,400 years ago. Since the Hollywood script writers still follow them, the thing was certainly well thought out. Thus, a presentation must start by locating itself in space and time, have a protagonist, a situation of imbalance that needs to be balanced. The aim of the presentation is to convince the audience of the best solution for moving from one state to the other. The presentation is thus divided into 3 acts in which the first states the problem, the second shows the reasons why the proposed solution is the best, and the third (the climax) intends to convince audience that the proposed solution saves everybody from the infernal chaos (at least in my own interpretation of the book).

To tell this story, the book suggests the use of a film like script where the set of viewgraphs act as “story board” with only an image and a sentence per viewgraph.

I have already made some presentations using these principles and I can tell that it requires considerable work to summarize in a single sentence all we want to convey in each viewgraph. I think that, at least, it has the advantage of reducing the audience drowsiness.