Bullets do no good. Not even in presentations.

bulletI stirred up a debate this week at Microsoft by saying “I hate bullet points in presentations. Whoever invented them should be shot. Preferably with a bullet.”

What for me was just a cheap gag, with a side-serving of mild annoyance at lazy presenters who use bullet points instead of a smattering of visual creativity to get their message across, obviously hit a nerve with some people. Most agreed that excessive use of bullet points in a presentations is unhelpful, that PowerPoint has become a crutch for shoddy presenters, and some went as far as to say we should disable the bullet feature in our software if used to excess. But that would be a step too far; there’s nothing inherently wrong with bullet points, it’s just their excessive and unthinking use that undermines their normal usefulness.

All this debate about bullets coincided with my walking past the spectacular Outrace installation in Trafalgar Square, London. Wallpaper magazine’s “Designers of the Future” winners Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram were commissioned to create this year’s installation and turned to industrial design skills at Audi to bring robots and the public together. And, in a stroke of brilliance, they fused clever robotics with the social web so millions can interact with the machines and share their messages with the world.

My message? See the video below for the moment Audi’s robots took on my mission to rid the world of unnecessary bullets:

My robot message to the world

What’s clever here is that anyone with an Internet connection can take part. Uploading a message is a breeze, and after moderation to verify the suitability of each message, each successful participant receives a link by e-mail to their personal YouTube video. Which in turn leads to more people hearing about the installation, which leads to more messages and so on.

The social web now has the capacity to touch almost every part of our lives. The opportunity for marketers is to discover engaging ways to insert relevant brands into the conversation. Using bullets, or otherwise…

Further reading:

Learn more about how the Outrace installation brings together people and technology.

Beyond Bullet Points: highly recommended reading for anyone wanting to improve their visual presentation skills.

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: now in its second edition, Edwards Tufte’s delightful essay on how we can improve our presentations.

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