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Be a Storyteller, Not a Narrator



Many of you have probably heard of the “6 x 6 rule” of PowerPoint presentations. In case this is a new concept to you, the rule states that a PowerPoint slide should have no more than six bullet points, each one containing a maximum of six words.

If you know my philosophy on presentations, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why is Mark writing about this rule? Isn’t '36 words per slide' too much text for an effective presentation?” Here’s my answer for you: I’m writing about this rule because I don’t want you to follow it! A truly effective PowerPoint presentation contains little – perhaps even no – text.

If you create a sixty-minute presentation with sixty slides and you’re following the 6 x 6 rule, your presentation will contain more than 2,000 words. That’s more words than the average college term paper, and that’s at a good school! 

Do you really expect an audience to read the equivalent of an entire college term paper… over your shoulder… while you’re talking… during the course of a single hour-long presentation… that starts late… and is interrupted by questions? Now we know why PowerPoint calls them “bullets.” They kill audiences.  

What do I recommend doing instead? Use a compelling and captivating image for each slide. If you’re going to include text, use only a few words per slide. If you feel you need to write a complete sentence, make sure you read the sentence aloud exactly as it appears on the slide. If you don’t feel that text is going to add anything to your presentation, simply forgo text altogether.

I read of a gentleman who is a leading TED Talk presenter. In one of his presentations, he used 52 slides, all of which were images without text. When they asked him, “Why don't you have any words in your slides?” he simply replied, “I'm much more of a storyteller than a narrator.” Ultimately, no doubt, he got a standing ovation because people were so sick and tired of seeing bullets.

Try it yourself. Be a storyteller, not a narrator. You’ll be amazed. And so will your audience.

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Posted by Mark Jewell