Better than Bullets: The Best Way to Prep for a Presentation


I recently spoke to a group of executives about the importance of making every presentation count. I emphasized what a shame it is to win an audience with people who matter most to your business (customers, prospects, employees, etc.) and then squander it by being boring, off point or even “just OK.”

After, one exec asked: “So, if you don’t want to be boring, is it better to read from a script or talk from bullet points?”

GREAT question. The answer is, “Neither.”

My favorite presentations are those that come off like a performance. They have a beginning, middle and end and in between a surprise or two. The speaker draws me in with compelling stories, examples and analogies. And while he or she repeatedly delivers poignant, profound or even funny lines, the words seem to come from the heart, not a script.

We ALL love those presentations and we’d all love to give them. But how can mere mortals pull off expert showmanship and still remember their lines?

Neither the bullet points nor script-reading approach seems to cut it.

Reading outright deprives you of the opportunity to make consistent eye contact with your audience. Instead of connecting with them you’ll annoy them and come off as nervous or green. Even if you use a teleprompter, if you merely READ your remarks, they’ll seem canned.

Bullet points do allow you to maintain eye contact. But they also leave a lot to chance. More often than not, presenters who speak from bullets or talking points disappoint. Why? Bullets ensure we hit the big things but they don’t help much with the little ones that make a presentation memorable: meaningful transitions, clever wording, perfect timing, unforgettable detail.

A better option I’ve found is to combine the two. Write out word for word a great script that hits every point, transition, surprise, and detail with just the right precision. Then stand and rehearse your presentation with script in hand a few times through, refining each time. After a few rounds, see how you do without your paper script.

Eventually, you’ll start to internalize (but not memorize) your remarks, knowing by feel not only all the key points, but the transitions, examples, analogies and funny stories that bring them to life.

When it’s go-time have handy a lean outline, just in case. But do your best to speak from the heart and make a connection with your audience.

Odds are, despite all the rehearsal, you’re not going to deliver that written speech word for word. But your audience will appreciate that you’re neither reading nor rambling.  Best of all, you’ll hit all your major points while keeping the audience engaged from start to finish.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, visit us at, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.