Cliff Atkinson writes about something I too am guilty of doing: “Put 7 bullet points per slide on 20 slides and you have 140 reasons why you are creating cognitive overload for your audience.”
Many people justify 7 bullet points per slide by citing the George Miller article, but what’s always missing in the arithmetic is the total number of bullet points across all of the slides; e.g., 7 bullets per slide times 20 slides equals 140 bullet points. Any single slide is part of a whole experience in which you’re trying to help someone understand something, so to get the whole picture you really have to add up all the bullets.
If our short-term memory can hold 3 or 4 items and we’re seeing 140, you’re probably not surprised that there is a scientific validation for those times you’ve felt overwhelmed, confused or bored by an information presentation approach.
We can move forward by figuring out the 3 or 4 most important things out of those 140 bullet points. One effective technique is a classical logic tree, which is built-in to the story template and can help you create a hierarchy out of your ideas.