Today I want to discuss the 1-6-6 Rule. Quite simply, this “rule” says that each PowerPoint slide should have one main idea, a maximum of six bullet points, and a maximum of six words per bullet point. Two caveats:
- I have also seen this rule called the 1-5-5 Rule and the 1-7-7 Rule, with necessary changes to the numbers of bullet points and words per bullet point. I have chosen the middle ground.
- The “rule” is not a rule at all. It is nonsense.
Why is it nonsense? Let’s see the 1-6-6 Rule in practice.
Now, you might think, “I’ve seen worse.” And, at first blush, this slide doesn’t look too bad. The sentences are short and straightforward; the font is large and easy to read. Here’s the problem: It’s only one slide.
Imagine a modest presentation of 16 slides that rigorously follows the 1-6-6 Rule. Looking at the entire presentation in Slide Sorter View will give you some sense of just how bad things could get.
Bombarding your audience with this much text in a presentation is a sure-fire way to stimulate boredom, apathy or revolution. Don’t do it.
I am not opposed to bullet points of text in a presentation. In fact, when used properly, they can be effective. But they should be used sparingly.
Minimize text and avoid long runs of text-only slides. Break things up. Throw in some pictures for visual variety; add a video clip; use a prop; occasionally turn the screen black and – heaven forbid – just speak to the audience.
There are many ways in which to create an engaging presentation so that, when you show important text, your audience will want to read it.
As for the 1-6-6 Rule, please disregard it.