CRACKING THE 2.4.8 RULE

Experts emphasize – and practitioners know – the 2.4.8 rule: 2 minutes per slide / 4 bullet points per slide / 8 words per bullet point. But how often do we actually follow it? And how easy is it? The “2 minutes per slide” rule is something we can’t really test here on this post. But the achievability of the “4 bullet points per slide / 8 words per bullet point” rule can be demonstrated with a simple hypothetical example.

So here goes!

Topic of [hypothetical] presentation: AIR POLLUTION: TYPES, SOURCES, HAZARDS

Given the wealth of information available on this topic, let’s just use a couple of paras (courtesy https://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know) as our starting point…

Smog and soot

These two are the most prevalent types of air pollution. Smog, or “ground-level ozone,” as it is more wonkily called, occurs when emissions from combusting fossil fuels react with sunlight. Soot, or “particulate matter,” is made up of tiny particles of chemicals, soil, smoke, dust, or allergens, in the form of gas or solids, that are carried in the air. The EPA’s “Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act” states, “In many parts of the United States, pollution has reduced the distance and clarity of what we see by 70 percent.” The sources of smog and soot are similar. “Both come from cars and trucks, factories, power plants, incinerators, engines—anything that combusts fossil fuels such as coal, gas, or natural gas,” Walke says. The tiniest airborne particles in soot—whether they’re in the form of gas or solids—are especially dangerous because they can penetrate the lungs and bloodstream and worsen bronchitis, lead to heart attacks, and even hasten death.

Smog can irritate the eyes and throat and also damage the lungs—especially of people who work or exercise outside, children, and senior citizens. It’s even worse for people who have asthma or allergies—these extra pollutants only intensify their symptoms and can trigger asthma attacks.

Hazardous air pollutants

These are either deadly or have severe health risks even in small amounts. Almost 200 are regulated by law; some of the most common are mercury, lead, dioxins, and benzene. “These are also most often emitted during gas or coal combustion, incinerating, or in the case of benzene, found in gasoline,” Walke says. Benzene, classified as a carcinogen by the EPA, can cause eye, skin, and lung irritation in the short term and blood disorders in the long term. Dioxins, more typically found in food but also present in small amounts in the air, can affect the liver in the short term and harm the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, as well as reproductive functions. Lead in large amounts can damage children’s brains and kidneys, and even in small amounts it can affect children’s IQ and ability to learn. Mercury affects the central nervous system.

Our challenge is:

How can we compress the 359 words in the above extract into 3 slides with 4 bullet points on each slide, 8 words in each point? 

We demonstrate below – making sure the header doesn’t go over the 8-word limit either! – with word-tally and comments alongside…

Slide 1: 

DOUBLE-WHAMMY: SMOG AND SOOT

  • The two most prevalent types of air pollution   [bang on: 8 words]
  • Smog caused by emissions from combusting fossil fuels reacting with sunlight  [oops: 11 words]
  • Soot is tiny particles of dust, allergens, smoke, chemicals dispersed in the air  [whoa: 13 words]
  • Both have a common source: cars, factories, power-plants  [spot on: 8 words]

Slide 2: 

LESSER KNOWN: MORE HAZARDOUS

  • Over 200 air pollutants are hazardous to health or even fatal  [uh-oh: 11 words]
  • Most common among them are mercury, lead, benzene and dioxins  [very close: 10 words]
  • Mostly emitted during combustion of gas or coal   [voila: 8 words]
  • Dioxins are commonly found in food but also in the air  [alas: 11 words]

Slide 3: 

AIR POLLUTANTS: ILL-EFFECTS AND OUTCOMES

  • Soot enters the lungs and bloodstream, causing bronchitis and heart disease  [overshot: 11 words]
  • Smog triggers asthma attacks, irritates eyes, throat and lungs [almost there: 9 words]
  • Benzene can cause blood disorders in the long run [almost there: 9 words]
  • Lead affects the brain, dioxin the reproductive system, mercury the central nervous system [too many: 13 words]

Phew! If that seemed harder than you thought it would be and more frustrating, don’t worry, another round of tinkering will demonstrate that the “8 words per bullet point” rule isn’t impossible – simply demanding! The 4 points per slide is of course much easier to achieve (as demonstrated above) and practise can make the 2 minutes per slide a reality… but that’s another story for another post.

For now, we’d like to revisit the 3 slides and redo them without losing content (or patience!) – making sure not to go over 8 words!

Slide 1: redone

DOUBLE-WHAMMY: SMOG AND SOOT

  • The two most prevalent types of air pollution
  • Smog is caused by emissions reacting with sunlight
  • Soot comprises airborne particles of dust, allergens, chemicals
  • Both have a common source: cars, factories, power-plants

Slide 2: redone

LESSER KNOWN: MORE HAZARDOUS

  • Some air pollutants are health hazards or fatal
  • Most common are mercury, lead, benzene and dioxins
  • Mostly emitted during combustion of gas or coal
  • Dioxins are in food and also in air

Slide 3: redone

AIR POLLUTANTS: DANGER AND DAMAGE

  • Soot and smog worsen bronchitis, asthma, cardiac conditions
  • Benzene causes blood disorders in the long run
  • Lead damages the brain, dioxin the reproductive system
  • Mercury affects the central nervous system

So you see, it’s doable after all. All it needs is precision, determination and focus.

(Those of you who have been paying attention will realise one clever trick to achieving the 8-word goal in Slide 3 was simply to combine 2 points into one, thereby making room for the fourth point to stand on its own at a miraculous 6 words!)

And the other thing to remember is that you don’t have to squish everything into the slide via text. You can add to the precious 8 words per bullet point while making your verbal presentation.

So there’s no need to cram it all in. Keep fine-tuning till you crack it! Believe us, it will be worth the effort!