Nearly all presentation software, including PowerPoint and Keynote, has a built in feature that will turn you into a better presenter with almost zero effort.
Based on the myriads of people I’ve coached you probably fall into one of two categories:
- You never heard of it
- You have heard of it and don’t do it
If you are one of the FEW people in the third category who already use this tip–congratulations. For the majority, who don’t think it’s important, I’m going explain why it is so powerful.
What do you have to do?
All you have to do is press the B key on your keyboard to Black out the screen. Optionally press the W key to White out the screen. Good presentation remotes also have a blank screen button.
If this seems counter productive, or you don’t see the benefit to turning off your slides, just remember this one simple principle:
YOU are more important than your information.
You must always control your presentation so that YOU get the attention, so that YOU are the expert, and so that YOU make an impression. If you are outsourcing that job to a projector, you become unnecessary.
Try it just once. In the middle of your presentation, blank the screen.
I promise that every eye in the room will immediately turn towards YOU. You will immediately become more important than the slide deck. If you want immediate attention, it works like magic.
How does it make you better?
Let’s use the 8 SpeechDeck Principles to see how turning off your slides will help you.
A Inject Anticipation
There’s a reason why most motivational speakers and storytellers don’t use slides at all. Anticipation is all about UNCERTAINTY.
Most presenters shoot themselves in the foot by showing information visually before the information is disclosed verbally. That gives the listener the ability to get the information without YOU. That is the same as permission tostop listening to YOU. Replace your transitions with a blank screen and you force the audience to actually listen.
R Develop Relationships
Relationships depend on having something IN COMMON, and when you black out the screen, every head in the room turns in unison back toward you. In effect you give them something in common.
By timing your on/off switch you actually create a rhythm and force everyone in the room to synchronize. Synchronicity creates a group relationship even where one did not exist before, and you become the leader. If you want to understand this scientifically research the term “muscular bonding.”
M Reveal the Messenger
I repeat: “YOU are more important than your information.”
If the information comes from a slide, YOU are dependent on the slide, and YOU become less important. If the information comes from YOU, the content becomes dependent on YOU, and YOU become more important. Make sure the information comes out of YOU first, not out of a slide.
I Empower the Individual
PERSONALIZATION and pre-prepared slides are directly incompatible. By definition a pre-prepared slide shows the whole group the same thing, with no individual variation.
Or worse, it appears as if you’re rehashing the same slides you used for another group. A slide cannot make eye contact and connect with an individual–YOU can.
T Manage the Theater
When a PowerPoint slide is visible at the same time you are talking, the listener must choose where to FOCUS, you or your slide. It can only be one or the other, not both. 90% of the time the audience will focus on the slide and ignore YOU.
Slides only improve YOUR image when the point of focus is clear, and when you redirect the spotlight back onto yourself. The easiest way to do that is to turn off the slide.
S Engage the Subconscious
If interpreting the slide requires any logic, interpretation, reading, or thought, then the slide will steal the conscious mind of your listener. Turn it off after you discuss it.
Only if the slide can be understood completely subconsciously, can you leave it visible. In other words the only exception is a 100% picture with no numbers, no graph, no words.
Bonus presentation skills tip
If you’ve never heard of the B/W keys, that is probably because you don’t use the keyboard to give a presentation. I don’t either. In fact, the remote control I like, doesn’t even include the blank screen buttons.
The solution is simple, just add a blank PowerPoint slide between every other slide. The only time this disrupts the presentation is if you rely heavily on between-slide animations, which more often than not, does nothing to help YOU make a better impression.
Worst case scenario, you have to hit the next button twice to get to the next slide.
Best case scenario, you can take control at will. With built-in blank screens it will never be more complicated than clicking either the next or previous buttons, which are available on every remote.
The benefits FAR outweigh the risks.
For more info on the dangers of PowerPoint, check out this post.
In summary, if you want to be more powerful, more engaging, and more impressive, turn off the slides.
Image credit: Tree Frog