Tuesday, December 15, 2009

PowerPoint Tip: Best slide ever

While I was at the PowerPoint Live conference in October, I was interviewed by Ron Galloway, who is doing a documentary film on PowerPoint. Here’s how he describes the film: “Regarding Powerpoint” will attempt to put the program’s influence on business, education, and thinking into meaningful context. The film will be out early next year, but it is one of the questions he asked me that I want to expand on in today’s tip.

Ron asked me, “What is the best PowerPoint slide you have ever seen?” I thought for a moment and came up with an answer that he wasn’t expecting. And it may be one that you’ll find surprising as well. I said the best slide was a black slide, where there was essentially nothing on the screen. Now that may seem like a strange answer, but let me explain why I said it.

I believe that slides should only be used to enhance your message, not to take over your message. Too often, presenters make the slides the message and, in reality, the audience doesn’t even need the presenter there. Effective presenters use black slides to focus the audience on only one thing, the powerful message they are delivering. There is no visual to distract the audience or compete with the message. The spotlight is on you, not the visual support.

I use black slides when I am telling a story and want the emotion of the story to have impact without competing with a visual from a previous point. It forces the audience to look into your eyes and you connect so much deeper with them. When you are delivering the key point you want them to remember, use a black slide so they have 100% attention on your words and body language.

A colleague recently asked me to give feedback on her presentation at a conference. She did a great job using humor and connecting with the audience. But many times I felt that her slides took away from her message. She used them to illustrate one of her key points, but then as she expanded on the idea, the slide was still showing and it distracted us from her message. I suggested she use the slides, but once she showed us the quote or picture, go to a black slide so we can focus on her explaining the deeper application of the point to our lives.

Using a black slide seems like a simple idea, but one that can improve the effectiveness of your presentation. Part of thinking about presentation visuals is also thinking about when they are NOT needed. Try it in your next presentation and let me know how it works.


Blogger Phil said...

Dave - You have a great point about slides taking over the message, and I like the idea of using a black slide to draw focus to the presenter.

However, most of my events are via webinar or webcast, where the audience cannot physically see me. I'm afraid if I push a black slide out, some audience members may think it is a technical issue, and become distracted by tring to figure out what's going on, rather than listen to the message.

What are your thoughts on this? What do you think if a black slide with the word "Listen" on it was included in the presentation?

11:34 AM  
Blogger Dave Paradi said...


You bring up a good point about web presentations. My feeling on web presentations is that it is like TV in that the viewer expects changes in the visual scene frequently. My concern with a slide that just says "Listen" is that it may actually be a signal for them to tune out since there will be nothing visual going on.

How about using a slide that has just the one key phrase you need them to remember. It focuses their attention and gives them a visual that is crystal clear. If you need to, you can have two or three of these while you emphasize your points, then go back to your regular slide format. It makes it a noticeable visual change that catches their attention.

Hope that helps.


7:40 AM  
Blogger Carles Caño said...

Hi Dave,

I've been thinking on your answer to Ron's question and I agree with you.

Too often people put all the attention to the slides. It even gets worse when the lights are switched off.

I had an idea that might enhance your answer O:) The best slide is a black slide... with a white circle on it. What for? To light the presenter. This way it gets even more attention, acting as a spotlight :-)

I wrote a post in my blog about this, it contains a small video with a "demo". It's in Spanish but I think you'll get the idea :)

1:47 PM  

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