The Coolest, Most Powerful Presentation Trick

A presentation blog interviewed me the other day, and the interviewer asked me my favorite presentation trick, hack, or technique. (Don’t fret, I’ll share the interview once it is published.) I told him my favorite, most powerful presentation trick is simple, free, and oddly, seldmonly used — it is the black screen.

The black screen does multiple things:

  • It surprises the audience (in a good way) and everyone perks up wondering what is about to happen
  • All eyes go to the presenter (because the visual aid isn’t stealing the spotlight anymore)
  • You can dive into something deeply personal or important while having the entire audience’s attention

This presentation technique dovetails my post from a few weeks ago, The Power of Speaking without a PowerPoint.

Best yet, this powerful presentation trick is free!

web_offer_banner_3_contentmarketingYou can use the black screen presentation technique in two ways:

  • Some presentation remotes have a button to turn the light on the projector off, making the screen go dark.
  • Or, you can just add a blank slide into your PowerPoint. (By blank, I mean just using a black box that fills the entire slide. If you actually leave your slide blank, it will be white instead of black, which doesn’t quite have the same effect.)

Why do so few presenters use this powerful presentation technique?

Mostly because “monkey see, monkey do” and most presenters fill their visual aids with bullet points and don’t prepare enough forcing them to read those darn bullet points. If you must use bullet points, the black screen technique is a good way to get the focus back on you so you’re still seen as the subject matter expert.

Secondly, most people don’t realize that the black screen is a feature on the remote, and furthermore, most presenters don’t understand the significance of using a black screen.

How to maximize the black screen presentation technique.

  1. When creating your presentation outline, think about what parts need more of the audience’s attention, what is vital for them to understand, and what stories you want to share.
  2. Practice with your visual aid so you can learn to expect the black screen. Especially use your visual aid in your rehearsal.
  3. During your presentation, when you’re rolling through a dozen or so well-designed slides, and you come to a black screen. First, pause. Let the audience look at you, then share your message, and continue on with your slides.

You can use multiple black screen moments in one presentation, but make sure each is impactful. You don’t want to abuse this presentation technique.

I challenge you to incorporate this simple presentation trick in your next presentation, even if it is just at your next staff meeting. This way, you can feel the difference when the audience stops aimlessly staring at the screen and pays attention to you.

Additional Resources

How Speak Simple Can Help You

Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.

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