Imagine yourself in the audience as the speaker leads you through his colorful PowerPoint presentation. Midway through his presentation, the screen fades to black, and the speaker is momentarily silent. Where do your eyes go? To the speaker, of course. Silence sweeps over the room as all eyes focus on the speaker and all ears anticipate the next words. You’ve just experienced one of the most important techniques to keep your audience engaged
PowerPoint and Keynote are incredible tools, but as we’ve learned the hard way from ice cream and tequila, too much of a good thing is…well…a bad thing. Too many speakers use PowerPoint as an 8-foot projected version of their speaking notes, in effect a teleprompter on display to all, rather than a complement to their oration. Never underestimate the power of the spoken word when delivered in its raw state, sans flip-charts, white boards or PowerPoint slides. Such unfettered speech has served many generations well, and, in some cases, has changed the world profoundly.
You can tap into this power by including a blank, black slide in your presentation, to focus your audience’s attention on you, and by doing so, bringing a special importance to your words in their ears. Use the slide to pause for a moment, let the room get quiet, and let the anticipation build for your next words. (If the room you’re presenting in is extremely dark, you might consider a gray or blue slide so that a bit of light is still present. This is easier on the eyes and safer in case someone is wandering about the room. I have three different slides prepared and hide the two I won’t use depending on the characteristics of the room.) To prepare your black slide, simply create a new slide, then right click on the slide and select Format Background… Next, click the Solid fill radio button and check the Hide background graphics box. Select Color and choose the color you want to make your slide and select Close. Finally, in the Slide Sorter view (select View, Slide Sorter) highlight the black slide, select Animations and pick the Fade Smoothly animation, setting the Transition Speed to “Slow.”
That’s it. You now have an opportunity to make some real impact on your audience. I would use this technique sparingly, but make sure to use it and rediscover the power of your spoken word.