Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Of course it's not about the blank screen itself, but what you're doing at the time.

First, you need to know how utterly simple it is to go to blank screen. EITHER... on the clicker, press the blank screen button (most presenters don't know it's there).  OR... on the keyboard, press the 'B' button.  Either way, just press the same button again to return your slide to the screen. The button-pushing is not a problem.

Now, picture this:

  1. As your presentation starts, you're standing directly in front of your audience, with nothing on the screen.  You're directly connected to the people in front of you. When it's time for the first slide, you move to the side to talk about it.
  2. From now on, when a slide is no longer directly and immediately relevant to what you're saying, you blank the screen again, moving back in front of the audience to re-establish your full connection with them.

Audiences want that. They want you in charge and they want you directly tuned into them.

So why aren't all presenters doing it already?

Because it takes courage - especially when you've been used to using PowerPoint as a crutch. When we face our audience directly, we feel vulnerable. That's why so many presenters step to one side, turning themselves into voice-only robots, us into comatose zombies, and the message into dust. 

How to get a dose of that courage? See the rest of my blogs on this website.

Wait! You think your entire presentation has to be on the screen?  That's rarely true, not even in full-on conferences. Please take another look at all your slides and ask yourself, Which way will this content have more impact? By adding my voice to what is on the screen? Or by delivering it while looking the audience in the eye?  Be especially ruthless with word-only slides, which have near zero impact.

For now, if you like that picture of yourself in 1. and 2. above, here's a final tip. Get hold of a projector in advance and practise the movements. Better still, get a friend to watch and give you feedback. Get your body and brain used to it.  Then, for the real thing, look forward to audiences impressed by your increased personal authority.

Try it. Then consider this - there's an even better way to use the blank screen to your advantage. Go to PowerPoint Tip 10: Insert a 'sleep slide'

 

 

 

Yes, it's brilliant.  I'm not exaggerating, the method below will do all this for you: 

  1. it's easy to do (many people get this in just a few minutes) and it's easy to turn into a habit.
  2. it will lend you the look and sound of personal authority
  3. you'll feel more in control
  4. it will instantly cure your ums and ahs
  5. if you have a strong accent (English a second language?) it will make you instantly more understandable.

All that from one, very simple idea. I call it 'Speaking in packets'. Let me spell it out:

Don't slow down. Instead, speak a phrase (or short sentence) at your normal pace, then pause for just one second (a single heartbeat) before you start the next phrase.

That's all there is to it. The extraordinary thing is that you're still speaking at your normal fast pace, but the audience does not think of it as too fast.  Here's an example - try reading it aloud with the heartbeat pauses:

What I suggest (...deliberate 1 second pause...) is that we start the new schedule immediately.(...deliberate pause...) At the moment, some of our clients are confused (...deliberate pause...). Jamie says he's had 10 calls just this morning from clients who don't know when to make the corresponding change in their own systems.. (...deliberate pause...) We can't let that confusion continue.

Notice that the pausing is not regular or predictable. That longer second-to-last sentence still does not seem too fast, now that you've established a controlled pace.

Now try it out with your own words.  Tell your friend in the mirror why you enjoy your sport or hobby.   Don't worry about where to pause, in just a few minutes you'll find yourself in a rhythm where it happens naturally.

That word 'deliberate' is important. Even in that tiny pause, you are making it obvious that you're making the audience wait for the next bit. They respect that. (Points 2 and 3 on the list above.)  And of course, it you are deliberately making them wait, you'll automatically cure the habit of filling silence with ums. (Point 4.)  Strong accent? The silences give the audience a chance to let each bunch of words sink in and make sense. (Point 5.)

Try it out on a trusted work colleague with a serious work topic. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Well? Are you pleasantly surprised? In that case go to this self-administered master class: make some pauses longer, and during the silence look from one part of your audience to another. You will look convincing, confident, in control. Believable.

I'm excited by how good this 'packets' method is - I've seen the results directly in my presentation skills workshops. But I would also love to hear how it works for you. Do let me know through This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally-charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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