A PowerPoint Paradigm Shift


Ever get into the rut of doing what you’ve always done because it’s comfortable – or because it’s the way it’s always been done?

I’m talking about presentations – specifically the ones where you use PowerPoint. We were reminded of this when a client recently shared that he led a talk to 1,000 brand managers at Procter & Gamble with no slides. He was strangely terrified of the idea initially, yet he loved the outcome when it was done.

Slides can be effective for speakers when they highlight key points. Nothing tells a trend story like a graph, and nothing illustrates the analogy you want to make like a picture. When we use slides correctly, we are more effective.

But we’re not using them correctly most of the time, or at least we can do better – it’s hard to argue with that. This blog is not to remind you that we use too much information on a single slide  – too many bullet points or even words – and that pictures are better. I have no doubt that you already know that, so do it. This blog is about actually having the boldness to go dark.

Specifically, use black slides.

A black slide simply has a black background with no master template, and you insert it between your slides – or where it makes sense.

Adding black slides will do three things:

1. Clear the screen. Once you’re done with the picture, graph or supporting information, you want to remove distraction and go to a black slide so you can amplify, tell a story, or make an additional point, etc. Their minds will wander if you let them.

2. Bring the focus to you. It’s amazing to see the eyeballs go from the screen to you when you put up a black slide. It’s actually invigorating, and it helps connect you with your audience and so much more! It also opens up the room and allows you to go in front of the projector and not be stuck in one place (although we’re seeing less projectors, more TVs and large monitors).

3. Totally change your mindset. Create your message first, then add support. (Of course, I recommend using Decker Grid™.) When you are delivering your key points, the background should be black so that people can hear what you are saying. Slides should be used to accent and add support – think graphs, pictures, video clips and other SHARPs to bring memorability and power to your Point Of View.

Try it in a low risk opportunity, and you’ll love how it helps the experience!

**And now – the small print at the end that we have to include, typically reserved for formal warnings and legalese **

  • Be aware that printing out black slides is just a waste of paper.
  • We’ve used black slides in webinars, and we don’t recommend it. Viewers thought their webinar programs were on the fritz.
  • Do not email around your deck with black slides in it. Recipients will not know what to do with it, which may wreak havoc on your inbox. If you need to send something around, first create your deck and save that version for emailing. Then save a duplicate and add in your black slides for live presentation only. As Garr Reynolds states so well, “slideuments” are a different story. For additional recommendations and some deck emailing tips, read here.

Any questions about how to use black slides in the moment? Or have you already gotten out of the rut? Let me know!

4 comments on “A PowerPoint Paradigm Shift

  1. Great Michael & D! Thanks for your replies, in addition to Taylor. I agree with your point on the B button. I call that a great back up to black slides. Reason is the only down side to the B button is you almost have to go backward before you can go forward. You have to show whichever slide you were done with and covering, before you can move ahead to the next. Keep it up all, and we always appreciate your posts.

  2. Black slides ensure that you are not competing with your own PPT! An audience cannot listen to you and read a slide at the same time. Give your audience a break. Black slides are one of the best kept secrets about PPT.

  3. Great point about not always needing a slide deck and actually presenting “nothing” on the screen to bring the focus back to you.

    Another workaround for black slides is simply hitting “B” on your keyboard to make the screen go black.

    This DOES assume that you are standing at your computer and not wandering around the room with a clicker, but if you aren’t, it saves you the hassle of having to add them slide-by-slide to your presentation.

  4. This reinforces what I’ve been doing for quite awhile. As a pastor who preaches most Sunday’s, I use a great deal of power point to show scripture I am reading and to show pictures which help people relate to what I’m saying. I often use black slides, I call them blanks, inbetween the other slides. The other pastors are required to use power point, along with blanks as well. Thanks!