Imagine you’re presenting, and you’re just about to go to your next slide. Right then, someone in your audience asks a great question about your topic.
The thing is, suppose the question’s only loosely related to what’s on any of your slides, but you’re happy to discuss it because everyone seems interested, and you have time. All the same, you’re left with this glaring issue:
What do you do with your current slide?
Leaving it on your screen amounts to “blur” (that is, a distraction from the discussion), so that’s not a good option.
You may be thinking:
“A-ha! I know about the obscure feature
that lets me black out my PowerPoint slide!”
Instantly blacking out your screen
First, let’s look at the solution PowerPoint provides, which you might or might not know:
During your slideshow, you can press “B” on your keyboard to black out your screen. Then, to show your slide again when you’ve answered the question, just press any key. (Some people say to press the B key again to return from black, but in fact you can press any key.)
The big plus for this method is that you don’t have to set it up. But it has a drawback too, as blogger Phil Waknell points out: When you press a key to continue, the same slide as before reappears, so if you’d already finished with that slide, showing it again causes 2 problems:
- It distracts your audience, because for a moment you seem to be going backwards.
- So it makes you look unprofessional.
Avoiding going back to your old slide
To avoid those problems, Phil suggests a smoother technique, using what he loves to call:
“The world’s best slide.”
Namely, he suggests you insert completely black slides into your presentation, wherever you’d like the option of blacking out your screen. Then, when you reach a black slide during your talk, you can either stay on it to hide your visuals (instead of pressing B), or you can just move to the next slide.
You might call Phil’s great tip:
“The B key – version 2.0”
3 more options for you
Thinking about Phil’s tip above, I’ve come up with 3 more tips for you:
Making your black slides fully flexible
The 1st option I thought of is to take Phil’s tip further and insert a black slide after every slide. That lets you easily black out your screen at any time, without ever having to revert to your old slide when you finish answering a question.
Actually, to take that even further still, I suggest you also hide your black slides. Then, they never appear unless you choose to show them. (To hide your current slide, click the Slide Show tab, then click Hide Slide.)
During your slideshow, to show the next slide even though it’s hidden, you can press the “H” key. So when you get a question that doesn’t closely relate to your current slide, press H to show your hidden black slide, and when you finish your answer, just click to go on to your next slide as normal.
Adding your company logo
Along with Garr Reynolds and other writers on this subject, I urge you: Don’t put your logo on your regular slides. Instead, I suggest you put a small copy of your logo on the black slides you show during discussions. That way, in your audience’s subconscious, you’re subtly linking your brand to dialogue.
Most presenters… are blithely linking their brands to boredom
(In contrast, most presenters put their logo on every slide, and most slideshows are dull monologues. So it’s likely your competitors are blithely linking their brands to boredom and frustration. I really hope you thank them!)
Using simple photos instead of blacking out your screen
Here’s the 3rd option: Rather than blacking out your slide, you can show a slide with a full-screen photo that broadly matches the discussion.
For instance, if someone asks you about costs or savings, you could fill your screen with a photo of coins, bank notes, or bullion. People will look briefly at the photo, but they’ll promptly return their focus to you because they can absorb the photo so quickly.
(If you want to imply that what you’re selling costs only a little, show coins, and if you want to imply it saves a lot, show bank notes or bullion!)
For details of how to jump to the right photo-only slide – including where to get 1000s of high-quality photos for free (and legally!) – see Stop Q&A hypnosis [“How-to” steps].
When using photo-only slides, if you want to avoid going back to the slide where someone asked you the question, follow these steps:
- Before your talk, insert a black slide after every slide (and hide the black ones if you like).
- During your talk, when you realise the question you got doesn’t relate to your current slide, first advance to the black slide (by pressing H if it’s hidden).
- Then (using the “how-to” steps in the Stop Q&A hypnosis post) jump to a relevant photo slide, or even to a generic slide with a photo that represents “discussion”.
- When you finish your answer, just right-click the photo slide (to open the slideshow menu) and choose Last Viewed to return to the black slide you jumped from.
- Lastly, click to advance to your next slide as normal.
Over to you
So there you have it – a host of options for hiding your current slide during discussions, without distracting people (and looking unprofessional) by going back to the same slide afterwards.
I’d love to hear your own experiences…
- How do you handle questions that don’t relate to your slide?
- Do you black out your slide during discussions?
- If you leave a comment or question, I’ll gladly reply.
Check out these related posts
- “Analog” presentation tips #1: Use a flipchart [Video to watch]
- Answer people’s key question (FiRST framework – part 1A)
- Here’s the RIGHT way to show your company logo on your slides – Be distinctive (not dismissive)
- Improve your image: Get 1000s of free photos for your slides
- Stop Q&A hypnosis! (A unique way to handle questions during your talk)
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