Issue #170 October 14, 2008

PowerPoint Tip: Stop looking at the screen

What is so darned interesting on the screen? That’s what I was asking myself at a recent conference as I saw speaker after speaker looking at the screen repeatedly during their presentation. It’s not like anything had changed on the screen – it wasn’t that they had put up a new point or moved to a new slide. They just regularly looked at the screen. It was almost like they were wondering if the screen was still there or what was displayed had changed without them initiating it. I got to thinking why they would be doing this. I think it is because they needed to remind themselves what point they were discussing. If this is the case, let me suggest some better ways to go about making sure you cover what you need to for each topic in your presentation. First, position your laptop so that you can see it when you are facing the audience. If you need to sneak a peek at what is on the screen, look at your laptop instead of the big screen behind you. Trust that what is on the laptop is the same as what is on the screen – because 99+% of the time, it is. Second, build each slide point by point or make only one point per slide. This way, you only glance at the slide when the point comes up and don’t need to look again because you know what you need to talk about. If you have multiple points on the slide all at once, you need to keep looking to see if you’ve covered all the points. Multiple points on the slide also makes it harder for the audience to connect what you are saying with which point on the slide. Use a presentation remote device to change points and slides so you don’t need to keep looking at a multi-point slide to see where you are. Third, rehearse what you are going to present. Too often, presenters look repeatedly at the screen because they need to remind themselves of what they wanted to say. This is a sign of lack of proper preparation. If you have rehearsed your presentation multiple times, you will be familiar with the material and it will flow smoothly without having to look at the screen to remind yourself of what you wanted to say. There is nothing wrong with glancing at your laptop screen to remind yourself of the point you have just shown the audience. But use the tips above to reduce the tendency to repeatedly look at the screen while you are discussing the idea with the audience. If you use visuals instead of text-heavy slides, this becomes so much easier. Learn how to transform text slides into persuasive visuals with my book “The Visual Slide Revolution” at .