How to use PowerPoint to Force Attention

VividlightsaberHave you ever seen a bad PowerPoint presentation?

(Have you ever made one?!)

Think about how you use PowerPoint. It can be used to engage, to annoy, to inform or put people to sleep.

Many argue that to use PowerPoint itself is bad and should be avoided. But if there is a problem with a PowerPoint presentation it must be you. Not the software. (Sorry to be so direct!)

We know that messages reinforced visually tend to stick better. So the argument that it’s bad to use PowerPoint (or equivalent) to support a presentation is silly.

It’s a tool for showing text and images to your audience. Saying that’s bad is like saying film or books are bad. Some are, some are not.

You don’t have to have slides, but they can be great support to a speech or presentation.

So why is it more likely a PowerPoint presentation will be bad?


A back-to-front relationship with PowerPoint

The first problem is how we think about our slides. Is the presentation software is in charge? Are you just the monkey who reads the words when they show up?

Too often PowerPoint is the master. The speaker stands on a spot next to the screen, hardly moving, reading. It seems that if the slide didn’t appear, the speaker wouldn’t have a clue what to say.

“Oh, this one!” (Surprised by your own slides).

Slides should back up your talk, not replicate it. People even refer to their slide deck as ‘the presentation’.


You are making the presentation, the slides are providing visual support.

And it’s amazing how many presenters seem surprised by the end of their own talk! The final slide comes up and the speaker says,

“Oh, um, I guess that’s it. So… any questions?”

If you have ever done this? Then PowerPoint is your master!


Take charge! Use PowerPoint “B” key


To really be in control of your speech, your visual support should be able to be turned off and on as you see fit.

This can be done by using the “B” key during a PowerPoint presentation, which blacks out the screen. (To return to the presentation press “B” again and you are back exactly where you left off.)

The simple act of blanking the screen during a PowerPoint presentation is a revolutionary one.


Change the way you use PowerPoint

Knowing you have the power to blank the screen helps you stop using presentation software as a crutch.

The simple act of switching your slides on and off can change your whole mindset about a PowerPoint presentation (and other presentation software).

This can be the start of a transformation in the way you connect with your audience.

Why is this so powerful?

  1. It changes the mood of the room. Dramatically. Like switching a light-sabre on and off (hence the photo at the top).
  2. It refocuses attention – with nothing on the screen, your audience automatically turns their attention to you.
  3. Variation and emphasis are important throughout your speech. This is one of the most powerful ways to achieve them.
  4. It wakes people up! You can fall asleep while the TV is on, but as soon as someone turns it off, you wake up. Right?
  5. Most importantly, it gives you the power to be in control of the technology.


Do you think it’s too hard?


Don’t want to muck around with buttons during your presentation.? Try it. It’s so easy to do. And it’s a great presentation habit to build.

Most remotes have a button that blanks the screen. So you don’t have to be next to your laptop to do it.


Examples of when to use PowerPoint “B” key:

  • When asked a question. Refocus attention to handling the question. Also helps build a stronger connection with your audience.
  • When you want to encourage discussion.
  • When you move to a whiteboard or flipchart to write a key word or draw a wonky diagram (wonky diagrams can be very engaging).
  • When you show an object, prop, handout or product.
  • When you want to go off of your planned material. Control the impromptu discussion without distraction.
  • When you have something particularly important to say. For example:
    • At the start (possibly with the words ‘Just before we get started…’.
    • End with a blank screen and deliver your vivid message.



One way to make sure you remember to go blank screen is to create a BLACK SLIDE (draw a box over the whole slide and ‘fill’ it with the color black). If you know in advance that you will want to black out a slide, this will show up automatically. (You might have a second of confusion where you think the technology has failed, but you’ll then work it out!).

* Note that the blanking feature of the “B” key is only available when actually in ‘presentation mode’. You cannot use it for this effect when editing slides.

When you use PowerPoint “B” key, you control the attention of the room. Use it often.



If you’d like to develop your presentation skills, consider:

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