The World’s Best Slide

Yes, dear readers, you read it right: today I am going to reveal the world’s best slide – the one you can and should use in almost any presentation you ever give. It’s so powerful that you can even use it more than once in a single deck.

You may have read about how to produce fantastic, attractive yet simple slides in highly recommended books like Presentation Zen or slide:ology (if not, please do), but this is the best of all. Even better, you don’t need to be an ace with PowerPoint or Keynote to create this yourself. I even give this to you free of copyright.

Are you ready? Then read on…

Here it comes…

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Wait for it…

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Wow. Take a moment to contemplate its beauty and simplicity. I hope you’re impressed. This is absolutely the most powerful slide you can use.

“Hold on, maybe my screen isn’t showing it correctly – all I can see is a black box!”

Before you reload the page or complain to your tech support people, yes, indeed, it’s just a pure black slide. (If you want, you can introduce it as a picture of a black cat in a coal cellar with the lights off. But it’s still just a black slide.)

Now, some of you might think I’ve committed the cardinal presentation sin of building up high expectations and then not delivering on them. Bear with me. At the least I might have provided you with something unexpected, which is one of the great keys to making messages stick, as explained by Chip & Dan Heath in Make It Stick (another great read).

So what makes a black slide the best slide in the world? Here’s why.

  • It puts the focus where it should be: on you, the presenter. If you don’t need to show a picture or graph to illustrate a particular point, then quite possibly you don’t need to show anything on the wall at all. Anything you display reduces the attention the audience can devote to you and what you are saying. Dilute their attention with a slide if you think it will help their understanding; otherwise, let them focus entirely on you.
    • It allows you to walk wherever you want, even directly in front of the projector. In many rooms the presenter is constrained by the projector’s beam, and forced either to stay in a limited space, or risk having words or pictures beamed onto his or her forehead, which looks very unprofessional. The black slide allows you to roam around before returning to the ‘safe zone’ for your next slide.
      • The more you have of something good, the less special it becomes. Your slides might be amazing, but if there is an amazing slide coming up every two minutes or so, it dampens the effect. Much of the best music includes calm interludes between more animated parts, which enhances the impact of the animated parts. Films also use changes of tempo and emotional highs and lows to enhance the value of each. How much impact would the sudden dino moments of Jurassic Park have had if there were one every minute or two? You can therefore increase the impact of your beautiful slides by interspersing them with black slides.
        • Now, you might also say that the software (and some laser pointers/clickers) allow you to switch off the image and turn the screen black. Simply pressing B will do the trick in PowerPoint for example. This has a drawback however: when you turn the picture back on again, the audience will see the slide you were using a few minutes before, and not your next slide. It seems like you’re going backwards, and this is very disconcerting for the audience and looks amateurish. If you use a black slide however, you can be sure that the next image they see will be relevant to what you’re saying at the time.

          So there you have it: the world’s best slide. Use it often, use it well, and your presentations will look more professional, you’ll make better connections with your audience – and you’ll communicate your messages far more effectively.

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          4 Responses to The World’s Best Slide

          1. Great post!

            This is my favourite slide too. In fact, it is usually the only one I use!

            Best,

            Adam

          2. I “See” what you mean, Phil.

            Thanks!

          3. […] a snag with blacking out your slide though, as blogger Phil Waknell points out: When you press a key to continue, the same slide as before reappears, so if you’d already […]

          4. Great advice, Phil.

            It’s amazing how much benefit you can get as a speaker from such a simple thing.

            I’ve come up with 3 very novel additions to this technique, which for instance let you show a black slide at will, and yet not have it appear during the normal course of your talk.

            All comments very welcome!
            http://remotepossibilities.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/hide-current-powerpoint-slide-with-black-slide/

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