Quick Tip

Be the Keynote Quick Tips are quick to read and easy to implement.
A great option if you want to binge-upgrade your speaking skills.

The best presentations have an ebb and flow to them that takes the audience on a journey of emotions, sounds, sights, stories, and experiences.

When you reach a moment in your talk where you want to connect with the audience on a deeper level, with a personal story, or meaningful statement, you want to remove as many distractions as possible to focus the audience’s attention directly on you.

If you’ve got a busy slide with lots of information, a portion of the crowd will be paying attention to that instead. The image below illustrates the visual conflict between the speaker and the slide.

Use a black slide to focus attention on the speaker - before

The best way to focus all of the attention on you is by using a blank black slide.

A blank black slide communicates nothing because it has zero information on it, effectively removing any reason for the audience to stare at it. The net effect of this transition is to bring their attention back to you, as the only remaining piece of ““content” left on the stage.

It feels as if you’ve turned down the lights to create a more intimate setting.

Use a black slide to focus attention on the speaker - after

I’ve seen many a talk where the speaker tries to express their perspective in a poignant way, only to have it ruined by the fact that they have an animated GIF or meme on the slide behind them. In the speakers mind, we’ve moved on from that slide but for the audience, it’s still the main focal point.

A black slide is also a great catalyst for a change in tone and volume. Modulating your voice to be softer will take people on a journey.

Black Slides on Demand

If you’re using PowerPoint on a PC (sorry Mac/Keynote/Google Slides users), there’s another way to do this. On some presentation clickers, there’s a button with a “screen” icon. Pressing this will turn the screen black while you hold it which is absolutely brilliant. I use Keynote (Mac) and it doesn’t work which is a real shame. But if it’s really important for you to “go dark” make sure you check which clicker the organizer has, or err on the side of caution and use the blank black slide instead.