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From long before the days of the sabre tooth tiger, we have been programmed to put our visual senses on high alert when something moves. That hasn't changed. Advertisers know it and ruthlessly exploit it - it's hard to find a TV ad that doesn't have something moving or changing all the time.

Here's the point for PowerPoint presenters.

A new slide briefly deafens the audience

An audience that sees a change on the screen is effectively deaf for anywhere from one to five seconds depending on the visual impact of the slide. And that's a problem for PowerPoint presenters who keep right on talking through the changes.

Here's what to do about it.

Take your audience with you when you change slides

On each change of slide, look at the screen with the audience in silence. How long? It's a judgement call which you make by pretending that you - like the audience - are seeing it for the first time. How long would it take you to absorb (roughly) what it's about?

The same applies to each animation, but of course they're likely to need less silence than a complete new slide - typically only a second.

Pre-announcing each slide

One more thing. If you really want it to look competent, pre-announce each slide. So here's a summary:

  1. pre-announce the next slide. "Now let's see...etc"
  2. click the button and quickly look at the screen with the audience in silence.
  3. speak to the audience, adding value to what they can see for themselves, glancing occasionally at the screen.

You might also want to look at PowerPoint tip 1.

Michael

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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