I recently had the opportunity to observe some great speakers — Mitch Joel, Tom Webster and Laura Fitton and I learned a few things that I am incorporating into my keynote presentation style. I think they’ll help you too.
The black slide
Tom Webster did something I had never seen before in a presentation and it was very effective. When he came to a transition point or wanted to punctuate a statement, his slide deck flipped to an all-black slide.
This is a simple idea with big impact. First, there was absolutely no distraction. All eyes were on Tom. This was particularly effective on a large stage where literally the spotlight was on Tom and nothing else. The technique commanded your attention and emphasized the point Tom was making.
I immediately incorporated this idea into my presentations. I use slides as visual prompts and obviously a black slide is not a good visual prompt … so you really have to know your material before you use this technique.
There were a couple slides in my deck that had important messages but I thought the slides were too busy … so I’m going all-black on these.
Here is one thing I learned from many years on the stage — something ALWAYS goes wrong. So I’ve tried to create either a buffer or work-around for anything I can think of that would jeopardize my talk.
At a recent conference, the lighting in the auditorium was funky. The stage lights were so bright and the projector was so weak that it was difficult to see many presentation slides, especially if they had small type or a thin font.
The only presenter who overcame this was Mitch Joel because most of his slides only had a few words in a bold, white font on a black background. Your slides should not be too busy any way, but it was easy to see that Mitch’s slides would show up well in almost any circumstances.
When slides are too busy, the audience is trying to read your lides instead of listen to you — an added bonus of the Mitch Joel keep it simple school of presenting.
If you have the speaking slot before lunch or at the end of the day, you’re going to need something extra to connect with people and hold their attention.
Laura Fitton was up to the task when she created a Halloween-themed presentation for the very difficult right-before-lunch slot.
When she was introduced, a loud witch cackle thundered from the balcony. There was Laura, dressed in a witch costume. Her entire presentation was filled with zombies and ghouls, which added that spark of entertainment to push people through to the break.
I also saw this done recently when a presenter dressed like Doc Brown to pull off a “Back to the Future” theme.
Feed the tweeters
I spoke at the same conference and “led the league” in Twitter mentions during the two-day event. Was it because my presentation was the best? Was it because my topic was the most conversational? Or was it because I made it easy for people to tweet me?
At nearly every conference, I want to tweet the best content but may have no idea what the Twitter handle is for the presenter. Sometimes I might look for it, but most of the time I just give up. Would conference attendees know that Tom Webster is @webby2001 or Laura Fitton is @pistachio? How many people would know I have a “w” in my Twitter handle — @markwschaefer.
To make it easier for my content to spread, I have the conference hashtag and my Twitter handle at the bottom of many of my slides as a “footer.” It’s just a nice courtesy to help the most active tweeters remember who you are.
I hope these little ideas will have a big impact on your presentations, too!