The Power of a Blank Page

boring-powerpoint-slideThis week was jam packed with Board meetings. During one of them, I experienced a presentation tactic I had not seen before. Before sharing the tactic, a brief word on board meetings and presentations.

Board meetings are necessary, frequently productive, but all too often miss the mark in terms of their focus. Many Board meetings I attend turn into an utter abuse of PowerPoint. Reviewing content packed slide after slide of historical information is a waste of time. I can read the slides; if I have done my job, I’ve reviewed them in advance of the Board meeting.

Yes, we need to review the historical results and understand their implications. But what I’m seeking in a Board meeting is introspection and insight that shows me the management team is present and aware of the business’ circumstance and that they are conscious of the strategic market and broader landscape within which the business is operating. Back to the presentation tactic I mentioned.

Fade to Black

During one Board meeting this week, the Sales and Marketing Executive began his presentation as usual. This executive is an expert presenter; articulate, measured, and thoughtful. There were slides on recent bookings, loss and churn reports, marketing activities and pipelines. The audience was attentive, but not particularly engaged.

And then the presenter did something unexpected.

He clicked next slide and the screen went blank. Not blank as in the company logo enhanced PowerPoint template without content, but rather, blank, as in black. The screen went black. He paused. During the pause, a funny thing happened… Everyone in room shifted their attention from the printed board book or tablet on the table in front of them, or the big screen on which the presentation was displayed, to the presenter.

When the presenter was sure that our attention was now fixated on him he began to speak. He spoke quietly to make sure we had to work to listen. He then proceeded to tell us a story. He shared some introspective thoughts and insights. We listened, understood and engaged. What came next was the most productive 10-15 minutes of conversation during the entire board meeting. The executive had captured our attention. The conversation was dynamic and focused. All because of a blank presentation page.

The Law Of Inverse Presentation Attention

Lets call this phenomenon the Law of Inverse Presentation Attention. There is an inverse relationship between my attention on you and the amount of content on your slides. The more content you place on your slide, the less my attention is focused on you and what you are saying.

I’m eager to hear if any of you have seen or used other tactics to capture an audience’s attention. Please comment and share if you have.

The Power of a Blank Page