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The Magic of Black Slides

How often have you seen a speaker turning the screen black during a pre­sen­ta­tion? “Why would I?”, you might answer. Showing your audi­ence a black screen indeed is a weird thing to do during a pre­sen­ta­tion. But a black screen can enhance your pre­sen­ta­tion dramatically.

Lights off, Atten­tion on

When the pro­jector throws black onto the canvas, it basi­cally means that the pro­jector is turned off. This is the signal for your audi­ence that they should once again put their focus on you. The atmos­phere gets more inti­mate since you are not sharing the stage with your visual aid. The next things you are going to say stand in a spe­cial light, or better to say in the absence of light. It almost feels like all the lights in a well-lit room go off, and only one single spot­light is shining upon you. The audi­ence might feel irri­tated since you broke their expected pat­tern. When you now tell a cap­ti­vating story, you can be sure that it is very likely to be remembered.

Not only the moment where you switch to black is spe­cial, but the moment where you go back to your pre­sen­ta­tion as well. Make sure that you put spe­cial emphasis on these key moments in your pre­sen­ta­tion. They yield a lot of potentials.

The Black Button

Pow­er­Point has a spe­cial key for turning the screen black or white. This key can be used on any slide at any time. You can also add black slides into your slide deck to act as mental nav­i­ga­tion instead of having to think about your “black in” during your talk. In Prezi, you do not have a key to turn your pre­sen­ta­tion black, so you are left with no other option than to add these spe­cial moments in your pre­sen­ta­tion in advance.

In both appli­ca­tions, you should avoid a hard cut to tran­si­tion to your black screen. A hard cut might cause the impres­sion of a tech­nical failure. Instead of making your audi­ence wonder what caused this hard­ware-related issue, you want them to give the impres­sion of every­thing going according to plan. A plan they are eager to know more of. In Pow­er­Point, a slow cross-fade of about 5 sec­onds is a good pick. Try not to talk during the tran­si­tion. A long pause will amplify your change of mood. In Prezi, we unfor­tu­nately cannot create a slow cross-fade. A zoom into a black area in our frame is as close as we can get and should do for most situations.

Bottom line

At first, inte­grating black slides in your pre­sen­ta­tion feels weird. But trust me, a single black slide can turn your pre­sen­ta­tion into an extra­or­di­nary expe­ri­ence for everyone. It changes the mood and ele­vates your next chapter. Try it out with your next pre­sen­ta­tion and gather audi­ence feed­back. Was it too dra­matic? Then maybe shorten the pause. Did it look like a tech­nical failure? Then change the tran­si­tion type.

Happy black­ening!

Thank you for reading.

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