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.
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.