“The black slide?  What’s that?”  This is one of the more common refrains I hear in my training.

I’m forever preaching to my clients about the overuse of PowerPoint, pleading with them to cut back on its usage, use it only when it serves a purpose. Then they get frustrated because they don’t understand what other options they have other than running a slide show. Until… I introduce them to the black slide. It’s amazing how few people know about this fabulous tool. But a black slide simply makes the screen go dark. There’s nothing on the screen. This means, of course, that the audience will be focused on the speaker. Which, I submit, is where the focus should be!

The objective of visuals is to complement what you’re saying, to help the audience understand or remember a point. So it stands to reason that you don’t need a visual up all the time. A slide that has no purpose is distracting and takes the focus from you as the speaker. What are your options if you don’t want to have a visual showing?

Enter, the black slide. A black slide does not make the screen go black—it simply makes the screen go blank. Wherever you insert one into your PowerPoint presentation, there will be nothing on the screen. This enables you to tell that story or give that example or make that transition without the distraction of purposeless visual. And you now have the focus on you (where it should be!).

Don’t know how to create a black slide? Not surprising, since PowerPoint has no vested interest in helping you not use a slide! Here are some basic instructions (this is for PowerPoint 2010):

  • Create a new slide, right-click on it and from the options, click on: “Format Background”
  • In the box that comes up, select:
    • Solid Fill
    • Hide Background Graphics
    • Color: Click on the down arrow and select black
  • Click Apply

Your slide will now be black on your computer screen, but when projected in a room, will simply look like there’s nothing on the screen. A great opportunity for the speaker to capture the focus! It doesn’t have to be all or nothing—you can use a few strategic slides and then have the screen go dark, which will put the focus on you (where it belongs).


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