A while back I was the speaker for a large group in a Convention Center auditorium. I arrived during the session before mine and saw that the lights were turned out. The room was dark. Not because no one was in it—no,  probably 200 people sat in there listening to a speaker. But they were sitting in the dusk. And the speaker was virtually in the dark at the front of the room, because someone thought that turning out the lights for the presentation was a good idea. Now, it’s true, you could see the screen beautifully… But the speaker?  She was a shadow.

When that session broke up and I began my set-up, I asked several different people what could be done about turning up the lighting. Every single one of them responded to me by saying, “The lights are turned down so everyone can see the screen.”

Aauugh! Let me pose this to you:

You’re an expert on something. You’ve been invited to speak to a group of hundreds of people about your expertise. It’s an opportunity for exposure, for credibility-building, for connecting with and relating to people about your subject matter. Given that, what’s more important? That your audience be able to see your PowerPoint slides? Or that they see you?

This is one of my constant coaching mantras: as a speaker, you want the focus on you. So what if the screen is not quite as bright as it could be in a dark room?  The important thing is you, the speaker, not the visuals! Trust me, with today’s bright lumen projectors, a screen will be visible in room without turning off the lights. If you have good visuals (that’s another topic for another day!), you don’t need to turn the lights off or even down low. Your only concern is to make sure there are no spots or other lighting shining directly on the screen.

At this convention, I had to ask three or four people about how to get the lighting changed. It turned out that my conference host ended up having to pay a convention employee to do it! But here’s the thing. I had them turn up the lights so that my audience could see me–and I could see them.  And the screen visibility did not suffer one bit!

Turning out the lights so the audience can see the screen is simply not necessary. Turn up the lights so the audience can see you!

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