Presentation Technique: Pointing Without Pointing

One simple way to make your business presentations look more professional and polished is to throw away the pointer. There are good reasons for this. First of all just holding a big stick or one of those telescopic radio antennas makes you look like a Victorian-era schoolteacher. Using a laser pointer is perhaps slightly better but I would still not recommend it because the little spot always wobbles and this has the subtle effect of making people feel you are uncertain. Worse still is to use your hand, because in a typical meeting room this means walking into the beam of light from the projector. This is distracting because you will have light on your face and also cast a shadow on the screen, covering the content you are trying to highlight.

Luckily there are many ways to eliminate the need for a pointer. Use these techniques effectively and you will only ever need to point in rare cases where there is some confusion.

DESIGN FOR CLARITY.  By far the easiest way to avoid the need for pointing is to make the presentation simple and to keep the slides uncluttered. If the content on the screen is simple enough people will have no trouble working out what to look at without the help of a pointer. If you feel you need a pointer this means that the presentation probably needs reworking.

ADD ELEMENTS ONE AT A TIME. In more complex slides you can focus attention on one thing at a time by using a slide that "builds", where you start with one element, then you add the others gradually. This is the simplest and probably the most common approach but the downside is that you need to prepare well so that you know what is coming next.

HIGHLIGHT ELEMENTS ONE AT A TIME. A much simpler way is to show all of the elements on the screen from the beginning, but to highlight the part you are talking about in some way. For example, if you have a bulleted list you can start by showing the full list in a normal font, then you make the first line bold and talk about that, then make the second line bold and so on. You can do this in many ways: making the hghlighted line bolder, by making it larger, by making it darker or by doing the opposite -- "lowlighting" the things you are not talking about by making them gray or smaller. If they are visual elements you can do something similar -- making the one you are talking about normal contrast and making the others lower contrast. This way lets you focus attention on one thing at a time while leaving everything there so you know what comes next.

ZOOMING IN ON AREAS. You an also highlight elements of a slide by zooming in on them, one at a time. This is very common using presentation tools like Prezi and gives a more dramatic visual effect. It is extremely effective in focusing attention on one thing at a time, but it does have the drawback that some people find the abrupt movements distracting and annoying.

Whatever technique you use, always be careful to minimize the distraction of excessively elaborate transitions. When you are switching from one highlight to another the best way is usually to use just a direct cut or a cross-fade. Every time you use complicated movements and animations you risk distracting attention from your content and your message. For the same reason you should always use a presentation remote, so that you can advance the presentation to the next cue without having to walk over to your computer to press a key.

While you are ordering the presentation remotes for your company, check out the cost of equipping at least small and medium meeting rooms with very large monitors, which solve at least the problem of having light on your face when you stand in front of the screen. They are also a lot quieter than a projector. And when tileable large-screens become affordable consider convincing your boss to replace the projectors in large rooms, too.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching & Writing

If you would like to learn even more about advanced speaking and presentation techniques perhaps I can help you with lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing. For more information visit, email or call +46 73 089 44 75..

Some Related Posts About Speaking, Presenting, Influencing

How to Add Passion to Your Presentatons and Speeches
What Romney's Jet Window Story Teaches About Jokes in Public Speaking
Three Simple Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Speaking
Influencing: Three Reasons Why You Should Be Talking To Adversaries


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