In pitching, slides

I often see pitches where the presenter uses a laser pointer. I’m not a big fan. First, it doesn’t highlight information as well as the speaker thinks. Often it just confuses the audience.

Second, when you do this, it forces you to look at the screen, and to keep looking at it. So you have no idea if your audience is getting it.  It also means that you’re talking into the wall and, generally, the wall has no money to invest.

Third, it’s not that easy to use well. Some presenters wave the remote around loosely in the direction of the screen creating a big wobbly circle of light, and you see the audience goggle-eyed as they try to work out what they are meant to focus on.

Other presenters are super-precise. Their rock steady hand never wavers as they underline only the item we should focus on. But they have a problem too. Doing this needs some concentration. While you’re focusing on the slide (and talking to the wall), you’re also not focusing on your words or your voice. Confident delivery becomes less fluent; words are chosen with less care and lose their impact and power.  If this is you, at least be quiet while you’re highlighting.

Then you can turn and talk to the audience with your full focus … and theirs.

But there are two other alternatives: the lazy way and the better way. The lazy way is to walk over to the screen and use your hand to show what you’d like to highlight. If it’s a wall I bang my hand on it – it helps with attention. But the main thing is this allows you to turn your head and to look at the audience and check that they’re really getting your point.

But actually there’s a much better solution. If you have a slide with multiple elements, the audience almost never need to see the whole thing at the beginning. If you build the slide up piece by piece from blank, it’s absolutely clear to the audience where they should focus – on the new element that’s just appeared.

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