One morning, Scott Harrison, the CEO of Charity:Water, was giving a keynote speech. The auditorium was absolutely jammed. Everyone could feel he was in the groove, in the zone. But then, something went badly wrong.

Or at least I thought it did.

Midway through the talk, everything suddenly ground to a halt. Amid a story full of vivid, colorful imagery, the gigantic screen went blank. 

Urrrrghhh. I felt myself cringe in discomfort. Where were the tech team?!

A thousand people’s attention went to the sole figure on the enormous stage.

But he didn’t even flinch. 

It was no accident. No tech issue. The screen wasn’t blank - it was pitch black. A single black background marked the end of the chapter. More specifically it marked the nadir - the moment in the story where Scott Harrison hit rock bottom.

He used this simple technique to pull attention back, concentrating the entire room - before unspooling the visual story thread once more.

It was genius. I’d never seen anyone do it before.

In hindsight, it’s obvious. Many other forms of storytelling - books, movies, even albums - use a device like this. 

But we rarely see it in presentations.

The blank slide can do all kinds of things:

  • Ramp up tension
  • Wipe the slate clean
  • Give the audience space to process
  • Offer you space to set up what’s next
  • Or simply refocus you - or whatever else you choose - at the centre

Next time you’re prepping a presentation, give it a try. You may even want to use it more than once (in moderation, of course…)

Oh, one last thing: The Blank Slide is a paradox.

It takes no time to design.

But it also takes the longest time of all.

The Blank Slide Shuffle

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