Public Speaking: Movement When Presenting PowerPoint Slides

by Gilda Bonanno

I love responding to reader's questions. Recently, my colleague, Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, emailed me a question about moving in the front of the room while presenting slides.  Lynn is a business writing expert and grammar guru (check out her website at and this question came up when she was teaching a class in an MBA program:

Sunlight and moonlight are the only lights you
should ever be bathed in - never "slide light"!
"Several students have walked across the room in front of their slides [while presenting], and it has caused them to be bathed in "slide light." I have suggested that they only move purposefully, for example, to shift to their next point or tell a story. I also suggested that they black out their slides when they do so, if they are using slides.

Anything else you would add on moving from one side of the room to another? Thanks, Lynn."

This is a great question - here's how I responded:

"You're "right on the money" regarding walking in front of the room. Presenters should move with purpose - to walk to the flipchart, to move to the other side  of the room so they can face that part of the audience more comfortably, etc. Most of the time they should "stand and deliver" (as I was told by one of the Toastmasters World Champions of Public Speaking, Mark Brown).

Blacking out the screen is a great idea to avoid being "bathed in slide light." (I love the way you phrased that!).

Another option is to insert a black slide into your presentation that will remind you when it's time to move (for example, to hand something out or tell a story from the other side of the room). Just create a blank slide and format it with a solid-fill black background - I learned this tip from Garr Reynolds and his wonderful Presentation Zen blog

And if you are emailing the presentation to people or it will be posted on a website, remember to remove the black slides or they will confuse people and use up a lot of ink if printed."

Do you have any additional suggestions or horror stories of "movement gone bad" when presenting slides? Post them here on my blog - and feel free to post additional questions for me to answer.

Gilda Bonanno's blog