Just don’t do it.

As speakers we need to be aware the effect our body language has upon the audience. Where you look, the audience will look. Your gaze, if anywhere other than on the audience, will lead their gaze to that same spot. More simply, if you look at the screen, the audience will look at the screen. Just don’t do it.

What can you take from this presenter looking at the screen? It is unlikely you will be able to hear him as he has also turned from the microphone. Unless he further contorts to speak and twist and look at the audience all at the same time. Your attention is diverted away from him and whatever he has to say as his body language says, “what I am looking at is more important. Let’s look together shall we?” Just don’t do it.

For a presenter, looking at a screen will force you, without fail to read any text you have up there. You may not read it out loud but part of your brain is now engaged in doing something other than thinking about what to say next. Worse still, you may feel the need to read it out loud and we all know how wrong that is. So as well as the audience reading it, you are: powerpoint karaoke. Just don’t do it.

At major conferences there is a monitor in front of the speaker to ensure that they are aware which slide is showing. Extra care is needed when a speaker is dwarfed by the presentation screen as trying to look up is actually impossible and involves even more contortions. Just don’t do it.

Some may then ask how a speaker should “talk you through this busy slide” or highlight an important fact on a data slide. The answer is simple. Just don’t do it. 

When you present, speak to the audience, not the screen.

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