Looking to Improve Your Next Presentation?

I recently stumbled upon a presentation twist that has improved the presentation of every person I've seen who has put it into action.

With one uncomplicated act, I am confident that you can improve your ability to connect with your audience and communicate your ideas. I am also confident that your audience will better understand what you're saying, making it easier to apply your ideas or take action on them.
Turn off projector to improve presentation skills


At a future presentation, leave your laptop open and on, but turn off the projector.

I know, I know. The first thought you've had is "how can I deliver a presentation without a projector?" But please bear with me for a moment.

I stumbled upon this twist while conducting a one-day presentation skills program for a group of about 20 physicians, who are often called upon to provide continuing medical education (CME) at their hospitals. The people who hired me (one of whom I provided presentation skills training to at a CME retreat more than 20 years ago) wanted the group to better understand that relaxed conversation is their best presentation style. They also wanted the group to deliver presentations during the session, so they could put the learning into practice.

We knew everyone would bring their presentations in a PowerPoint format, and we discussed the concept that someone doesn't normally pull out a PowerPoint presentation to start a conversation with a colleague or friend. But, since I was already way out of my comfort zone, I suggested that we try something different.

"Why don't we divide the group in half? My assistant can help you with one group,. I would work with the other.

"We could have each person deliver three or four minutes of their presentation with the projector on, then three or four minutes with it off. We'll video record both and see what happens."

The results were amazing. As soon as the projector was turned off, everyone’s full and undivided attention shifted to the presenter. Engagement increased.

The tone of each presentation shifted from a monologue to a conversation. The audience started asking questions. (Is there truly any better measure of engagement than an audience interested enough to ask questions?) The presenter focused on answering questions and building understanding to improve medical practice, rather than marching through slides.

Presenters began to think more before speaking, bringing more precision to what they said. They paused to allow the audience to think and absorb their information. They connected with the audience more effectively because everyone was looking at each other, instead of at the screen.

These are all aspects of a good conversation and, ultimately, an effective presentation.

At the end of the session, one of the participants (who was in the other room all afternoon) came up to me and said: "I must admit I was skeptical this morning. But watching everyone's improvement—not just one person but everyone—made me a believer. I can't wait to put this into action."

I have applied this twist to a number of training sessions during the past year. It has never failed to improve someone's presentation. And, when participants view the video recording of their "before and after" presentations, everyone has agreed that their skills improve significantly when the projector is turned off.

Months later, I was chatting with one of the physicians who attended the session (who hired me to provide a one-hour CME session at her hospital). She commented on how each person communicated more clearly, even when showing pictures. "When the projector was shut off, the presenter communicated more clearly and we could focus on what was being said. The difference was amazing."

This physician has since put the conversational presentation process into action at a job interview. As part of the interview process, she was asked to develop and deliver a brief presentation.

"They were a bit surprised when I told them I didn't have a USB stick so they could upload my presentation," she says. "But I got the job!"