You know how to build a slide deck with all the bells and whistles, having used PowerPoint more times than you care to admit. But did anyone teach you how to interact with slides in your presentation? Are you self-taught, or did you learn by watching other professionals give countless presentations? Slide decks have paralyzed our corporate culture, leaving everyone to believe they must interact with their slides the same way their predecessors and peers have.

Interacting with a PowerPoint in a way that holds an audience’s attention takes skill, mindfulness and practice. Just because you’re comfortable with using a slide deck doesn’t mean you are using it correctly or interacting in a way that influences others to act upon what you have to say. Professionals spend upwards of 40 percent of their workday in meetings, and 71 percent claim those meetings are an unproductive waste of time. If you want to create real moments of impact for your listeners, you must make it a valuable, informative use of their time. 

Unfortunately, professionals have become so accustomed to this type of monotonous presentation that they show up armed with an arsenal of distractions, such as text messages, social media and emails. Next time you prepare to give a presentation, use these three techniques to ensure your listeners engage, pay attention and are influenced to act upon what you share:

1: Set Up

Before ever letting a slide appear on the screen, open the presentation by teasing your audience about what’s to come. This is the moment to catch their attention by sharing a story or opening that resonates with your audience’s needs. If slides are on the screen while you talk, they will compete for your audience’s attention.

Refrain from using your slide deck as your handout. It’s only natural for attendees to ignore the speaker and flip through the slide handout to read ahead. This means they miss the valuable information you share and are less engaged than if they were listening. As the speaker, it’s helpful if you have a copy of the deck handy for your own notes and reference points, just so long as it doesn’t interfere with your message.

2: Pause

As you dive into your presentation, consider showing slides only after you’ve stated your point. People can’t read and listen effectively at the same time, so why make them?[G4] By advancing to the next slide in your deck while speaking, you’ll immediately lose your audience’s attention when their attention is drawn to the visual. To keep from competing with your slides, share your information before you share your slide. As you share it, stop talking and allow your audience to read uninterrupted. When you’re ready to move to the next slide, black out the screen using the option on your clicker or by pressing “B” on your keyboard. This allows your audience to come back to you and remain with you until it’s time to see the next visual. By separating your message from the visual, you eliminate the temptation to talk over your slides. Presenters who read from or speak over their slides not only lose their audience’s attention, but they miss valuable cues from their audience that indicate if adjustments are needed for the rest of the presentation.

Taking a momentary pause not only helps your audience fully absorb what you verbally and visually share, but it also allows you time to be strategic. Perhaps you’ve just shared a point or answered a question that you know another slide in your deck could strongly support. This momentary pause allows you time to consider advancing to that slide immediately instead of waiting for it to appear later. It also gives you time to review your notes before proceeding to the next topic. Lastly, this pause enables you to evaluate the pace of the presentation and whether you’re staying on time. 

3. Take Away

You know what you need to share with your audience and are in control of what they hear and see. When you are the focal point instead of your slides, you control the pace of information shared. For instance, if you realize you’re running behind, you can speak to what they need to know without hectically flipping through slides. Most people believe that if they’re short on time – yet are only on slide 10 of a 30-page deck – they must rush through all the other slides to make it all fit. As a result, they look unprofessional, disorganized and panicked. 

If you know your last three slides are the most critical to your message, you can advance directly to those by pressing the slide number on your keyboard. By using this shortcut, you don’t show the audience what they’re missing, and they don’t know you’re behind. Instead, it allows you to transition to your power slides seamlessly, giving your audience the opportunity to take away what’s most important.

Accountability Challenge

· Practice and test these steps every time you interact with your PowerPoint deck during the next 30 days.

· Observe your audience’s reaction when you take the time to allow them to follow, understand and act.


  • Stacey Hanke

    Founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc., author of Influence Redefine ... Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday

    Stacey Hanke is author of the book; Influence Redefined…Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday®. She is also co-author of the book; Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A To Z To Influence Others To Take Action. Stacey is founder of Stacey Hanke Inc. She has trained and presented to thousands to rid business leaders of bad body language habits and to choose words wisely in the financial industry to the healthcare industry to government and everyone in between. Her client list is vast from Coca-Cola, FedEx, Kohl’s, United States Army, Navy and Air Force, Publicis Media, Nationwide, US Cellular, Pfizer, GE, General Mills and Abbvie. Her team works with Directors up to the C-Suite. In addition to her client list, she has been the Emcee for Tedx. She has inspired thousands as a featured guest on media outlets including; The New York Times, Forbes, SmartMoney magazine, Business Week, Lifetime Network, Chicago WGN and WLS-AM. She is a Certified Speaking Professional—a valuable accreditation earned by less than 10% of speakers worldwide.