Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

The Benefits of A Blank Screen

Let your audience rest their eyes and activate their brains. PowerPoint and similar presentation programs can be excellent ways to illustrate key points in training or even in short presentations, so this is not a plea to stop using them.  If each slide is prepared with care and intention, PowerPoint or similar presentation programs can add tremendously to the learning experience–it is mis-use and high quantity but poor quality that gives them bad reputations.  

Instead, I want to remind you to now and then use the B Key on the keyboard or the similarly magic button on the remote presenter. Those will give you a blank screen. 

On the keyboard you can get a blank screen without illumination by hitting “B” .  (You can get a white screen that is illuminated–and glaring–by hitting “W”. However, this is not as effective as the blank screen.)  On your remote presenter there is usually one button that takes the screen to blank–find it before you begin your presentation. To return to the slide,  click the same button or hit “B” again. 

You can also make a blank screen by simply inserting a new slide but not putting anything in it.  However, since it will probably have the same color scheme or template as the other slides, the class will assume you will be showing text or an image at some point and they’ll wait for it mentally. In addition, since it is a regular slide, the projector light will continue to glare and it won’t work well to stand in front of the screen or walk between the projector and the screen. Use the “B” key or the button on your remote presenter for much better results.

When to use a blank screen.

  • When you know you will be speaking about the material on a slide for several minutes and the visual reference isn’t needed, go to a blank screen.  (If you will be moving into a new topic, make a blank slide and click to it before going to the blank screen. That way when you click again you’ll open to the clear slide and can advance to the next one without having old material still showing. It’s not difficult!) 
  • If you don’t have slides to illustrate a topic or segment go to a blank screen.  Challenge yourself to find ways other than slides to illustrate or emphasize points.
  • Go to a blank screen as you discuss a new topic. Then, at the last of that segment use a slide. It’s a surprisingly effective way to regain attention as you summarize information.
  • When you have something that is so important you want the full attention of the group, go to the blank screen and move center stage as you interact more personally.
  • Go to a blank screen right before you announce break time, to indicate that  a topic is closed momentarily and everyone can relax mentally and physically.
  • If someone asks a question, go to a blank screen as a way to say, “I’m listening to you and I want everyone else to listen as well.”
  • When you want to show that you are comfortable as a speaker and presenter and don’t need slides to keep things going, go to a blank screen as you ask questions, respond to comments, tell an anecdote and in other ways fulfill your role as a trainer or speaker.

When you have a blank screen use it as an opportunity to stand in front of the screen for a change. Put the remote presenter down and see how nice it is to have your hands free. You’ll discover that audiences are more impressed with the blank screen now and then than they are with one slide after another.  The fact that I sometimes go to a blank screen is often mentioned positively in my critiques. (I refuse to think of that as a comment on the alternative!)

Blank screen moments. The next step is to purposely plan blank screen moments in your training.  Make a note in your lesson plan or workbook, to remind you to go  to a blank screen when you want to be sure to have no distractions as you ask a question, share an experience or segue from one training topic to another.  Don’t just look for those moments, create them.  Blank isn’t bad–in fact it can be very good!

June 6th, 2009 Posted by | Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 8 comments


  1. You are the undisputed Queen of PowerPoint! Thanks for these very practical tips that few trainers give much thought. I love the educational advantages of technology like PowerPoint, but too many get so caught up with what the technology can do that they go overboard. Soon, the training takes backseat to the technology. Effective use of a blank screen is visually much like the pregnant pause in speaking. No one likes to listen to a halting speaker, but a good pause now and then serves the purpose of screaming without raising your voice.

    Here’s a challenge for you and your readers. Have you ever tried training once in a while without PowerPoint? I know that sounds ludicrous, but I just returned from Central America where I did three straight days of training four hours a day without access to PowerPoint. I don’t recommend you do this frequently, but there are times when it just happens – missing or broken equipment, incompatibility between your technology and that of the training room or poor training rooms where glaring light or poor layout renders PowerPoint rather useless.

    If you know ahead of time, you can think through alternative visuals. However, most often you arrive depending on your PowerPoint and it is just not going to happen.

    These are opportunities to see just how good a trainer you are. How well can you paint visual pictures with your words, even when dealing with intangible concepts or highly technical material? When I find myself in such a predicament, I seek to take advantage by using the occasion to honestly examine myself and analyze my verbal and physical ability to maintain effective communication with the students. I find that I learn a great deal about myself and abilities and always come away with ideas about how to improve what I do next time – WITH PowerPoint, of course!

    Comment by Jeff Adams | June 6, 2009

  2. Thank you very much for these great ideas. I didn’t know how to go to a blank screen and didn’t think about the ways to use one even if I did. I loved the way you used PowerPoint and a workbook in the Sergeant 101 class and have tried to do it myself, but it’s not as easy as you make it look! Thanks!

    Comment by Kara Jenson | June 6, 2009

  3. Tina says: Thanks for the comments, Jeff and Kara.

    Jeff: I often train without PowerPoint, for the very reasons you mention. I’ve even enjoyed the times when for some reason we couldn’t use PowerPoint and I was able to do just fine without it. I “grew up” as a trainer using flip charts, black and white boards and overhead transparencies, so PowerPoint is new to me anyway. (I sure do like to be able to use photos though, so I’d hate to do without it all the time!)

    And by the way……Hola! And welcome back home!

    Kara, I’m sending you an email about workbooks, since you asked me about them at the time. They are tremendously helpful to both the trainer and the trainee, when they’re constructed effectively. Thanks for the comment. T.

    Comment by TLR | June 6, 2009

  4. We use something other than PowerPoint but I like it for showing schedules. Using a blank screen is a good idea for us, because we will sometimes sit with the same screen for an hour while we talk about something else. I liked the article about Straight Talk too, but didn’t comment because I figure you get tired of me jumping in to say something.

    Comment by denisek | June 7, 2009

  5. Tina says: Always comment, Denise….I depend upon you, Mike and Phyllis! I like knowing you’re reading. Otherwise I’d feel that my efforts were fading into the Ethernet!

    You’re probably using Corel Presentations or something similar. I like that very much, but since I often use the computer of others I need to be compatible with their programs. Take care! T.

    Comment by TLR | June 7, 2009

  6. This is excellent information! I knew how to go to a blank screen using the remote but I didn’t know about the “B” key. Very cool!
    I’m a new reader to your site, having come here a few weeks ago when I was searching for material on FDR. You had very good thoughts about him and I have enjoyed the rest. Thanks!

    Comment by Royce Z. | June 11, 2009

  7. Try going to a completely different color screen before breaks or between segments. That has worked well for me.

    Comment by Uri J. K. | June 13, 2009

  8. Tina says: Thanks Uri, that is another way to do it for breaks, if you know for sure you will be at that point at break time. I used to have a cute animation for break time…but I don’t know for sure where I’ll be in the training at break times, since it varies according to class responses and similar things that have an effect on time. (Of course, maybe I need something to remind me to give people a break! Thanks for the comment.

    Comment by TLR | June 13, 2009

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