Communicate Visually by Limiting Distractions


Image by Rick Bolin on flickr (CC BY)

Over the past month we have taken you through our Communicating Visually with PowerPoint Design Series. We  discussed limiting text on PowerPoint slides and offered suggestions on how to utilize graphics and text layouts to make the slides more interesting. To recap, you can:

But we understand this can be overwhelming and time-consuming. This brings us to the third principle in our series to help your audience focus on the content you are delivering during your presentation–

Principle #3: Limit the Distractions

As a suggestion, keep in mind that:

  1. You do not need an exorbitant number of slides. Moving from the slide presentation to a few moments of interaction with your audience will create a more interesting and dynamic discussion.  It is also a refreshing change of pace from a PowerPoint show, helping engage students in the lecture again.
  2. Every slide does not have to be overly designed to be meaningful. For example, you can create a very simple transition slide with your question or topic for discussion on it such as “What’s next?” in a large font.

Using the tips above, you can limit how much “design” you have to do, while still offering an interesting presentation and lecture.

Relying too heavily on PowerPoint during a presentation could occasionally distract your audience when they should be listening to you. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to consider taking a pause from the visuals when you need to make a key point or when you make a major transition, prior to showing the next slide. Presentation coach, Dave Yewman, has another helpful tip, this time for hiding the visuals during your lecture:

TIP: “Hide the Distractions”

According to Yewman, “When you’re in presentation mode in PowerPoint (or Apple’s Keynote) hit the B key and the screen will go blank. Hit it again and it will come back.1

Momentarily hiding your slides automatically directs your audience’s attention back to you, forcing them to focus on the lecture once again.

If you’re concerned about leaving a slide on screen too long while you discuss a topic with your students, you can use Yewman’s tip to temporarily hide the screen, and then show the screen when you are ready to resume the presentation.


  1. J, Arun. (2008, July 15). Slide Tips: Dodging Bullet Points in Powerpoint Presentations. Retrieved from