PowerPoint: Why You Shouldn't Use The "B" Key

Some presentation trainers teach speakers to use the “B” key during PowerPoint presentations, which blacks out the screen after each slide is shown. Their argument is that a speaker can reduce distractions for the audience by introducing a slide, talking about it, and blacking out the screen until it’s time for the next slide.

That makes sense in theory, but there are at least two problems with that approach.

First, speakers don’t only have to hit the “B” key when they black out the screen, but have to strike it again when they turn the screen back on.

Second, the previous slide is still up when the screen comes back on, meaning you have to both turn the screen on and advance the slide. That’s an awful lot of fumbling around, and it’s usually more distracting than just leaving the original slide up.

There are only two times I recommend using the “B” key:

1. Emotionally Difficult Material: If you put up a slide containing emotionally difficult material and prefer not to linger too long on that point; and

2. Experienced Speakers: If you’re an exceptionally experienced speaker who can gracefully navigate between slides using the “B” key without creating a larger distraction.

But a better practice is simply to put up your slide, give the audience a few moments to take it in, and then begin speaking. Remember – good slides are simple, containing just a few words and/or simple graphics. If you give the audience a few moments to absorb each new slide before you begin speaking, they’re unlikely to present a noteworthy distraction.

Related: The Five Most Common PowerPoint Mistakes

Related: Three Tips: When The PowerPoint Crashes