Laser Pointers:Should you use one?

Many things remain a mystery for many people. The Bermuda Triangle, The Loch Ness Monster, Laser pointers, Big Foot, Stonehenge. How about the question - before drawing boards what did people go back to?

O.K. it may be that fewer people are mystified by laser pointers, but as presentation ideas go, they are a piece of equipment that I have never really understood. You know how it goes. Your project team have been called together for an update. Several team members take you through their PowerPoint presentation which is full of tables, graphs and cut and pasted spreadsheets with enough detail to keep you locked in the meeting room for several days. Yet there is no need to panic - because they have their trusty little dot to make everything clear. Your saved!

So why do I get so frustrated by these seemingly harmless devices? After all, they are often included as a feature on your slide changer such as:

Logitech R400 Wireless Presenter

Surely anything designed to add to your kit bag of presentation ideas is a good thing? Sadly no.

The laser pointer is intended to help you focus your attention on a particular piece of your data or image. In reality, the little red dot is likely to be a major distraction. Here is why I strongly encourage presenters to stop using them.

1.      If you have having to draw attention to a key point with a small beam of light it means your visual is poorly designed, too complex or just too small. The fact that you have resorted to the laser pointer is an admission of this.

2.      Typically, the presenter turns and flashes the dot at their screen for something just under a nano-second and the audience is left trying to visually remember what it was highlighting.

3.      If the presenter attempts to hold the dot in place for longer it tends to wobble about like a buzzing insect. If the presenter is nervous this movement is much larger.

4.      Frequently, the presenter forgets they have their finger on the button when they continue their presentation, so many members of the audience are now playing track the red dot around the walls and ceiling of the meeting room.

Put away your laser pointer - please!

If you would like to put yours away:

  -   Simplify your slides and visuals

  -   Use bigger font sizes

  -   When you need to draw your audience's attention to some detail:

        ·        use call outs

        ·        use highlights

        ·        use magnification

        ·        put the detail on a second slide

So, next time you find yourself reaching for your trusty laser pointer remember; it is telling you that something is wrong in the design of your visual.

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Richard Lock: International trainer, speaker,and coach helping businesses and individuals learn the secrets of effective communication.

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See also:

Cause Related learning for employee engagement

RHL Associates for management development