I love new technology. Especially presentation tools that make connecting with an audience more effective and impactful. That’s why I was excited to try the new Logitech Spotlight remote. Like most presentation remotes, the Spotlight allows you to advance your slides and go to black without being tethered to your laptop. It can even control the volume, which is super handy if you’ve ever started a video and had to race back to your computer to stop it from blowing everyone’s ear drums away!
But the real showstopper on the Spotlight is a feature that allows you to magnify or highlight a circular selection on your screen while shading the rest of the slide. And it doesn’t just work on slides. You can even use it on word, excel or other software.
Here’s an example of a screen in typical presentation mode:
And here’s an example of that same screen using Spotlight’s highlight feature:
Wow, right? That was my reaction the first time I saw a presenter use the highlight feature. And it wasn’t just me. The whole room was a buzz. Although the presenter valiantly tried to press on with his presentation, the audience’s reaction eventually became too loud to ignore. Soon the presenter was fielding questions — not about his topic, but about the tool he was using. “How does it work?” Where did you get it?” “How much does it cost?” One audience member had already googled it and shouted out: “It’s $99.99 on Amazon.”
While audience interaction is generally a positive thing, this was clearly not what the presenter had in mind. After a few minutes the chatter finally died down, but the damage had been done. The audience was completely distracted and the presenter struggled to regain their attention. He never did generate anywhere near the excitement level for his presentation topic as did simply using his presentation tool.
I was torn. Placing a literal “spotlight” on the content you want your audience to focus on is a pretty nifty tool – especially when you have a busy screen or graph. But distracting your audience from your topic all together by the sheer novelty of how you accomplished it is counterproductive. But I was curious, so I decided to test it out myself. Here’s how it went:
I chose a mixed business audience for my test. I wanted to see if their reaction would be different from that of a sales audience. I didn’t use the Spotlight feature until I was about five minutes into the presentation and I chose a screen that wasn’t critically important to the overall message in order to minimize the potential damage.
As soon as I hit the highlight button a low buzz filled the room and began to grow. Someone laughed. Another person asked loudly, “How did she do that?” So I stopped and addressed the elephant (technology) in the room: “This is my new presentation tool. It’s called the Spotlight and as you can see, you can highlight any area on the screen simply by pointing at the screen or the monitor. If you want to see it afterwards, I’m happy to give you a quick demo.” And then I moved on.
What I learned:
No doubt about it. The Spotlight is a “Showstopper” even though it’s been on the market for over a year. Should you still use it? If you’re a presenter, you should definitely have a remote, and the Spotlight offers some great advanced features. There will always be new technology and soon this may be old school compared to what lies ahead. But if you do use the Spotlight – or any exciting new technology — be prepared to manage your audience’s attention using the following tips I learned.
How to keep your presentation tools from stealing your spotlight:
- Choose a slide that’s not critically important when you introduce new technology or presentation tools. Understand that it will likely distract your audience and your current message will be, at least momentarily, completely overshadowed.
- Acknowledge the showstopper. Allow your audience time to absorb what they’re seeing. Let them have their reaction and don’t try and compete with it.
- Provide a succinct description. Have a short statement prepared that answers the burning questions (how, what, where, when) and try to keep it under 30 seconds if possible.
- Park further questions. Invite those who are interested in more details to come up and see a demo of it after your presentation.
- Repeat what you said before you introduced the tool.
- Prepare a strong transition back into your topic. Your audience has been distracted and it is up to you to bring them back. Try one of these attention-grabbing hooks here.