Ah, the humble laser pointer.
The magical wands of our generation. The bane of cats worldwide. And the quintessential tool to any presentation.
As the world starts to abandon the traditional stick pointers for their cooler laser counterparts, haven’t we all experienced the really crappy use of laser pointers?
Here, I’m going to call some of them out.
Crappy Laser Pointing
CrappyPointing #1 – The Battery Saver
Wait. What? Where?
Oh, you’re talking about that? What? No?
Oh, you’re talking about that now?
Gah, I give up.
CrappyPointing #2 – The PewPewPew
Very fun right? Pew Pew Pew! Pew Pew Pew!
CrappyPointing #3 – The Swordsman
Your swishing of your laser pointer like a master fencer’s giving me a massive headache.
What are you really pointing at???
So I guess it’s time to set some Best Practices to using this device so that audiences all over the world don’t leave presentations more confused and with a massive headache.
Remember, the whole point of a pointer (whether the old school stick pointer or the laser one) is to guide your audience’s attention to a specific segment of your visual.
Therefore, you’ve gotta…
1 – Point with Intention
Unlike the traditional stick pointers, which is obvious and highly visible, the laser pointer only generates a puny dot on the visual.
Factors that make the dot harder to find: a weak dot-light (dump those old batts), a massive screen (dwarfing your already minuscule dot), a screen brighter than a thousand suns etc…
Don’t make it harder than it already is for your audience to follow what you are pointing at/talking about.
Rather than do the Battery Saver or the PewPewPew, be intentional about what you are pointing at, and focus your dot for at least a second or two so everyone gets to locate your dot, before releasing the pointer button.
It’s find doing a little shake to get some attention, but please no clubbing special laser strobe light special effects pointing laser beams at everywhere.
Cos, you know, pointing at everything is equals to pointing at nothing.
2 – Guide to Attention
It’s not always a point target that you’d need attention to be focused on. We understand.
The bad habit to get people to focus on an “area target” would be to swing wildly at the entire area like how one would water their entire garden of plants.
Yes, again, pointing at randomly everything is as good as pointing to nothing.
Weld your pointer with conviction and guide your audience to exactly what you want them to focus on, with the exact order and boundaries to where their focus should be.
It will not only make your explanation clearer, it’ll portray yourself as a confident speaker who knows precisely what you’re talking about and understands your own material at your fingertips. (pun intended).
3 – Plan for Deposition
Yet, despite how essential a pointer is to bringing attention to your material, the key focus of any presentation must be you – the presenter.
The presenter adds value to the material by conveying a dimension expansion, emphasis and emotion that cannot be achieved by reading text.
And a big part of a presenter’s value-add is the ability to convey all these through the use of gestures.
So, when you are in a talk using a laser pointer, or a clicker, always plan to free up both your hands so that you have the flexibility to engage the crowd using gestures instead.
The best way is to always have an easily accessible pocket where you can drop and pick up the pointer at ease, whichever part of the stage you are at.
A tool is only as useful as when it’s needed.
Even Jedis manifest their force through stance, not sabres.
4 – Form over Function
Lastly, don’t use a laser pointer just for the sake of using it.the best way to use the laser pointer?
The best way to use the laser pointer?
Is to ditch the pointer entirely.
That’s right. A well-designed deck of slides shouldn’t be cluttered with information.
When each slide has a clear focus, there’s essentially no need for any pointing device at all.
Well yes, sometimes there’s just that need to provide an overview of a bigger picture and bring the audience’s attention to the details, we understand.
Now, what if there’s a real need to cram lots of information onto a single slide?
(a) Use Animations
Why reveal all your info when you can regulate what gets fed to the audience?
So, rather than displaying everything only to talk (and point) about one segment at a time, show only what’s required.
It’s like, one of the simplest tricks in the PowerPoint / Keynote manual.
(b) Use Masks
Masks are just that slightly more complicated, but not difficult at all.
All you need to do is to create a shape/s around all the unnecessary, set the shape to an opacity of around 80%, and voila! You’ve masked out all the unessential portions.
And look how whatever you intend to focus on immediately stands out, without the use of pointers?
Masks and Animations, use them like a pro in your next presentation.
As you can tell by now, I’m not a big fan of using laser pointers during presentations.
(I’d prefer an old-school pointer anytime.)
If you really need to use one, do remember to
Point with Intention
Guide to Attention
Plan for Disposition
Your pointing habits are a reflection of how sincere you are in delivering information.
Often, it’s the simplest actions that differentiate a confident, charismatic speaker from a sloppy, slipshod one.
Use your tool to the maximum advantage.
Don’t let the laser pointer burn your presentation.