[This slide intentionally left blank]

August 14, 2010

I saw Tim Wells, Chief Scientific Officer of the Medicines for Malaria Venture, give a presentation in Spain last month. It was a fairly typical talk — with PowerPoint slides full of bulleted lists and so forth — until he got to his conclusion slide. It was blank except for the word “Conclusion.”

Unconsciously I noted that there was no need to stare at this slide, and refocused my gaze on Tim and listened carefully to his final words. And then I realized that this was exactly what he had intended!

Scientific slides tend to be densely populated with facts and graphs, so we usually look at the slides rather than the speaker. After a barrage of such slides, a nearly blank one grabs our attention (“Hey, wait! Is this a mistake?”) and then redirects it toward the speaker. It’s a neat trick for ensuring that the take-home message gets heard.

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