B is for Blank – the answer to a question that I didn’t know existed

Yesterday I learned that, when you press ‘b’ on the keyboard while using PowerPoint in slide view mode, the screen goes blank.

This little bit of information is a revelation to me. I’ve used PowerPoint in thousands of presentations and workshops, and I’ve always assumed that shifting the screen to blank is a function of the projector, not a function of the keyboard.

Yesterday, as I was preparing to give a short workshop on workplace writing, I asked my client about whether the projector could be turned off when it wasn’t needed. The answer was no – this set-up didn’t provide any access to a blank screen through the projector. She suggested that I simply use the ‘b’ key on the keyboard to achieve the same result.

That bit of information was like an unexpected gift. It was the answer to a question that I didn’t even know existed. It simply never crossed my mind that PowerPoint could be used to control the projector. And because I didn’t know that the question could be asked, there was no way that I was going to discover it in a help menu or a manual.

For communicators, this is a big deal. Often, we’re trying to provide people with information that answers their questions – but they may be questions that people don’t know they’re interested in and don’t know exist. The challenge is to provide the information at the moment when it’s relevant – so that people can see that it answers their needs and reveals questions that they hadn’t thought of before.