It’s not that faces are good or bad, it’s just that they’re very distracting.
One thing that we see often in almost every corporate presentation is there’s an introduction of the company. In that introduction, there will usually be a couple of slides with pictures of human faces.
We call these slides “happy workers slides.” A “happy workers slide” often shows an ethnically-diverse assortment of smiling people holding clipboards or gathering around a conference call speakerphone.
While this slide is up on the screen, the speaker will be introducing himself (“Hello, my name is XYZ. I work for company ABC. Blah blah blah.”).
The thing to keep in mind is that the human eye is naturally drawn to faces. It’s a human instinct with millions of years of evolution behind it.
And remember that you’re competing for attention with your slides.
So if your slides include faces of people, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll lose in that competition.
No amount of presentation brilliance is going to allow you to overcome the pull of that instinct to look at other faces.
It’s not that human faces on a slide are always good or always bad, and it’s not that eye contact with your audience is always good and things that interfere with it are always bad.
Just keep in mind that if there is a slide showing a human face looking at the audience, it is almost guaranteed, as long as that face is up there, that the audience will look at that face, not at you, and, for a few seconds at least, will not listen to what you are saying.
About Matt Krause
Matt began his professional life managing inventory levels for wholesale import companies and forecasting labor costs for national retail chains. Since 2006, he has been teaching professionals how to present themselves and their companies better. His clients work for companies like Citibank, Microsoft, 3M, P&G, and HP.