The past few months have been busy on the speaking circuit. I love traveling to new cities and meeting people in different industries. It’s always a fun time to spend learning about an industry and the nuances involved for their specific marketing needs.
Preparing for a Presentation
When I am speaking at a conference, I really like watching other speakers and learning other aspects of marketing. I noticed some real issues at some of the conferences that I attended, as it seems as though many of the speakers were completely unprepared to present. It took away from their time, their message and their credibility. If you are going to present at a conference or in front of any group of people, it is in your best interest to be prepared, especially on the technology side.
Technology: A Speaker’s Best Friend – Or Worst Enemy
The two technical issues that are consistent problems for speakers are:
- Connecting to the projector
- Using video during the presentation
Your Projector Connection
This is why moderators need speakers to show up early and test the connection and the presentation well ahead of the scheduled speaking time. I always try to get to the room at least 30 minutes prior to my scheduled time (60 minutes if I’m the keynote). In this way, I know everything is connected, on, and working. Then, I can relax.
I am amazed at the speakers that show up 5 minutes before their scheduled presentation and are a flurry of activity attempting to get connected. If problems will happen – it’s then.
I am amazed at how many speakers brought laptops that were well over 5 years old. I’m sorry, but that is ancient technology in this day and age. If you are a professional speaker that is getting paid to talk, then the tools of your trade need to reflect the same quality you want to present. No craftsman allows his tools to become old, rusty and imprecise. Many of my friends are tradesmen, and they take extraordinary care of their tools, as the tools are a direct reflection of their craft and their work.
Here’s the rule: The older your laptop, the more trouble you will have connecting to a projector. Chances are, the older the laptop is, the more RAM is consumed by programs running in the background, and the older the OS will be. Older computers are less responsive, have more “stuff” on them, and create the most problems.
I saw one speaker spend nearly 15 minutes of his presentation time trying to CTL+F7 his laptop onto the projector. By then, he’d lost the audience – literally. They started walking out without hearing a word or seeing a slide. Your tools need to be as sharp as your skills.
Using Video in Presentations
Many moderators and organizers will ask if you have video in the presentation. One organizer states that she preferred no video in any presentations, as there is always a problem and hassle in getting it to work. Again – this comes back to preparation.
If you can’t embed the video into the presentation, and you are relying on an active internet connection to stream it, you’ve made two bad decisions. You can’t ever rely on a good internet connection, and you can’t rely on video that is not embedded, tried and tested. If using video requires you to get out of the presentation and open another program, it is a distraction and takes away from the continuity of your talk.
The new version of Microsoft PowerPoint may have improved video embedding. I know when I used PowerPoint, I never embedded video because it was either impossible or unreliable. If it is unreliable, then don’t do it. However, you’ll only know if it is unreliable if you test it live – on more than one projector.
My Mac Geek-Out
I don’t want to come off as a lemming – but I love my MacBook Air and Keynote. When i switched to this combination, the quality of my presentation increased dramatically. Keynote has a higher resolution and creates sharper fonts and images. Transitions are subtle, but beautiful. As an added bonus, you can embed video into the presentation. The most impressive feature is the ability to edit the video’s start point, finish points and poster frame. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, or switch programs – you edit it to show only the relevant part!
Using my MacBook has also eliminated connection issues by 99%. I plug it in – and it works. Simple, elegant. Now, it’s not to say that once in a while there has been some goofiness with the projector and the presenter display – but if you familiarize yourself with the screen options and issues, you’ll find that they are easily fixed. The 1% connection issue was a bad adapter. Which is why I now travel with a backup.
Pro Tips: Presenting well is all about minimizing external factors. Never rely on “external factors” to make your presentation successful. Mitigating possible problems and controlling as much as possible should be your mindset.
Don’t rely on:
- reliable internet connections
- compatible internet connections
- presentation remotes being provided
- ideally placed screens
- ideally placed projectors
- everything to work, all the time
Mitigating possible problems is part of being prepared.
In order to be prepared, I travel with a presentation kit;
- I received a grid-it technology organizer as a gift, and fits right in my travel bag.
- (2) Mac Video to VGA adapter
- 1 iPhone to VGA adapter**
- 1 Mac Video to HDMI
- Presentation remote
- Spare batteries for the remote
- Power Cord
- Business Cards
- Charging cables
- Travel toothbrush and toothpaste (if you ever speak during a dinner engagement, you’ll be glad to have this)
- USB drive with presentations
It is all about contingency planning. Anticipating possible problems and deal with them before they happen.
Use the best tools available to present a quality experience, and always test them. When you can present a repeatable performance, and know that you are prepared for just about anything – you’ll do fine.
** Yes, I have given a presentation from my iPhone. This is why I have the Keynote App and Dropbox on my phone, and the iPhone to VGA adapter. I was in a client’s office and did not have a presentation that suited the situation. Without wi-fi available, I was able to download the presentation to my Phone through Dropbox, and play it through the Keynote app. It worked out very well, and was a completely unnoticeable difference. Though I think the client was more impressed at the presentation being given from an iPhone than the presentation itself…
The ‘upgrade’ technology part is of prime importance! I have myself seen some of my students bring their presentation made, say, in the outdated version of PowerPoint – Obviously they felt no need to check if eveything was working BEFORE they actually came to talke and when they did – it suddenly turned out that the program version their presentations were saved in and the program we had installed on the computer would not coalesce – and so the problem started.
You should always check the devices before you start – I completely agree with you Mr. Bailey. But you can never teach that to people ;)
Oh yes, if you are not prepared to give a speech and you haven’t checked all the equipment you are going to be using – you might find yourself in a pretty bad situation. Especially if the computer you are using is not yours which sometimes happens – a mismatch between the software might really be a problem!
Overall you point a very important thing Matt – a good speaker, the one who speaks to a big audience on a regular basis should always invest in new equipment.
Advice about the presentation kit would be very useful for me. I’ll use it as such check list before my presentations.
People want to be engaged by slideshows, imagery and videos. So make the most of everything modern technology can do for you when you are hosting an event.