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Posted: March 12, 2012

Top 13 tips for more successful presentations

Anticipate equipment glitches

Dawn Bjork Buzbee

It happened again last week. Shortly after the presentation began, a pop-up screen appeared in front of the slide show as the presenter was speaking. Not only was the audience distracted, but so was the speaker who needed to step off of the stage to close the offending window on their laptop.

What went wrong?

Let's assume that you are ready to present a well-organized, informative PowerPoint (or other) presentation. You know your topic and have rehearsed and choreographed your delivery. You arrive early to the meeting room and your laptop is connected to the projector.

What else do you need to do to remove unnecessary distractions so that your audience can focus on your message?

Manage Your Screen

Now that most hotels and meeting rooms have wireless access, your laptop may try to connect to the wireless network at the worst time-in the middle of your presentation. Or, your anti-virus program pop-ups to remind you that it is time to renew your subscription.

Add these tips to your pre-presentation checklist:

  • Turn off your screen saver or increase the number of minutes before the screen saver engages.
  • Unless you need an Internet connection, turn off your connection or remove your wireless card.
  • Temporarily disable any programs with alarms or reminders such as Outlook, ACT, and others and don't ignore subscription reminders.
  • Turn off the power save mode on your laptop (in Windows, this is found under the Control Panel) to avoid sending your computer into hibernation during a long break.
  • While running a PowerPoint slide show, hide the mouse pointer with [CTRL] + H; unhide with [CTRL] + A (think A for arrow). Hiding the pointer keeps it from bouncing around the screen if your mouse is bumped or accidentally engaged.

Check Your Connections

During the setup for your presentation, check your equipment connections:

  • Is the computer AC adaptor securely attached to your laptop AND is the power supply or power strip turned on? A common presentation error is not realizing that you are running on battery until your laptop shuts down.
  • Screw in all cables including the VGA connection between your computer and the projector.

Anticipate Equipment Glitches

Prepare for the worst and equipment problems will be much easier to handle:

  • Do you have spare batteries for your remote?
  • Get acquainted with the projector and any quirks it may have such as shutting down when it overheats or turning blue after an hour. Yes-these things happen but they are easier to manage when you aren't surprised.
  • Do you have a backup digital and hard copy of your presentation? I once arrived for an out-of-town, day-long seminar only to find out that the training materials had never been copied even after confirming several times. Fortunately, I had a backup printout available that was rushed to the hotel business center. Backup copies of your PowerPoint presentation may also “save the day” if that your laptop doesn't work and you need to switch to a different computer.

Manage Your Wardrobe

Finally, don't be the source of distractions; check your appearance before you start a presentation:

  • Remove conference/seminar name badges and other distracting (and noisy) apparel such as necklaces and bracelets that can interfere with microphones.
  • Especially for men--remove loose change and other items from your pockets to help resist those nervous habits.
  • Especially for women--keep accessories to a minimum, avoid busy patterns, and save that flowing fashion scarf for another day.

Although perfect presentations may not be possible, your next presentation can be much more successful when you avoid these common distractions.

Dawn Bjork Buzbee is The Software Pro® and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist (MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 6 books. Discover more software tips, tricks, tactics, and techniques at www.SoftwarePro.com . Contact Dawn at Dawn@SoftwarePro.com  or (303) 699-6868.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Thanks, Lida, for the valuable suggestions. Checklists, flexibility, and backup plans are important for all types of presentations--live or web. Sounds like you handled an AV problem like a pro so your attendees wouldn't all be penalized by one site problem. Offering a handout, recording, and other follow-up resources can help save the day when unexpected problems come up. Unfortunately, I've attended too many webinars when the presenter wasn't comfortable with the tools and hadn't invested the time to practice successfully working with web presentations. Thanks as well for your useful articles on CoBizMag.com! By Dawn Bjork Buzbee on 2012 03 21
Great tips, Dawn! More and more of my clients are webcasting my presentations to remote teams across the world. I just spoke to a large aerospace company, and we had four different groups on simulcast. One group had A/V issues about 5 minutes into my program (just as I was setting up a key point). As they tried to communicate through the channel in front of everyone, I asked the A/V guys to help them off line so we could continue and they wouldn't miss anything. Also had handout synopsis of my program so they didn't feel they were losing content. As Julie points out, always have a plan for improvising! Thanks for the tips, Dawn. By Lida Citroen on 2012 03 16
Valuable story and analogy, Steve. You zeroed in on the huge cost of your friend's frugal omission. In my PowerPoint and presentation speaking and training sessions, I often advise presenters to have a PLAN D, as in DISASTER PLAN. Even though we always want everything to go right, what would they do if.... This is often the first time they have considered presentation backups, projector bulbs, dramatic changes to presentation time frames, etc. I have a presentation equipment checklist (http://www.softwarepro.com/docs/Presentation_Equipment_Checklist.pdf ) which I use before a presentation just to make sure I have all of the essential tools (in addition to presentation preparation and expertise). Thanks again! By Dawn Bjork Buzbee on 2012 03 13
Thanks, Julie, for the improv tools and suggestions--very applicable in business. All business presenters, speakers, and trainers would benefit from an improv class to learn how to respond positively to the unexpected. Because my work is directly dependent on functioning equipment (hard to share a software technique without it), I prepare some backup audience questions and exercises just in case we have to wait for a re-boot, A/V fix, etc. Sounds like you are a pro on stage! By Dawn Bjork Buzbee on 2012 03 13
As an actor I learned many valuable lessons for business, including: Always check your props! No matter if they worked yesterday, the day before or five minutes ago. There's nothing worse than being on stage and having a prop malfunction. If they still fail, borrow these 3 tools from improv: Use it, lose it, or laugh at it... What else can you do?! Thanks for the tips Dawn. By Julie Hansen on 2012 03 12
Great fail-safe ideas Dawn. In the "For the want of a nail" category, a friend of mine spent two weeks preparing a dynamic power point presentation to promote his services to a large audience. Five minutes into it, the projector bulb blew out and he didn't have a spare. The reason? He said they are expensive. No, the blown opportunity to shine as a pro and gain new business is expensive. By Steve Baker on 2012 03 12
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