PowerPoint can be an excellent tool for presenters, but it can be a big distraction when things don’t go as planned. How well you prepare ahead of time and how you react to the inevitable technical glitches can mean the difference between being seen as a seasoned presenter and an inexperienced newbie.
Here are five tips that will help you overcome minor technical glitches and make you look like a rock star in front of your audience!
Tip #1: Make the AV guys your new best friends
Before your speech, it pays to contact the people in charge of the audiovisual setup where you’re presenting. Just a simple email to introduce yourself asking if there’s anything you need to know about the room will help to establish a friendly relationship with the AV department. That way, you’ll know just what you need to do to get your presentation going. And if you have trouble with the AV setup you’ll know who to contact and the best way to get in touch!
Tip #2: Arrive early
This is one of the most important things you can do before your presentation! Arriving early gives you time to shake out any possible glitches with your presentation before the audience arrives. You have time to call in the cavalry if things don’t work the way they should (see above). And if you are able to get everything set up in just a few minutes, then you’ll have plenty of time to distribute any handouts you may have and to chat up audience members as they arrive. That last bit’s important, because by talking to people before your presentation you can get new ideas to include in your presentation or questions you can address right away.
If I’m presenting in a totally new place, I’ll arrive at least an hour ahead of time. If I’m familiar with the location, I’ll still get there 30 minutes early. I don’t want to be futzing around with some laptop as people are filing in.
Tip #3: Place the monitor so you can see it
Nobody wants to watch a presenter turn around to read her own slides. So it’s important to have a monitor somewhere you can see it that you can glance at when you need to. Some rooms have AV setups where there’s a presenter-facing monitor as well as the screen that the audience looks at. Other times, you might have to move things around a little so that you can see your show. Aren’t you glad you got there early?
Tip #4: Practice with the clicker
Clickers that remotely advance your slides are great! Calling attention to them by aiming them like you’re in the Gunfight at OK Corral isn’t. Once you’ve set up your show, practice using the clicker to see how sensitive it is. Some clickers need to be aimed at the computer, others don’t. Figure out which kind of clicker you’re working with and practice until you can advance slides without being too obvious.
Tip #5: Start your show, then blank it
If you are the only person presenting, then you can leave your title slide onscreen (with all of your contact info included, naturally) so people can see it as they arrive. But if leaving the title slide in view would be distracting, there’s a simple solution. While your presentation is in Slide Show mode, enter Ctrl+B on the keyboard. This will create a blank black slide that projects onto the screen. If you’d prefer a blank white slide, enter Ctrl+W. Tapping any key or the advance button on the clicker will make your presentation magically reappear! This is much preferable to turning off the projector, which can take time to reboot, or placing something in front of the lens, which is clumsy.
Nobody can foresee every possible technical difficulty. But if you follow these tips then you’ll be able to lower the chances they’ll happen to you at your next presentation!