The Presentation Backup Plan

We get last second calls like this all the time:

“I’m about to present, and they don’t have a projector!”

“There’s no Wi-Fi here, and my presentation is in the cloud!”

“The A/V computer has PowerPoint 2007 and my Keynote file won’t display right!”

Etc. etc. etc. Presenters often underestimate the sheer variability of presentation displays and scenarios, and rarely think (or have time) to check on the details. It’s really important to plan in advance and to always have a backup plan when you present. So here’s what you need to do:

1. Cover the Details: As soon as you know you’re going to present, you need to contact the venue or office manager and get details on the overall setup. Key questions are:

  • Is there Wi-Fi?
  • Is there a projector?
  • Is there a computer that controls the projector, or should I bring my own?
  • If there is a computer there, what presentation software does it run?
  • If I bring my own, will I need my own adapters? What kind of hookups are there, HDMI, VGA or other?
  • Will the audience have iPads, laptops, etc. with them?
  • How big is the room, and how big is the projector screen?

With answers to these questions, you can build your presentation from the get-go to work for the setup they’ll have.

2. Plan for the Inevitable: Even when you know all the details, assume something will go wrong. Assume the projector bulb will burn out. Assume the computer they have will crash. Assume the Wi-Fi won’t work. Etc. We recommend that every presenter have the following emergency measures in place regardless of how well they’ve planned in advance for the venue:

  • BYOC/BYOA: Even if they’ll have a computer to run the presentation, bring your own, and have at least an HDMI and VGA adapter in your bag, just in case.
  • Save out a PDF version: You can never count on PowerPoint or Keynote to properly display a presentation. PowerPoint for Mac doesn’t play well with PowerPoint for PC, PowerPoint 2007 doesn’t play well with PowerPoint 2010, and Keynote to PowerPoint could be the plot for a fourth installment of Lord of the Rings. But PDFs display the same all the time, and you can even export your presentations with separate PDF slides for every “build” or animation, and thus replicate any transitions or animations you may have done.
  • Every version in multiple locations: save ‘em to the cloud, on your computer, and on a thumbdrive. Trust us, this will save you somehow one out of every three times.

3. Have a backup display option: Projecting your presentation onto a screen for everyone is always easiest, but the screens aren’t always big enough and things can still go wrong. Even if this is first choice, have a backup ready. ClearSlide offers a great way to allow your audience to visit a customized URL and see your presentation on whatever device they have. You drive the slides; they just watch.

If you take these simple steps, you’ll deliver the presentation just the way you intended, regardless of fate or circumstances.

Question: What other steps do you take to be prepared when you deliver presentations?

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