An oldie but still relevant.
By Paul Wallbank
Last week I saw SmartCompany’s own Amanda Gome and Chris Thomas giving some very useful tips and ideas on marketing and the web as part of the Victorian Energise Enterprise small business month.
Presentations, however, almost always have tech hiccups, and this one was no exception. One of the earlier presenters, Douglas Wright, had problems with some of his charts, and midway through Chris’s segment the laptop running the PowerPoint presentation decided to go into hibernation.
This sort of thing is funny for the audience and good speakers will make a joke and move on, as Chris and Douglas did, but it can throw you off your stride or happen just as you’re about to make a killer point.
Whether you’re doing it in front of 600 people at the Melbourne Town Hall or six of your nearest and dearest, you don’t want the computer distracting from your message. Here’s 10 things to check before you stand up in front of an audience.
Check the power: Is the laptop plugged in and is the power on?
Disable power saving and screen savers: A system kicking into sleep mode is irritating enough, but I’ve seen a presentation stop when a password protected screen saver came on and no-one in the room knew the word to unlock it. Turn off all the power saving features or crank up the time settings to the maximum.
Turn off updates and scans: Run virus scans and system updates before the presentation. Turn off all scanners or update tools while you are presenting.
Don’t run any unnecessary programs: Constant “you’ve got mail” type noises are distracting, also you do not want an embarrassing instant message from your idiot brother-in-law popping up as you give your call to action.
Keep it simple: Exotic fonts and rare graphics increase the likelihood something will go wrong. Watch your image sizes too as well as many computers struggle with big graphics.
Test your presentation: Get to the venue early and test your show on the venue’s system. Just because it works on your computer doesn’t mean it will on someone else’s. This is particularly true if the venue uses a different presentation package to yours.
Clean up your system: If you are using your own system, give it a good clean out the day before. Clear out the browsing history just before the presentation.
Test your equipment before the show: If you are bringing your own technology such as mouse/pointer combo device, install it before you take the stage. The famous Bill Gates Blue Screen of Death when showing a preview of Windows 98 is the poster child for what can go wrong when you don’t test beforehand.
Check your connections: Personally I like to avoid accessing the net during presentations, but if you need net access, check you have it before putting your show together and test it at the venue.
Call for help: The moment you notice something not working right, raise the alarm. If something starts beeping or spewing toxic smoke, it’s probably a good idea to let the organiser know about it before the sprinkler system goes off.
Of course good old Murphy’s law applies whenever you stand up in front of an audience so you can’t anticipate every glitch that can happen. But at least with these points you reduce the chance of something distracting the audience from that killer presentation you worked so hard preparing.
We’re in the middle of small business month season at the moment. The Victorian Energise Enterprise month has just finished, the NSW Small Business September has started and South Australia’s follows in October.
For the NSW month I’ll be giving four talks. In Sydney, I’ll be discussing the office of the future on 8 September and looking at free web 2.0 tools on 22 September. I’ll also be participating in the Marketing Magic seminars in Orange on 16 September and Bathurst the following day. All of these are free and booking details are available online.
Paul Wallbank is Australia’s most heard computer commentator with his regular computer advice spots on ABC Radio. He’s written five computer books and just finished the latest Australian adaptation of Internet for Dummies. Paul founded and built up a national IT support company, PC Rescue and has a free help website at IT Queries. Today he spends most of his time consulting and advising community and business groups on getting the most from their technology.