When Giving Presentations Using Technology, Plan Ahead!

By Dr. Greg Jorgensen
Rio Rancho, NM – www.gregjorgensen.com

Modern technology has made giving presentations (and watching them), much easier and enjoyable. Whether you are speaking at the AAO annual session or giving a short slideshow at a study club meeting, here are some quick tips that may help you avoid embarrassment.

First, it is best to assume that you will NOT have Internet during your presentation. I was at a recent users meeting for a high tech orthodontic company and not only didn’t we have access to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, we were in a ballroom so deep inside of the hotel that not even my portable “hotspot” could pick up a signal! If any part of your presentation requires video, apps, or websites on the Internet, you need to make sure that you take steps to download what you need before the presentation when you know you have access.
If all you need are screen shots of Internet sites, you can use screen capture features in Windows (built in Snipping tool) or Mac (Command+Shift+3) or you can use third party utilities like SnagIt, Screen Hunter Pro, or HyperSnap. All of these methods will produce JPEGs on your local hard drive that can be used in your presentation so that you won’t have to rely on the Internet. You can do the same thing with video. Many times you can just right-click on a video link and choose the “Save As…” command to download the video. Other sites require more sophisticated solutions like KeepVid (a free Internet site that allows you to download YouTube videos) or Camtasia (a commercial screen recording program). Having the video file on your laptop insures that you won’t be dependent upon having WiFi in your presentation room.
Second, you always need a backup plan when it comes to laptops and projectors. I was once at a state meeting where one of the presenters arrived with his presentation on a USB drive that couldn’t be read by the laptop provided by the IT company. He didn’t bring his own laptop nor did he have a backup. It was embarrassing to hear him say “what you would be seeing on the screen right now if my presentation was working…” I was also at a recent board of directors meeting where the projector provided by the association didn’t work. It took an hour to get a replacement and disrupted the entire meeting.
I personally like using my own laptop when I speak. I am comfortable with it, know how it works, and exactly where to find things. I show up early and try it out to make sure I have all the right cords (I always take my own) and that the projector and laptop are compatible. I also have two backup copies of my presentation in case my laptop doesn’t work. Backup one is on a USB drive. The second one is “on the cloud” using a service called Dropbox. If my laptop doesn’t start up, I have a copy in my pocket and one on the Internet. It feels good to know that I’m covered in case of disaster. When I give presentations on the road, I assume (I know…) that the IT company will have a backup projector onsite. When I lecture locally however, I always take my own projector and leave it in my car just in case.
The last point I want to reiterate is to always show up early and make sure that your presentation works with the equipment provided. Does the resolution of your laptop match the projector provided? (Steve McEvoy recommends changing the resolution of your laptop to 1024×768 before attaching it to the projector for the best results.) How are the sound levels on your embedded videos? Do you know how to adjust the volume of your microphone or your turn down the lights? Does the remote slide advancer/laser pointer work with your system (I take my own)? These are all small points, but thinking ahead can mean the difference between a presentation that is memorable because of content and one that is remembered because of technical difficulties. Have you learned any little tricks that would help the rest of us?

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