As a seasoned presenter, I have experienced my share of technical or venue-related mishaps on presentation day. Here is one example: I can remember saving a presentation to a CD, only to realize on the day of the presentation that the CD had not burned properly! Lesson learned? Test the CD on another computer before heading to the presentation. Experiences like this have taught me the value of planning ahead. If you are tasked with helping a speaker to prepare for a presentation, some smart contingency planning beforehand can keep things on track for your speaker.
When preparing resources like lecture halls and equipment for a presentation, you have some important factors to consider both before and on presentation day. Your goal should be to prevent anything that could adversely affect a presenter's performance at the podium. Remember Murphy's Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.
The most important thing that you can do to prepare for a presentation is to visit the venue ahead of time. Even if you are familiar with the room, it's good to visit it again in case there have been changes to it that might affect a speaker's performance.
- Consider if the room is too hot or too cold. Can the temperature be adjusted? How?
- Are electrical outlets near where the presentation equipment will be, or will you need an extension cord?
- Is there a blank wall or presentation screen to use if it's needed?
- Give some thought to the setup of the chairs. The chairs might be stationary, as in a theatre or conference room. If someone will be setting up chairs, however, confirm that they will be arranged so that audience members are comfortable and can see the speaker.
It is important to fully test all the equipment that the speaker will use for the presentation beforehand.
- If the speaker is using his or her own portable computer, confirm that the battery is fully charged, even if the speaker intends to use the electrical outlet. It is wise to be prepared, just in case.
- If the venue host is providing a data projector, learn how to operate it, and confirm that it works correctly with the speaker's computer. In case the data projector lamp goes out (they do burn out every few years) is there a replacement lamp available, and do you or the host know where it is and how to change it?
- If the speaker will be using a remote device to control his or her presentation slides, make sure that it works and that the speaker has a spare set of batteries.
- If the presentation is in a large room, will the speaker need a microphone and speakers? If so, ensure that they are properly set up, and test them beforehand.
- Obtain the name, room number, and cell and office telephone numbers of the venue's technical support person, and make sure that the speaker has this information on hand.
I have given seminars that integrated video with the regular bullet points in my presentation. However, as I was presenting, the video failed to play in a few cases. For me, this was not a disaster, but it might be for your speaker. Therefore, thoroughly test every aspect of the presentation, especially if it incorporates audio, video, or other media.
- If this presentation is very important, consider providing the speaker with a technical support person from your department or with a backup computer containing a copy of the presentation. The speaker can quickly swap computers if one does not work.
- Always have the presentation printed so that the speaker can refer to the paper copy in case something goes wrong with the speaker's computer or the data projector.
- If speakers are bringing their own computers to the venue, they might not think to carry a backup of their presentation with them. However, out of respect for Murphy's Law, consider having them place a copy of their presentation in another folder on their hard disk and having them bring a copy on a CD or USB drive.
- Confirm that attendees know where the presentation venue is and that they can locate the building with minimal hassle.
- Confirm that there are no security restrictions that would delay or prevent attendees from entering the building.
- Confirm that the speaker has water available during the presentation.
Preparing a venue for a presentation is all about contingency planning. Understanding the venue and equipment ahead of time and preparing a backup plan can quickly head off any glitches that might otherwise derail your speaker's entire presentation. By having a sound strategy for handling equipment or logistical problems, you can keep your audience focused on your speaker's message.
About the author Ramon Ray is the editor of Smallbiztechnology.com, a Web site that helps small to medium-sized businesses use technology. Ramon is a former technology consultant and a frequent speaker on small business technology issues. He is also the author of Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses, published by the American Management Association.