The fear of public speaking is deeply ingrained in all our psyches. One of the roots of this fear is that something will go wrong while we are speaking leaving us looking foolish, incompetent, embarrassed or unprofessional.
Laptop computers have a mind of their own and are often a weak link in a presentation, along with projectors, room logistics, and other items. Taking a few minutes to develop a check list of items to turn off, pause, minimize, pre-load and otherwise prep with regard to your laptop, can save you minutes of time, dozens of lost audience members and wads of cash not spent on the psychiatrist’s couch mitigating your perceived inadequacies.
The problem with projectors is: to plug or not to plug? Do you plug in before you hit the power button or do you hook live depends upon the sophistication of your set up between laptop and projector. You should always test the partnership first and when satisfied it works, disconnect and prep or prep with the projector on idle so your audience is oblivious to your efforts.
Here are some items from my regiment.
1. Disable Wireless Internet on the laptop unless you are using an email or an Internet connection live during your presentation. This will keep some self-important programs from logging on during your presentation and downloading a service pack, the latest TV schedule, an advertisement or anything else which will distract your audience with a popup.
2. If you must leave your wireless active, close all chat windows and exit their respective programs. Your buddy Fred can say “What’s up!” later-not during your stage time.
3. I try to run system updates the day before to ensure that my computer is aware of all the most recent updates even if I chose not to install them. This minimizes all those helpful messages telling you your computer has an update available, it has been months since your last virus scan, or whatever else is might be so urgent you must be interrupted in your work to read. If Windows or any other application have updated recent (read I-tunes) your virus scanner may burp upon launch of an application. Check each application and give that ‘changed’ file permission to access the net or whatever else it needs.
4. Close every program not essential to your operation. All those cute little applets showing you weather, news, stock quotes and the like are not going to help your performance or your message. Get rid of them before you present.
5. Set your laptop to a reasonable resolution before you present to minimize fooling around time with the projector. 1024×768 will almost always work. 800×600 is bullet proof. Wide Screen Laptop formats don’t always work with a projector nicely. Learn your video settings and how to manipulate them to get what you need! Don’t count on being able to change res on the fly and match or scale or anything else. Set your laptop up to have a prayer right from the start.
6. Everything you need for your presentation should be in a single folder on the desktop. Clean your desktop of icons and have that folder be one of only a couple of carefully chosen icons available. The materials can live elsewhere but the must be accessible from the desktop. Searching a hard drive for a missing file is tedious to your audience.
7. Pre-load the applications you will be using prior to starting the presentation. If you are teaching with an Image Editing Application, load it. Most of these need to find filters and fonts and if you crank it up ahead of time, your audience will have a much more seamless experience.
8. If you are using presenting software, bounce through every slide first to make sure items load properly. If you are running sound or video, take a moment to allow the sound to play and the video to run so that it caches in memory. This will make sounds and sights seem much smoother.
9. Double check your battery icon before you begin. Have your power cord ready just in case or be plugged in. Questions and digressions can cause you drain more power than you thought you had left. If you are running on AC power, set your laptop power profile to high performance to ensure smoother running presentations.
10. Set your wallpaper to a benign image or better yet-no image. Half your audience won’t care for an internet hottie as your background. Too busy a background can make it distracting for your audience too.
11. Disable or increase the time on your screen saver so that you don’t have pipes, squiggles or stars distracting your audience if you must pause for a question.
12. Have a backup plan. Your entire presentation and supporting data files should be on a thumb drive or CD. You should have a back up way to move your cursor (mouse, tablet, touch pad). If a laptop goes down or files go missing you should be able to look like a pro.
Make a list of all the things you need to do and carry it as a checklist on a business card sized item in your bag, purse, wallet or whatever and make certain you have all the items marked before you fire up the image on the big screen.
Rikk Flohr © 2008