“Give us your PowerPoint in advance so it will be loaded and ready on conference room equipment,” said the organizers. That’s typically done when there are several programs on the docket; it makes organizational sense. But it can also set up a treacherous situation.
For the laptop they provide may run an earlier edition of PowerPoint, so half of your special effects won’t work. It may run brighter, so your vibrant colors will fade to pastels and your words may disappear completely. Or it may run darker, so contrast disappears along with your message. Their equipment may mess up your aspect ratio, so everything is stretched and your pie charts look like ovals. If a connecting cable is bad, your slides may all appear to be yellow or magenta. The slides may even be re-positioned on the screen, so the audience sees only part of them.
My partner did as directed and sent organizers her PowerPoint in advance—but she also came prepared. And that made all the difference.
When she got up to speak, she found her PowerPoint had not been loaded onto the laptop in the conference room, the one already hooked up to an overhead projector system. The AV technician whose services had been promised was nowhere in sight as the minutes ticked away, and neither was the production assistant whose job it was to track him down.
No slides, no help, and an audience waiting. What do you do?
If you come prepared, you pull out the flash drive you brought along, the one that includes a second copy of your slide presentation. You plug it in to the laptop, fire up the application, and begin your program. You do this without fuss or comment, for your mission isn’t to get vengeance on the negligent, but to do your job and make the presentation you came to give.
The sad truth is that mistakes—often, multiple mistakes—happen at every event. Knowing that, my partner was not only ready with a spare flash drive, but also with her own laptop loaded with yet a third copy of her PowerPoint. She would have hooked that up in case the organizer’s laptop failed. She was also equipped with several connecting cables of her own to fit a variety of situations.
The best way to prepare for a presentation—and I’ll admit we don’t always have a chance to do this—is to perform a dry run on the very equipment that will be used in front of your audience. And even then, a wise speaker is prepared with alternate equipment in case something fails.