May I Present?

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June 01, 2012

Tips for smooth presentations

I recently heard a funny story from a friend who remembers presenting at her association's conference the first year that they tested the waters of PowerPoint.

Even though PowerPoint was the required software for the event, everyone was still required to bring their slides and overhead transparencies as backups. She remembers dozens of iterations on all the versions of her presentation before she had the right format, a good look and no errors.
While the days of cumbersome slide projectors and overheads are gone, there are still a number of challenges that an event planner must deal with to accommodate presentation formats.

Display Options
The first thing to consider is what will be the best display for presentations at your event. Do you have smaller audiences who would be comfortable looking at a flat screen monitor?

Would an LED screen be best for bright outdoor spaces? What type of content will you be showing? Is it slides and data, or lots of video/cinema? Traditionally, you would have wanted an LCD projector for the data and DLP for the video, but those old rules aren't always applicable until you get into higher-end production.

Here is where you turn to the pros for recommendations. Explain to your A/V professional just where the presentation will take place and what the lighting and space conditions are. You'll also want to fill them in on size of the group, seating plans and room layout. Ideally, your A/V company will send out a staff person to visit the site in person.

Useful Gear to Have
Most likely you will be working with an A/V company. Yet even so, with so many equipment options now available to speakers, it's good to cover yourself. There are a few things that are helpful to keep in supply. First and foremost, as more people gravitate to the Mac OS, you should keep a few Mac adapters handy. Yes, I know it's funny, but the common term for those adapters is "dongle." (For the record, it's perfectly acceptable to giggle when you hear someone say it.)

If you're primarily using projectors, you should have the Mini DVI to VGA adapter. This is the most prevalent adapter required in a conference setting. If you think you'll be using flat screen monitors, you should consider having one or two HDMI or DVI adapters (HDMI is used primarily in the consumer market, but many A/V companies use consumer monitors.) Ask your A/V team what kind they're bringing. And, at rental rates up to $50 per day for the adapters, buying a few for about $10 each is a solid budget choice.

If you are using iPads, you will want to have the correct adapters and the correct apps, or an iPad2, to push content to the display equipment.

Presentation Formatting
You probably hear the terms 4:3 and 16:9 frequently, but maybe you're still not sure what that means. Technically these describe the aspect ratio, or rectangular shape of the display. So 4:3 means 4 units wide by 3 units high. Think of the square shape of an old-style TV. The new TVs are primarily 16:9, hence the long width and shorter height.

Just to confuse things more, a projection screen is always measured in height by width, so a 9-foot by 12-foot screen is a 4:3 aspect ratio. Furthermore, a monitor is measured in length across the diagonal, but they are almost always a 16:9 aspect ratio. The primary reason why aspect ratio really matters is to help determine the content that should be displayed. For purely slide-driven presentations, make sure you know your screen sizes. Then you can give speakers the correct aspect ratio and they can create the correct size slides. This avoids blurring or stretching content, unsightly black pillars on the sides of the slide, or shrinking it down and creating letterboxes once it's projected onto a screen.

There may come the day when one presentation style or technology rules, but until then, we do as my friend had to do when PowerPoint was new--prepare for all possibilities!

Event Solutions magazine
June/July 2012

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