It happened again last week while I was sitting in the audience of a business conference. Shortly after the presentation began, a pop-up screen appeared in front of the slide show as the presenter was speaking. Not only was the audience distracted, but so was the speaker, who needed to step off of the stage to close the offending window on their laptop.
What went wrong?
Let’s assume you are ready to present a well-organized, informative PowerPoint (or other) presentation. You know your topic and have rehearsed and choreographed your delivery. You arrive early to the meeting room, and your laptop is connected to the projector (see tips below to help with connections).
What presentation tips do you need to do to remove unnecessary distractions so your audience can focus on your message?
Presentation Tips to Manage Your Screen
Now that WiFi is standard in hotels and meeting rooms, your laptop may try to connect to the wireless network at the worst time–in the middle of your presentation. And suddenly, your email notifications and task reminders are popping up in front of your audience. Or, your anti-virus program pop-ups to remind you it is time to renew your subscription. These are also helpful tips to keep in mind for virtual presentations.
Add these tips to your pre-presentation checklist; skip or adjust as needed for online presentations:
- Turn off your screen saver or increase the number of minutes before the screen saver engages.
- Unless you need an Internet connection, turn off your connection.
- Temporarily close programs with alarms or reminders such as Outlook, ACT, and others, and don’t ignore subscription reminders. Most anti-virus programs that run in the background have a silent mode you can enable. If you use a cloud-based backup system, disable the routine temporarily or modify the backup schedule, so it doesn’t run during your presentation time.
- Turn off the power save mode on your laptop (in Windows, this is found under the Control Panel) to avoid sending your computer into hibernation during a long break.
- While running a PowerPoint slide show, hide the mouse pointer with [Ctrl] + H (as in hide); unhide with [Ctrl] + A (think A for arrow). Hide the pointer to keep it from bouncing around the screen if your mouse is bumped or accidentally engaged. Do you want more tips? Grab a handout of PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts plus more presentation tips.
Check Your Connections
During the setup for your presentation, check your equipment connections:
- Is the computer AC adapter securely attached to your laptop, AND is the power supply or power strip turned on? A common presentation error is not realizing that you are running on battery until your laptop shuts down.
- Although HDMI and wireless connections are the most common, some projectors still rely on VGA connections. However, most newer laptops no longer support VGA connections, so make sure your laptop bag includes an HDMI to VGA adapter, often called a dongle. Screw in all cables, including the VGA connection between your computer (or adapter) and the projector. Mac users often need a variety of dongles to connect to projectors.
Anticipate Equipment Glitches
Prepare for the worst, and equipment problems will be much easier to handle:
- Do you have spare batteries for your remote? Also, make sure all presentation gadgets are fully charged.
- Arrive early. If possible, visit the presentation space the day before so you can make adjustments to seating, A/V setup, and test out your equipment. Get acquainted with the projector and any quirks it may have, such as shutting down when it overheats or turning blue after an hour. These things happen, but they are easier to manage when you aren’t surprised. When possible, adjust the distance between the projector and the screen to maximize the size of your projected images.
- Do you have a backup digital copy (on a flash drive AND in the cloud) and a hard copy of your presentation? I once arrived for an out-of-town, day-long software seminar only to find out that the training materials had never been copied even after confirming several times. Fortunately, I had a backup printout available that was rushed to the hotel business center. Backup copies of your PowerPoint presentation may also save the day if your laptop doesn’t work and you need to switch to a different computer. Another option is to provide materials in a digital format ahead of time or provide a QR code or online link for the audience members to download the session resources.
Manage Your Wardrobe
Finally, don’t be the source of distractions; check your appearance before you start a presentation:
- Remove conference/seminar name badges and other distracting (and noisy) apparel such as necklaces and bracelets that can interfere with microphones.
- Especially for men–remove loose change and other items from your pockets to help resist those nervous habits of hands fidgeting in pockets.
- Especially for women–keep accessories to a minimum, avoid busy patterns, and save that flowing fashion scarf for another day. And keep jewelry to a minimum as your favorite statement necklaces or bangle bracelets often create noisy distractions, especially if you’re working with a lavaliere or hand-held microphone.
Although perfect presentations may not be possible, your next presentation can be much more successful when you remember these presentation tips and avoid these common distractions.
Were these PowerPoint tips helpful? Discover more PowerPoint techniques and shortcuts TheSoftwarePro.com/PowerPoint.
© Dawn Bjork, MCT, MOSM, CSP®, The Software Pro®
Microsoft Certified Trainer, Productivity Speaker, Certified Speaking Professional