Don't let bad technology use kill a good presentation. Technology (PowerPoints, laptops, videos) are becoming more and more commonplace when presenting, whether you're on a stage in front of thousands of people at a trade show or you're in a small classroom in a high school. But, things can go wrong or we may sometimes overuse these assets available to us. So, here are five tips when it comes to presenting well when using technology to enhance your presentation.
First, know your material
I'm a big fan of memorizing your talk. Sure - it'll be more polished, but you'll also sound more natural. And, familiarity with your material will come in handy if you need to keep things going during a technical glitch or respond on the fly when someone has a question. PowerPoint slides aren't for reading; they're for calling attention to a key point or to showcase an image that gets at the heart of what you're saying.
Don't over-rely on technology
It's easy today - with all of our digital tools and toys - to want to make a slide deck that has lots of features or to show videos to illustrate your points. But, many times, presenters overdo it on the tech side. If I wanted to see a video, I'd ask you to email me a link. I'm coming to a presentation to hear you and see you. So, give me you. Make sure your presentation is solid with no slides and videos. Then, add those things in as accessories and nice touches. This way, if something goes wrong with your slide deck, you can still keep talking and presenting and the audience will barely be able to tell.
Treat tech glitches like part of the show
Computers break down and projectors overheat. If you give a presentation that requires bells and whistles, then you're running a risk that your entire presentation will fall apart if something goes wrong. You don't want to take valuable time away from what you need to say because the tech guy is fixing something on stage. If this does happen, knowing your material well will let you keep presenting in a compelling way while The Geek Squad fixes what you broke.
Better yet, carry your own gear
When I travel and speak, I bring the following items with me:
- Adapters to projectors from my laptop (both Mac to VGA and HDMI)
- Flash storage drive
- Wireless mouse
- Audio cables
Amazingly, all of this fits in a small accessory bag. The venue, then, only provides a projector, screen, and microphone. I don't want to show up somewhere and find that they don't have the right adapter, or that the range of the wireless mouse is a short distance, or that the audio cable is incorrect. In other words, I eliminate as many variables as possible to ensure that stuff will work right the first time.
Know your hardware
Spend an hour or two this week getting to know your laptop better. Because we've all been using computers for so long, we overlook the fact that an hour spent reading about our model and playing around with it will make our familiarity with it skyrocket, which is handy come presentation time. For example, many PCs have PowerPoint shortcuts controlled by the function keys, allowing you to start your deck or go to black with a single stroke. Same goes for calibrating laptops to projectors. It's a great feeling when you show up and don't even need the tech person to help you get ready. The more time you spend with your machine and your presentation software, the better your presentation will look and feel.
Start using these practices and you'll be sure that your presentation is different from every one ever. In other words, you won't feel like this guy: