Have you ever launched full-swing into a great multimedia presentation, only to have the technology fail in the middle of your talk? Have you been left wondering, “Why won’t my video play?” or “Why won’t my file open properly on this computer?” We know we can’t always be there to help, so we’ve developed this guide with our best tips to help you make sure your own presentations go off without a hitch.
You're prepared for your big presentation, with backups in hand, but what do you do if you encounter problems at setup, and don’t know how to fix them?
The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that everything will work just the way you expect it to. Computers are fickle. Our number one tip is to test all the technology you’ll be using in the venue in the exact configuration you’ll be using it at the event. This “dress rehearsal” will help you find any technical bugs, and will help you feel confident that your event will go as planned. After rehearsing, you can focus on giving a killer presentation and feel confident that all your technology will work as planned.
Here are our top tech tips for presentation problem solving:
Before you leave the office
- If you are sending your slides ahead by email, bcc your personal email address to make sure the attachment comes through ok.
- If bringing your slides on a USB disk, use a USB drive that has nothing else on it. You don't want the AV tech to go through all your personal files looking for the right presentation.
- Always have a backup copy of your presentation in Dropbox or another cloud storage sites, and/or in your email, just in case your USB drive gets lost or corrupted.
- Bring your own computer and any adapters you will need in case the conference-provided computer will not work. Make sure you have adapters to VGA, DVI, and HDMI, as different venues may require different connections.
- If your presentations have audio, verify with conference organizers that an audio connection will be available for your presentation room - often that will not be hooked up unless you ask for it specifically.
- Avoid relying on online content. If you really need an Internet connection for your presentation, make sure you specifically request it on the presentation computer. Try to bring offline copies of any material you need.
- If live Web content is critical to your presentation, and you cannot bring an offline backup, bring a mobile hotspot, or a cell phone with tethering enabled, just in case.
- When you communicate with event organizers, specify if you need Presentation View (with your notes) or if you need a Mirrored desktop. Most computers can be set up either way, but the event’s AV team will need to know in advance to set that up.
- If you have complex graphs in your presentation, save them as static images (.jpg or .png), in case the presentation computer does not render them correctly.
- If you are using a Mac to create your PowerPoint slides, make sure you test your slides on a PC before you leave the office. Pay special attention to transitions, graphs and media files. You may not have the option to use a Mac onsite.
- If you are using Keynote to make your slides, make sure that the organizers know you will need a Mac with that software to give your presentation. Make a backup of your slides as both a PDF and a PPT just in case. Test both on a PC before you arrive.
Dealing with Embedded Media
- Videos and embedded media are involved in 90% of the presentation problems we deal with at events.
- Make sure if you create a presentation with video or audio in PowerPoint, that you embed the files into the .pptx file, and don’t just link them to a file on your computer. That said, ALWAYS bring a backup copy of any embedded media, just in case it didn’t embed properly.
- Make sure you have your video as an external file in more than one format. If it’s a .mov file it will most likely NOT play in PowerPoint on a PC and if it’s .wmv it will NOT play on a Mac.
- If you are presenting on PowerPoint 2010 or 2011, make sure you have the media in Windows Media format for a PC or Quicktime format for a Mac.
- If you are presenting on Microsoft Office 2013 or Office 365, bring the files in .mp4 format with H.264 encoding for best cross platform compatibility, but make sure to bring backups.
- (For more information about supported file types in PowerPoint 2013 see this post from Microsoft.)
- Copy the presentation and all its associated media onto the presentation computer - do not run it off a USB drive. If that comes unplugged or your drive fails, your media will not play.
- Load your slides at least two breaks before your talk. Do not expect to plug in your USB drive as you’re being introduced. TEST your presentation when you load your slides into their final destination.
- If you have embedded media, load the slideshow and all associated media into its final location on the presentation PC before you test it. And once you test it, do not move it to another folder on the computer. The files may become unlinked.
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth 10,000 embedded videos. Or something like that…
If you’d like to offload your presentation worries to professionals, and your event is in Northern California, we would love to help you with your event.