Power point presentations demand much more preparation than an ordinary speech or lecture. Even experienced speakers can easily run into problems – both technical and content-related – without proper groundwork.
Dress Rehearsal practice
A complex presentation will only be presented well after a successful dress-rehearsal. A good rule of thumb is that you need at least two practice runs, and that if the practice didn’t go smoothly there is no reason to expect better performance with real audience. Three aspects of Powerpoint presentations are particularly sensitive and require practice:
Presentations normally have a limited time-frame – 10 minutes attention span for sales, 20 minutes for academic-conference speech, 45 minutes for a lesson. Without proper practice it is very common to overshoot or undershoot the timing. Therefore, it is crucial to practice with a timer, and to speak out-loud during the rehearsal (speaking out-loud takes twice as long as silent reading).
It is easy to forget the number of animated elements in a slide and their order of appearance, even more so under the pressure of live performance. The result is points discussed before they are presented, and when they appear, they need to be re-discussed. Also, forgetting the order of animations will lead to an expression of surprise on the speaker’s face after each click.
Clearly all presentations have to be proofread, but the proofing done after a ‘real’ presentation (i.e. timed, and out-loud) is much different. Reading the presentation aloud gives a different feeling to the written text, and highlights awkward phrasing.
It is not uncommon, even for experienced Powerpoint hands, to revise many slides after every rehearsal.
Check and Verify the Equipment
With current 2010 technology powerpoint presentations are not reliable and technical glitches are common from classroom use to conferences. These problems are not confined to technophobes and many a computer geek lost a presentation to technical errors. It never augurs well for a presentation that begins with 15 minutes of crawling under tables to connect USB cables or desperately troubleshooting incompatiable versions.
Therefore it is crucial to call several days in advance and to verify the check-list bellow, to ask who is the technical person in charge and to make sure he will be on hand.
And still, make sure you arrive at least 15 minutes beforehand and that you carefully test each and every item on the list bellow
- The Computer
Check that it is actually there, that it is connected to the socket, turns on and recognizes your disk-on-key.
- The Operating System
Check that the computer is not annoyingly slow, that no embarrassing error messages pop up, and that there is an internet connection if yo need one.
If you present for a technology firm or design firm, or in academia make sure the computer runs Windows and not Mac or Linux.
make sure the version in the computer supports your presentation in terms of version (Powerpoint 2003 will not show Powerpoint 2007 slides, for example). If you are not a Powerpoint expert make sure you know the basic operations on this machine- how to open, show, advance, rewind and save presentations.
- The Presentation
Check that you have the right presentation and you didn’t bring a draft. Run the presentation on the computer in full to see that
- The text works ok (especially non-English text)
- All the animations work properly
- All links to external media (e.g. video, web pages, excel files etc.) work properly.
- There are no leftover or draft slides in the presentation
- The Controller Whether the presentation will be controlled by a mouse, a keyboard or a dedicated device, make sure you are VERY comfortable with it: that you can move slides forward and backward without thinking about it, and that slides don’t ‘jump’. It is always a good idea to bring a wireless mouse with a USB adaptor as back-up.
- The Projector (‘barko’)
Check that it is working, and find out how to revert the presentation from the computer screen to the projector and back again.
- Lighting System
Check how to turn the lights on and off, and if there are multiple switches find out which combination gets the right lighting environment (preferably one that is dark enough for the projector to be visible, but lighted enough for audience members to write notes). If you cannot control the lighting from the podium make sure to instruct an audience member how to do it.
- Sound System
If the venue requires amplification then it is important to make sure that it works and calibrated (so you do not sound like speedy gonzalez or darth vader), and that you know how to use it. If you have sound effects in your presentation (not recommended) or run a video clip, make sure the sound system is connected to the computer and works properly.