Powerpoint Projectors - How to use powerpoint and look good doing it.

Powerpoint projectors can really ruin your day unless you understand how to use them properly.

I'll bet you've seen a presenter struggling with a projector at the front of a room. You've probably seen one or all of these scenes unfolding before your eyes (maybe even done it yourself):

  • They can't get the image up onto the screen.

  • The remote control won't work to move to the next slide.

  • They go too far ahead and don't know how to go backwards in their slide show.

  • They're still setting up the projector, laptop, screen etc after the time when they should have started.

  • The projector/laptop fails in the middle of their presentation and they try and get it going again.

A few thoughts about this.

  • First, none of these calamities are the fault of the powerpoint projectors.

  • Second, they are all unforgivable. If they happen to you after reading this, hang your head in shame!

  • Third, they annoy the audience. Oh people are normally polite to your face, but trust me, deep down they hate you. At least temporarily.

  • Fourth, they are all avoidable. You can set things up in such a way that you never, ever have to worry about any of them, ever again.

How To Use Powerpoint Projectors

There's really only a few simple rules to understand and stick to.

As an aside it's worth knowing that strictly speaking there are no such things as 'powerpoint projectors'. We'll use the term because it's so common but projectors don't care what software you're using. Your projector is simply a device which throws your computer screen up onto a theater screen (or a white wall, or a whiteboard or some other flat surface.) Sometimes mine is a Prezi Projector, or even an Excel projector!

  1. Set Up Well Before The Presentation. Get to the venue at least 60 minutes before the scheduled start time. That doesn't mean get to the carpark 60 minutes before. It means walk into the room, fully clothed, calm, with all your equipment no later than 60 minutes before.

    Of course by far the best situation is to be walking into the room 60 minutes before, and the venue is already fully setup - by someone else. This will normally be the case if it's a big venue.

    I suggest you draw up a room plan showing exactly how you want the room laid out. e-mail or fax this to the venue when you make your booking and get them to confirm (by email or fax) that they can do it exactly as you've specified. Make it clear you won't be booking unless they do this.

  2. Test The Laptop With The Projector. Most powerpoint projectors are pretty reliable these days, but it's vital you check it all works together. It used to be important which order you connected things up. For example you had to connect the laptop to the projector, then turn on the laptop and wait for it to boot up, then turn on the projector.

    Whatever. Make sure your setup works every time.

  3. Practice Getting The Image Onto The Screen. There's a particular sick feeling a presenter experiences a few minutes before a presentation, if everything seems to be working fine, but ... you can't get the picture up on the big screen!

    The time for this to happen is days before the event in your office, cubicle or bedroom. Never, ever, ever at the actual venue.

    It's not hard. This little checklist should save you:

    • Press Fn/F5 on older PCs.

    • Press F1.

    • Press the Windows key and P.

    • Right click on the Desktop. Screen Resolution. Connect to a projector.

    Practice. Practice. Practice.

    Some smart person once said "Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong."

    Get the pro's attitude when it comes to using these projectors.

  4. Get To Know Your Remote. If you're using one be on really good terms with it. Don't just show up and expect a one night stand to go without a hitch. Take your time to understand its little idiosyncrasies.

    Audiences really hate it when presenters keep going back when they mean to go forward. And vice versa.

    If it seems like only a minor detail to you, it's not to them. I think audiences start out wanting to like you, but even the most patient ones will turn after enough incompetence like this.

    Be different from the sad majority of presenters out there who stumble and fumble with remotes because they're too lazy to master even that little thing.

  5. Have A Techo At Your Command I don't care if it's your Mother, just have someone you can turn it all over to when the lights go out. Let them know before you start, that if you have any technical problems during your presentation, you'll simply stop talking and look at them!

    They take all the heat, not you. You're now on the same team as the audience, waiting for the 'techo' to sort it out. You need to stay on the same team as the audience.

  6. Finally Have A No Tech Backup Plan If your Mother or techo can't get the projector working it's not a problem. Unless of course you hadn't planned exactly what you will do in the event of a total steam failure.

    Unless you have your entire presentation memorized, have some written memory jogger you can instantly reach for. It could be notes or even a print out of your slides.

    Whatever. The show must go on. And boy do you look cool when you handle a situation like this without missing a beat. Throw in a funny one liner or two and they'll love you. For a few minutes anyway.

    And that's a good place to end because it reminds us all of that important truth.

    Stuff happens.

    Or as Nisargadatta puts it "The events of our lives are the result of innumerable factors, of which our efforts are only one."

    You now know how to use powerpoint with a projector properly. If, despite all your efforts and professionalism, things still turn to custard ... then things have turned to custard.

    It's still not really the powerpoint projector's fault though!

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