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How to: Avoid presentation and training disasters when using technology


Murphys Laws of media

  • If anything can go wrong it will

  • Equipment knows when you are nervous

  • No two plugs are compatible

  • Slides are always upside down

  • Computer files are always incompatible

  • If it worked yesterday, it will not work today

  • Ian Hart, University of Hong Kong

    It has happened to the best of trainers: you are delivering an important training session and your equipment fails you in the middle of the presentation. You ask any IT trainer and we all have stories of training disasters especially where technology is concerned.

    Here are four steps to help with future preparation (however, nothing is guaranteed with technology):

    Step 1: Be well prepared

    With most important presentations, you will be nervous. You may find yourself tripping over the software that you know inside-out and forget information that would usually roll off your tongue, under less stressful situations.

    Avoid running more than one piece of software simultaneously unless you are extremely well rehearsed.

    Step 2: Make a checklist of all your equipment and software that you need

    If you do not do this, you will inevitably forget something fundamental, an extension cable tends to be favourite. There is a website at Workingfaster which is the Internet Trainers Survival Checklist.

    Step 3: Have a back-up plan

    Always think of your worst case scenario. Preparing a back-up can take no more time than preparing the original presentation; one example is when you have your PowerPoint presentation saved in more than one version - especially if you are using equipment provided by another company where they may not always have the same version of PowerPoint as you have used.

    You could also convert your PowerPoint presentation into overheads, but you may have to consider removing two or three as flipping your slides will take longer than using PowerPoint slides. The difference is roughly a maximum of 60 per hour in respect to 10-12 per hour for overheads.

    Make more than one back-up of your PowerPoint presentation. If you are putting copies onto floppy disks or CDs etc., take more than one with you and also write-protect the disk.

    Also, as any well-rehearsed presenter would know, always have handouts prepared, because those attending the presentation will always request a copy of the slides; these will also stand you in good stead should the power fail.

    Step 4: Extra consideration in hotels and conference venues

    Always arrive at the venue with plenty of time to spare so that you can check all the equipment and even possibly rehearse your presentation before the audience arrive. Contact the venue to make sure that all the equipment that you require is there and also whether they have anybody who knows about the equipment on-site. If not, is there anybody that you could contact?

    If you have particular AV requirements, be very specific; request the resolution of your monitor if you are taking a laptop with you so that they will know whether the projector is appropriate for your equipment.

    If you are using their computing equipment, this is when rehearsing your presentation is of paramount importance, because it may behave completely differently to how you would expect it to.

    If you are using a training room that you are not familiar with, make a site visit and check all equipment well in advance of the presentation. If you are using networked equipment, then do make sure you know how to login.

    Wherever possible, carry your own spare bulbs for OHP equipment. Invariably, the spare bulb within the machine has already blown – and no one in your audience will know where the spares are kept.


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