thoughts, theories, observations & informationSubscribe Now

5 Simple Tips for Presentation Preparation

Picture this scene.  You have to address a group of people in a public setting.  Perhaps your boss and your co-workers, or maybe a prospective client or a professional organization.  In preparation for the event you work hard on your presentation.  You have a great story to tell.  You choose the perfect images to get your point across.  You find the perfect font to fit your message.  You save your PowerPoint presentation.  You are ready to show off your creativity only to find that you can not use your laptop, the computer you are going to use does not have your font, the version of PowerPoint on the machine is from 2003, the machine will not load your images, and your work of art has been transformed into a steaming pile of digital garbage.  Confidence rattled, you race around to salvage your presentation, give it your best shot, struggle to make sense of your presentation for the audience, pledging that this will never happen again.

Sound familiar?  These things happen to presenters all the time.  With so many different versions of software and hardware, permissions and capabilities, versions and restrictions, there are a lot of things that can ruin a presentation.  It is always good to have a few tricks up your sleeve to avoid unnecessary presentation disasters.  Here are a few of my favorite tips:

  1. Save Your Presentation as a PDF File – This is a very easy way to avoid problems.  By saving your presentation as a .pdf file you avoiding using PowerPoint all together.  By doing so you eliminate the worry of font compatibility, versioning, chart rendering, and other common issues.  This is especially useful if you are presenting using equipment other than your own in instances where you use unique fonts or more complex graphical images.  Just open the presentation in Adobe Acrobat Reader, put it in full screen mode, and go.  To the audience, there is no difference on the screen from PowerPoint. This trick is also great when you need to email your presentation to someone else, as the .pdf version is usually considerably smaller than it’s PowerPoint counterpart.  The only drawback of this method is that you can’t use the Presenter Tools and Speaker Notes that are included in PowerPoint.  Ideally, this is a great “plan B” option for a presenter.
  2. Multiple PowerPoint Formats – You can easily save a presentation as a .pptx .ppts .pps and .ppt file – one of which should be able to be read by PowerPoint.  Check to make sure that charts and graphs created in newer versions of PowerPoint were not mangled in the conversion process.   Additionally, check to make sure that fonts and other elements were not modified.
  3. Thumbs Up – In addition to saving copies of your presentation on your computer, save your presentation on a thumb drive or an external hard drive.  This is a simple way to make sure that if you are unable to use your own laptop for the presentation, you can still get access your presentation.  This is also helpful if your presentation files got lost by the organizer of the presentation, who asked you to email them in advance.
  4. Email Yourself – Send multiple versions of your presentation to a web based email account like Gmail.  I have been to places where thumb drives are outlawed, and where I was not able to use my own computer either.  Having a web based back-up allows you to have easy access the files.  If you can get to the internet from the computer you are using for the presentation, you can simply download the most appropriate version.  If you can not get access to the web, you can use a mobile device to forward the presentation to someone who can access the files and help.  Additionally, this makes it very easy to send the slides to anyone who requests them.
  5. Share & Share Alike – Upload your presentation to where you can either present directly from the site or download the presentation and present it.  Both are viable options for a presenter to fall back upon.   Not only that, people all around the world can view, share, and comment on your presentation – spreading your message, building your reputation, and improving your content.

You can’t prepare for everything, but hopefully these simple little tricks will help ensure the success of your next presentation.

What tips and tricks do you use to eliminate presentation problems?