Here’s a checklist that Duarte has developed after years of trial by fire to avoid a last-minute frenzy from technical glitches:
- Get to know the AV person: Learn his name, and treat him well. He’ll work extra hard and extra fast for you if he likes you.
- Test all the equipment: Do a dry run using the actual projector, clicker, and audio equipment beforehand. Make sure it all works.
- Bring backups: If a piece of technology is critical to the success of your talk, request that it be provided—but also bring your own. That may even include the projector, the cables needed to connect it, the clicker, and any audio equipment you’ll need. Nancy Duarte travels with her own speakers because at-venue, the audio often doesn’t work. Venture capitalist and former Apple marketer Guy Kawasaki even brings his own in-ear microphone when he presents. Also back up the content of your presentation on drives and in the cloud—and make printouts of your slides and notes.
- Pre-record your demos: If you’re planning to demonstrate software, an app, or a website, have a recorded version of your demo on your machine in case the internet connection is slow or down at the time of your talk.
- Test your slide deck: Click through every single slide in slide show mode. This is your last time to see what the slides look like projected in the room. You want to confirm that you’ve grabbed the right version, that everything is legible from the back of the room, and that each time you click, the slides advance to the right content. It’s one last check. Sometimes the distance between the clicker and computer backstage is too far for the signal to reach, and the AV team has to make adjustments.
- Try out the comfort monitors: Confirm that your comfort monitors (teleprompters) work and you can read from them. At a technical walk-through the day before a huge presentation, Nancy discovered that her comfort monitors were so small she couldn’t read anything from the stage! She wanted to use the monitors rather than read from notes because she’d be quoting lengthy excerpts from famous speeches. So that night, she doubled the font size and saved herself a lot of embarrassment.
- Play all media: When transferring files to a venue’s machines, it’s easy to forget to grab video and audio files. Double check that you have all your media in one folder and that the file types will play on the machines you’ll be using at the venue.
- Confirm type of projection: Check the screen’s aspect ratio (usually 16:9 or 4:3), and make sure your slides are the right dimensions. Also consider whether they’ll be front- or rear-projected. Also, mark the floor with tape so you won’t walk in front of projected images when you’re speaking.
- Find out if people will attend remotely.The odds of technical mishaps go way up in remote presentations—especially ones that involve last-minute equipment changes. Once, Nancy tested all her videos before walking onstage, only to discover moments before she began speaking that the AV crew switched machines to accommodate a large remote crowd. The crew forgot to copy over the video files—so she did her best to describe what people would have seen if those files had been there.