Operational Excellence with Technology

Presentation Hacking, Part 2

In the last article we looked at projectors for your presentations. Buying one for $400-800 can quickly return its investment compared to renting one from a hotel for $200+ per day.

You’ll still need to rent a screen from the hotel. One option, if you bring your own extension cord, is to ask only for the screen and defer on the A/V projector support package, which is often only a screen, an extension cord and a stand for the projector. Instead of the stand, just ask catering for a cocktail round to put your projector on (usually they don’t charge for those).

Of course, if you are doing your presentations locally so you are arriving by car, getting your own screen is an option. One conference I organized, we actually saved money ordering screens from the lowest cost internet store shipped directly to the hotel, then donating them to a school when we were done. Screens can be purchased for less than $100, I’ve even seen them pop up occasionally on sale for less than $50.

Another handy presentation gadget is a remote control to advance your “slides” (I can actually remember making 35 mm slides for presentations). The one I like most, a Logitech Presenter, has been replaced by the Wireless Presenter R400, which sells in the $40 range. What I like about it is the simplicity. On my older version there are basically 3 buttons, large forward and reverse buttons and a small “turn the screen black” button. It has a laser pointer that I generally forget is there. Not having things like the ability to control a mouse remotely keeps me focused on my presentation and the audience, not the supporting technology.

Along those lines, having now used just about every whiz bang feature PowerPoint offers, I pretty much ignore most of them. I don’t do builds, I don’t do a lot of transitions, although I recently heard the idea of selecting all your slides and putting a half second fade transition on them all just to keep them from “snapping” from one to the next. Instead of spending time inserting fancy movement, spend that time rehearsing your talk. Your audience will thank you. Also I found using builds, etc, made it harder to modify my talk when audience reactions suggested a different emphasis. Whatever you do, don’t put a “script” on your slides then read it to the audience. As an attendee when speakers do that I want to throw bricks….

More and more, presentations will include video, often YouTube videos. Content permissions aside (just because it’s on YouTube doesn’t make it public domain), don’t plan on Internet access if you can help it. Unlike in a hotel room, where Internet access might be free or $10 per day, in a meeting room it can often be $150-200 a day. Use a tool like Clip Converter ( or 3outube ( to download the video onto your hard drive.

Of course video usually implies sound, which adds a new set of costs to your meeting room. Providing sound in a meeting room is often as expensive as ordering a projector. Ask to connect a computer to the sound system and the cost can double.

For smaller rooms, again if you can bring your own sound you can save a bunch of money. I’ve heard from several people that a portable guitar amplifier is a good solution if you are hauling it in a car. They appear to be available on-line for less than $100 (some are as inexpensive as $35).

At CES this year I ran into an unlikely alternative that is perfect for road warriors. I doubt they intended it for this application, but Supertooth’s A2DP Stereo Speaker ( is almost ideal as a sound alternative for breakout sized rooms (say up to 30-50 people). It’s about a foot wide and roughly 4 inches by 4 inches, which would fit nicely into a carryon suitcase. Its battery powered (no extension cord needed). At 28 watts, it’s a lot louder than its size would suggest, easily filling the room. And, if your computer has BlueTooth (or you get an inexpensive USB adapter), it can connect to your computer wirelessly, which gives you flexibility to position it closer to the audience without worrying about where the computer is. At about $120, I am definitely going to add the A2DP to my speaking travel kit.

Presentations are a part of doing business today. Some moderate investments in technology can make it much easier for you to give state of the art PowerPoints anywhere you present.

Tech Bit 79

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