Your Laptop or Mine?

You’re giving a talk to your industry trade group.  An audience of 350 people.  That should look good on your résumé.  You polished up your slide deck and sent it off to the event organizers.  Don’t forget to practice!

On the big day, in the middle of your talk, you notice that the fonts are all wrong.  Sometimes your text even disappears off the edge of the slide.  And that video you embedded doesn’t play.  Major embarrassment! Career in jeopardy!

So what happened?  You may have fonts installed on your laptop – the one on which you created the presentation – that are not on the event organizer’s laptop.  Or you may have a plug-in for playing that video that the event organizer does not have.  Or you may be linking to a video on a different computer that you are unable to link to at the event (there’s not always an available internet connection).

Sometimes it can be a simple as you having PowerPoint version 2010 and the event organizer has only 2007.  Or 2005!  How primitive is that?  I’ve actually inquired to an organizer what version of PowerPoint will be on the presenting laptop, and they say, “What does it matter?  PowerPoint is PowerPoint.”  Wrong!

Here are some suggestions to avoid these nightmare scenarios:

  • Insist on using your own laptop.  This is usually possible when you are the only presenter.
  • If you can’t use your own laptop, for example, at a multi-day conference with numerous presenters, arrange to meet ahead of time with the organizer, or better, if they have one, an engineer, for a trial run.
  • Stick with standard fonts.  Or if you simply must have that special font, save it as a picture and insert that into the slide instead.
  • Create duplicates of the risky slides, one with the video, one with just a still shot.  Then, in the trial run, if the video doesn’t work, remove that slide.  Or if the video does work (sweet!), remove the one with the still shot.
  • Just in case your own laptop fails, always bring an additional copy of your presentation on a thumb drive.

And, never, ever forget Murphy’s Law.

Bleeding Images

No, we’re not talking about the graphic result of a violent action.  Bleeding is a term in printing where an image overlaps the edge of the paper so there is no unprinted margin.

Often it is easy to simply paste an image onto your PowerPoint or Keynote slide with some text above or below it.

A far more effective way to present this would be to bleed the image beyond the edge of the slide.  Below, notice that the image is much larger than the slide, actually spilling off of the slide on the top, right and bottom.  With the image now completely filling the slide, the text is on top of the image in a contrasting color.

You may not always be able to simply enlarge a small image to fill the slide – it may become to pixelated and blurry.  You will have to use an image with a suitably high resolution.  Or another trick might be to stretch the image.

There are a couple of other concepts worth noting.  The subject should not necessarily be centered in the image.  Imagine the image divided into thirds, left to right and top to bottom.  The rule of thirds positions the subject in the left or right third, and/or in the top or bottom third.  This is an important concept even without the text, but here it provides us room for our text, and notice that the text is also in the top third of the image.

Another concept is the color of the text.  It would have been easy just to make it white.  But it is actually a light blue, mirroring the blue in the subject, the Earth.

Image is the Earth rising over the surface of the Moon as seen from Apollo 8 on December 24, 1968, and is in Public Domain courtesy of NASA.


TEDxYouth@Seattle is happening on Saturday, 2 June 2012.  PapayaWorks is pleased to volunteer coaching to some of the speakers and it’s a thrill to watch some of these talented individuals’ presentations develop.  Go to the web site to find out how to attend.  And they may still be looking for a few event volunteers.

Backgound Color

What’s the best background color of your presentation?  Most people never give it much thought beyond the chosen PowerPoint theme, or worse, your company’s marketing department required template (a rant for another blog post).

Generally, in small groups in a conference room, where the ambient light is bright, a light background, with darker text and objects works well.

But in a larger groups, say, in an auditorium, where the ambient light is comparatively darker, a bright background can create audience eyestrain.  It can also make you, the speaker, appear in silhouette, thus losing your gestures and facial expressions.  In a large room, a darker background creates better lighting balance between you and your presentation.

How many slides?

So, you’re making a presentation in PowerPoint.  Or Keynote.  How many slides should it have?

Doesn’t matter.

What matters is the message you need to convey.  If it takes 100 slides, and you move through them quickly, so be it.  If it takes just one slide, great.

If your talk is good, you audience will never know, will never care, how many slides you used.