Turn Your Speakers Into Stars, Part 2

Originally published September 2006, Successful Meetings

We've all seen presentations where fonts got messed up, audio or video clips didn't run, and the audience saw the "Program" mode when the next presentation was loaded to run. All of these miscues result in an audience being less satisfied than it should be.

In part one of this two-part series, I shared some ideas and techniques that meeting planners can use to prepare presenters for success. Part two will focus on how to set up a presentation station that contains all of the day's presentations on one PC.

Many meeting planners ask presenters to bring their presentation on a CD or memory stick, and then the presentation will be loaded onto a common computer that will be connected to the projector. This is sometimes referred to as a presentation station. Unfortunately, getting a presentation just before the presenter goes on leaves no time for testing the files, and can cause issues as described in part one, such as an audio or video clip not running. In an attempt to resolve some of these issues, many meeting planners ask for the presentations in advance, so they can be pre-loaded and tested. This is a better approach, but what still happens during the meeting is that the switching between presentations is awkward, with the audience seeing the "Program" mode of PowerPoint as each new presentation is loaded. Below are two options that allow a meeting planner to create a PowerPoint file that facilitates a seamless transition between presentations, but still leaves each presentation unchanged, so that presenters can use their own backgrounds, colors, and content.

Menu for the Day

In this option, your attendees will see a menu on the screen in between each session, listing the agenda for the day. This is the best option for most situations, because it gives a consistent appearance to the day and it allows for last-minute changes that will inevitably occur. Use the following steps to create this menu.

1. Save all presentations to one directory

All presentations and additional files that will be used for the day should be saved into a single directory (or folder) named with the day (e.g., Sep-14-2006 as the folder name).

2. Create a menu slide for the day

Open a new PowerPoint presentation and create a slide that has a background consistent with the theme of the day.

• Type in the agenda for the day, with each session or break on one line.

• Highlight the first session title.

• Click "Insert Hyperlink."

• Select Existing File or Web Page in the left column of options.

• In the file selection area, navigate to the file for this presentation and click on the file name.

• Click the OK button (this creates a hyperlink to the presentation file, and the title will likely be underlined on the agenda slide, which is the default appearance for a hyperlink).

• Use the previous five steps (starting with highlighting the session title) to create hyperlinks to the PowerPoint files for each session.

• When all presentation files have been linked, save the menu slide as a separate file, titled Agenda Slide.

3. Run the menu slide during the day

Start the menu slide presentation in "Slide Show" mode. To start the PowerPoint file for a session, use the Tab key to move the selection box (a white dashed line box) to the session you want to run. The presenter can then advance his slides as normal. When the presentation is finished, press the Escape key to return to the menu slide. Repeat this process for each presentation.

4. Include break timers if desired

If you want, you can create slides for each break, indicating the time that the next session will begin. These should be saved as separate files and linked as explained above. An even more advanced idea is to create a countdown timer presentation that indicates in real time how many minutes are left in the break.

It is easy to build your Menu for the day in advance. It also is easy to update a presentation, because all you have to do is copy the new version to the same name as the old version, and the menu will run the current version. Finally, this option keeps the day's agenda in sight for the audience between sessions, which helps attendees manage their time expectations.

Create a Master Presentation File

The second option you have is to create a single master presentation file that contains all of the presentations that your speakers have sent to you.

The advantage to this option is that you only have to deal with a single file, rather than one for each speaker. The disadvantages are that it is harder to change a presentation on the fly. If a new version arrives, it will not support nonlinear presentations, and the single file may be very large and slow to run when presented. Use the following steps to create a master presentation file.

• Open a new PowerPoint file.

• Click "Insert Slides From Files."

• Click the Browse button and navigate to the first presentation file.

• Click on the file name and click the OK button.

Check the "Keep Source Formatting" checkbox in the lower left corner of the dialog box.

• Click the "Insert All" button to insert all of the slides while keeping their original format and look.

• Continue to insert the rest of the presentations using the steps above.

• You can insert break slides between the presentations if desired.

• When done, save the file.

• On the day of your event, run the master file in "Slide Show" mode, and proceed from session to session through the slides.

By following the ideas and techniques in this article, you will be able to set up a presentation station that contains all of the day's presentations and runs them smoothly, one after the other.

Dave Paradi is the author of Guide to PowerPoint, part of the Prentice Hall Series in Advanced Business Communication. He shares strategies that help presenters create and deliver PowerPoint presentations. To contact Paradi, visit www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com, or call (905) 510-4911.