Turn Your Speakers Into Stars

We've all seen presentations in which 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 result in an audience less satisfied than it should be.

In this two-part series, I am going to share some ideas and techniques that meeting planners can use to prepare presenters for success and to set up a presentation station that contains all of the day's presentations.

Part one will detail how to prepare your presenters for their sessions. In order for the presentations at your meeting to run smoothly, the presenters should follow some guidelines when creating their presentations. Here are the best practices presenters should follow.

Use standard fonts. The primary cause of text looking different when presented on one computer versus another computer is that the font used for the text is not available on both computers. When a font is not available on the presenting computer, the computer selects a font that it does have. This may cause text to look larger or smaller than expected, and lines may wrap at different points as a result. To solve this issue, have presenters use standard fonts, with the preferred font being Arial.

Properly link audio and video files. The most common reason that an audio or video clip does not run in a presentation is that the computer can't find the linked file. Rarely are audio and video files embedded in PowerPoint files; rather, they are linked to the particular slide they are inserted in. This means that in order for the media clip to play, the computer must find the linked file. It does this by saving the exact location of the media file when it is inserted. If the media file is not in the same directory (or folder) as the PowerPoint file, it notes the complete directory path that the media file is in.

And therein lies the problem. When you move the presentation file and associated media files to a new computer, the media files are almost never in the same directory as they were on the original computer, and they can't be found when the slide plays and the computer goes to find them. The solution is to move all media files to the same directory as the PowerPoint file before inserting them on the slides. Then, when the media file is inserted, it is a local directory file and the complete directory path does not need to be saved. Now, when the PowerPoint file and associated media files are zipped together and moved to another computer, they will still run, because the media file is located in the same folder as the PowerPoint file.

Test moving the PowerPoint and media files. If the presenter is using media files on his PowerPoint slides, he should use the technique described above to properly insert the media files on his slides. Then he should test moving the files to another computer to make sure that all of the links have been set properly. To perform this test, zip all of the files together in one zipped archive file and move that archive file. This is easily done by using Windows Explorer. Navigate to the directory containing the PowerPoint file and all media files. Select all of the files. Right click on them and click on "Send to." Then click on the compressed (zipped) folder. The system will create a folder containing all of the selected files. Copy this file to the desired directory or folder on another computer. Double click on the zipped folder on the new computer, and select "Extract all files" in the left column. This will unzip each file into the directory. You should now test each slide in "Slide Show" mode to make sure that the media clips play properly.

Provide a list of media clips for on-site testing. Even after testing as described above, the presenter should send the meeting planner a list of which slides have a media clip, what type of clip it is (audio only, video only, or video with audio), and a simple description of what the clip is. This will allow the meeting planner or support staff to test all presentations in advance and resolve any issues before the meeting day.

Ensure presenters have permission to use media clips. In today's legal environment, meeting planners must protect themselves from liability when presenters include audio or video clips that are protected by copyright. One option is to purchase a license for music tracks for the entire meeting. However, this does not cover video tracks. For this reason, have your presenters sign an agreement taking responsibility for proper usage of all media clips.

Next month, in Part 2, we will explore how to create a presentation station that will enable you to put all of your event's presentations on one PC.

Dave Paradi is the author of Guide to PowerPoint, part of the Prentice Hall Series in Advanced Business Communication. Through his presentations, books, articles, and biweekly newsletter, Paradi shares strategies that help presenters create and deliver PowerPoint presentations. To contact him, visit www.thinkout sidetheslide.com, or call (905) 510-4911.