Mobile Computing: Presentation Tips

Putting on a Show Without Drama

When you go to a show, you want excitement, drama, and comedy. But when you put on a show--specifically a business presentation--excitement, drama, and comedy (at least the unintentional type) are the last things you want.

Recently, I asked readers for tips on giving a stress-free presentation. Many who responded are veteran presenters. For instance, tip contributor Gary Zeune of Columbus, Ohio, who runs a speakers' agency, says he gives more than 110 full-day presentations a year.

Not too surprisingly, every e-mail I received offered advice on backing up your presentation. After all, a presenter's worst nightmare is to stand before a live audience with a dead notebook, no notes, and nothing to rely on but memory. That's what I call a Major Mitchum Moment (referring to the extra-strength deodorant, not the late film star).

So without further ado, let the tip parade begin.

Tip: Make Four Backup Copies

Some people believe it's not possible to have too many copies of a presentation. Ed Sizemore, a physician in Lancaster, South Carolina, says he's "naturally paranoid." He takes a total of four copies on the road: One exists on his notebook's hard drive, a second on a USB flash drive, a third in paper-handout format, and a fourth burned to a CD. (For more on this last option, see the next tip.)

Why so many copies? Because a presenter must be prepared for any and all unforeseen circumstances.

"I had to give my final presentation as a chief resident in surgery to all of the faculty," Ed recalls. "The department had one laptop that someone else was using. The other person was supposed to drop off the laptop I was to use for my presentation that morning but failed to show up. I had to disconnect the secretary's desktop and drag it to the conference room" to give the presentation.

Tip: Use the "Package for CD" Option

Ed uses Microsoft PowerPoint's "Package for CD" feature to burn his presentation onto a disc. Along with the presentation, this feature automatically adds to the CD a copy of the Microsoft Office PowerPoint Viewer. This program can run PowerPoint presentations--even those with password protection--on computers that don't have PowerPoint installed.

Should you need to run your presentation from someone else's computer, as Ed has, you don't have to worry if their PC has PowerPoint installed. To save a PowerPoint presentation using the Package for CD feature, select File, Package for CD.

Tip: Wear Your Presentation Around Your Neck

Gary Zeune, whom I mentioned earlier, runs what he says is the only speakers bureau for white-collar criminals in the U.S., called The Pros & The Cons. In his work, Gary travels frequently to give PowerPoint presentations, logging 100,000 miles a year. To prevent disaster, Gary stores his presentations on a USB 2.0 flash drive. He wears the drive on a string around his neck, just in case his notebook--which contains his other copy of the presentation--is stolen or lost.

Tip: Back Up Online

Should Gary lose the USB drive as well as his notebook, he still isn't down for the count. "I just log onto Connected.com and download the files I need," he says. Connected provides online backup of data files and e-mail--as do other services, including @Backup, IBackup, and Iomega IStorage Online.

Tip: E-Mail Yourself

Another way to ensure access to your presentation is to e-mail the file to your Web-based e-mail account, such as one from Yahoo. "That way, I can still access [the presentation] from another computer on the road in case something happens to my PC," writes Renzo Herbert of Philadelphia.

Additional tip: Some presentation files can be big. Make sure your Web-based e-mail account offers enough storage space to accommodate large files.

Tip: Match the Projector to Your Notebook

For the best-looking presentations, the projector's screen resolution should match the computer's. And the more fine details in your presentation, the higher the screen resolution you'll need. For Brion Keller, an architect in Endicott, New York, this scenario is often problematic.

Brion uses an IBM ThinkPad A31p with a screen resolution of 1600 by 1200 pixels for his presentations. Unfortunately, the ThinkPad's resolution is too high for many projectors to support, Brion says. "I have no end of trouble trying to get a reasonable display on most projectors," he writes, "even when I drop the notebook's display down to 1024 by 768."

His solution: Copy your presentation to a USB flash drive before leaving the office. That way, if your notebook's resolution doesn't match the projector provided to you on site, you can run the presentation from another notebook (provided one is available, of course) that supports a screen resolution matching the projector.

Tip: Don't Forget the Speakers

Many notebook speakers aren't powerful enough to fill the room. For multimedia presentations, you may want to bring a set of external speakers.

Kim J. Harris of Boise, Idaho recommends Creative TravelSound, a one-piece stereo speaker unit measuring just 6 by 2.5 by 1.75 inches that runs on four AAA batteries. "The sound is good and can be easily heard in a 30-by-40-foot classroom," Kim writes. "The sound is much better than my Toshiba laptop's," and it's easy to set up. Always carry extra batteries and an AC adapter for the TravelSound, Kim adds.

You can use the PC World Product Finder to check the latest prices (about $50 to $70 at press time).

What About Presentations From a PDA?

None of the tipsters I heard from offered advice on giving presentations from a PDA. If you've run a presentation from a Palm OS or Pocket PC-based handheld, please send me e-mail; I'd like to hear about your experiences. Do you recommend PDAs for presentations? If so, why? If not, what's the problem?

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