Tips for Out-of-Town Presentations

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You've traveled hundreds or thousands of miles, and now you're standing before a room full of people. You're about to make a presentation, hoping to convince them to use your service or buy your product. There's a lot at stake. And imagine everyone in the audience in their underwear?

Maybe that timeworn tip for putting yourself at ease works for you. Personally, I'd rather not go with that visual. But I've got seven other tips to help you reduce the stress and punch up the impact of your next out-of-town business presentation.

1. Bring Your Own Equipment

A client or other organization to whom you're presenting may invite you to e-mail your presentation to them, with the offer to use their computer and/or projector and not have to lug yours.

I'd shy away from this offer for three reasons: One, it may give members of your intended audience an advance look at your presentation. Two, you may want to make changes to your presentation during your trip. Three, during an important presentation, wouldn't you rather work on a laptop you know--yours--instead of someone else's?

Looking for an ultraportable laptop for your presentations? Take a look at PC World's Top 10 Ultraportables chart.

2. Back Up, Back Up, Back Up

Ideally, you should copy your presentation to a CD or DVD, an external hard drive, or other storage device, and pack your backup copies in a separate bag from your laptop. It wouldn't hurt to store a copy online, too, such as on Mozy or another online data backup service. Read "Store It on the Web."

Take two printed copies of your presentation as well--just in case.

3. Know Exactly Where You're Going

I've experienced too many incorrect or boneheaded directions from MapQuest, Google Maps, GPS devices, or other mapping tools. So for a particularly important appointment, never rely entirely on any of those. Before you leave, get directions from the Web site of the company you'll be visiting or the conference center where you'll be presenting, or call to get directions from someone who knows the location.

For a look at recent GPS navigation devices, read my reviews of the HP iPAQ and Magellan Maestro 4040 portable GPS devices.

4. Know--and Dress for--Your Audience

Like it or not, your audience will form opinions of you based not just on what you say, but what you wear and how you carry yourself. Try to get a sense of who your audience will be, and then dress for that audience. If you're unsure what to wear, contact a personal shopper at a nearby department store; Nordstrom, Macy's, and other stores offer such services for free.

Another option: Hire an image consultant. An image consultant can help you dress in a way that's appropriate for your target audience and that will enhance your message. Some image consultants can also help you find a public speaking or media coach and even help you pack for your trip. I've received invaluable advice from Edward Norman of Edward Norman Image Consulting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

If at all possible, never wear on the plane what you'll be wearing in the presentation. It's amazing what junk gets on your clothes during a flight--chewing gum, ink stains from leaky pens, and spilled coffee, to name a few possibilities. You can change your clothes in an airport bathroom, if necessary.

5. Get to the Airport Early

The last thing you want is to get stressed out by traffic or other delays before a big presentation.

To minimize the stress, try to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before your scheduled departure. Even better, get there several hours early and hang out at an airline lounge. Most airlines offer day passes for $50 or so. Read my review of the American Airlines Admirals Club on Traveler 2.0.

If you've got an early morning presentation, arrive the night before and check into a nearby hotel, if your budget allows.

6. Turn Off Your Cell Phone

Before your presentation, turn off your cell phone's network service so the phone won't ring or vibrate--which can distract you and your audience. Also, turning your phone's network service off will help you avoid the infamous BlackBerry Buzz--the loud electronic noise that results when cell phones cause interference with nearby speakers.

If you don't turn your network service off, your smart phone may turn itself on to check e-mail, for instance, and thereby create an audible hum in the speakers.

7. Don't Drink Too Much Water

Your mouth is likely to get dry during your presentation, especially if you're nervous. But try not to drink too much water or other beverages before or during the show. You don't want to be in dire need of a bathroom break halfway through your presentation.

Your Tips?

Do you frequently give out-of-town presentations? If so, please share your tips with me. Be sure to give me your first and last name and city or town, so I can quote you in an upcoming column.

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Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go. Martin is also author of the Traveler 2.0 blog. Sign up to have the Mobile Computing Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.
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