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Disaster Preparedness … For Your Presentation – Part 1 – LCD Projectors



It looks so innocent doesn't it? When it works, a projector is a great thing. But when it doesn't, disaster awaits! UNLESS you're prepared!

Do you ever have thoughts run through your head and worry that you just jinxed yourself?

I did.

I thought, “Gee, I’m glad I’ve never had a malfunction in showing my presentation slides.”  I knew immediately, that I’d just jinxed myself.

The very next time I presented, sure enough, I had a problem with my projector.

Turns out later I figured out it was user error on my part…perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy?  Having a problem with your projector is no fun, that was for sure.

After spending a minute or two trying to figure out what was causing my problem, I went on to do my presentation without the slides.  Even though I know the audience missed out on some beautiful slides, they were still able to get value from the presentation and that’s what’s most important.

While certainly no comparison with the tragedy of a natural disaster, missteps in a presentation can really throw off a speaker off.  But just like being prepared for a natural disaster can help you cope with a hurricane or an earthquake, being prepared for presentation disasters can help you avoid making a bad situation even worse.

For the next few blog posts, I’ll touch on some disasters that can occur while you’re presenting, what to do to avoid them, and give you options on how to deal with them when they do.  First up…

Problems with Projectors

One of the most common problems for presenters is some sort of problem getting the computer’s screen sent through the LCD projector and onto the screen.

In the early days of LCD projectors, it seemed to be some sort of magic formula, which I could NEVER remember, about plugging the projector and the computer together.  One had to be off (was it the computer or the projector?), one had to be on, and then you plugged them together and turned on the other one?  Or were they both supposed to be off before you plugged them together?

Even though the order of plugging up and turning on doesn’t seem to be a big of a problem as it used to, hinky issues with projectors still happen often enough that we need to be prepared.

Arrive Early

Always arrive far earlier than you need to for the meeting or event.  If your event is out of town, arrive a day early.

Ask to get into the room with the equipment the day before if possible.  If not, get into the room one to two hours before you are due to present if possible.

This gives you time to plug everything up and make sure it’s working.  I recommend you click through your slides to make sure they look as good on the screen as they did on your computer.   If you’re using video clips, plug your computer into the sound system and play the clips so you can make adjustments for light and sound.

If you get there early and find a problem, then early arrival will give you more time to get the issue resolved before the audience starts filing in for the event.

Know Your AV Support Helpline

Get the name and contact information for the person who can help you with the equipment.   Even if you’ve gone in the day before and everything worked fine, you still want to know how to get a hold of the person or group that can help you if any problems occur.

I was presenting at a local conference and was able to get my computer set up, the LCD projector adjusted and everything ready to go a couple hours before my session was due to start.  But I still got the AV guy’s card, even though I didn’t expect to need it.

As I put on my microphone and started greeting guest right before my session was scheduled to start, the presenter in the adjoining room came in to say that my microphone feed was coming through the speakers in their room.  I called the AV guy and they took care of the problem quickly, I’m sure much to the relief of the people in the adjoining room!  I’m sure they were grateful that I had the AV guy’s card!

Have a Backup Plan

Always have a way to carry on with your presentation without the slides.  Assuming you’ve practiced your presentation (you have practiced your presentation, right?!) then you know your material.  Carry with you some hard copy materials that can help you carry on without your slides.  You can do that with a printed out version of your slides or with notes of your presentation outline.  If you have handouts that can serve as a guide, then use them.  Just be sure you have a way to still get your message across even if it’s not going to go as smoothly as you planned without the slides.

When It STILL Goes Wrong

If things start to go wrong despite your planning, then be real with the audience about it.  Try to relax and joke about it.  Don’t blame others.  Don’t apologize repeatedly.  Ask their forgiveness.

Try to correct the problem.  If you can’t figure it out quickly, say in less than two minutes, then stop trying and move on.  Gather up your confidence.  Remember that you know your content.  Deliver on the value you have to offer to the audience.

The audience will be grateful that you didn’t waste more of their time trying to figure out why your computer and projector aren’t talking.  And you may find that you do better connecting to your audience without the crutch of your slides – (especially if you haven’t read my blog posts on how to do presentation slides and you are still creating them with lots of bullet points and text).

Now It’s Your Turn

What did I forget?  What are some precautions you can take or things you can do when things go wrong with your projector to keep yourself and your presentation in tact?

Add your ideas to the comment section below.


In an attention-deficient, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-my-Facebook-page kind of world, the typical business presentation is lame.  Do you want to change that for yourself and your staff? Professional speaker, trainer, tweeter and blogger Kelly Vandever is here to help!  An award winning speaker herself, Kelly helps organizations crank up their content and create killer interaction using old school and hi-tech techniques, all while annihilating bullet points and making this a better world for business audiences.  Find out more at Communications for Everyone.