Tuesday, June 02, 2009

PowerPoint Tip: Equipment to carry when presenting

When I travel to deliver customized workshops or speak at conferences, I carry the normal equipment for a presenter: my laptop, presentation remote and projector if required. In today’s tip, I want to share with you a few of the other pieces of equipment I carry that come in handy when travelling. I know all of these are perfectly OK to carry on an airplane since I regularly have my laptop bag searched when going through security.

The first item I carry is a VGA extension cord. Mine is 15 feet long. It allows me to move my laptop away from a podium or projector. Too often, A/V people position the cord to connect the laptop to the projector in places that cause a problem as a presenter. One common setup is the cord taped to a podium, which I never use because it creates a barrier between the audience and myself. The other common situation is a short cord right beside the projector, which is blowing hot air right into my laptop, overheating it. This cord came in handy in March when I was a speaker at a conference in Los Angeles and I used the cord to help out a panel session where the laptop wasn’t close to where the panel was seated. The cord allowed the laptop to be in front of the panel and made the session more comfortable for the speakers and the audience.

The second item I carry is my wireless mouse. One reason I carry it is because when I am working in a hotel room, I find it much more comfortable to use a mouse than to use the touchpad on my laptop. I use a wireless mouse instead of a retractable wired mouse because it can then also serve as a backup for my presentation remote. If my remote fails, I can use my wireless mouse as a substitute until I can replace the remote.

The final item in my laptop bag that I want to share with you is a small travel alarm clock. It is easy to set and use. I use it in two ways. First, when I am in my hotel room, I always use it to wake me up in the morning. If you stay in as many hotels as I do, you don’t have time to figure out all the alarm clocks and you learn not to trust them. So I know I’ll always wake up on time if I use my own. Second, when I am presenting, I set it to the local time and sit it beside my laptop. This way, I always know what time it is, even if there is no clock in the room or the time on the clock in the room is wrong (happens often around the change to/from daylight savings time). It makes sure that I can manage questions or exercises and we finish on time.

None of these items are high-end technically, but they are three of the most valuable items I carry in addition to the normal items presenters carry. Think back over your own experiences and see how often one of these pieces of equipment would have been valuable to have. Now you know why I carry them – and suggest you may want to as well.


Blogger Gord said...

Additionally, I carry:
- A long ethernet cable
- Dry-erase markers that work!

2:24 PM  
Blogger CK said...

You hooked me with that VGA cord tip ! AS you rightly pointed out, most of the times, your laptop is close to the LCD projector emitting hot air !( as if the presenter's hot air is not enough !)

I'm going to invest right away in a long VGA cord !

Many of my IT clients do not allow me to carry a USB pen drive due to security restrictions. So, back up is a problem for me.

I had a nasty experience recently. I use a Logitech wireless remote cum pointer and always have an extra set of AAA battery cells. Plan B ! However, when I had to replace the cells, I noticed that the extra set also did not work as it was well past the expiry date !!!
And the first slide I'd put up on my presentation tip was Murphy's law 'If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong !"
I need to have a Plan B, C and D !

12:19 AM  
Blogger Dr. Jim Anderson said...

Great post. The one thing that I would recommend is to always have a disaster plan: what if everything goes wrong. Generally this means what would you do if you couldn't show your slides.

I've had to fall back to this plan a few times when the laptop went crazy or the projector wouldn't talk to the laptop. While the IT team was working on the problem I jumped into my presentation w/o slides and we went sailing on.

Later with problems fixed, we picked the slides up and continued as though nothing had happened. Prepare, prepare, prepare...!

- Dr. Jim Anderson
The Accidental Communicator Blog
"Learn How To intimately connect with your audience in order to make an lasting impact in their lives."

8:17 PM  
Blogger Lisa Braithwaite said...

VGA extension cord is a great idea; I should get one of those.

My new favorite tool is a 4-port retractable USB hub. I was stuck using a laptop one time that had two ports, side by side, and I needed three. So before the actual presentation, I stopped off at Radio Shack and picked up this tiny little portable hub to carry with me in case of such an emergency.

Also, an alternative to the alarm clock, which I used to carry. I now use a countdown timer (which has settings for vibration, alarm, flashing light, or nothing), because it's easier for me to focus on how much time I have left than what time it is.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Is this the answer to all our timer/clock/USB port prayers?

It's got local time, countdown timer, 4 USB hubs. Sounds like a winner! I haven't tried it, but my order's going in now.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Follow up to my post on the Oregon Scientific clock/hub. Nice idea, poor execution. I can't recommend this as a practical tool.

The display is hard to read. It uses a large pixel LCD setup and is immensely sensitive to angle and sightline. You either can't see the numbers or see the reflection of the "off" pixels.

The start/stop/set buttons are big but unwieldy. It often requires multiple presses to make the contact work.

Setting the countdown timer requires cycling sequentially through numbers from 1 to 180 minutes. It has a fast-forward mode, but is still a lengthier process than it should be to change the setting from 60 to 45 minutes for instance.

The worst problem though, is that you can't defeat the beeping this thing wants to do all over the place. Every setting is accompanied by beeps. The countdown timer beeps at each ten second interval during the final minute, and then once per second during the final ten seconds. You can't defeat these and you can't defeat the alarm when it hits the final countdown to zero.

There isn't any way to open the sealed unit to rip out the alarm or cut the leads. And there isn't any obvious hole to cover up. You are stuck with a noisy device that won't allow subtle use in an in-room setting.


1:49 PM  

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