Don’t let technology control you when you speak!

I’ve run a lot of workshops over the last few weeks. Typically, an email exchange takes place between myself and my host regarding the equipment I’ll need and whether I’ll be using slides or not. Most of the time I present, everything happens smoothly and I’m capable of handling any small glitches happening on the day. However, a lot can go wrong when using technology to present and speakers can often surrender control to technology instead of controlling it. Here’s how to avoid some common mistakes.

Only speak with a clicker

Recently I was asked to deliver a workshop at short notice in a tech company in central London. I was travelling the previous day so only had my laptop with me and left my briefcase at home. No clicker was available on site and I made do with using a mouse. My host had offered to move the slides for me but I rejected the offer out of hand. There is nothing more annoying than having to say “next slide” or “next click” while presenting. Actually, yes there is, it is being chained to a laptop’s space bar like a prisoner chained to a ball.

However, I have lost count of the number of presentations I’ve seen delivered without a clicker. Whenever this happens, the speaker restricted in his or her use of space. Using body language or eye contact is more difficult, especially if the slides are elaborate and need to be changed frequently. If you don’t have a clicker yet, invest in one now and you won’t regret it. Mine is 10 years old and still going strong!

Bring your equipment with you

While in some settings everything will be taken care of when you present. This isn’t always the case, especially in more informal settings or when you’re asked to give a smaller presentation or speech. If you’re looking to make an impact while you present, be prepared and come with your own laptop, clicker and any adaptors that you might need. Always having my clicker in my briefcase saved me on multiple occasions. Having my laptop ready to go as backup proved used when fonts or pictures weren’t carried over on the device originally at my disposal. Speaking and presenting is a craft so carry your tools with you as a good craftsman would!

Be prepared and know the technology

The worse that can happen when using technology to support your speaking, is the technology not working at all or not seeing what you would expect to see. The good news is that these unpleasant situations can be avoided by following a few simple steps:

  1. Know which display ports your laptop uses – Nowadays, HDMI ports are the most common standard. However, older projectors only take VGA inputs and some Mac computers use a different port altogether.
  2. Have some adaptors ready – Once you know what port your laptop uses, get an adaptor for the occasion when the correct cable won’t be available. If you use a Mac, invest in a USB-C to HDMI or a DisplayPort to HDMI adaptor. If you use a PC, having an HDMI to VGA adaptor could be handy just in case.
  3. Know your computer’s settings – Sometimes, projecting doesn’t work because display settings aren’t set correctly. Know where to access these settings, what they do and how to change them. It might save you if nobody can help.

If all else fails, remember that technology is there to support your message and not your message in itself. Basic visuals can be drawn on a flipchart or whiteboard if needed. If you’re planning to use PowerPoint and slides, ask yourself if you really need them. Don’t be distracted by all the fancy features of the software, use them with purpose.

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