I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at presentations or meetings where the laptop projected on the overheard hadn’t been prepared beforehand. What do I mean by prepared beforehand? It wasn’t ready or cleaned up ahead of time for the presentation. I’ve seen MSN Messenger popup windows appear in the middle of a meeting (several years ago one person’s message was even very inappropriate for work). I‘ve seen emails come through with popups displaying large portions of confidential emails. You name it I’ve seen it.
So today’s topic is how to prepare your laptop for your next presentation and/or meeting. Here’s a list of things you should always do with your laptop before you start your presentation:
1. Close all instant chat clients. Close your MSN Messenger. Close Yahoo Messenger. Close Trillian. Close whatever instant chat clients you’re using. Even if you did get the message, there’s no way you can respond. So why get the message in the first place. And secondly what if the other person sends an embarrassing or confidential message…
2. Close your email client. Who reads their emails during a presentation? Close it. A popup window will only distract your audience. Never mind embarrassing or confidential emails.
3. Turn off your screen saver. Nothing is more annoying than a screen saver going on all the time. Turn it completely off. Why would you ever want your screen saver to turn on in a presentation? It will only distract your audience. Nothing good ever comes from a screen saver coming on during a presentation. Just turn it off, it’s as simple as that.
4. Pre-load the applications you’ll be using in your presentation. As many as you can. No one wants to wait for you to start an application, find the file to open, and wait for it to load. Load them all beforehand. Make it as seamless as a program switch (alt-tab).
5. Try your absolutely best to plug in your laptop. Laptops that run on battery generally run slower to extend the battery’s life. When you’re presenting the last thing you want to do is have your laptop run slower. This is especially true if your showcasing a product. But even worse, nothing kills a presentation as effectively as running out of power!6. If all at all possible, bring a backup of your data on a USB key. If for some reason your laptop won’t work with the projector, at least you have an alternative option. This isn’t always feasible, some systems need you to pre-install a bunch of applications, etc. But if it’s at all possible, bring a backup on a USB key.
7. Exit all unnecessary services and applications. Why slow down your computer down if you don’t need to. As well, the less windows you have open the less clutter people see. The less applications you potentially need to navigate between.
8. Clean up your desktop icons. And if you’re going to use a desktop background, make sure it’s appropriate for your audience. Although it doesn’t happen that often, it’s possible that you need to navigate to your desktop. Be prepared for this. The less clutter and background, the less distractions. As a quick anecdote, I was once in a meeting where one of the presenter’s desktop folders was very “inappropriately” named for the audience (I’ll let your imagination go wild). Luckily he, nor anyone at the meeting other than me, noticed. Otherwise it could have been a very embarrassing situation for him.
9. Be the first one to arrive. Have your laptop setup before anyone else shows up. You will look a lot more professional if you’re up and running than if you’re fumbling around trying to get your laptop working.
10. Test all your hardware before. Make sure the projector works with your laptop. Make sure the mouse works. Make sure you have internet connectivity if you need it. Basically make sure everything works before. And absolutely make sure you bring everything. Don’t forget your mouse if you need it. Don’t forget your clicker if you use it. Double check that all your required hardware is available and works.
11. Prepare a background image/show to display before the presentation starts. While everyone is entering the room and waiting for the presentation to start there is some dead time. Put something up. At the very least put your logo, a screenshot, a mug shot. Something. Even better, if you have the time and resources, prepare a small repeating presentation. Maybe some screen shots of your product. A small repeating demo of your key features. Maybe some stats about your products usage and benefits. Basically display something for your audience to look at that’s interesting while they wait for the presentation to start.
12. Double check all the above at least once!