Presentation Tips
by Ray DeCosta

Introduction

While this page is primarily devoted to helping your presentation to the Prescott Computer Society (PCS) at the Prescott Public Library go well, there are also some Tips 'n' Tricks listed that will apply to almost any presentation situation. Typically, a presenter will bring their material on a laptop computer and have to connect to a projector so it may be seen by a large audience. Unless you are properly prepared, you may find that connectors don't match and your carefully designed material is not visible on the screen.

Video Connector Requirements

vga and dvi connectorsAlmost all PC computers (either laptops or desktops) have VGA (video) outputs which are directly connectable to today's projectors which sport a male VGA input connector. If you are presenting for PCS, we will provide a suitable VGA connection cord for your use. Typically, the VGA video output from your computer will be a 15-pin female D-connector which is blue in color.

Sometimes there is a DVI video output either instead of or in combination with the VGA output. The two connectors may be seen in the picture. There are a few variations of the DVI connector, so it may not look exactly as shown. The VGA and DVI video outputs are interchangeable electrically and adapters are readily available.

Exceptions to the above are Mac computers which have several different types of video outputs - five or six at last count. If you obtain a proper adapter for your Mac video output that converts it to a female VGA connector, you should be able to present almost anywhere without a problem.

There are also some newer PC netbooks which require a proprietary cable to convert to typical the VGA video output. Again, if you obtain the proper cable from the manufacturer and end up with a female VGA connector you'll be just fine.

Video Display Requirements

The Prescott Public Library projector seems to prefer a video signal with a resolution of 1024 x 768 at 16-bit color. Using 32-bit color often causes part of the screen to be clipped on the sides. While this is not a hard and fast rule, you may need to change your Desktop settings accordingly.

Presenters often have difficulty switching their computers to output video to their computer's external connection. The best way to check this is at home with a spare VGA monitor. Plug it into your computer's external video connection and confirm that you can change the video output to activate the secondary display. I'll refer to this as the "secondary display" from now on; the monitor is acting as a projector for testing purposes. This process is also called "cloning the display on the Desktop" or "display mirroring." Every computer is different in this respect. More often than not, on PC laptops this can be done by cycling through the various Function Key-F7 settings.

Playing Video Files

It is also important to make sure that your material is completely viewable on the secondary display. Many people have run into trouble while trying to play video files. To avoid this problem, you should check to see that the video actually plays on the secondary display. This problem shows up by the video playing fine on the laptop screen but not on the secondary display. You should do a test run for each kind of file you plan on showing at the presentation (DVD, MPG, WMV, AVI, etc.)

The first step to fixing this problem is to check for and install a new driver for your video card.

If that fails, you should determine if a new, improved or replacement codec is available for your video player and if so, install it.

If that doesn't solve the problem, your video card may not have the resources to play both the file on the laptop screen and the secondary monitor at the same time. Accordingly, you should change your video settings to blank out the laptop screen and send the video only to the secondary monitor. If it's important for you to see your display at a later time, you will have to return everything back to the previous settings after the video plays. You should keep in mind that this may be difficult to do while you're "up front."

Presentation Material Run-Through

It is important to test your presentation on the computer which you will be bringing to the presentation. For instance, you can easily imagine what is going to happen if you create your PowerPoint presentation on one computer and then transfer it to another which doesn't have a PowerPoint viewer.

It is strongly suggested that you run through your presentation at home with a secondary monitor attached to your computer's video output connection and make sure that the secondary monitor accurately duplicates what is on your laptop screen, especially when playing video files.

As an added safety measure, it is suggested that you get to your presentation early and have one of the staff or responsible people help you connect your computer to the equipment that's going to be used and do a brief run-through. That way if things don't play well together, you can address the problem before you start your presentation. Nothing clouds your mind more than having a problem in front of your expectant audience. We've all "been there - done that!"

Conclusion

If you are presenting to PCS, our members will assist you in any way possible to make sure everything goes well. However, some problems simply can't be fixed on the spur of the moment. Many difficulties can be avoided by prior testing at home and again before you are scheduled to start your presentation. Typically, there are computer geeks available at our meetings to help you do a quick run-through of your material. In this way we can see if there are any glitches that need to be dealt with BEFORE the show starts.

Our own Andy Reti has written a fine article entitled "Setting up Library Projector and PCS Laptop for Projecting Pictures or Videos." While some of the material is specific to our own equipment, there are many tips and tricks included which should be of interest to anyone planning to present at the Prescott Public Library or elsewhere. You may read Andy's article here.

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