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Covering All the Bases

Q1:Regardless of the setting, are there any general recommendations that you have for covering all the bases when preparing presentations?
Maybe the best way to approach this is to provide a presenter's checklist. These are some of the more important questions you might ask yourself when preparing for a presentation. Of course, not every question applies to every situation, but this is a pretty good list to check.

Presenter's Checklist:

  • What is the topic of the presentation?

  • How long is the presentation?

  • What is the format: Lecture? Panel? Q&A?

  • Do you need an outline of the presentation in advance of the event?

  • What is the objective of the meeting? Call to action?

  • When is the meeting scheduled? Date? Time?

  • Where will the meeting be held? Directions?

  • Is the event sponsored by an individual or an organization? Do they need to be recognized?

  • Who will be attending?

  • What is the anticipated size of the audience?

  • What is the average age of the audience? Gender ratio?

  • What cultural issues exist (language, customs, humor)?

  • What is arranged for staging and A/V?

  • Is the proper media (overhead, slide, or LCD projector) available?

  • Is a microphone necessary and available?

  • When are rehearsals and A/V checks scheduled?

  • Will the meeting be videotaped or audiotaped?

  • Is a speaker's lounge or ready room available?

  • Will any other speakers be sharing the platform? Names? Topics?

  • Who will be making introductions?

  • What are the arrangements for housing and travel?

  • What are the arrangements for hotel check out and return travel?

  • Are any additional events planned onsite? Dress code?

  • Can arrangements be made to sell/distribute support materials onsite?

  • Will evaluation forms be used, and will results be available?

Coping with the Elements of Nature

Q1:If you present outdoors and you still want to do a PowerPoint presentation, how do you cope with the elements of nature?
Sometimes presenting outdoors can involve the use of a screen and visual support. Assuming it's not inclement weather, lighting and sound become the major issues. Ambient (natural) light and background noises are controlled by nature when you present outdoors, so you have to cope with what nature provides you at the moment. I have found that most outdoor presentations that use visual support are linked to a greater outdoor activity or event. The presentation itself is not the main component of the day.

I remember designing a presentation for the president of a company to deliver at the company picnic. It was a short presentation supported by a few visuals. The visual content was required to help the president of the company remember everything.

The presentation took place inside a big tent, and all the sides of the tent were open, so there was a lot of light spilling into the space. With a lot of light hitting the screen, any dark backgrounds tended to wash out, and the related foreground elements were hard to see. The only way to create contrast was to reverse the normal design of the visuals. I had to consider lighter backgrounds and darker foreground elements. In fact, because the sun was shining so brightly, pure black and white ended up being my only choice for readability from a distance.

Another issue I had to deal with was sound. Because the sides of the tent were open, there were no walls for sound to bounce off. The microphone setup was adequate for the size of the space, but a number of background noises were drowning out the sound as I tested the microphone. It was breezy that day, and the wind was causing the hanging edges of the canvas tent to flap. Outside the tent, there were lots of kids running around playing games and making noise, as you would expect at a picnic.

Before the presentation started, I suggested to the president of the company that he invite some of the people standing at the back to move up along the sides. This created a “wall” of people in a sort of semicircle around those seated. The people-wall helped localize the sound by keeping it inside the tent. In addition, those standing reduced the amount of ambient light, giving the visuals higher contrast. The semicircle of people also cut down on the wind and the noise from outside the tent.

All in all, the outdoor presentation was easier to see and hear after coping with the elements of nature that seemed like huge obstacles from the beginning.



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