guest speaker

Are You Backed Up?

Wish you could see the PowerPoint I worked on last night.

Wish you could see the PowerPoint I worked on last night.

PowerPoint is so easy

March 6th 2019

In early journalism school I was taught the importance of a good headline.

Hopefully this was a good headline to get you interested.

What back up, or spares do you think of when you read the headline?

What are the important backups in our life?

I can think of a few spares I don't want to be without: spare tire, spare batteries, spare light bulbs, and the other backups that came to mind when you first read this.

What backups do I need as a presenter?

It is so embarrassing to spend time on a presentation that you can’t present. The audience has expectations, and you spent a great deal of time and/or money creating your support graphics.

The laptop freezes, the projector is out of focus, the sound is garbled. Has this happened to you? I attended such a meeting this morning.

If I were to depend on any tool for an important purpose, I would always have a backup.

Here are the backups every presenter should have before presenting to an audience.

First, always have a power supply for your laptop. Running on batteries is risky and not “backed up” with a power supply.

Next, insure that your laptop is in “presentation mode”. Apple and Windows both have options you can select to avoid pop ups, notifications, and those untimely updates when in presentation mode.

Carry two backups of your PowerPoint with you at all times.

The first backup should be on a thumb drive. That will allow you, should you have a computer failure, to quickly switch to someone else's computer for your presentation. A true PowerPoint backup has the fonts and characters necessary for the design.

The second backup is so simple it just hit me this morning while I was attending an event. Back up your presentation on your phone. If all else fails, you can refer to the phone copy so you don't have to stop and fiddle with a backup laptop, restarting yours, or other interruptions and what typically is a limited opportunity.

What else should I backup?

Always carry a backup “clicker” to advance your graphics. There are issues with RF and Bluetooth clickers that mostly relate to distance, and line-of-sight. Test your clicker in advance for anywhere in the room. Find the dead spots so you can avoid them.

If you are counting on a projector provided by others, enquire about the connections necessary. You may also need backup “dongles” allowing you to connect to the wire to the projector.  Spare dongles and cables are also prudent.

If you are providing the projector, you should have a backup new lamp.

When you are presenting with sound on video, you should also have backup audio cables and adapters. Don’t depend on the venue to provide these.

Technical Rehearsal?

Finally, you want to do a technical rehearsal well in advance of the doors opening for your presentation. Run the projector and your laptop through the entire presentation before the audience arrives.

Assuming any venue is prepared for you to just walk in, and plug in, without advance preparation and sufficient backup is a disservice to you and to your audience.

Of course, you want to ensure that you, and the presentation can be seen and heard from the worst seat in the audience.

  • Is the bottom of the screen at least 5 ft 6 in from the floor?

  • Are the chairs are set behind columns or other obstructions?

  • Is the ambient light that may distract from your image controlled?

In the presentation I saw this morning the presenter lost at least 50% of the allotted time.

Ray Franklin

The Audience Advocate


We can hear you but we can't understand what you are saying

Intelligibility - A loud sound system means nothing if you can't understand what is being said. How many times have you heard a band and you can't separate the words from the background? Worse yet a guest speaker?

Photo by permission from Chris Walsh

Photo by permission from Chris Walsh

In a recent post by Audio Precision they offer new software to measure intelligibility.

"Measuring speech intelligibility is an important capability for engineers designing and validating a wide range of communication systems, products and components, especially those related to public safety (e.g., police, fire, emergency) where intelligibility is critically important."

I equate good sound to that of a flashlight beam. If you are in a totally dark room with a flashlight, anything in the "beam" of light will be clearly visible. Anything else in the dark room will have a "glow" from the flashlight but with diminished clarity.

A sound system should deliver direct sound to every audience member. If not, some of your audience will be in the "glow" of the sound system, but not able to detect the difference between "sitting" and something much worse.

Importance of speech intelligibility - Audio Precision

The purpose of communication systems is to transmit information via speech. As such, the intelligibility—or comprehensibility—of the transmitted speech is of utmost importance. One of the more precise definitions of intelligibility is the proportion of speech items (words and/or speech sounds) uttered by a talker, and sent via a communication system, that can be recognized by the listener.

Don't accept a sound system that only delivers noise. Insist on quality, direct sound to every audience member. Not just filling the room with noise.

Professional sound systems are "tuned" by experts, many using software similar to what Audio Precision offers.

Meeting planners can not expect the typical in-house-AV supplier to understand any of this. During planning, insist you are able to test, with your ears, every section of the audience's ability to understand the content.

Insist every member of your audience can see and hear. #AudienceAdvocate - Google it

Just because “stuff works” does not qualify for a successful meeting.

I volunteer to a number of professional associations principally to help raise the bar with their presentations.

I take my role as Audience Advocate seriously.

Many meetings simply order equipment from an AV supplier letting them put the gear where it is convenient for them. They will often choose close to the power plug, on an existing stage, with a bright window near the screen.

The result - the audience can’t see the video or graphics, see or hear the presenter, feel comfortable in the surroundings.

The same issue happens when a venue, often offered free for the exposure to an MPI chapter, has its tech person set up a meeting as he or she would for the nightclub venue every evening.

Nightclubs would like to expand their revenue by using their venues during the day for small business or association meetings. Typically, they sell by convincing the meeting planner they have sufficient seating, a built-in stage, a sound system, and maybe even a video screen.

Photo courtesy of Creative Focus, Inc. Parkland, FL

Photo courtesy of Creative Focus, Inc. Parkland, FL

A recent venue in Fort Lauderdale had a great sound system for the dance floor but since our meeting expanded under a balcony 20 people seated comfortably there were not able to hear or see the presenter.

Not only were there no speakers under the balcony but there were auxiliary fans running noisily over their heads. The venue HVAC air handler noise is never an issue with powerful DJ music playing in the evening, but caused additional issues for the audience to hear.

The only seating for those under the balcony were low couches. These folks didn't have a good experience.

The built-in stage was set up with a lectern, or beer barrel, set where the band usually plays. There is no issue with the band stage being 5 feet off the ground. But it creates an uncomfortable perch for the presenter in an intimate meeting.

Compound that with rickety, narrow steps to the stage and you have issues for presenters and award winners coming and going to the stage.

While, the venue wants to sell their daytime space, meeting planners should be more aware of these issues before booking any meeting space, especially a unique venue.

I love unique venues from aircraft hangars and aircraft carriers to Carnegie Hall and hotel atriums. They all have unique offerings to the right event.

Every venue should be analyzed from an audience perspective.

Can I see?

Can I hear?

Will I be comfortable?

Will this be a good experience?

Just because the “stuff works” when delivered by an audiovisual technician it often isn’t sufficient to meet the needs of an important meeting. Resist the venue sales person comment “Everyone loves this space, just this way.”

This one was especially uncomfortable because it was a Meeting Professional International event. We should not accept unacceptable venues regardless of cost.

You can’t blame the AV technician or the in-house tech. They haven’t been trained to do anything more than deliver the stuff.

Have an Audience Advocate on your team. Then the stuff will work, you will have backups and the audience will get the full benefit of the event.

Consider the audience - FIRST

If you invite an audience to an event carefully consider the message, program and production targeted to your specific audience. Wikipedia: "It's the economy, stupid" is a slight variation of the phrase "The economy, stupid" which James Carville had coined as a campaign strategist of Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against sitting President George H. W. Bush.

Here are a few examples how clients did not follow my recommendations.