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


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.

Do I have to attend that meeting?

Do you ever dread leading a meeting because you know that people are going to show up with barely concealed negativity or meeting malaise?

3rd party restrictions on hotel meeting contracts

From Tom Stimson's AVMatters Blog 2/21/12 This is a timeless discussion topic. After all the philosophical discussions about who is better equipped to perform the work or who is gouging whom, it all comes down to the same conclusion now as it was in 1980: The venue owns the space, the venue assumes the risk, the venue gets to decide what profit it wants to make and how it makes it. Clients have the power to change contracts before signing them and have a great deal of influence afterwards too. MPI has been teaching Meeting Planners about the ins and outs of convention services contracts and third-party provider clauses for years. We can complain about stupidly expensive and occasionally inept rigging services, but at $300 per gallon of coffee – that rigging charge is chump change to the overall meeting costs.

And before we blame the in-house AV company for the pricing, the hotel owners have a great deal to do with this. Since the hotel gets between 50-70% of the revenue (40-60% of the service cost plus a hotel service charge on top of that), the net revenue to the supplier often looks like what you would have charged. The hotels can be very greedy and downright illogical about these fees. (What do you think the hotel service charge would be if the client wanted to bring in its own caterer?)

So, you have my sympathies, but the in-house AV provider has to pay a huge fee to get the contract, is constantly ordered by the hotel to comp charges that were fair, has to provide tons of free support to the hotel itself (from editing the GM’s kid’s birthday party video to handling AV for weekly staff meetings) – all for the privilege of watching you come in and do the show.

Stagers complain all the time about individuals selling shows from their apartment and renting the gear from [insert your competitor's name here]. These independents have no overhead, insurance, or responsibilities that legitimate companies like you have. Now imagine that you are the one that built a huge convention center and hopes to pay it off by providing services to the guests and then some stager that only has a couple of employees and much lower overhead wants to take that away. I think it is a wonder they let outsiders in at all!

Educate your clients, explain their options – you are supposed to be the expert. Bottom line is that this situation is one of the unchangeable conditions of our industry. It will sometimes cheat you out of business, therefore it is your job to be aware, be resourceful, and educate your clients. In my opinion, the venues are not going to change any time soon.

– Tom Stimson

For more information about successfully negotiating AV contracts visit our site:  - click on "project management" or email rfranklin at