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The Weekly Might Have Missed List (10/12/08)

©iStockphoto.com/kozmoat98

©iStockphoto.com/kozmoat98

Life in the Corporate Theater: Does anything work in Miami? –“So, beyond all the jackhammering that we are hearing through the walls during the meeting, the Internet connection that the hotel is providing is very sketchy.” Things get off to a rough start for Steve in Another day in Miami but seem to improve as the day goes on.

EffectiveMeetings.com: Presentation Disaster Preparation — Lots of great advice including “The Key to a Glitch-free Presentation: Arrive Early. I’ll never forget a major address I gave at a convention many years ago. The program was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. The committee, good hosts that they were, insisted on taking me out for dinner. Naively, I went along. They promised to get me to the auditorium in plenty of time. Needless to say, we arrived just at the stroke of 8 and I was on. Never again! ”

oboeinsight: That’s The Night When The Lights Went Out In Georgia Sydney — “I’ve been at two performances when the lights have gone out. Once, with San Jose Symphony, Richard Stoltzman played —in the dark and by memory!— Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo, while my husband, who was stage manager at the time, quickly set up stand lights so we could continue the full concert. (I guess we had a generator that provided enough power for stand lights.)”

©iStockphoto.com/LeggNet

©iStockphoto.com/LeggNet

Recognized Expert: Dealing with a Difficult Participant — “Three minutes into your talk someone takes a cell phone call and carries on a conversation as though they were in the room alone. They’re loud and disturbing. What do you do?”

Stagecraft Journal: ‘Da Rules: Meant for Stagehands and shop crews but there’s a lot here of interest to anyone working at any atge of the presentation process.

Speaking About Presenting: 5 strategies to defuse the audience — “Sometimes your audience needs defusing. You may know ahead of time that the audience is likely to be hostile to your ideas, or there may be a big issue looming over them which distracts them from listening to your presentation. Or they may simply not be that interested in listening to you.”

TJ Walker: What do I do if I make a mistake or forget what I am about to say? — “Let’s say you are in the middle of making a point and suddenly your brain freezes and you can’t remember what to say next. The average presenter will have a look of horror shoot across his face, turn bright red, grimace, apologize to the audience…” and If my allotted time is cut, what should I eliminate from my presentation? — Good advice with this fantastic close — “The foolproof presenter realizes there is never an ideal environment for speaking. There will always be distractions in the form of noise from next door, poor lighting, or noisy people in the back of the room. The foolproof presenter simply sizes up the opportunity given what is available in terms of time and resources and then makes the best of it—every time.”

The Accidental Communicator: 5 Ways To Deliver A Disastrous Presentation — “What me worry? Why bother to practice – you know this stuff inside and out, you’ll just go up there and wing it and the crowd will love you because it will seem more natural and less rehearsed than all the other presenters. Yeah right.”

Control Booth: Risk Assessment Sample — “here is an anonymised version of the latest risk assessment done by the theatre technicians.”

Indezine: PowerPoint Version Hell — “All these issues can be placed under a common umbrella that I’ll call Version Hell – and while it’s no fun being under this umbrella, life can be much more uncomplicated if you are aware of these problems, and ready to look at workarounds and best practices. You might have noticed that I never promised any solutions – that’s because very few of them exist – most of the time, you’ll have to look at workarounds for existing content, and plan with best practices for any new slides you create. As goes the famous saying: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Fans Of Reality TV: Quick Fixes For Wardrobe Malfunctions.

Mouse Trap

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a time when the simplest of technologies, something we rarely give a second thought, gaffer tape, unexpectedly failed to do its job and caused a great deal of trouble. Geetesh Bajaj (an Microsoft PowerPoint MVP who also runs the incredibly useful site Indezine — “a platform for PowerPoint presentations, presentation software, image editing and clip media”) has been kind enough to share another story that again strongly suggests we need to think about even our humblest tools a little more often and a little more rigorously:

There are many things you can do to avoid presentation disasters – yet there’s always something new that you learn each day.

When I got a new MacBook Pro with OS X Leopard, I knew I wanted to use this machine for my next presentation. Now my next presentation happened to include a training session on Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 and my entire audience was working on a Microsoft Windows platform (and not the Mac). Unperturbed, I installed a copy of Windows Vista on a new partition created by Boot Camp. Everything worked great – I also had PowerPoint 2007 working on Vista and it seemed to be working so much quicker than my older laptop. When everything works so flawlessly at the first go, you know there’s something wrong you have missed out somewhere!

Well, that something ended up being the right-click option. The MacBook Pro has no right-click button. I could plug in a regular two-button mouse but it seemed too much to do when I already had the receiver for my remote plugged in – and for some reason, the mouse and the remote were not too happy with each other. It wasn’t a happy thought to use my older laptop again – and at this point of time, the older machine seemed like an archaic dinosaur that was so slow (funny how perceptions change in one day).

Trust me – it’s not too easy to do advanced tasks in PowerPoint 2007 without the right-click – and even Shift + F10 wouldn’t work as a right-click here – the equivalent on the MacBook Pro was Fn + Shift + F10. By the time I managed to press all those three buttons, my cursor was elsewhere.

Luckily, the Internet saved me – a quick search got me pages where there were many, many users who faced the same problem. One user recommended a free program called Apple Mouse – this lets you Ctrl-click to simulate a right click. One quick download and five minutes later, everything worked great again.

So what’s the lesson I learnt here? That’s got to be that one needs to test all the obvious and unobvious issues before using them in a presentation environment. Imagine you are presenting now, and switch on your laptop and do all tasks you might have to do later. Even if you are in another city, time zone, or continent – it’s a good idea to use the same combination of presentation, laptop, and remote to test the flow. And even if the projector may be different, do plug it in if you have access to one.

We normally check the projections, the room, the lighting, even the cables and the sound systems. But for all you know, there might be a problem area that’s not as obvious! And maybe that’s staring at you now.