Presentation Tips and Tricks

Presentation Tips and Tricks

As well as the standard advice, such as “don’t talk over your allotted time, especially when lunch is up next” there are other considerations which are less well known

Check that it works the day before

Find an organizer and ask if you can test out your presentation either the day before or in the morning before talks begin.

If you are using the in-house computer, check that your file copies, opens, and that all the slides are displaying correctly.

If you are using your own computer, make sure that you can connect it to the projection system (bring any dongles or adapters!), the resolution and aspect ratios are correct, and that your computer has enough power to last through the talk (or that power is available).

Use common formats for images and videos

The safest way to avoid embarrassing error messages when you are at the lectern is to use well-understood, universal media formats in your  presentations. You will certainly encounter no problems if you stick to using these formats in your presentations:

  • Image formats: PNG (lossless compression, supports transparency), or JPEG and JPG (lossy compression but smaller file sizes).
  • Video formats: WMV, MPG, AVI (with JPG compression to reduce the file size)
  • Audio formats: MP3, WAV.

Why is this? Your computer is able to display an image or play a video because it has codecs installed that enable the correct interpretation of that file-format. Different computer operating systems, like Windows or OSX, will come with different codecs ‘factory installed’ and will therefore be able to understand a different set of media formats. For this reason, it is safest to stick to well-known formats and avoid those which are either proprietary or require manual installation, such as Apple’s Quicktime (which is responsible for .mov and Quicktime-compressed TIFF files and the familiar “QuickTime and a TIFF decompressor are needed to see this picture” error message).

Converting files to other formats

Video and Audio: There are plenty of online services that you can use to convert between formats. For example Online Convert will let you upload a video file and have it converted to another format, like WMV. It will also convert audio formats. Offline conversion can be done with free software such as ffmpeg.

Images: Any graphics editing software will have the option to ‘Save As…’, allowing you to open an image and then save a copy using a ‘safe’ format for inclusion in a presentation.

Embedding vs linking of media files.

Embedding a media file (video or image) means that data is contained within the file structure of the presentation. This is distinct from linking to the media file, which is merely a reference to the location of the file at the time you made the link. This leads easily to problems when your presentation moves to another computer and the linked file doesn’t come along with it. If you are not sure if you have embedded or linked files, check the next paragraph on how to export your presentation and gather all linked files together.

In PowerPoint, embedding can be achieved by using the ‘Insert…’ menu option instead of dragging files from your file manager into your slides. Alternatively, you can select-copy-paste image data into PowerPoint as well.

Linking is useful in situations where you have a very large file which you want to incorporation in several presentations, and which you might update frequently. In this case you only need to update the file once and then all the presentations that link to it will automatically use the updated file when they are opened. If you were to embed the file then you would need to update every single presentation with the new version of the file.

If you do use linking, be sure to follow the advice in the next section to make sure your linked files are not left behind when you take your presentation to another computer!

Use the ‘Save & Send Package Presentation’ feature

Save & Send is a feature in PowerPoint which copies your talk and every file which is required for your talk (such as linked videos or spreadsheets) to another folder or drive, such as a flash drive. It’s the best way to make sure your presentation will work on another computer the same as it does on your computer.

When your talk is ready to go, open the File menu; click ‘Save & Send’ and then ‘Package Presentation for CD’. You’ll most likely be using a USB flash drive instead of a CD-ROM, but the process is the same:

  • Insert your flash drive and click the Package for CD button.
  • A box will pop-up, then click the ‘Copy to Folder…’ button.
  • Type a name for the folder (e.g. ‘My Excellent SMLMS Talk’) and use the ‘Browse’ button to find your flash drive.
  • Click ‘OK’ and select ‘Yes’ to have PowerPoint copy any linked files to your flash drive — it will also update all the link-references to these files in your presentation.
  • It will finish by opening up the folder on your flash drive containing your talk and any copied linked files.

The flash drive is now ready to be taken to any other computer. If you need to email the Presentation Package folder, you can zip the whole folder and send it as a single file.