I wanted to throw out a couple books that I've found very helpful in preparing for a presentation as well as preparing slides.
The Presentation Survival Skills Guide
This covers a lot of topics from designing slides or other visual aids to where to stand during the presentation. The chapters are like mini courses about a particular topic on presenting. One thing that I took away from the book was how important a good closure is to a presentation. They compare it to the dismount during a gymnastics competitions, like the uneven bars. How many of those competitions are won or lost in the dismount? How many presentations are lost more often than won because of a rushed or incomplete closure?
Non-Designer's Design Book
We're not professional graphic artists. Well, at least most of us aren't. Still we're expected to generate professional looking slides. With the widespread use of software like PowerPoint more and more professionals are building their own slides without formal training in graphic arts or visual communication. This book won't make you a professional designer, but it will give you some of the fundamental skills to use when building your slides.
One way to think about this is that you can know everything about Microsoft Word and still not be a great novelist. There are other things you need to understand like grammar and character development to be a skilled writer. In the same way, knowing everything about PowerPoint isn't going to make your slides great. This book is like the grammar of visual communication.
I will take Mark to task on his claim of not getting formal training in giving presentations with practice. While less than 1% of Americans have gone through it, I believe that the American military does a pretty good job of providing some formal training in giving presentations with practice. Sure, I've attended some really poor presentations by members of the military and veterans. It wasn't that their training was flawed, but that they were not applying their training to their current presentations. It was because of these courses, and a curiosity about what made one person's slides more interesting and compelling than another's, that led me to the two books listed above.
Targus Wireless Remote
I love this Targus Wireless Presenter for my presentation remote:
It meets all of Mark and Mike's criteria. It is tiny and completely disappears in my hand (until I start fiddling with it as a nervous tick). It has the Black or Mute screen function. It uses RF so I don't have to aim it at the computer.
The buttons are big and distinct so I know exactly which button I'm hitting without looking down to the remote. When I first started giving a lot of presentations, I would hold the remote behind my back to reduce the amount of distraction the remote and advancing slides created for my audience. It wasn't like some gunslinger stunt. I would causually rest the hand with the remote behind my back. I would start into my transition and sometimes gesture with my other hand. Part of the way through my transition I would hit the button and change slides and finish the transition on the new slide. It was like magic when I did well because the audience would never notice the slide transition because their focus was on me. The hidden truth behind the magic is preparing effective transitions between the slides, which happens before you ever get in front of the audience.
Yeah, the laser pointer is poor. I try not to use it. I would rather blank the slide and talk to the audience.One year at Space Camp I had a tour from a guy that explained the person who really understands aircraft controls is the one who can explain pitch, yaw, and roll without using their hands. Okay for those of you unfamiliar with pitch, yaw, and roll, they are the terms for how an aircraft rotates along the three axis in space. You may have seen a pilot talking with his or her hand trying to recreate the flight as if their hand were the aircraft. I'll put it there with the Neil Armstrong resume, that if you can explain pitch, yaw, and roll without using your hands, you're probably the only person who doesn't need help with presentations.
Black the Slide
I've always used the term "Black" where Mark was talking about "Mutting" the slides.
In PowerPoint when you're in the presentation show, pressing the B key on the keyboard will turn the slide black.
There are times when you don't have a remote or having technical issues with the remote. Sure it is distracting to walk over and press a key on the keyboard, but you're probably already doing that between slides in the scenario we're discussing; or you may be the guy behind the curtain advancing slides from the computer for the presenter in front of the group. The "B" keyboard shortcut is a good one to know. It is easy to remember if you think about Blacking the slides.
For those of you who can remember when having presentation slides on the computer was brand new, you'll remember thos LCD screens that would be placed on top of the overhead projector. If you blacked that screen it would turn gray since the LCD couldn't block all of the light from the overhead. PowerPoint also has a "W" keyboard shortcut that will "White" the screen for those situations.
If you're interested in learning more keyboard shortcuts for PowerPoint Shows, open a presentation and go into the show mode. Then press the F1 key. (In Microsoft products this is a universal "Help" button.) This opens a dialog box with all of the keyboard shortcuts that work during the show. PowerPoint has the most number of shortcuts to do the same thing, advance the slide, than any program I've known. This barely tops the number of shortcuts for returning to the previous slide. It continues to amaze me the struggle some people have going back one slide given how many different shortcuts exist.
Backup Presentation on CD
Backup your slides to a CD as well as a USB thumb drive or instead of a thumb drive.
There are some very credible and devistating computer attacks coming from USB thumb drives. More and more organizations are preventing the use of USB thumb drives on their network systems. Don't expect that having your presentation on a thumb drive will be enough of a backup. The flip side is that malware from their system could be transferred to your USB drive and then infect your network when you get home.
Also carry your presentation on a CD. I can't imaging your presentation being larger than 740 MB, so a CD is fine. After the presentation is on the CD go through a finalization routine. This prevents something else from being added to the CD. If you don't how to do this, get someone from your IT department to show you how to do it.
If the organization your speaking to is worried about USB thumb drives, they are also worried about CDs that haven't been finalized where you could take information off their network as well. For some programs, particularly drag and drop operations to CDs, save the data in a way that only that program can understand until it has been finalized. You may find that the next computer you put it in doesn't have that program and now can't read your data.
Avoid the fancy mini CDs. They are cute, but only work in some drives. The auto load drives on Macs don't like them. Any drive on the side (i.e., vertical) won't be able to run these mini CDs. They look cute, but cost the same if not more than a full size CD.
Don't worry about a label. It may look more professional, but remember this is a backup to not being able to use your laptop. It is far better to have the presentation up and ready to go quickly than spend extra time trying to get a perfect CD label created that doesn't peel or cause your disc to wobble in the drive.
In the end, go back to one of the earlier recommendations: you don't have to project your slides. Provide some handouts of the slides. If you run out, get someone to make copies. I haven't been to a city that didn't have a Kinko's or similar printing store in town where hard copies of slides could be made in a pinch.