Friday, July 23, 2010

How a rear-view mirror can improve your PowerPoint presentation

Last Saturday I spoke about Finding Information at the Toastmasters Leadership Institute for District 15. I was assigned a meeting room with excellent facilities for projecting images. On Thursday evening I got to see it for the first time. The chairs would be set up in a U shape as shown above.

There was a projector mounted on the ceiling and an 8-foot wide screen on the back wall. The keyboard and display for the desktop computer were on a credenza located at the back of the left wall. There were Ethernet and display connections for a laptop computer too. Also, in front of the credenza there was a lectern that could easily be rolled anywhere. I was warned that the projected image was bright, so the best lectern placement would be on center, in front of the projector beam as shown by the letter A.

Usually I try to have my laptop computer or a desktop computer on a table next to the lectern. Then I can easily glance to the side, look down at the display and see where I am without constantly turning completely around to watch the projector screen. Most of my slides are simple enough that I don’t need to turn and point to them. In this room the cables would not reach as far as A, so instead I brought along a small rear-view mirror.

I have a little $15 bicyclist’s mirror that mounts on the frame of my eyeglasses. With just a slight turn of my head I can see behind me. Other people have folding travel mirrors for makeup that could be placed on a lectern or table. Either type of mirror can substitute for having a computer display, and eliminate the tendency to stare at the screen instead of concentrating on the audience.

On Saturday morning I loaded my presentation, plugged in my wireless remote, and moved the lectern. The bottom of the screen was 2-1/2 feet above the floor. However, the lectern was over 4 feet high and so it would have blocked the screen for some of the audience. I rolled the lectern back, and planned to speak from the room center without it.

The 100 participants had a choice of five sessions. The other four topics apparently sounded much more interesting, and only a half dozen people appeared. The audience all fit along the back row of chairs. So, I went to plan B, put my notes on the end of a table, turned about 30 degrees to the left, and spoke without needing the mirror this time.

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