If you’re a meeting or event planner, most of your interaction with the AV team will probably revolve around the graphics desk, where we handle your speakers’ presentations: PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, Prezi, and more. At VIP AV, our experienced team can roll with the punches and make your event a success regardless of the challenges, but there are some things you can do which will make our - and your - life easier.
The biggest differentiator between a smooth show and running into problems is generally how much time we have to prepare and review your content. When we get presentations ahead of time, we’ll load them up on our show computers and click through the slides, looking for conversion errors, incorrect build sequences, text that runs off the page, and color combinations that will be difficult to read on the projectors. Believe it or not, colors come out differently on projectors than on a computer screen. Having speakers crowding around the graphics desk pushing thumb drives at the AV guy (often while the computers are tied up running somebody else’s live presentation) is a recipe for disaster. Get us the content early - even if you know changes will need to be made later.
We (and any other competent AV company) will always want to run presentations on our own computers. This isn’t just us being difficult, as many presenters seem to think. Running our own computers allows us to ensure that energy saving features are turned off, antivirus popups and other notifications are disabled, and that the signal passes correctly through our switching and projection equipment. We also tend to have newer, faster equipment than many presenters. An old computer that ran smoothly when the speaker rehearsed their talk on the plane will often bog down when it’s having to push a high-resolution signal out to a projector.
Along these same lines, don’t let your presenters in a general session run presentations from a laptop on stage, unless it’s a software demo or similar scenario where it just can’t be avoided. If they run into problems (once their computer goes to sleep, or they pull out the video cable, or the mouse won’t work, or their wife calls them on Skype, or Windows decides to install updates, or the battery dies because they didn’t want to go back to their room for the power cord as we strongly encouraged… can you tell we’ve done all of this?) we’re stuck running up to the stage trying to fix it for them. Nobody likes that, and it makes us and your event look bad.
These days 16:9 widescreen presentations are pretty standard, but it wasn’t that long ago that everybody was using 4:3. Unless your presenters are using the latest versions of their presentation software, there’s a good chance that the slides will default to 4:3. Specify a standard format for your show, then make sure that the screens are sized correctly and all presentations are built in the correct aspect. Nine times out of ten this should be 16:9.
We generally run our shows using Mac laptops. We’ve found them to be more reliable and overall more stable than comparable Windows machines. Using the Mac allows us to run PowerPoint, Keynote, and just about any other presentation software we’ve come across.
Other AV companies run Windows, and that’s fine too. However, if your presenters are going to bring Keynote presentations, those can’t be run on Windows, so double-check and make sure that your AV company will have at least two Macs available and connected to the system for primary and backup machines.
If your presenters use fonts that aren’t included in either Microsoft Office or the operating system default pack, make sure they bring the font file in either .ttf or .otf format. Otherwise their text will be converted to a default font that likely won’t look the way they want. Remember this too if your company has a proprietary font used on company communications - we’ll need a copy of that.
If you’re handing us a drive with all of the files, it’s a bit confusing to open it up and see a bunch of filenames that don’t mean anything. Generally, we like to see a format like 06_SpeakerName_PresentationTitle. The 06 provides the ordering (make sure to include the leading zero so it stays in order on the file list) and the name allows us to cross-reference the file with your schedule to make sure everything is correct.
Videos have gotten a bad rap over the years, and a lot of experienced presenters have stopped using them because they’ve had problems.
Yes, if you’re running old, slow computers without the proper drivers, videos can cause trouble. However if they’re embedded in the presentation the right way and using modern computers, the videos should run smoothly and can add a lot to the content.
The most important recommendation here is to always bring a copy of the original video file along with the presentation. If the video wasn’t embedded correctly, we can almost always fix it for you as long as we have the original.
Stay away from Windows Media files. These are notoriously unreliable on both Mac and Windows. Stick with an MP4 or similar format. Make sure we have time to check and test the video playback before the presentation begins - this goes back to the point above about planning ahead! Make sure the video is noted on the show script (or that we know about it and write it down). If the video includes audio, let us know about that in advance of the show so we can connect the computer audio to the sound system. We do this by default on any larger shows, but other companies may not so it’s always good to double-check.
We hear from a lot of meeting planners that dealing with presentation files is one of their least favorite parts of the job. When we talk about it, it usually ends up being because they don’t know what they’re looking for and aren’t sure what they need to do. Hopefully this article has given you a better understanding to help de-stress this part of your life!