Woody Allen said “80% of success is just showing up.”
I’ve fielded several questions lately that have reminded me of that advice. And while it’s extremely important to make sure you show up for your presentations, that’s not where this is going.
This post is about the trials, tribulations, tragedies that you may face when trying to make sure your presentation slides “show up” exactly as you intend them to look on the big day.
It is dedicated to all the warrior presenters out there who’ve spent long hours creating beautiful slides only to have their images cut off, their text screwed up, or their entire slide deck fail to appear at all when projected on a screen. Below we’ll troubleshoot some common problems to help you and your slide deck show up and shine on presentation day.
#1 Difficultly Emailing Your Presentation to Others
The Problem Scenario: You’ve created an impressive multimedia slide deck complete with photos and video. The conference organizer would like you to send your slide file so that they can load it up on their A/V system. You try to send it via email and find that it’s too large.
The Quick Fix: If you follow our slide design advice, you’ll almost certainly have a file that’s too large to email directly. In this case you have a few options for sharing your slides. The most reliable is to upload your file to a cloud-based file platform like Dropbox or Google Drive. Once it’s uploaded, get a shareable link to the file that you can send via email. This is my “go to” strategy. Some may advocate for creating a compressed/zipped file of your presentation, and then emailing the zipped file, but I find that even then it can sometimes be too large to send.
#2 Font Fiascos
The Problem Scenario: You found this great blog post about the Top Free Fonts of the Year. As you scroll through the options, you find one that you’d love to use in your presentation slides. So you download the font, and get down to designing. You won’t be able to use your own computer for the presentation and instead have saved your file to a flash drive. Once plugged in to the conference computer, you’re horrified to see that your font is gone and in its place is a substituted font. To make matters worse, the formatting is a mess, because the substituted font is smaller or larger than your original selection.
The Quick Fix: I’m a font-downloading-freak. I mean, I collect them similarly to the way some collect Star Wars memorabilia. My favorite free font right now is Grand Hotel by Astigmatic. You can find it at https://www.fontsquirrel.com/fonts/grand-hotel. Check it out, you won’t be sorry. Ok, back to the actual quick fix. There a couple of ways to address this problem. One option is to embed your fonts in the slides when you save the file. To do this, Click Save As. In the Save As dialog box, click Tools, and then click Save Options. Click Save on the left side of the dialog box that appears. Click to select the Embed fonts in the file check box under Preserve fidelity when sharing this presentation, and then click OK. One thing to keep in mind is that when you embed your fonts, you’ll likely be limited in the amount of editing you can do with this file on another computer, so you’ll want to be sure all your design decisions are final.
The Quick Fix Option 2: Another option is to save your slides as image files (.PNG) and then insert the images into a new PowerPoint document. To do this, first save a copy of your presentation as a PPT, so you always have a version that you can edit. Next go to File, then select Export, next select Change File Type, then select PNG Portable Network Graphics. Then click Save As. From there you’ll select where you’d like to save these images on your computer. Once saved, open up a new PowerPoint document. Go to the Insert Tab, click on Photo Album, and then select New Photo Album. From there you’ll be able to navigate to where you’ve saved your slide images. You can select them all and then they’ll automatically load in the correct order into the new slide deck.
These strategies can seem overwhelming at first, but the important thing to know is that there are ways to preserve your slide formatting, even if you aren’t going to be able to use your own computer. It’s possible! When the need arises to do so, you’ll know there are step-by-step directions out there and you can seek them out. The directions may also vary somewhat depending on your version of Microsoft PowerPoint. My directions are for PPT 2013. If you have a different version, that’s no problem, there are typically directions available online for all versions of the program.
#3 The Edges of Your Slides are Cut-off When Projected
The Problem Scenario: You’re day is going awesomely well. You’re hair looks amazing and you’ve shown up early for today’s presentation because both of your children were outright angels getting ready for school this morning. Just when you think things can’t get better, you look up at the screen behind you, and to your dismay can see that the sides of your slides are cut off. Wait – where is the rest of your title? Where did it go? You just knew something wasn’t quite right about how easily everything had gone that morning.
The Fix: Caution and Disclaimer: There’s some quasi technical information ahead, and I’m not a technical expert. However, I’m going to bring my A game in terms of trying to walk you through this. There are basically two default sizes of presentation slides in PowerPoint, standard 4.3 aspect ratio (which looks more square) and widescreen 16.9 aspect ratio (which looks more rectangular). Microsoft PowerPoint 2013 has the widescreen option as its default option. Sometimes you can encounter problems if you’ve created your slides in widescreen format and you’re using a projector that’s got a 4:3 display. Newer technology is moving toward the 16.9 aspect ratio display, which is handy because 16:9 aspect ratio projectors are usually capable of displaying 4:3 aspect ratios with no problems. The message here, is that if you use your own projector, take the time to figure out what you’ve got beforehand. One way to do this is to do a test display. Simply connect everything and project it from the comfort of your office. See how it looks and adjust your slide size when designing accordingly. If you aren’t going to use your own projector, It’s fairly standard for conference venues to have widescreen projectors these days, so if you’re preparing a presentation that will be projected at a conference, you’re likely safe going with the either standard or wide screen format slides.
If projector aspect ratio isn’t the problem, something else could be going on. Sometimes you just seem to lose a small bit on the edges. Why does this happen? You know I’m really not sure – as I am actually not a tech expert. But here is my advice overall: Your content shouldn’t be like middle schoolers at a dance. Bring it all in folks. Nudge it all in a little bit. Get your content away from the edges a bit. There’s nothing to be afraid of, getting a bit closer to the center is nice. Someone might play Stairway to Heaven or something. Wouldn’t that be fun?
#4 You’ve Got No Internet Connection and You Can’t Access Your Prezi (or other online slide design platform product)
The Problem Scenario: I think we’ve all been stuck at one time or another because we’ve relied on having internet connectivity for some aspect of our presentation, and gotten there only to realize you won’t have an internet connection.
The Quick Fix: Jamie has great advice when it comes to this. Plan as if you’ll be presenting in the Sahara Desert. This means, just assume you won’t have internet connectivity or access to anything other than what you’ve brought – and plan accordingly. If you like to use a slide design platform like Prezi that allows you to save presentation online, please do yourself a favor and download a portable Prezi. I believe that downloading a portable Prezi file is a Pro feature, which means you’ll have to pay for this. However, if you love Prezi’s design features BUT you want the comfort and security of being able to open your file anywhere – anytime – it’s probably worth the investment.
#5 You Have to Toggle Out of PowerPoint to Show a Video on Your Computer or YouTube
The Problem Scenario: I’m not going to spend much time talking about the problem here. I’ll just say: No, folks. Just no. Don’t do this. Part of the magic of a slide deck is never letting the audience see the backstage process. You want to stay in slide show mode the entire time. If you toggle out, something special is lost. Please try to avoid this at all costs.
The Quick Fix: Luckily you can embed your videos. For videos that are saved on your computer, this is easily accomplished. Click on the Insert tab, then click Video and select Video on My PC. Then you can find the saved video on your computer and add it in. You can also select your playback options which allow you to dictate when the video will start to play. When it comes to videos on the internet, you’ll want to be careful. Here’s the sad news: generally speaking YouTube videos aren’t really fair game for downloading. There are online services that do allow you to download YouTube videos and save them to your computer – but I’m going to leave it to you about how to proceed on that one. I will also say, that I’ve had some pretty good luck getting in touch with those who’ve posted videos on YouTube that I’d like to use. Sometimes they’ve just given their permission to use it, and other times they will offer a copy for a small fee. If it’s a video you plan to use often, it might be worth asking – and paying a fee if need be.
On a final video-related note, sometimes you’ll encounter problems playing videos. This can just happen. Blame it on The Matrix. Our rule of thumb is to try for just a moment to get the video to play, but if it doesn’t do so fairly quickly – abandon the mission. I repeat abandon the mission. Let it go, and do it fast because otherwise you’ll lose your audience. You can apologize, provide a very brief description about the video you planned to show, and then let them know you’ll send out a link to view the video via email at a later time.
Full disclosure: This list was inspired by mistakes I’ve made, some very recently, others more than once. Much of this is a process of trial and error. You run into a problem, and then you go back and research why that happened and how to avoid it in the future. Striving to give great presentations doesn’t always mean we’re flawless. It means we keep trying and we are committed to doing our best work every time. Additionally, there are likely other solutions to the problems described above, and we welcome all problem-solving approaches. Including Duct Tape, because you never know. It might come in handy.