By John Robson

There’s a recurrent theme that keeps appearing throughout articles about successful events and exhibitions, and that is how effective they can be if they are approached in the right way. In this article, John Robson of conference and exhibition audio visual supplier Aztec talks about putting together presentations for events, and how to make them work.

Before you start thinking about getting your presentation right there are several basics that you must consider. Firstly, you must thoroughly understand the objectives of your event or, if the presentation is to be used on an exhibition stand, your exhibition goals.

If your presentation is needed for an exhibition stand, consider the how it will be integrated into your stand. Is it intended to catch people’s attention as they pass and draw them onto the stand, or will your stand staff use the presentation when talking to prospective customers? Is the presentation interactive or will the presentation be a rolling one that continually loops. Is the presentation simply providing general information to passers-by?

So, are you now ready to start your presentation? Well, actually no. You may have established why you are doing your presentation, but the next thing you must decide before you start is the medium you will be using. This will affect many things including content and format.

When deciding upon the type of equipment for your presentation you need to think about screen ratio. Plasma screens are usually widescreen format or 16:9 ratio. If your presentation is created in standard 4:3 ratio, a plasma screen will either stretch the presentation to fill screen - so that people, for example, look a bit fatter - or you will have black lines down the side of presentation.

If your presentation uses a lot of words, consider whether screen will be big enough. Create a typical page in PowerPoint and test it on the type of screen you intend to use. Audiovisual suppliers such as Aztec will be glad to help you with this usually at little or no charge.

If the presentation is going to be viewed on a traditional plasma wall, consider how the presentation will look across divides. Again, if you are using a large number of words, check that the viewer will be able to read your copy across these divides. This is even true of seamless plasma walls as there is still a small gap between every screen.

So, now you have selected your presentation medium, you can finally start working on your presentation. But don’t touch the computer yet; you need a pen and pad.

Think about exactly how the presentation will be used and by whom. If it will be used in a stand up presentation, you really must put yourself in the place of the presenter.

Write down exactly how you want your presentation to run and list sections. Then decide roughly how many slides you want. If the presentation is going to be used as rolling presentation to grab attention, then less is more. You only have a few seconds to catch visitor’s attention.

Jot down a heading for each slide and write brief notes under each heading of what you want to cover. Next, decide on a software format for your presentation. If you intend to use PowerPoint consider whether you have sufficient skills to produce an effective presentation. If the answer is no, then discuss with your AV supplier about the possibility of getting this produced professionally.

Many larger organisations will have a corporate ‘look’ or a template for all external events If you don’t have a master template consider having one made professionally. Even if you do everything else yourself, this can make a presentation look professional and will save you a huge amount of time.

When you’ve sorted all this out then it’s at last time to hit the computer. At this stage there are a few key points to remember.

You should use bullet points wherever possible and keep them short and concise.
Use clear fonts like Arial and avoid fancy ones, as these are difficult to read at distance. Use a large point size and don’t try to cram lots of bullets onto a single slide. If you have too many then delete bullets or use another slide. If you put too much on a slide there is the danger that things on the bottom of the screen might fall off!

Use lots of images and perhaps even an embedded video — remember a picture paints a thousand words.

Think about slide transition - how one slide replaces another. Does the first slide fade away and the second slide fade in, or does each slide drift in from the left or right. With PowerPoint, there are many different options. You need to test how long this process takes to see if there is a pause. Determine if this is triggered by a mouse click or does it automatically happen after a number of pre-designated seconds.

Individual slides can also be animated to dictate how each bullet point appears and disappears. Do you want the bullets to appear all at once, or would you prefer them to appear one at a time. Again, find out if this process is triggered by mouse click, or is it automatic after a few seconds. Do you want the bullets fade in and the previous bullet fade out — there are many options.

One point to remember, however, will all of these transition and animation options is not to mix and match different styles. It is best to be consistent and keep it simple.

With your presentation written and designed it is now time to test it and do a trial run with a colleague. Often someone else will pick up a missing or a misspelled word that even your Microsoft spelling and grammar checker has missed!

Finally, run your presentation on the hardware that you will actually be using at your event. Talk to your AV supplier about this; they will be happy to oblige. If you don’t do this you run the risk of your presentation not fitting the screen properly or your laptop running out of processor power at a crucial moment.

If you are technologically proficient enough to use embedded video clips in your presentation remember this uses lots of processing power and can cause a laptop to freeze if it is not powerful enough. In addition, some laptops aren’t able to run this type of technology on an external screen. You can also link your laptop to multiple screens to show the same image simultaneously, but you must tell your AV supplier as they will need to supply additional hardware and cabling. Check, double check and triple check all of this before you step up onto the podium.

And finally, remember to keep a separate copy of your presentation and supporting files on a memory stick and take both your laptop and your memory stick with you in case of an emergency.

Top Tips

- Understand the objectives of your event or exhibition at the start
- Decide what the purpose is of the presentation
- Decide upon the AV equipment you will be using as this will determine the look of your presentation
- Remember, less is more when you are using text in your presentation
- Also remember, a picture paints a thousand words!
- Put a rough draft of your presentation together before you start to design in on the computer
- Do you have a company ‘look’ for presentations — if not it is a good idea to have one professionally designed
- Use bullet points to illustrate your presentation
- Keep your animation and slide transitions consistent and simple
- Do at least one dry run with a colleague to get feedback and to check spellings!
- Run your presentation on the equipment you will be using to iron out technical glitches
- Finally, keep a copy of your presentation and supporting files on a memory stick as a back-up in an emergency

Aztec Exhibition Services specialises in providing advice and support, as well as the complete range of audio visual equipment, for companies attending exhibitions and events.

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