[NOTE: This is another in the series of repostings of my previously-published articles. An earlier version of this article appeared in the Febraury 10, 1997 issue of Lawyers Weekly USA. Please note that parts of this article are dated, but I've not updated it to give you a sense of history. I like this article for two reasons. First, the ten tips about doing presentations I give at the end of the article are still good ones today. Second, it shows how enthused I was about the use of PowerPoint back in 1997 – an enthusiasm that's continued to this day, even though my PowerPoint techniques have changed quite a bit over the years. As always, it's a matter of choosing the right tools and using them well. I'm always experimenting. At BlawgThink, I did a presentation using the presentation mode of MindJet's MindManager program and I really liked that approach for that audience. In the Open Space approach we took on Day 2 of BlawgThink, using PowerPoint doesn't make sense because everyone is both speaker and audience member and there is a conversation rather than a lecture. I sometimes hear or read people who condemn all PowerPoint presentations and PowerPoint itself. While there are plenty of bad PowerPoint slides, I generally think that people who dismiss PowerPoint as all bad haven't seen people who can really use PowerPoint well. It takes practice, ability and understanding of audiences to do PowerPoint really well. If you haven't seen PowerPoint used really well in the legal setting, I recommend that you attend one of Craig Ball's PowerPoint sessions at the ABA TECHSHOW or wherever else he may be delivering it. That will give you an idea of what can be done with PowerPoint in the hands of someone who really gets it.]
Bringing Presentation Technology into Your Practice
You have probably noticed the growing use of projection panels and projectors at seminars you have attended lately. Improvements in technology, some price reductions and the visible benefits to speakers’ presentations have hastened the adoption of this technology. If you speak in front of groups of people – and what lawyer does not – you will want to take a look at what now is available in presentation technology.
I am a big fan of presentation technology. In fact, given diminishing attention spans of audiences, I predict that soon no one will be able to give a presentation simply by standing alone in front of an audience and expect to keep his or her audience’s attention. In almost every case, your presentation will be improved by the use of presentation technology.
Presentation equipment may be either (1) a projection panel used in combination with an overhead projector or (2) an all-in-one projector. In each case the panel or projector is connected to the video output of your computer (typically a laptop computer). Once everything is connected, you can display whatever is on your computer screen in an enlarged form upon a projection screen in the same way you can show transparencies on an overhead projector. Anything that you can do on your computer, including animations and sound, may be seen and heard by your audience.
[Note: this article was written in 1997 and the marketplace has changed dramatically. The following section on hardware is interesting historically.]
Projection panels are small panels about the size of a laptop computer screen which are placed on an overhead projector so that the projector’s light source shines up through the panel and projects the panel’s images onto a projection screen. Panels once dominated the presentation market. They are generally cheaper than all-in-one projectors, lighter in weight and easier to transport (as long as you don’t have to carry your own overhead projector with you). Panels range in price from about $3,000 to $7,000 for a quality active-matrix panel. Do not consider passive matrix panels because their quality simply is not adequate. A high quality overhead projector will cost another $500 to $1,500. You will definitely want to use a high-quality overhead projector with a panel. The overhead projectors we remember so well from eighth grade science class will not provide sufficiently brightness.
All-in-one projectors combine the panel technology with a high-intensity light source in one unit. All-in-one projectors have recently become very popular and are predicted to capture 75 to 80% of the presentation hardware market in the very near future. Generally their displays are significantly brighter and sharper what you can get with a panel using an overhead projector. They are also relatively compact and usually have built-in multimedia capabilities (speakers and audio/video inputs). Typically, all-in-one units range from about $5,000 to $10,000, although while researching this column, I saw an ad for an all-in-one projector on sale for $3,000.
One of the newer newest developments is called digital light processing ("DLP"). DLP is a technology which uses thousands of tiny mirrors to project an image. The projected image is brighter than the LCD technology which is being used in most panels and projectors. DLP units tend to be more expensive than LCD units.
Manufacturers of presentation hardware include Proxima, Sharp, In Focus, Boxlight, Canon, NEC, Sanyo and 3M. Most companies seem to have a number of models at a number of price ranges. Because a panel or projector is not a typical consumer item, you will probably buy your unit on the basis of a demonstration by the vendor in your office rather than by going to your local computer store. This approach is a good one because you will want to see each model in action and learn whether it will work with your current computer and with you.
Other features which are available with your presentation hardware include an infrared or remote mouse or other remote control so that you can walk around the room or away from your computer and still control the computer and the presentation, and in some models, software or an electronic tablet that allows you to write or draw on what appears on your screen during the presentation. Some projectors allow you to run a version of your presentation on a floppy drive built into the unit in case you have a problem with your computer.
The most significant technical issue to be concerned about is ensuring that the display of your laptop computer (typically VGA or SVGA) matches the display of your panel or projector. Most presentation panels and projectors have a VGA display. Newer notebooks which have SVGA (better) displays cause problems with VGA panel or projector. In most cases, the problem is that the panel or projector will not display anything at all.
There are two solutions to this problem. You can purchase a more expensive SVGA panel or projector or, less expensively, change the video display of your computer to VGA. It is not difficult to change your computer’s display from SVGA to VGA, once you have learned how to do it. On the other hand, if you find the problem 5 minutes before your presentation and do not know how to change those settings, you may have a disaster.
Since you will likely be buying your panel or projector from a vendor who has demonstrated the product to you, you should insist that they ensure that your panel or projector works perfectly with your laptop computer. If the laptop computer you currently own does not do that, consider buying a laptop computer dedicated to use for presentations.
Another important consideration if you travel a lot is the weight of an all-in-one projector. These projectors have gotten much lighter in the past few years, but can still cause arm strain on a long trek through an airport. Newer models, however, can weigh less than ten pounds. The near-universal presence of projectors at most facilities can alleviate the weight problem by eliminating t he need to carry your projector with you to every presentation. Another alternative is to purchase a carrying case with wheels for your projector.
[Note: this article was written in 1997 and the marketplace has changed. The following section on software is interesting historically.]
Presentation software programs are extremely easy to use, allow you to include some impressive effects with the simple click of a mouse, look great and generally work as tools should work. Presentation software allows you to generate presentation slides with colorful backgrounds, bulleted text, graphics, animations and a wide variety of transition effects. The universal comment I heard about presentation software was how easy the programs are to use. There are probably four major programs designed for presentations and graphics – Microsoft’s PowerPoint, Lotus Freelance, Harvard Graphics and Astound.
Microsoft’s PowerPoint is the most commonly used presentation package and, even if you do not use it, you will want to save your presentations in a PowerPoint format to make it easy to transfer to others. PowerPoint is a very easy to use program.
However, since you’ll be able to display whatever is on your computer screen, any software program can be used for presentations. For example, in a talk about the Internet, you might be live on the Internet showing web pages to illustrate your points. Another example is using your presentation hardware to display language that was being negotiated and revised in a conference room with all attorneys able to see the changes.
Presentation software can be used to create a set of slides which highlight your main points and become your speaking outline. You no longer have to read your speech and guarantee that you will lose your audience or refer constantly to your outline. In most cases, the room will be set up so that you can look at your laptop computer in front of you on the podium while your audience sees your computer screen displayed behind you on a large display screen. As a result, you can talk to your audience without any need to turn your back on them to point to text or graphics on the display screen.
New presentation technology will give you more control over your presentation, allow you to create better and more impressive presentations at a low cost and generally save you the embarrassment of dropping overhead transparencies or having slides upside down or out of sequence in a slide projector. However, like any new technology, presentation technology also opens the door to new concerns. There are more things that can go wrong.
Here are a few tips from my experience with presentation technology:
1. Arrive early to check all the equipment at your presentation site and make sure that your presentation looks the way that you think it should look at the site. You can make adjustments to improve the visibility of slides, change background colors or font sizes, or move screens and projectors.
2. It’s better to be safe than sorry. I take two backup floppy disks of my presentation slides and a set of transparencies. You may also want to take along extra cords, outlet strips, extension cords, bulbs and a few tools. And, as I’ve learned, a small screwdriver.
3. Make sure that your screen saver program is turned off. It is embarrassing to have cute screen saver images appear just as you are ready to make a major point.
4. Do not run your laptop computer off its battery. Use the AC adapter. Don’t ask for problems.
5. Do not use all the features of your presentation software in your first presentation. Use these features and effects gradually and as they make sense for each presentation. If you use a lot of effects and features, the medium, as Marshall McLuhan said, will become the message. People will remember the effects and the capabilities of the presentation program and not a word of what you said.
6. Practice giving your speech while using the equipment. You need to get the feel of using a mouse and changing slides.
7. Keep in mind the audiences point of view at all times. Think about the backgrounds that you are using and be sure that the text can be read. A rule of thumb is that if you can read the text eight feet away from a 15 inch monitor it will probably be okay.
8. Do not overload each presentation slide with information.
9. Use your slides as a speaking outline and move around, if you can, while you speak. You will give the impression of speaking extemporaneously, enhancing your authority, when your actual speaking outline is appearing on the screen in front of everyone.
10. Anticipate the unexpected. I learn something new about potential problems every time I speak. [NOTE: Yes, every single time.]
Attorneys speak in front of people on an everyday basis. Everything that you can do enhance your ability as a speaker will work to your benefit. This technology can definitely enhance you speaking abilities and you should look into it if you have not already done so. One final bit of advice: your image will be a reflection of your ability to present, your presence and charisma, and the presentation technology you use. There are a number of places in legal technology where you can choose to "go cheap," but presentation technology should not be one of them.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s half-day electronic discovery seminar – “Preparing for the New World of Electronic Discovery: Easing Your Transition from Paper to Electronic Discovery.” Contact Dennis today for more information and to schedule a seminar for your firm or legal department.