Recently, I conducted a two day technical training course on industrial accident investigation. I spent a lot of time preparing for this session. There would be 20 people being trained and I wanted to make sure that everything would go smoothly. Since the training was on a fairly dry technical subject, I worked creatively to insert my personal stories and humor to help illustrate my points. I also had some funny photos and some linked videos that would lighten up the training session, give the trainees a break from the technical details, and help them understand the importance of the information. As someone who has been involved in investigated accidents over a period of nearly 18 years, I have a strong passion to share my knowledge on preventing repeated accidents.
I arrived one hour early at the training session to make sure the room was set up in a workshop type layout as I had requested. The handouts and other training materials needed to be put at each of the tables, and most importantly, I had to make sure the room projector and audio system would work smoothly. As someone who has been doing public speaking and training for over 10 years, I understand the importance of arriving early to deal with any unplanned events, particularly problems with projectors, audio systems, microphones, etc.
I had been informed that there would be a ceiling- type projector to show my PowerPoint slides, it would be connected to a computer and a powerful built-in audio system so the audio in my videos could be clearly heard. There would be a USB port on the computer where all I had to do was to plug in my memory stick containing the PowerPoint file and the linked videos. I had tested the memory stick on two computers prior to traveling to check that the videos would automatically play when I advanced my presentation slides. I always set up my videos to automatically appear and play with a single click of my handheld remote, so that I am not fussing around a computer keyboard. I also travel with my own remote control so that I am familiar with the slide “advance”, “reverse” buttons etc. and I know that the batteries are new.
When I was shown how to work the room computer and ceiling projector, I plugged in my memory stick and started clicking through my slideshow to get to a slide that had a linked video. The video would not play. I wasted no time as experience has taught me that videos failing to play on a computer usually means that it does not have enough memory or that the file is located too “deeply” on the hard drive (putting the file on the desktop or on a memory stick usually solves the file location issue). I immediately went to my back-up plan to connect my own laptop to the projector using the auxiliary connector that was available for this purpose. This worked well, the videos played, but I now had the problem of getting the audio system connected to my computer so the videos could be heard. The tech person tried to get the audio system to work by plugging in the room speaker audio connection but it failed to operate. My back-up plan was to plug in my portable speakers which were just loud enough to project to the back of the room.
Everything I have learned about video failure has been learned the hard way. The saying it’s not a matter of “if” the failure will happen; it’s just a matter of “when” holds very true in this case. The biggest disaster I have seen was many years ago when three professional speakers were giving a panel presentation on public speaking skills. They had brought a DVD to play on the laptop (which was being supplied by someone else) to play some of their speech material to support their points. The DVD “choked” on the laptop; it played a few seconds and then would “blank out” as the computer memory was not adequate to run it. After a few minutes of frustrating attempts to get it to play, they had to give up and complete the panel discussion without it.
10 success strategies for presentations that utilize linked videos
1. Spend time learning how to link videos in your presentation software (“custom animation” in MS PowerPoint) and have them play automatically in “full screen mode” when you advance the slide on the click of a remote button. Keep the video entry and exit simple. Choose the option to have it “appear” rather than using some of the other animation options to “fly in and out”, “spin in and out” etc.
2. Make sure your videos add value to your presentation, illuminate your points, and relate to your content. Make sure the video content is appropriate for the audience, and that you are complying with copyright restrictions
3. Make sure your linked videos are not so large that they overwhelm your computers capability
4. Set up a computer file that includes your presentation and the linked videos. If you want to move your presentation from computer to computer this will reduce the risk of having to re-link the videos to the slides. To prevent your video from becoming inoperable, do not file your presentation too “deep” into the layers of your computer hard-drive filing system. Use the desktop or a memory stick.
5. Learn the tricks to get a computer to link to a projector. Most projectors I have used require me to press the “F8” keyboard key multiple times to get my laptop to connect to the projector.
6. Find out ahead of time if someone will be available to help you set up the audio-visual equipment and deal with any problems. A phone call to this person to explain your needs and to identify experience level may be beneficial.
7. Arrive at least one hour early to set up and test the equipment. If you are testing the volume in an empty room, remember to increase it to take into consideration the effects of the room being full of people and also the potential for background noise such as air-conditioning fans, etc. If the audience cannot hear the video sound, it will be annoying to them.
8. Develop back-up plans for anything that can go wrong. Bring your own projector, laptop, extension cords, spare remote batteries, and audio speakers etc. as a backup. Have your training session designed so that you can still conduct your training session if there is equipment failure (work off the handouts etc.).
9. Test, test, and test your presentation on multiple computers ahead of time.
10. Develop a checklist of everything you need to do (testing, etc.), so you do not forget anything.
Final Note: Equipment failure causes undue stress that can be avoided by simple knowledge, preparation, testing, and backup plans. Why start off your presentation stressed due to equipment malfunctions? Maintain your image of professionalism with the aforementioned tips.