Oct 15, 2010

How visiting the venue in advance saved my last presentation?

On Sunday I presented to an audience of 300+. It was a short presentation of 15 minutes. Had I not gone to the venue two days in advance I would have ruined it totally.

The presentation was focused on sharing facts. There were parts where audience had to read what was on the slide and take decisions. The text HAD TO be legible for the last man in the audience. But this is pretty normal stuff. Every slide ought to be legible in all presentations. Why the fuss?

The catch lies somewhere else.

During such conferences you present on two large screens (with back projection). That's how it happens in India. But in my case instead of two large screens there were 4 Plasma TVs. These 42" TVs were placed all around the hall. If a 30 font size was good enough for the large screen, it would be invisible on a 42" Plasma.

How did I figure it out? I visited the venue two days in advance and found out that there was no space for screens; we needed TVs. But I had not seen how the PPT looks on these TVs. I had not even seen the TVs in action. The hall was empty when I visited it.

How did I tackle the problem then?
I guessed. The slides on the TVs had to be visible from a distance of 25-30 feet. Normally a 30 font size is decent for a large screen. I went with 60 font size. Instead of erring on the side of less, I chose to err on the side of more and that saved my presentation.

Having a large font size (60 is so so big) made sure I wrote less on every slide (which is a plus point). The slides were clearly visible to the audience. All my hard work of hours were not wasted because we chose to not have the large screens and go with Plasma TVs.

Lesson for the next time we present

Before making the slides think about the size of the screen. Will you present on the laptop, on a screen or on Plasma TVs? A 30 font is good enough for the first two cases but not for the third. If the venue is unknown (assume you are going for a sales call or to present a paper) you can always call up and ask. If you have no idea, err on the side of more. Have large fonts. It does not hurt. Any doubts? Any questions?

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