Tips for setting up a laptop for presentations

I’ve watched too many presenters struggle to connect their laptops to a venues AV system or embarrass themselves with laptop failures. Here’s some steps and setups I use to try to avoid this. Let me know if I’ve missed something, you disagree or what I’ve said doesn’t make sense!

  1. Always make sure your laptop is connected to a mains electricity supply or is fully charged.
  2. Don’t place your laptop next to or below any containers with liquids. One accident will ruin everything.
  3. Have a memory stick with a backup of the presentation. Save the files with the fonts embedded and with the individual video clips.
  4. I have a dedicated laptop for presenting and minimise the amount of programmes installed on it. I still use Windows XP as it’s so reliable compared to later versions. plus any files I create are more likely to be compatible with other systems.
  5. Make your laptop desktop look presentable. Think about the background. Why not use a custom logo or a simple plain background. If you’re cloning the screen to the projector don’t have a mass of Icons or shortcuts.
  6. Use “presenter mode”. Means you can navigate slides easier, see the time, view upcoming slides, read notes etc.
  7. Set your laptops volume to 2/3rds. That way the venue’s speaker volume can be set to this value and you then have the option midway through a presentation to increase or decrease the volume (I use my remote to do this) rather than rely on a non-existent sound technician.
  8. Turn off “system sounds”. Like startup, shutdown and system beeps (ie. plugging in a memory stick). Really annoying to hear that over a venue’s PA system.
  9. Turn off any auto updates.
  10. Never rely on having internet access to show content. Have hard copies of any files/videos on the laptop.
  11. Don’t have it connected to the internet during a presentation as that will slow things down or start unwanted installations.
  12. Make sure the screensaver won’t override your presentation software.
  13. For some time I struggled to connect my laptop to projectors over some CAT-5 systems – the laptop wouldn’t recognise a connection. Eventually I discovered an internal setting in my laptop’s configuration. There was a choice to auto-detect a VGA connection (the default) or to leave the VGA socket switched on permanently. By switching to the latter it solved this problem.

In a previous post I outlined the tech gear I carry with me. See https://sciencemagician.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/my-presenter-tech-bag/

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