Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 18, 2012 1:12 PM

The Public Speaker's Master Toolkit

What are the tools that can help you give an unforgettable presentation?

After several years of speaking in public, I've had to develop my own system to ensure that each and every presentation goes off without a hitch. And yes, there are some great tools and tips to ensure that this happens. This blog post is not about your content. I'm going to assume that the content rocks and that you know what you're going to talk about.

The Public Speaker's Master Toolkit:

  • The Rider. If you want to ensure that you have a great event, you have to ensure that all of your audio and visual requirements are met (long before you show up at the venue). I send along with all speaking contracts a rider of my audio and visual needs:
    • Projector and screen for laptop.
    • 3.5mm (1/8") plug for audio to run out of the laptop.
    • Lapel wireless microphone for voice.
    • Depending on venue - confidence monitor for Keynote slides.
    • Speaker does not require an Internet connection.
    • Laptop must be located on the stage and near the Speaker.
    • Speaker's computer must be within 20 feet of the most distant point where the speaker will be presenting.
    • All podiums must be moved to either side of the stage. Speaker does not use a podium during presentation.
    • Podiums cannot remain in the middle of the stage during Speaker's presentation.
    • Speaker will be using his own wireless remote presenter and will advance his own slides.
    • Speaker will be using his own, personal, laptop with the presentation pre-loaded on it.
    • Speaker's computer is an Apple MacBook Air running Keynote software.
    • Speaker has both VGA and DVI dongle adapters for projector.
    • Speaker will not provide a digital version of the presentation in advance.
    • AC power must be within 6 feet of speaker's computer.
    • If your event is using iMag, you must have two screens (one which always displays the speaker's slides to the audience without interruption).
    • Computer stays in the speaker's possession at all times. It will not be given the night prior for setup and it will not be surrendered on the day of the event. It stays in the speaker's possession.
    • Speaker is more than willing to work with your team on a tech/sound check, preferably thirty minutes before the speaker presents.

Why is this so complicated?

It seems like a lot and very detail oriented, but here's the thing: they're paying me to give a great presentation and this is what it takes - from my experience - for me to deliver that. It also takes away a lot of the stress and anxiety that comes along with speaking when you know that things are set-up in a way that you're comfortable with. I hate being in a venue where I can't see the slides that audience is seeing (hence the confidence monitor), I like being in control of my laptop in case I have to skip a section or want to tinker with something at the last moment, and I hate showing up to an event and the entire stage is just a podium (I like to walk, engage and connect with the audience). In other instances, the AV team wants to control the cue remote (which is always slower than when I do it) or they have a video camera capturing the presenter on screen, and can't move between the slides and the presenter fast enough, so you wind up not speaking to an important point, but everyone is just staring at you mug on a screen.

  • The computer.
    • I run a MacBook Air with both Keynote and PowerPoint on it. I always have versions of my presentation on both software platforms in case one crashes.
    • Caffeine is a great little app that sits in the menu bar and when it's clicked, your computer will never go to sleep, screen saver or anything (just make sure to turn it off once you're done). Caffeine makes it "always on."
    • I love the presenter's view in both Keynote and PowerPoint, but you have to ensure that the output resolution to the projector can handle it, so test it by lowering (or raising) your screen resolution.
    • Apple also allows you to have the display information from your screen as an icon in the menu bar. This makes it very easy to toggle through different resolutions. Look for it in your display preferences.
    • e.ggtimer is a great little tool if you take breaks in your presentation. You can set the timer and show it on the screen, so that everyone in the audience knows when to be expected back in their seats.
  • The hardware.
    • Logitech Professional Presenter R800 is the best remote presenter out there. It not only has a hundred foot range, but it has a built-in timer that counts down and gives off a silent vibration when you have five minutes left and another one when you're done with your presentation. In case you're wondering, I've tried all of the remote presenters out there... this is the one.
    • Dongles. Make sure to have both VGA and DVI dongles on you. Don't trust the venue and I've seen variances where new Macs don't work with older dongles, etc... Have your own, so you never have to worry.
    • USB stick. Always have your presentations backed up on a USB stick and - when possible - ensure that the AV team has a copy too and can switch to their computer should you have a crash.
    • USB hub. If you're plugging in multiple remotes and dongles, etc... it's always good to have a thin and small USB hub (just in case).
    • Rocket stick. I don't trust hotel and conference center Internet connections (wired or wireless), and when I do need to present something online, I much prefer to be doing so with my own access point. Mobile Internet is great to have in case you are relying on their connectivity and it goes down (which it does).
    • Extra power supply. Most laptops suck a lot of power and fast - especially when they're plugged into a projector> Always bring your own power supply and plug your computer in. Do not trust the battery.
  • Extra goodies.
    • Podium Timer app. This is a paid app, but it allows you to set-up your own timer (with messages too) that you can either use on your iPhone so you can tell where you're at, or you can daisy chain it to the HD version which is a more robust iPad timer.
    • Breathing Zone app. Whether you get nervous before speaking or not, this app is a great tool to get your breathing and heart rate into the right zone. If that doesn't work for you, try this technique: Take A Breather.
    • HT Professional Recorder. This iPhone app is an amazing audio recorder. If you want to improve as a speaker, use this app to record all of your presentations, you can go back and listen to how you did.
    • Download videos. Don't rely on a solid internet connection to show online videos. Here's a simple way to download online videos (just be sure to embed them within your presentation and give credit where credit is due). If you add the word "sing" in front of "youtube" in the URL for a video that you like, you get redirected to a site where you can download the audio of that video.

Did I miss anything? What would you add to this list of master tools?

By Mitch Joel


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