Why I Teach, and the Difference Between a Duck and a Goose

“The best way to learn is to teach.” – Frank Oppenheimer

I teach for fairly unsurprising and pedestrian reasons: it pays the bills, it confers credibility, I enjoy it, and it’s social. The most important reason I teach however is not so obvious – it’s my crutch.

Without a string of audiences over the years I don’t think I would have made much headway within this industry. I’ve been constantly forced to think, experiment and research below the surface. And I do mean ‘forced’ – if you’re going to stand in front of a room of people who are paying to be there with either their money or their time, you had better know the difference between a duck and a goose (ducks are smaller and have shorter beaks). Teaching and presenting at corporate level demands conceptual repackaging, and clarity of expression – imperatives which drive good presenters to get it right in their own heads first.


The Traps and Tricks of Presenting to Audiences Live off the Web

Over the last few years I’ve conducted hundreds of live off the web presentations for various audiences, in many different rooms and venues. There must be at least 267 ways in which a tech driven presentation can come unstuck; hopefully you can avoid some of the more obvious traps – all derived from my painful first-hand experience – as well as take on a few other tricks.

Firstly, My Presentation Rig…

  • Apple MacBook Air; 100% flash drive = ultra fast boot-up time, and a super long battery life.
  • Wireless mouse with spare batteries handy.
  • 3G wireless modem.
  • High-gain external antenna; adds 2 bars onto any wireless signal (invaluable kit – has saved me numerous times).
  • Back-up wireless modem on an alternate network.
  • Data projector which supports super-sexy widescreen 1240 X 800 resolution.
  • External speakers,  AC powered for sufficient volume in larger rooms.
  • Extra long VGA cable for the data projector – allows me to sit at my laptop anywhere in the room.

The Venue – General Set-up and Using other People’s AV Equipment

  • Get to the venue at least 90 mins before presentation time; give yourself sufficient opportunity to fix anything that’s not working (I always count on something not working).
  • If there’s no back-up internet network, i.e. an in-house wireless and/or ethernet connection – avoid presenting in a windowless room as this will weaken your wireless signal.
  • If it’s a conference venue check out the set-up the evening before – it’s easier to get things sorted out then than put yourself under the time-pressure pump in the morning when the show has or is about to get started.
  • Don’t forget to plug your power cable in (also fully charge your batteries prior).

Using Somebody Else’s Network Connection

  • Ensure you have sufficient ethernet cable to reach from your laptop from their socket location.
  • If using a restricted wireless network get the network login details beforehand.
  • Ensure there are no network restrictions on any sites, esp. social media platforms.
  • Ensure there are no data limits (or chocking) – common on public networks within hotels or conference centres.

Using Somebody’s Else’s Computer/ Laptop and Browser

  • Get familiar with their browser – many people use older versions which should have been retired years ago.
  • Test the browser – what page is their ‘homepage’ set to? When hyperlinking to a new site is the browser set to open a new tab or a new window (these little things can really throw you when you’re in front of a room full of people).
  • Ensure Flash is installed if demonstrating any sites requiring it (e.g. Google Analytics).
  • Recalibrate your bookmarks (I use Delicious, but I still need to login to my account).
  • Make sure there are no browser plug-ins missing that you would normally use.

If plugging into somebody’s else’s data projector

  • Extra long RGA cable to reach to their data projector.
  • Test-run for optimal screen resolution off your laptop.
  • Make sure your laptop doesn’t go into power-down or sleep mode if idle (important if there are speakers on before you).

Full Online Access to all Presentation Related Files and Information

  • Google Sites (Wiki)- online storage of my hyperlinked run-sheets, and all online app login details.
  • Delicious – my online bookmarks, all keyword tagged.
  • Dropbox – online storage of my synchronised, latest version, multi-format presentation files.
  • Highrise – my online contact management system (good for tracking down anyone’s phone number at the last minute).

Photo by savethewildup