So in addition to working full-time as an educational technologist, I also teach a writing and presentation course in our School of Communications. Now it’s all fine and good to work with students on their verbal communications (“Don’t say “like” again, you’ve uttered that word 10 times in the last 30 seconds. Come up with a more unique filler word.”) and their non-verbal communications (“LET GO OF THE PODIUM. You’re going to shake it to pieces!”), as well as addressing presentation anxiety. However, we have forgotten to include something that could impact every presenter out there…
Imagine you’ve created your presentation in Google Slides or the PowerPoint app in Office 365, and you’ve saved it there, expecting to just log in and open up your presentation when you get to class, or to your interview, or to that conference. All of a sudden you realize you can’t get to your slides, and you have no backup plan. You have not downloaded your slides to your computer, or saved them to a flash drive. So you’re standing there, ready to go, but your slides are completely inaccessible because the network has crashed, and where you’re at in the building you have zero cell service, meaning that you can’t even use your cell phone as a hotspot to connect the computer to.
Basically, you’ve failed Presentation Prep 101, which is simply the infamous Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
We’ve become dependent on cloud storage and effective network uptime to the point where if things crash, it’s a shock. It shouldn’t be. Technology isn’t 100% foolproof, and we should know this by now. We’re not stupid…we’re arrogant. We believe that everything will work when it should. We never fully comprehend the cost to us of being unprepared for presentation failure. It could be that your grade for your presentation will be much lower than it should be. It could be that the time you took preparing your argument is wasted because you had everything online. It could be that you don’t get the job you wanted because you couldn’t present your materials during an interview presentation, and you looked unprepared and foolish.
Now to me, there’s several easy ways around this. The easiest thing to do is to save your presentation offline. Save it to your computer, save it to your flash drive – get it off the cloud. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s not.
The second option is to have printed copies of your slide deck available, in the event a) the network is down, and b) the computer is unusable. You’ll have your slides – it’s not pretty, but you were prepared. Now, this won’t help you if you have a crowd of 1,000 – but in the event you’re presenting to a possible employer and there’s 10 people viewing your presentation, it could demonstrate that you were ready for the unforeseen – making your presentation maybe not as effective, but demonstrating that you were ready in case of an unforeseen problem.
The third option is a throwback. This option rarely fails, and if so, the fix is quick and cheap. I give you…the transparency projector.
So why do I bring up the old fashioned transparency projector? Well…it’s not network dependent, it can work anywhere you have a wall, and if a bulb burns out, there’s usually a reserve bulb available, and switching it out doesn’t require a lift or fancy tools. The only way it doesn’t work is if the power is out, and if that happens…there’s bigger issues!
And transparency projector bulbs don’t cost hundreds of dollars like they do in regular projectors! And no need to have HDMI, DVI, RGB, or any other masses of cables involved!
So…ok, back to reality.
The old transparency projectors are dead and gone, but at the end of the day it’s critical that we understand that technology does indeed fail. For students (and instructors!) the taking of granted of our technology working the way we expect will come back and bite us at bad times, and it can have a real cost when it comes to our credibility and performance on the presentation.