This is part of a series of tips for speakers on how to make your presentations better.
I’ve given around 30 presentations a year for the last few years, and easily a dozen a year for a number of years before that. I visit events all over the US and in the UK at schools, conference centers, churches, youth centers, and more. I usually sit and watch a few presentations in addition to speaking, at all hours of the day or night.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned across all those events, it’s that the screen with your slides and code on it is hard to see. Not always, but often.
I’ve talked about fonts, now let’s look at visual display.
Buck Woody mentioned this in a rant, as does Paul Randal in his post on speaking. It can be difficult for attendees to read words or follow the action on the screen. Sometimes it’s so bad you can’t od anything about it. A weak projector and nearby windows can cause the display to wash out. However you can help by using some sort of zooming technology on your machine.
Please, please, please download Zoomit. It’s free and it’s well written, so use it. Practice learning how to zoom in and out. It’s easy, but learn how to do it so you’re not fumbling. When you practice your presentation, zoom in on that laptop screen in front of you.
Also learn how to highlight things. The audience doesn’t always know where you’re looking or what part of the screen you are emphasizing, so help them. If you can’t draw, like me:
then learn to box things in.
I think Zoomit is easy to use, but I’ve used it for years and practiced.
Windows 7 and 8 include the magnifier in the OS. If you hit the Windows key and hold it while you hit the + and – keys, the screen will magnify in or out. There will be a little window that gives you the size, but rather than hit these buttons, just hit + and –.
Yes, I’m aware that the + is above the = on US keyboards, but just hit the key. No shift needed. Go ahead, try it now. Learn how to zoom in and out.
If it’s really hard to see, it is helpful to explain what you’re doing on the screen. Make sure that you avoid pronouns. Don’t point at your screen (yes, I’ve seen people do this). Describe what you are doing.
“ I’ll copy this text.” – You’d be surprised how many people forget we can’t tell you hit CTRL+C or CTRL+V.
“The first CASE statement in the query is the one that is used to calculate the SUM for certain rows.” – Give visual cues, use numbers and locations. Use the names of operators, windows, buttons, etc.
The more you can clearly explain what you are doing in addition to how it works, the better the session for attendees.
Even if they can’t see the screen.