Multiple presenters with multiple presentations

24 10 2013

WallpaperWhen watching a presentation no one wants to see the embarrassing picture you have as your wallpaper. No one wants to see your cursor flying round the screen as you scrabble about trying to locate where it was you’ve hid your presentation either.

At events where more than one person is going to speak and more than one person wants to run their own presentation there are different ways to go about accommodating everyone that means we don’t have to subject the audience to this modern day presentation horror.

METHOD NUMBER ONE: Blank the projector before you leave presentation mode

Most projector remotes have a blank screen button. If your remote doesn’t, or you can’t find the remote, put something in front of the projector beam. It is easy with a table top projector. If it is ceiling mounted then you have a bigger challenge but it can be done. In one venue I visited they used a cardboard box attached to the end of a wooden pole. You might think it look comical, it did a bit, but it was much better than than the alternative: reading the names of the NSFW folders the next presenter might have had on his desktop. In another venue there was a secret sign you could use to tell the projectionist to do it for you. It worked well when they were paying attention. You looked like an idiot repeatedly raising your hand when they weren’t. Once everything is ready then un-blank the screen.

This method is easy and cheap but it is not very fast and you still subject your audience to the sight of flustered presenters trying to switch in and out cables and search for files.

METHOD NUMBER TWO: Get everyone to use the same software on the same machine

It seems as if this whole live-streamed worldwide, massively important product launch was run as a single presentation, from a single computer by the people that were on the stage.

They get out of the embarrassing switch-over issue by just passing over the remote control. If you have the time to script, write and rehearse a presentation like this then this is a rock solid way to do it. If you were doing the same presentation more than once it might be worth investing the time and effort. For a one-off or if you need more flexibility (or if you aren’t all working for Apple and have free Apple hardware and software) it will be unrealistic.

METHOD NUMBER THREE: Outsource the AV to a specialist company

At big events an AV contractor will normally take control of everything and insist that you provide them with your presentation days, if not weeks, in advance. The advantage for them is that they get to check what you are planning to run, they can debug the stuff that doesn’t look good and make sure all the video formats will run. They can also then run the presentation from their booth switching back and forth between their standard background graphics and the presentations each presenter has submitted. When done professionally it looks amazing.

The disadvantage for a presenter of this method is the lack of control you have. You can’t change anything on the fly and you often have to provide them with material in a format they choose. Sometimes this means small items like videos won’t be accepted, sometimes they will limit you to what you can use to run the presentation- and that is almost always PowerPoint over alternatives like Keynote or Prezzi. You often have to use their remote control as well. This is always huge and obvious totally unlike the small discrete one you are probably used to. I find the whole experience very off-putting which is the last thing you need when faced with such a large scale and presumably important event.

In my contracts I now state that there will be additional charges if my material has to be submitted beforehand for the AV team to work on. If you are a competent presenter with PowerPoint or Keynote don’t be fooled into thinking having professionals to work with will mean less work and hassle for you. Be prepared and budget for the extra work and time. For all but the biggest presentations using a specialist third party is expensive overkill.


The method I personally use is to plug the projector feed into a box that switches between two (or more) laptop VGA feeds. I think this gives the professional look of an outsourced AV solution, the rehearsed look of the single laptop method with the flexibility that anyone can be slotted into the presentation at any time.

I carry one of these around in my cable bag. The first Switcherperson sets their presentation up using one port, the next speaker can then plug their laptop into the other port, with a turn of a knob the projector input switches from the first to the second.

The advantage of this system is that it is cheap and portable. It also allows any number of presenters to take turns on stage. As one person is speaking the next person is getting ready to plug in using the spare port ready to take over with a turn of the switch. You can make last minute alterations to your presentation which can be really useful if the person before you has just said something you could link to or spoken about something you were also going to talk about. Everyone can use their own computers. You don’t need to be running the same software. As long as your presentation will run via VGA to a projector it will run using this system.

The disadvantage is there is a 2-3 second delay as the switch is made and you also need to remember to pull out and replace the audio cable. In events where things are meant to look really slick this switch-over can look a little clunky. But nowhere near as clunky as showing everyone your every move as you frantically navigate your embarrassing desktop.





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