Avoiding Public Speaking Disasters: Prepare Your Technology and Bribe the AV Guy

The Times‘ David Pogue offers some great advice for speakers in Technology, or Lack Thereof, at the Podium. Some of his anecdotes will be hilarious and painful for anyone who does much public speaking because they’ll recognize that moment of dread when they know that things aren’t going to turn out the way they’d hoped. My most recent painful encounter with an AV guy happened when I was scheduled to give a talk at an big technology company. I was prepared with all the right dongles (Pogue is right– Macs tend to make AV people panic, so be sure to let them know you’ve brought your own ASAP) but asked my host to send someone to turn on their projector and sound equipment because I didn’t want to screw anything up.

The guy arrived quickly, but was obviously already stressed at 8:30 in the morning. He grunted, flipped a switch or two and greeted me by saying “they never should have scheduled you for this.” Luckily his attitude softened a bit when I flashed my dongle and he saw that I wasn’t a rookie who would be requiring a lot of hand-holding. Still, what a warm greeting and great way to start the day….

The key to avoiding the kind of technology disasters Pogue describes (and ingratiating yourself with the AV guy) is to be as prepared as possible. Visit the room in advance so you’ll know what you’re dealing with. Bring printed copies of your presentation as a back-up plan. And make sure you have all of the equipment you’ll need by checking in advance with the people running the facility you’ll be using. Even better, bring everything you need with you. It’s not a bad idea to arrive with your own cables, remote, even your own projector if possible. An iPhone or iPad can make a great remote control or act as a the kind of “confidence monitor” that Pogue describes. I’ve even used them as teleprompters for recording video.

Whatever you do, make sure to befriend the AV guy. If it’s a catered event offer him a doughnut or a sandwich. You need him on your side!


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