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Owning your own projector

Jan Jasper

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I'm about to start using PowerPoint during my presentations, which I've never done before. I'm concerned about getting my laptop working with the projector provided by the venue -- I've heard there are sometimes compatibility problems. Is it better to invest in your own projector - not just the considerable cost, but also the hassle of getting your equipment through airport security -- in order to have equipment you're familiar with during your presentation?

-- Dave Paradi

The issue is whether the venues you speak in will even have one available. I own my projector because I know many of my venues will not have one or they will expect to charge me for the rental cost (could be as high as $500/day!). There are two articles on the web site www.communicateusingtechnology.com about handling projector problems with solutions to many issues. It will help dramatically if you communicate clearly what projector features you need and then follow up to make sure the projector they are supplying is correct before you ever get to the site.

-- Clare Rice

I bought a projector a couple of years ago and it has made all the difference in the world in my presentation. It makes me looks heads above the rest in professionalism. I feel in control knowing that my system will work. The best part is, you can rent it to the meeting planner for 1/2 of what they would pay the hotel which helps you pay for your unit.

They make the units so small now that they look like a purse. So they are lightweight and easy to transport.

I recommend you talk to Bill Johnson who is a member of NSA who sells projectors.

-- Richard Saldan

If you can afford it, it would be great to have your own projector to bring to your meetings. Also, be leery of going to venues that do not have a projection screen. Most, but not all meeting and conference rooms have them. (I've been embarrassed by showing up with my own projector, only to find that I had to project onto an ugly yellow cinder block wall).

Now, the downsides. Price: A good projector is going to cost you, new about $3300 minimum, used, $1000 to $1500.

Secondly, I'd be so very worried about traveling on airlines with it. You have the baggage handlers who throw luggage around. If you want to bring it on board, you have the airline security scrutiny to deal with.

-- Sue Rusch

I almost chose the option (offered by some vendors) wherein they will UPS a projector to your meeting location, you use it, they send UPS to pick it up the day after your program. You can talk to vendors about the "ship to location" choice.

However, I decided it was better to lease my own LCD. That way, I would not have anxiety over whether or not my equipment would be compatible. I worked with Tierney Brothers, (800-933-7337). I leased a Panasonic PT L701. My lease payment is only about 200/month. Because over 50% of my business is public seminars where I pay for all meeting overhead (including A/V) it is most economical to have my own equipment. I would pay $200-$300 for one on-site rental, and I do six to eight programs a month.

If you typically work with large associations or corporations, they will provide equipment for you, then I wouldn't make the investment in your own equipment. You just make a CD of your presentation and use their equipment. But if you do self-hosted events and/or work with small clients who don't have sophisticated equipment, then having your own might be a wise choice.

Yes, there is the airport hassle. I have a bag that accommodates my LCD and my laptop, as well as all of the connecting cords and the remote mouse. I do have to take it all out and run them through the conveyer belt each time, and re-pack them. My a/v bag fits nicely in the overhead bin, unless I have to fly on a commuter plane ... and that's another story entirely.

The good news: I do not stress, not even a little bit, over whether or not the technology will work. Having my own stuff with me gives me peace of mine.

My advice? Rent an LCD for a couple of days. Practice setting it up, breaking it down, packing .... and then, again, setting it up, breaking it down, etc.

-- Chuck Heinrichs

Airport security will ask you to put the laptop in a tray and seldom do they look at the projector in the case. I have a soft travel case that contains my laptop and projector. This is my carry-on. Be sure you buy one that meets the dimensional requirements of United or American Airlines. It's scary to go from big airplanes to little commuters and have to "check" your carry-on. They do take pretty good care of these items, though.

When you're presenting, never have a screensaver or power setting that takes effect. On Windows, right-click on desktop to get a context-sensitive menu. Go to Screensaver tab and choose "none" and set power settings to 3 or 4 hours.

Stand to the audience's left, so people can "scan/read" from left to right. Try not to look at the screen behind you in order to use the slides as notes. Place your laptop in front of you and to one side so you can sneak a peak at what's on the slide. Always start and stop with a black screen, press b on the keyboard to go to a black screen. (Press b to come back) or, draw a black rectangle on a slide and put the black slide first. Make a copy and put a black slide last. This way you start and stop with the audience paying attention to you, not the slides.

-- Scott Stratten

As long as your laptop has capability for both a USB port and a normal "monitor" connection (a much larger port) you shouldn't have a problem connecting the projector to your laptop. Usually the problem when doing presentations at different sites is the compatibility of PowerPoint versions, but since you will use your own laptop, you won't have that problem. I wouldn't suggest spending the thousands of dollars on a projector unless you want to lug it around -- not to mention the beating it takes. You do have the advantage of knowing the projector will work if you own one, but most venues have them. If you find yourself doing sessions at places that don't provide them, all hotels have rental places that provide them.

In regards to tips on PowerPoint, I have a video called "The Power Is Not The Point" that I could send to you free (I have a soft spot for fellow speakers ;-) if you'd like. There is a clip of it and description at www.workyourlife.com/present.html.

Also, there is a list of mostly free tutorials on PowerPoint at http://www.geocities.com/~webwinds/classes/powerpt.htm#Training.

-- Lois Losyk

We've never had a compatibility problem. Usually the a/v people are really good at setting things up and working out the kinks. The cost and hassle of traveling with your own projector isn't worth it. We always take back-ups both on CD and slides (35 mm slides and overheads) of the presentation in case of problems.

-- Scott Rayburn

The January 2003 issue of Presentations magazine has an article about the relative merits of buying, renting or leasing a projector. The author explores several travel and operating scenarios that might influence a choice. There's also an exhaustive comparison table of features and prices for all of the projectors on the market.

Don't know whether the article is available on-line, but the magazine's Web site is www.presentations.com.

-- Jim Frazier

I wouldn't worry about security. I carry a projector through an airport at least 4 to 6 times a month and they've never paid attention to the projector. It stays in my carry-on bag. The laptop obviously comes out, but they've never said anything about the projector.

Having your own projector is nice, but it also means that the destination doesn't have automatic responsibility for a backup. Projectors DO fail (I have had lots of problems here) and you always need to have a backup plan. I carry overheads, but you might also want to have a pre-positioned projector.

-- Roger Dawson

I have not had any problems using PowerPoint. I always burn a CD of the presentation and send it to the client along with the camera ready handout. I ask them to run the program in the equipment that they will be using to be sure it will work. I also carry my own CD with me of course. Biggest problem? They seldom have a remote control on their laptop. Be sure to have your clients email you their logo so that you can incorporate it into your presentation.

-- David E. Gustafson

To reduce my compatibility woes I purchased my own projector. It is small and lightweight and I carry it in my roll-aboard to every presentation. At the airport, I remove my laptop from my roll-aboard case and send it through the security station, keeping the projector inside the roll-aboard. To date no on has asked me to remove the projector from my bag for inspection.

As in anything practice helps. I still rehearse my presentations but starting from scratch with setting up and connecting (and disconnecting) to keep it smooth.

Today, almost all projectors have a synchronize mode that will check the resolution of your laptop and adjust the resolution of your laptop computer or match the image it projects to your computer. If we have the sync problem it usually take a moment or two of fiddling and we are home free. If not, I just haul out my own projector and we are rolling in about 5 minutes.

Don't forget to plug in your laptop so your battery doesn't run out during your talk.

-- Lou Hampton

I do not carry my own projector; far too much hassle. On occasion, especially when I started, I have had difficulty hooking up, but the on-site tech who set up the projector has always been able to get things working. (Just make sure that person is available). On the two times when I had trouble but there was no tech set up person--both of these were corporate in-house programs for a small number of execs--the audience members knew how to get me hooked up.

Your PowerPoint or your computer is set to go into rest mode after a certain amount of time. I discovered this when every once in a while the screen would go blank. There is a setting somewhere to turn that feature off.

There are lots of little tricks with PP, but I never had much use for most of them. But these I do use: Hit the "b" key and the screen will go black ("w" for white). Hit again and image reappears. Hit the "a" key and the cursor arrow will appear. Very helpful if you want to end the slide show and can't find the cursor!

-- Barney Zick

I carry my projector in a padded roll-aboard carry on bag. I just tell the luggage screener, "It's a projector" and never have a problem.

I've used 10 different projectors and AS LONG AS THEY HAVE the cable, it is no problem. All of them plug into the monitor port on any of my 3 laptops. I use the XP Professional operating system and it is great for finding and setting up without trouble ANY plug in hardware, but it has not been a problem on any machine, even with Windows 98.

Generally speaking, stop worrying. If you can find the function button that sends the picture to the monitor (usually hold down "fn" the hit "F5" or "F6", you are done. With some machines, after the picture goes from your computer to the screen, you need to do the fn thing again to get the image to also be on your machine. They call this "mirroring".

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions