Think about the network BEFORE you present
Interactive presentation tools like Zeetings are great. You can poll your audience, conduct Q&A, allow on-line access to your content – it’s the way of the future. But like many new technologies, interactive presentations are somewhat reliant on network connectivity to operate to their full potential. As a consequence it is VERY IMPORTANT that you plan carefully, and give consideration to the network, before you attempt deliver an interactive presentation. In this article I will walk some of my network rules, and other tips, for conducting a successful interactive presentation with Zeetings.
Rule 1: Be able to present offline. Assume the worst, that the network will completely blow up, and have your slides on a USB stick ready to fallback to if it all goes wrong. A good Audio Visual technician, should just need a quick word from the stage, to move into this mode provided you have had a word in advance.
Rule 2: Hardwire the presenter machine. Lots of venues have poor wifi and/or mobile coverage. It may be fine if attendees have some trouble connecting, but if the presenter cannot connect, we are in for a rocky ride. Always connect the presenter machine to the venue network with a HARDWIRED NETWORK CABLE, and NOT over wifi. This even applies to mobile devices like iPADs. Having a hardwired connection will provide the highest level of bandwidth to the presenter machine, and avoid wifi congestion problems. If you have a Mac make sure you bring a network connection plug.
Rule 3: Call in Advance. Before a big presentation I like to survey the room in advance, even the day before. I walk around with my mobile and check how many bars I get in the room. Many auditoriums are located in basements and have bad mobile coverage. Remember most audience members will connect with their mobile phones over their carrier. If coverage is spotty in the room, be prepared to give the audience instructions on connecting to the local wifi network (network name/password). Ask the venue manager how strong the wifi signal is. By getting a good lay of the land you will be understanding connectivity issues and can plan accordingly. There is nothing worse than finding this stuff out 30 minutes before you go on stage.
Rule 4: Think capacity. So often I see presenters check the wifi connectivity when the audience is not in the room. When you have a thousand people in room, all with mobiles running, there is are a lot of waves in the air, and networks begin to behave strangely. Avoid all this and goto Rule 2. In general Polls and Q&A are very light on network bandwidth and can be run over very low bandwidth networks. As a general rule 100-200kbit/s per user will allow Zeetings, email, and web surfing to work. High resolution graphics in slides can consume lots of bandwidth (see rule 6)
Rule 5: Warm up. As a presenter, when you first go into your Zeeting, Zeetings will start to download, or cache, your entire presentation locally onto your machine. This makes slide transitions very fast when your presenting, as Zeetings does not have to go over the network to get your content. If your presentation is very large, and you have a poor network this may take some time, sometimes several minutes. Make sure Zeetings is warmed up by running completely through your deck one to check that all slides transition quickly. If your slide does not load instantly, and you see a blue progress bar on Zeetings, then give it a little more time to cache the entire presentation.
Rule 6: Go on a diet. A lot of times presenters tell me their slides are loading slowly. When I look at their decks I notice that they have loaded graphics which are much higher resolution than that which can be supported by the projectors, or screens on which their presentation slides will be viewed. Most projectors project at 1920 x 1080 resolution so any graphics at a higher resolution that this are wasted and not necessary. Keep images in your decks at a suitable resolution. Powerpoint has some great image compression tools to help you with this. Note that Zeetings automatically compresses images being sent to mobile devices, but does no image manipulations or optimisations on the presenter slides.
So there you have it, a couple of quick rules to keep you out of the ‘oh the wifi is not working’ camp.