Calling an audible: The art of changing the play
Just in case: backing up with the iPod

Just in case: backing up with the iPod

So you're going on the road to give an important presentation? What are you doing to backup your presentation visuals? What can you do to minimize the possibility of technical failures derailing your talk? Besides having a hardcopy of your main points (just in case all technology fails), what steps can you take just in case your notebook computer or PowerPoint/Keynote file decides to comply with Murphy's Law...and fail at the worst possible time? Whatever we do, we want to avoid putting ourselves in situations like this poor guy featured in this 1995 Apple TV commercial.

It's great if you can have two laptops connected to your projector, both with your slides open and ready to go. This way if one of your laptop freezes up, you can just switch (or toggle) to the other computer without missing much of a beat. Audiences understand that "stuff happens," and they will appreciate it if you show you've planned ahead and have a backup plan. Wasting time messing around with your computer, restarting, etc. will test the patience of your audience (to say the least).

Above: July 2001, New York City. Here my slides are running off the PowerBook on the left, the Mac on the right is connected and ready if needed (it never was).

If you do not have two laptops or do not want to be burdened with the weight on the road, what can you do? One option is to connect an iPod (which can display photos and has video out) to your projector and run your slides off of it in the unlikely event that your computer or PowerPoint has trouble. You connect your iPod to your projector (or TV) via the composite video cable.

The iPod does not run PowerPoint/Keynote directly, of course. Instead you export your slides to images (or Quicktime) and then import them into your iPod. You can advance your photos one at a time just like in PowerPoint. Go to Take Control of Your iPod: Running Presentations by Steve Sande for more details on how to do it. Engadget also had a post on this a couple of years ago. With the iPod connection kit, I should be able to use the dock and Apple remote to advance the slides on the iPod. I'm heading to Hawaii Saturday and then California later in the week for presentations, so I'll pick up the connection kit and see how it works.
Above: The iPod is placed just out of sight, connected and ready just in case.

Even if you never plan to connect your iPod to the projector, at the very least it's another hard disk where you can store another copy of your PowerPoint file and take it along on the road with you. I also export my Powerpoint/Keynote files to Quicktime and to PDF just in case "all hell breaks loose" and my computer won't work -- any PC notebook onsite should be able to "play" a PDF of my slides on full screen mode.

Export your slides to PDF and you can run it on virtually any computer in full screen mode. Your audience will not even know it's a PDF.

There are myriad things you can do to backup. For me, one benefit of backing up is the piece of mind I get knowing that there is a plan B (or plan C, etc.) just in case. Worrying if the technology will work or not just adds too much stress to an already stressful situation. Anything you can do to relieve that stress is worth the time and effort.

Below is a 3:00 minute low-resolution video (taken with a still camera) where I show how you can present off an iPod. I'm just testing audioblogs to see how it works. The video is pure armature hour (I said "projector" and "PowerPoint" when I meant to say "PowerBook") but it took only minutes to make. If audioblogs works out, I'll use it to post better, more useful videos in future.


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