Essential equipment for your presentation

I am doing a lot of presentations. For about 10 years running Powerpoint on Windows based laptops. And for the last 10 months running KeyNote on a MacBook Pro. First some words on “the switch”.

The experience with the Mac is simply much better. Period. And I am an advanced user that actually have been able to use Powerpoint to play videos, do transitions and behave quite well on all my windows boxes. But KeyNote is in general a better application than Powerpoint. The way it renders the slides, support for better graphics with proper shadows, effects, transitions, alpha channels and everything that simply makes your presentation look better.

And the Mac handles the projector with better stability and ease of use. The video always plays on the projector and the Mac always switch to the proper resolution when the projector is connected. When I save my presentation it is saved like a package that includes the media files. No more “can’t find the movie clip”.

But the best thing is that I always get both the current and the next slide on the screen in front of me while the projector shows the current slide. That makes it possible for me to do presentations with extremely fluent transitions and exact timing. Because I don’t have to memorize the presentation and remember what the next slide will be. I know that this is possible in Powerpoint as well. But my engineering degree has not been enough to make it possible for me to use that function with confidence on the laptops that I have used. On my Mac it simply works. Always.

But I have a couple of mandatory accessories to make the experience even better.

For my Mac I need to remember the converter from DVI to VGA. Apple have this tendency to ditch old technology a couple of years too early. About 1% of the conference halls I have been to support DVI directly. The fact that you need this connector is also the reason why Apple computers have this bad reputation regarding presentations. And personally I think it was a bad decision from Apple to ditch a proper VGA connector on their MacBooks. But let’s go on. I have learned to remember this connector along with my other three mandatory accessories.

My beloved remote. Covered in detail here.

The USB key. Always keep a backup of your presentation on one of these. The full KeyNote copy. In addition to a Powerpoint version and a PDF. Keep the USB key separated from the rest of your equipment. When your laptop gets stolen on your way to that important presentation it is very nice to have a backup in your pocket.

For the advanced users. You only need it in about one out of fifty presentations. But when you need it it is extremely valuable. The VGA amplifier. In some conference halls the cable to the projector is very long. This degrades the quality of the signal. This small device has done wonders a couple of times. Everything from making the image from my computer look way better than the person before me. To making me the only person actually getting an image on the projector.

Google “Extron P/2 DA1 Peaker” or something like that to find a shop near you selling this device. More details: “P/2 DA1 USB”. “Line Driver”. “P/N 60-319-03”. It was pretty expensive where I found it. About $200,-

And the last one. Some small loudspeakers. My experience is that most meeting rooms and conference halls have a projector that works. But the audio might be a problem. Especially in small hotels and meeting rooms. These speakers won’t help you in that large 500 people hall, but is very valuable in a small conference room.

But, as always the most important thing is your content. Start following Presentation Zen immediately. And some valuable advice from earlier eirikso articles here:
Working with one slide
How to avoid making boring presentations
Presenting Software

And my main guideline. Seth Godin’s “Really bad powerpoint“.

And comments are open. Do you have something to add? Something more you want to know about my presentations?

Essential equipment for your presentation

23 thoughts on “Essential equipment for your presentation

  1. Agree on all points, would love to have a Mac, but until Apple comes with a Tablet-enabled Mac I will not switch. The ability to flip back and forth between a blank drawing board to explain things, and the ability to make ink annotations on PowerPoint slides is too much to give away for getting the undoubted benefits of a Mac. With a prepared presentation, you can present. With a pen interface, you can lecture, explain, discuss and experiment.

    Then again, if a MacPro with a pen interface came up, I would place the order within 10 seconds. (And yes, I know you can get rebuilt versions, but that is a bit too much of a stretch given that the company that does it is in the States.)

  2. Yes. When you master that combination of Powerpoint and a tablet it’s absolutely fantastic. Let’s hope Apple makes that multi touch MacBook Pro that we all started wanting when we saw the iPhone for the first time.

    You could buy a small Wacom tablet for the mac, but the operating system needs to support it properly if you want full effect. And dragging around that extra device isn’t nearly as useful as a proper tablet PC with touch screen.

  3. My two killer advice for your presentation:

    1) Have your laptop on the floor at the edge of the stage, not on the podium where the crew want you to put it. Then you can have a look at the preview screen (as Eirik show above) while looking at the audience. Much better. Most presenters turn their back to the screen way to often. Don’t show your back (or ass!) unless there’s a reason. Look at your audience, not the screen behind you.

    2) Move around. Don’t stand parked at one side. Our brains are not made for static. Stand on one side of the stage at one part of the presentation, on the other side later. It’s like with your brain: You need different stimulation, not just one side. Add a black slide once in while, and go the stage front, and talk to row 4. Or 7. Just that row. For 30 seconds. Move over to the left side and make the nest slide slide out from where you stand. And so on. Think 3 dimensions.

    And the remote above is WAY better than enything else out there. If you do presentations, you need it. Period.

  4. Excellent advice. I’ll add these to my next post about presentations. You should do a quick post over at with stuff like this. That’ll give me a place to link to… :-)

    The main problem is the fact that cables and everything are adjusted for the people standing at the podium. The image at the top of this article is from my presentation at the EBU finance assembly in Marrakech, Morocco. They didn’t even have a wireless mic. I had to stand still up there at the nice plexi glass podium. Maybe a clip on wireless mic should be in my mandatory equipment?

  5. I just got this brilliant idea. You get to the venue and they don’t have a wireless mic. You get slightly annoyed and ask again. Sure you don’t have a wireless mic? No, we don’t. You’ll have to stand at the podium.

    Then you answer. “No, I don’t. I’ll use my own mic.”

    And pull this one out of your bag.



    Yes, might work on some of the presentations. Not sure if it fits all of them…

  7. Matt says:

    As a university teacher, having used PowerPoint for years, and switched to MacBook Pro and Keynote this year I agree 100%. Much better all round. One question though – why not the Apple remote that comes with the MacBook? I’ve found it great.

  8. I don’t find the Apple remote powerful enough. The logitech remote is not based on IR, it’s radio signals. Meaning that I don’t have to point it anywhere near the mec. As long as I’m somwhere around 30 meters from the box it will work.

    I like to move around and my experience with the Apple remote is that I have to point it at the mac when using it.

    The logitech also have a nice timer and vibration when it’s five minutes left of my presentation.

    But, the possibility to hit the menu button on the Apple remote and navigate through several slides is very nice… I have to move over to the computer if I want to do that when I use the logitech.

  9. Good pres in Stockholm, Eirik. Enjoyed hearing about Facebooksofting and “path of least resistance”. Also like this post a lot – I spend a fair bit of time presenting too. Enjoyable – seriously thinking about getting soem of the tools you recommend… Thinkit almost seals the deal for me on getting a macbook pro…

  10. I simply have to agree that the Logitech Cordless Presenter is fantastic. I got it a couple of years ago, and it has NEVER failed.

    I don’t think I dare to switch to Mac, to afraid to use to much time on learning something so basic as a workstation. I know its stupid. Did you keep your old machine as well Eirik? Thats the only way i would feel safe I think.

  11. I figured I did 95% of my work in Firefox, Photoshop and Powerpoint. Switching to Mac meant ditching Powerpoint for something much better and adding Aperture to one of the applications I use much. Took some time to find the perfect text editor, the best FTP client and some other tools, but the switch was way easier than feared.

    I kept my old IBM box as a backup for a couple of presentations, but now my backup is a copy on the memory stick. The MacBook has let me down once. On a projector that had a bad VGA cable, missing the green cable. The person with the windows box before me was able to force a signal out to it, but the MacBook refused to switch to the projector when it had no sync. At that point I didn’t have the VGA amplifier. That might have solved it.

    Anyway, the MacBook is still way more reliable than my old IBM Thinkpad. And believe me, that old X31 Thinkpad was one reliable and tough machine.

  12. Eirik, thank you for your presentation and the great conversation we had about Norway the first evening. You are a wonderful ambassador of your country, that I have now in the top of my list “to visit in 2008”. See you soon (LeWeb3 ?)


  13. A good ambassador for my country. Wow. Send that to our prime minister! :-) A nice evening indeed. Unfortunately I’m not going to LeWeb3. But I’m now following you on Twitter so I’ll catch you the next time I’m somewhere close.

  14. dirk says:

    Being better than PowerPoint is not too difficult… KeyNote has its faults, too. One to check out would be OpenOffice presentation software. It’s an amazing alternative to PP or KN when one considers price… it’s FREE!

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