Presentation Fridays

Days that involve travel to an event followed by a presentation are often the most stressful.

It is helpful if you can arrive the evening before a presentation to give you, and your body, a chance to unwind prior to the event and eliminate the stress that some transportation delay will disrupt your schedule. Regardless of what you might feel about the material that you are to present, unforeseeable events like accidents, flat tires, flights diverted to alternate airports, airline schedule changes and bad weather can prevent your timely arrival. In addition, there is the possibility that luggage might be lost or that your pre-shipped materials might be delayed in customs.

Home issues

Besides packing for the trip, there are always home issues to be taken care of before you leave. Your spouse will want contact information, the kids will need to know when you will return and often something will need to be done about your pets. Handle as many of these items the night before and reschedule any visits from the cable guy. Another thing that you will need to be sure that you packed up is your medications, if you are taking some for chronic conditions. A tooth brush or razor can be replaced, but it is not convenient to get medications after you leave home.

Have back up materials

A thumb drives containing your Power Point presentation along with at least a few copies of your hand-out materials can go in your carry-on luggage to prevent a catastrophic failure. If necessary, more copies can be made on site. Access to cloud storage might also be possible, but it is always reassuring to have something literally in your pocket.

Luggage and check-in hassles

If things are cut too close, you might be in the position that your just-in-time arrival has you delivered at the lecture hall minutes before you are go appear, and you did not have time to check in at your hotel. You have your materials to get ready as well as your luggage to do something with in the meantime. Most venues will have a check-in facility for coats that can also hold your luggage for a few hours. Draft anyone willing, explain what is going on and have them assist you with your luggage and set-up. In the meantime call the conference organizers and let them know you are on your way. Your presentation might be delayed or perhaps the time swapped with another presenter so that the day’s events are kept on schedule, even though your presentation might not be in the order listed in the program.

Collect yourself

Rushing breathless and sweating onto a stage and fumbling around trying to organize your materials is not likely to give a good impression. Relax make a joke about the weather or airlines or anything appropriate while you get yourself and your materials together. This will elicit some sympathy from your audience and buy you some time. The statement, “And now we may began,” will elicit a laugh from the audience and put you more at ease when you start on your presentation. Any of this is better than trying to ad-lib something on the fly.

Presenting sick

Attending international events brings you into contact with populations from all over the world who are bringing their infectious agents with them. Major events might have 30,000 attendees and during midwinter’s flu season it seems that everyone you come into contact with has something. Take your flu shots, keep up with any meds that your own physician has given you and take some cough drops and any over the counter medications that you find effective in controlling digestive problems. In extreme cases you might have to cancel or substitute a video for your in-person appearance.

Videoing your presentation

In major conferences it is customary that at least the major presentations will be videoed. If you are presenting to a smaller group it takes a little time to set up an inexpensive video camera and have it record your performance. It is best to place your camera off to one side so that it can capture your image as well as the slides being shown on the screen. Ideally there would be someone who could also zoom in and out on occasion to better show your slides as you discuss them. You can record sound separately so that you also have an audio record that you can use along with the video. Do not place your camera near the projector or other noise sources unless you plan to overdub the sound. Making a video allows you not only to capture your performance but also to add other materials like photographs, written text, a summary of the event or other things that the viewer might find useful.

Tearing down

If you are one of a number of presenters you will have only a few minutes to tear down, pack up and exit the room before the next speaker. Thought needs to be given to make sure you leave with all of the equipment that you brought. For this reason it is best not to bring elaborate displays that take time to remove. It is disrespectful to take some of the next presenter’s time while you are cleaning up your stuff. There may be a group of listeners around you after the presentation, if so, inform them that you need to pack up and leave the stage area and will be happy to speak to them in the hall or at some other location after the event. In the meantime, gather your things and go.

Post event happenings

After securing your materials back in your vehicle or hotel room, you can return to the conference, perhaps attend someone else’s talk and generally mingle with other participants. Take the opportunity to unwind, generally observe what is going on and perhaps even plan what hospitality events that you are going to cover. This is also an appropriate time to link up with those with similar interests from other companies for supper if there is not a scheduled banquet.

Your report

If you are an early riser and managed not to have been overserved the evening before, the morning after your presentation is ideal for cataloging the events of the day. You will have collected business cards and you need to capture the information related to that stack of cards before you mix them up with those you will collect on subsequent days. Your report should include the following:

• Presentation
General review and comments
• People met
Record reasons cards given
Potential value of the relationship
• Other significant papers and presentations
• Logistical and travel considerations
• Costs
• Evaluation of the event

The evaluation of the event is the part of the report that is most often omitted. If the event that you participated in is THE annual trade show for your industry and you were assigned to go, it is fair to comment if you were the correct person to send and perhaps suggest others who might be more interested or adept in going than you found yourself to be. If you have done an honest and workmanship like job on your report, then your evaluation will carry more weight and be taken seriously. This report is in addition to your regular work load and the more rapidly it can be done, including doing much of it at the event, the quicker you can get it behind you and get back to your regular work.

Piling on

Your return home on Sunday after a week-end event leaves you with unpacking, clean-up and reordering your life after being absent for the weekend. More enlightened companies will allow you a day to catch up on personal stuff after attending a major trade show, but many expect you back at your desk the next morning. If so, jet lagged, fighting off some foreign bug and with a sore head you pile into your car and where you may face a Muddling Monday, which will be the next article in this series.

I cover many practical business matters in Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife. In this book I advocate starting businesses as and when needed to raise immediate cash, work towards getting a better job and longer term goals which may require college degrees or relocations. This book is available in softcover or e-book format at and other e-book sources as well as from your local bookstore.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a registered Professional Geologist in Georgia. He is or has been a member of several writers’ organizations including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA). He is the author of 18 books with his most recent title being “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” He has been a radio host and does public speaking on work and environmental topics with appearances in the U.S., Europe and China. He is an active blogger and the producer of over 725 YouTube videos on outdoor and business topics.