Is technology a help or a hindrance when presenting? Here, we highlight key presentation bugbears with suggestions on how to overcome them
Meetings that start late are a major bugbear for office professionals. And with good reason. Barco has calculated that, on average, meetings in the UK, US, France and Germany start six minutes late. For a typical office worker attending four meetings a week, this adds up to more than 20 hours wasted every year.
And the number one reason for delayed starts? Technology. Almost one third (31%) of respondents complained that delays were due to struggles with technology, with an additional 16% citing problems with adapters.
Not surprisingly, technology has been identified as a big contributor to ‘meeting stress’. In fact, Barco claims that almost all the main causes of stress in meetings are technology related, including connectivity problems, compatibility issues and technology failure.
Analysis by Barco and Vanson Bourne shows that when office workers struggle with issues like sharing screens or finding the right cable their heart rate reaches an unsettling 179 beats per minute, from a resting rate of 60-100 bpm .
Presenters are right to be anxious at such times, as 70% of those surveyed by Barco said that technical problems cause speakers to lose credibility. When asked to identify what makes a presentation successful, 38% said an absence of technical problems.
What, then, are the most common problems encountered by presenters and what can be done to avoid them?
The difficulty in connecting devices and getting them to work together seamlessly is a common frustration for office workers.
Thomas Walter, product marketing manager at NEC Display Solutions Europe, said: “When you’re focused on business, working to impress your client and participate in a productive meeting, the last thing you need is to worry and fuss over technology which should be there to support you. A tangle of wires and constant plugging and unplugging as presenters swap over does little to facilitate an efficient meeting.”
He added: “Another issue is different cable standards, such as HDMI, VGA or DP. As the majority of laptops don’t support all connector types and the business infrastructure might not provide all connections to the screen either, this can cause further difficulties and frustration.”
Optoma territory manager Nick Price points out that this problem is exacerbated by the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. “It is common for people to bring their laptops and devices into meeting rooms and they expect connectivity with the display equipment. When selecting a projector for your meeting rooms and boardrooms ensure it has a wide selection of inputs to cater for a range of source devices,” he said.
He also advises businesses to make sure the installer leaves a set of instructions for equipment set-up.
Not surprisingly, wireless solutions that remove the complication of having to find the right wire or cable and make it easier for multiple users to share content from their devices are a major focus for manufacturers.
A good example is Barco’s ClickShare, a wireless presentation and collaboration system compatible with a range of devices and operating systems that allows users to display what’s on their laptop or mobile device on the presentation screen.
Last year saw the introduction of numerous other wireless presentation solutions that enable users to display content from personal mobile devices on a main display in Full HD, including the Optoma WPS Pro, the Vivitek NovoPRO and the NRC MultiPresenter MP10RX, a small HDMI stick that adds wireless collaboration to projectors and display screens.
As useful as these solutions are, Price warns that even wireless solutions present difficulties. “There are so many wireless conference technologies on the market, it can be a bit of a minefield to get the equipment to talk to each other,” he said.
Booked up and broken
Another common complaint is not being able to find a free meeting room with technology that actually works. This is where pico projectors like the pocket-sized Philips PicoPix series come into their own.
Mark Ivens, marketing manager at XGEM, which distributes the projectors in the UK, said: “Many presenters have walked into a room and expected a projector or monitor to be there only to find that it’s broken, missing or not compatible with their laptop. With a PicoPix pocket projector, presenters, trainers, sales executives, directors and HR managers can truly become self-sufficient, at least in the projector sense.”
He added: “One of the ways Philips PicoPix immediately makes life simpler is our products are easy to have with you and ready to present at all times. Our largest, heaviest model measures only 11.5 by 11.5cm and weighs a very handy 351g.”
The Philips PicoPix PPX4935 has an internal memory for storing presentations and an integrated battery, so you don’t even need to connect a laptop, smartphone or other device. Nor do you need to worry about there being a power socket within easy reach.
Another way in which manufacturers are addressing customer’s frustrations is to make their devices more reliable so that office workers have one less thing to worry about when going into a presentation.
“Presenters need to know the equipment is going to work,” explained Optoma’s Price. “The dust-sealed design of Optoma’s DLP projectors prevents dust and dirt from affecting the system, ensuring optimal image quality with ultimate reliability and minimal maintenance.”
Lieven Bertier, head of product management for ClickShare at Barco, raises another pet hate – complicated instructions. “Meeting room technology has to be intuitive and easy to use because there is no time available to familiarise yourself with the ins and outs of the tech before the meeting, especially if you’re a guest,” he said.
Unfortunately, presentation technology isn’t always as easy to use as it should be. Lucy Meredith, UK product marketing specialist for Panasonic Visual System Solutions, believes that many presenters are failing to achieve their potential due to poorly designed and excessively difficult to use software and hardware.
“Some display and presentation software is overly complex to use, with hidden menus obscuring regularly used features, making things difficult to find, interrupting the ﬂow of the presentation and leaving an audience distracted. Displays and interactive whiteboards are often too reliant on remotes to perform key functions and have complex and cumbersome menu and navigation systems that provide a barrier to getting things done quickly,” she said.
Panasonic has attempted to address this issue with the BF1 series of displays, which, according to Meredith, have “intuitive software and an easy-access menu bar offering one-touch input switching and instant writing, as well as easy access to the most commonly used features”.
Intuitive controls are also one of the key selling points of Sharp BIG PAD displays. Chris Wood, visual solutions business unit director, Sharp Business Systems UK, said: “Simplicity is at the heart of our BIG PAD interactive displays, and they are designed with an easy to use, intuitive interface that can be easily picked by any employee without the need for additional training, and software which guides users step-by-step.”
Static and boring
Presenters are not the only ones to find fault with modern presentation technology. Audiences are just as likely
to be dissatisfied, especially if the person standing before them has failed to make the most of the tools available and delivers a static presentation, simply clicking and reading slides.
Optoma’s Price recommends making use of interactive technology to make presentations more engaging. He said: “People have higher expectations now in terms of the interactivity of presentations. It is no longer acceptable to deliver ‘death by Powerpoint’. The goal of greater collaboration in meeting rooms is driving the growth of interactive projectors, such as Optoma’s super bright, interactive 320 range of ultra short throw projectors. Available in Full HD, these project a 100’’ image from just 30cm away and allow ten point finger touch for multiple people to annotate plans and documents for the whole meeting to see.”
Price points out that the proliferation of laptops in meetings can make it hard for presenters to hold the attention of the audience, adding that an Eco AV mute function on the EH320USTi projector can be helpful in this regard by blanking the screen and making the presenter the focus of attention.
Sharp’s Wood also sees interactivity as the key to more engaging presentations. “With our BIG PAD range of interactive ﬂat panel displays we’re helping to make presentations more collaborative and engaging, with a selection of easy to use displays that give users the reliability, support and ﬂexibility they need to give a stand-out presentation,” he said.
What’s stopping you?
The problems outlined above will be familiar to all presenters and their audiences. So what’s stopping businesses from upgrading their equipment?
Cost is an obvious barrier. However, as modern technologies, such as LED and laser, are built to last longer, Ivens points out that you could benefit in the long run. “Many presenters will have been hit with the cost of an expensive replacement bulb for their projector. PicoPix projectors all use LED technology so don’t need replacement bulbs and the light source should last 30,000 hours,” he said.
Wood says that Sharp tries to make cost less of an obstacle for decision makers by offering leasing options that remove the need for a large up-front sum. He added: “All of the BIG PADs also have a good cost of ownership, with efficient energy usage and less maintenance requirements.”
Sharp also provides units on loan for trial periods so that potential customers can familiarise themselves with the technology. This approach could be successful in combating another potential barrier identified by David Zrihen, Vivitek sales director, EMEA, viz. people’s preference for the status quo.
“Some people prefer using the same things because that’s the way they’ve always done it and they’re comfortable with it. For example, people are more inclined to trust a cable-based product than a wireless solution and the many efficiency benefits that offers. We need to ensure we have a solution that’s simple to use out of the box, as sometimes typing in a server name or an IP address could be seen as difficult,” he said.
Panasonic’s Meredith adds that some businesses simply fear change. “They feel investing in new technology is going to mean they have to change the way they work, or there are going to be issues switching over to or installing new equipment.”
Changing this mindset is not easy, but it might be what’s required if you are to present your business in the best light.