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The Most Important Thing to Know to Prevent Technology Problems During a Lecture

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What's the single most important consideration in working to ensure a successful technology-enabled presentation?

Have you ever been excitedly launching into a technology empowered lecture you spent hours developing only to run head first into something that didn’t work … leaving you floundering, lost in a sea of broken “teaching with technology” dreams? You had no reason expect that your DVD wouldn’t play, or your video could hardly be heard. Why doesn’t this computer open your file? Why can’t you get to the Internet site you have to share? Well, there’s one consistent failure that is often behind these issues – assuming it would work without trying it first.

Over the course of decades of supporting technology use, and many years of doing so in education, the one most consistent preventable problem that we encounter with technology failing is that lecturers or presenters don’t walk through their presentation, in the room they will be using, beforehand.

image prevent technical issues during lecture presentation

There are so many points of failure in today’s complex technology systems – do you need an Internet connection? … what if it’s slow? … does your presentation require sound? … what video format is your video in? … does the computer you’re using have software to support the file format your presentation requires?

Also, don’t just assume that because it works in one lecture hall, it will work in a different one, or that since it worked when you did in a few months ago, it will work next week. Things change.

Here’s what you need to do if you want to position yourself for success:

  1. Go the room you will be teaching or presenting in and walk through your presentation (at least part of it), and do it several days (even better, a week) before you need to do it live, so that if you do discover issues, there is time to work through them with technical support.
  2. If there is a problem that needs to be addressed and you are informed that it has been, do NOT just assume that you are good to go – walk though it and make sure.
  3. Ideally, double check the day before or that morning, to make sure nothing has changed.
  4. Consider some of the additional measures below to be best prepared.

TEST TEST TEST! Whatever it is you wish to do, walk through it BEFORE its time to do it live. All too often, people assume things are going to work, and discover too late that the computer and equipment in the room isn’t configured as assumed, or something has changed since the last time they did something similar. The bottom line is that until you’ve walked through it and made sure it works, you really don’t know if it does.

Additional Preventive Measures

Of course, all the preparation in the world still won’t guarantee last minute issues – a computer crash, a fried projector bulb, an Internet crash. So here’s a bunch of tips to consider in terms of taking a few extra steps to make sure you’re prepared if technology issues rear their ugly heads despite your proactive walk-throughs.

Presentations

  • Have a backup copy of your presentation file on hand, on a jump drive for example
  • Another nice way to have a backup is to have a Dropbox account, so that if your relying on using a copy of a laptop or tablet and somehow that fails, you have the possibility of getting on another Internet connection device and accessing it

Projectors

  • Make sure there is a spare bulb on hand for the projector (and someone who knows how to change it), this is the main issue projectors will face – the bulbs don’t last forever
  • Ask your tech support staff ahead of time if they keep spare units handy, and how to expedite securing one if ever needed

Computer Issues

  • Do you have a laptop or tablet of your own? Perhaps you might want to bring your laptop or tablet as a backup to the device in the room you plan to use. Of course, be sure to think about connectivity to the projector and/or to the Internet.

Failed or Slow Internet Connections

  • If you are relying on wireless connectivity, it is a good idea to have a physical connection available – good old fashioned hard wired connections are fast and reliable
  • A 3G Card can be a great backup to a failed wireless connection, but of course, it’s costly to pay for as just a backup.

So, there you have it. “An ounce of prevention …”, and all that. It may seem obvious or trite, but true wisdom is often simple and direct. The single most important thing you can do to position yourself for success in using technology in the classroom or lecture hall is practice your presentation there – walk through it in the same circumstances you will deliver it live, as much as circumstances will allow you to.

Does this strike a chord with you? Have you experienced the benefits of preparation? Are there related tips you would like to share? Comments are welcomed and encouraged.

Here's wishing you happy (and problem free) lecturing and productive presenting!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
7 Potential Issues to be Prepared for When Bringing Tablets into the Classroom
Can’t Keep Up with Professional Development? Build Your Personal Learning Network (it’s Never Been Easier)!
20 Warning Signs That you are Falling Behind the Times with Technology as a Teacher

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