I work with many guest speakers on client webinars. I always tell them to print out a hardcopy of their slide presentation as a backup. They usually don’t. Why do I make this unreasonable request? After all, printing is inconvenient, wastes paper and toner, and makes it harder to incorporate last minute changes.
Having a backup of your slides handy is an insurance policy against the slim but finite probability of something going technically wrong during your webinar presentation. Your computer could freeze or crash, your office could lose power, your internet provider could go down, or you could accidentally click the little X in the top right corner of your browser window, booting you out of your webinar session. In any of these scenarios where the problem is local to you as the presenter, your goal is to avoid having to cancel the webinar in progress. Why should your audience suffer just because you’re having a bad day?
If your webinar software uploads the slides to the meeting room, carrying on is easy. You just tell your designated backup person (a moderator or co-presenter) to move the slides forward for the audience while you continue your talk. [Side tip: You don’t have to keep saying “Next Slide.” There are more subtle ways to cue your helper that it’s time to advance. “Moving on, we can see…” or “Let’s continue this idea with my next graphic…”]
If your webinar software uses screen sharing and you are showing PowerPoint on your desktop, your backup preparations need an extra step. Your helper must have the final slide deck on his or her computer, fired up and ready to take over the presentation chores if necessary.
In either case, we come back to the initial question. Why not just keep the PowerPoint file open on your computer so you can look at it in an emergency?
1) If your computer crashes or you lose power, your backup is useless. Why would you want a failsafe that can fail from the same dependencies as your primary solution?
2) It is harder to maintain correspondence between your webinar progress and your position in the PowerPoint file than it is to move through papers. With the former, you have to keep switching back and forth between computer applications (even if they are on two separate machines) and eventually you will get mixed up and move the wrong one forward. It’s trivial to turn a piece of paper on your desk when you click a mouse button. So there is no time wasted in an emergency, trying to find where you were. [Side tip: Don’t turn pages onto your desk. Lift them and drop them onto the floor beside you. Each page floats silently down, causing no paper shuffling noise distraction.]
3) Printouts are fantastic for glancing at your presenter notes as you move through your speech. You might scrawl down some highlights to talk about on each slide, or you might type them out in the Notes section of your PowerPoint and print the Notes pages. Either way, your backup now serves double duty during your presentation.
So print those slides. The webinar you save might be your own! [Side tip: Change your View in PowerPoint to Grayscale before printing. Some things don’t look right when colors are converted to black and white. The Grayscale view lets you catch this and make adjustments so you don’t end up printing solid black slides.]