This is the first in a series of posts extracted from my Presentation Tips Video from last year. There’s an endless supply of books, articles, blog posts, and videos to help you improve your presentations, but most of them focus on the organization and delivery aspects of presenting. These tips target some of the technical aspects surrounding your presentation, such as making sure you have the right adapter for your projector, preparing for screen-resolution changes, and a whole bunch more. Hopefully you can learn something from my observations and personal gaffes over the years.

If you're a developer, chances are you do most work with your screen resolution cranked up as high as it'll go. As I write this, my pre-retina 15-inch MacBook Pro resolution is set at 1440x900. So what happens when you plug your laptop into a projector displaying at 1024x768?

hires

lowres

Suddenly everything that fit so nicely on your laptop screen has been zoomed in to the point where things are barely recognizable. And despite this predictable behavior, I continue to see "screen resolution shock" derail presentation after presentation as the presenter scrambles to rearrange windows and figure out how to operate with the reduced real estate.

Consider these tips as you prepare for your next presentation.

  1. If you have access to the projector you'll be using, try it ahead of time and find the best resolution.
  2. If you don't have access to the projector, call ahead and ask about the available resolutions. Unfortunately, people don't usually know.
  3. If you don't know the resolution ahead of time, assume 1024x768.
  4. Practice your presentation at the resolution you expect from the projector, not at your laptop's resolution.

Of these, tip number four is clearly the most important. If you don't practice at the resolution you expect from the projector, you can count on screen resolution shock being a distraction for you and your audience.