Plug and go (2)

“I’m sorry, I don’t know. John usually sorts that. He’s not here today.” And that was where the trouble really began… At most presentations the speaker arrives, checks in with John in IT and everything works beautifully from there. (Pro tip: ALWAYS go back after your barnstorming success and just say thank you to John. IT don’t always get the love they deserve.) Their real value is seen sadly when they aren’t there. When it’s you that needs to do the whole plug and play.

If you are ever invited as a one-off speaker you will eventually need to have some self-help approach to this problem because often there is just you, an embarrassed and IT ignorant organiser and an ever decreasing time frame. “John” isn’t available today. This cannot be an exhaustive list but certainly should help address many of the commonly encountered problems. Stay calm, remember they are there to listen to you, not watch your slideshow.

Always arrive early, at least half an hour before you are due to perform. This is essential for any of the following to be practical.

Let’s start with a big lecture theatre. Survey the set up already there. Such areas are often controlled through a central screen/touch pad and John usually labels everything. Turn everything on. Remember that the console itself may need turning on. Wait. Wait at least 3 minutes. Large systems sometimes need to boot up, warm up, light up and patience here is often rewarded. Open the cupboard under the lectern. You will be faced with probably many devices. Touch NOTHING but make sure the one that looks like a computer is turned on. Wait. And have a look around.

Computers need a monitor. The desktop monitor in most setups will sit on the lectern and should boot into a standard windows set up. Put your usb into the computer, find the file, move it onto the desktop and open, enter presentation mode/ play. Wait. If there are problems doing this see the previous post. Now the system is playing your presentation it needs to project it. It should be on the big screen. If it’s not, wait a wee while and have a look at the control console. This is where most problems arise.

plug and goHave a look at the big screen. Is there anything there?  Look for a green light on the projector.They often take minutes to warm up once they are turned on, so again, be patient, an image of some description should eventually appear and the projector will tell you what input it is receiving, if any.

If there is a console have a look. There is no standard setup but what you are looking for may be labelled computer/desktop/vga/hdmi etc. The monitor on the desk will display what the computer is playing but the screeen may need you to select a different input from the previous speaker. Select computer or vga. Again wait. These systems can take up to a minute to display a changed input.

For those who have a brought a Mac it is essential that the Mac presentation software is in play mode to see the presentation although it will may display a MacOS default background if not.Connect the lightning cable to the appropriate cable that you purchased ahead of time and select from console either vga or laptop. Sometimes, the Mac needs to sleep to re-initiate the connection. Simply close the lid. Wait 30 secs. Re-open. If your presentation has audio insert the standard 3.5mm cable into the Mac headphone plug.

For tv type displays you need the remote for the device, turn it and select Inputs. You should be able to scroll through the various options, pausing at each to allow connection. This can be at least 10 seconds. Patience.

Beyond this plug and play problems become harder to fix. If all cables are snug, the system is on, the presentation is playing, the projector is on and the correct input has been selected but the projection screen remains dark the last option may be related to device mirroring. “There be Dragons!” is the warning here before trying anything different.

Display toggle is a setting that may devices use for slide presentation to allow a different display than connected, in other words rather than the desktop/laptop monitor it will send the display to a projector. In Windows systems 8 and above this is often, but not always, accessed by pressing Windows+P (hold the Windows key and press the letter P). In earlier Windows systems this may be F11 or F12 (top row of the key board) but is very much manufacturer dependent. Beyond this it is VERY device specific and complicated. This may help. It may not.

In MacOS the same screen toggle issue applies but is accessed in System Preferences under Displays. Detect Displays should then sort the problem for you. Again wait for the system to do the clever work and sleep/awaken the Mac each change you make. If you are still seeing blank on the projected screen select Arrangements under the Displays section and check Mirror Displays. Wait .

If all this still leaves you without a projected image and John still isn’t there it is probably time to accept defeat and get your head in the game for going commando. You have practised for this. Haven’t you?



  1. An editor

    Useful, thanks. It was a while back, but I remember turning up to give a presentation only to find out my disk was not compatible with their IT (it was a long time ago), and I had to resort to handing out hard copies and saying “now, turn to page 3”. Cringe….

  2. ffolliet (Post author)

    We have all been there. our sympathies are with you now.

  3. Nick S

    One of the worst feelings but useful experiences happened to me due to IT failure years ago. I was supposed to be talking to 130 medical students and the computer in the lecture theatre wouldn’t work. Horrible daunting feeling knowing I’d have to stand there and give my presentation without the “safety net” of bullet point reminders (I hang my head in shame). But guess what – it all went without a problem – short talk on the key points – yes, I missed a couple of things out but nothing vital – the audience were engaged and asked questions.

    Unfortunately it wasn’t until several years later that I finally twigged this might be a more affective way of delivering a presentation!

    1. ffolliet (Post author)

      Thank you. Brave to share. And encouraging


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