format changes

Format changes often when a presentation is moved from one computer to another. This is the cause of quite a few nervous starts, anxious half hours and embarrassed deliveries. Make sure everything that the original presentation moves to the podium and to the audience. Format changes apply to everything that can be changed and and The Good Presenter avoids those before getting to the conference stage.

Format changes can be considered under design, programme and image size. Each contains traps for the unwary. There is no foolproof means of avoiding all problems but preparation, arriving early at the event and running through the presentation with time for changes will reduce those stress levels. Format problems can be avoided by considering any opportunity for a computer to change settings.

format changes

An important starting point for a presentation is in its slide size. The “default” size on most recent programmes is now 16:9 but 4:3 on older versions. This image is 16:9, the ones below 4:3. Some versions of Powerpoint to default to “on screen projection” and even this as widescreen is not the same as 16:9, very confusing. Check with the organisers before starting any design; everything will change. If unsure, prepare two presentations, one in 16:9 and one in 4:3.

The commonest format changes are seen with the use of incompatible type. In design, a presenter chooses from the typefaces stored on their computer. These typefaces are drawn from the standard “Office” software but also from downloaded programmes including games and from type specifically downloaded from type foundries. Their weight and position place them in a specific place within a slide and this is saved in the format of the presentation. If this file is then moved to a computer that doesn’t have the same font, a substitution is made. This is seldom equivalent and format changes

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The most frequently used presentation software is Microsoft Powerpoint. The formatting of a presentation is often very close when transferring presentations across from one computer to another. Problems can occur and it should be noted that backwards compatibility (you having The Most Up To Date version), cross platform compatibility (Mac to PC) and exporting from other software such as Keynote can all lead to issues of a format change.

The best means of avoiding format changes it to present from the computer on which the presentation was constructed. Whilst not ideal, IT support at a conference are now used to presenters arriving and asking to use their own devices. The responsibility here for connection lies solely with the presenter. Purchase your own connector that will take video output from your device and connect to VGA or HDMI. Test run the swap with IT at least twice. If you don’t know what this entails, you probably shouldn’t be attempting this manoeuvre without help. The time to figure this out is not immediately before The Big Presentation.

(I’m grateful to various folk here for insights into managing this technical issue particularly Nicole, Terry, Scott and Salim. I have edited the post accordingly. Thank you all.)

If your presentation does not involve animation, a clean fix to avoid such issues is to save each slide when constructed as a single image. This can be done within various programmes usually as part of the Save As…or Export dialogues. Select high-quality images or even as described earlier pdf. Remember though this cannot then be edited later if further changes are made.

Format changes everything. The Good Presenter is prepared for this. Ensure the correct slide size is set before any slides are constructed. Consider delivering the presentation from your own laptop if there are complex fonts or animations but ensure you have the appropriate connector. If there is any doubt over programmes, compatibility or operating systems save each slide as a separate image and use this file to present from. Format changes and can catch many unawares.




  1. Terry Irwin

    There’s a much easier way to save your presentation as images. How this reads depends on your PPT version. Just choose “Save As” and then under “Save as type” choose a picture format such as TIFF. It is probably best to avoid JPEG as this will compress the images. Choose all slides. The images will be saved in order. You can choose where to put this folder. In most versions of PPT you can use this folder to make a new photo album with all your images imported in order. This page will help:

    1. ffolliet (Post author)

      Thanks for that helpful tip Terry. Various other folks have pointed this out too inc Nicole Gugger, Scott Weingart and Salim Rezaie. Will update the text and credit you all. Thanks. Co-operation is what makes us great.

  2. Andy Tagg

    It’s almost as if you have written this post with an upcoming conference in mind. I’ve pretty much moved over to single images as my slides now unless they are smaller sessions.

    Running fancy transitions and dazzling animations (a la yours at SMACCmini) can be hard unless they are done on your own computer.

    Rest assured I will have every possible type of computer to VGA/HDMI connector for DFTB17.


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