Monday, July 27, 2015

Projector Connection Unpleasantness - And Related Surprises

I rarely write about hardware issues, but this has become so prevalent that I find I must take (virtual) pen to (virtual) paper…

How many times do we or a colleague connect a laptop to a meeting room projector (“Beamer” for some of our European friends…) and are surprised to find that screen resolution on the projector looks like 5 pixels by 3 pixels?  And the presenter can’t even FIND some of the commands that would normally appear on the bottom-right portion of their screen?  Or the “Extended” desktop has been moved somewhere but can’t be found?  Or that PowerPoint Slideshow mode does unexpected things like showing a neutral desktop (instead of the presentation)?

Laptop computer screen resolution has increased faster (much faster, in many cases) than for projectors.  What appears as a gorgeous, crisp, high-definition screen on your laptop (especially new Mac laptops) looks muddled, unreadable and truncated on the far end of the projector.  You may be trying to squeeze a 2880 x 1800 pixel display down to an 800 x 600 projector (and consider:  800 x 600 projectors are still being sold!).

Here are some cures for Projector Malitia (Projector Badness):

- Buy your own projector.  While (potentially) expensive, you will have control over your situation, at least for face-to-face demo meetings.  You’ll be able to pre-prepare your laptop screen resolution and know exactly what will be visible and how to find/work with the limitations of your specific projector.  Consider:  if you are selling software that runs $100K’s for each deal, don’t you want your software to display as beautifully as possible in a demo meeting?  If you can’t do this, then…

- Test your laptop with the projectors found in a pile of conferences rooms.  Go around your own organization and practice connecting your laptop to projectors in various meeting rooms.  Note what happens and generate a plan for the typical environment – and the worst environment.  Then go around a second time to test and make sure your typical and worst-case plans work!

- Now, generate a font-size eye chart.  Use PowerPoint, for example, and type a short sentence or word phrase (no longer than 1 line) into the content portion of the slide.  Choose a fairly large font size for this line.  Then copy and paste it below your first version and reduce the font by 1-2 points.  Repeat several times.  Connect to the projector, go into Slide Show mode, move to the back of the room and see which line you can read comfortably – that’s your minimum font size for that room/projector combination!

- Next, practice presenting portions of your demos with the reduced resolution.  Connect to a range of projectors and practice finding commands and screen locations that would normally be “right there”, but now need to be accessed via scroll bars (so much more fun when operating in VM’s…).  Contemplate adjusting your laptop screen resolution to find a best fit or sadly-happy medium.

- Turn off Presenter View in PowerPoint.  I can’t tell you how many times I watch presenters go into Slide Show mode and then cannot get the presentation to display through the projector – or they “Escape” out of Slide Show mode and suddenly can’t seem to display their normal, working desktop and only see a “sanitized” desktop.  The more recent versions of PowerPoint offer a sophisticated (?) “Presenter View” that can be confusing – and the default, as installed, is to have it “on”.  A solution?  Turn it off…!  (Go to the Slide Show tab, uncheck the “Use Presenter View” checkbox).  Now Slide Show mode should operate in the simpler, (hopefully) more predictable manner.

Hope these ideas help – any others to suggest?

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