If you’ve sat through many Powerpoint presentations recently, you’ll have noticed they are more multimedia than ever before. Embedded movies, youtube links, audio files… they can liven up a presentation, but also require more preparation for both the presenter and the technician.

I strongly recommend to event and conference managers to provide an audio connection for all laptops, and ensure the show computers have been tested with multimedia. Whether you’ve offered it or not, presenters today assume that they can walk in with a flash drive full of video clips, audio files and external web links.

How do you properly prepare for this? Read on for common pitfalls and manageable solutions.

Powerpoint used to be a real dog when it came to playing clips inside of a presentation. Now that you mention it, it still is…

In the early days of multimedia, wise presenters wouldn’t even try to embed their clips, but would jump out of their presentation, open an external media player to show their clips, and then try to navigate their way back to the slide they abandoned back in Powerpoint.

The result from the audience’s POV?

They’re forced to look at your desktop wallpaper while menus and chrome expand and contract around the clip until it might finally fill the screen. And good luck getting back to your original slide without incident.

Solution? Embed your videos directly into Powerpoint.
Easy? Er, sort of, but not really.

#1: The Multimedia doesn’t actually embed.

Just because you clicked ‘insert’ from the menu (Microsoft’s term, not mine), doesn’t mean it’s actually inserted into the .ppt file.

It isn’t.

This means you must bring both your media file(s) (.wmv, .mp4, .mov, .avi — more on this later) and your presentation files (.ppt or .pptx depending on your flavour of Powerpoint) to the show.

Managing your media

The single best practice to start managing your multimedia presentations is this:

Before inserting anything, place all your parts (audio, video, Powerpoint) into a single, flat folder.

The link between the media and the presentation file is based on absolute pathnames, except for files in the same folder as the linking presentation. Keeping your files in the same folder (remember, no subfolders!)

  1. Keeps it simple
  2. Simplifies transport (drag the folder onto your memory stick and go)
  3. Makes it obvious to the event convener or technician that there are multiple parts to your presentation.

Powerpoint quick tip (PC only): [alt], [i], [v], [f] pressed consecutively will call up the insert video dialog box; mnemonic: [i]nsert [v]ideo from [f]ile

#2: Things can still break on-site

Okay, so far so good. Your movies play inside your presentation on your own computer, but unless you have an LCD projector and full conference A/V setup in your basement, you still need to check it in situ. Why?

  1. You may not be presenting on your own computer. Larger conferences usually prefer using a common computer (often controlled by the technician), in order to speed up the changeover between presentations.
  2. Even if you are using your own laptop, your graphics card may disappoint you when it has to share its resources among two screens. Whenever possible, plug your laptop into an external monitor ahead of time and run your presentation through. Pay special attention to video clips — often they will only play video on the local screen while displaying a black box on the secondary display.
  3. Live presentation are Murphy magnets — any number of weird gremlins can appear, and it’s always wise to have a backup plan for technical failures and holdups. A story or anecdote in your pocket can buy precious troubleshooting time for your technical team. (“While the techies sort this out, has anyone else wondered where the 5¢ bag levy is going?”)

If there aren’t any presentation techies around to help you, you can try these tricks and tips to troubleshoot common reasons multimedia breaks in Powerpoint.