You’ve flown into town, checked into the hotel, and you’re scheduled to speak at the conference in 3 hours.  You want everything to go smoothly.  The last thing you need is trouble with your PowerPoint presentation.

From blank screens to unwanted audio interference, tech problems plague speakers every day.  Fortunately, with a little preparation, you can avoid a crisis and keep cool, knowing you have it all under control.

Keep reading to find out how to handle eight common laptop-to-projector problems …


1- You Can See the PowerPoint Perfectly on Your Laptop, but Only the Screensaver Appears on the Presentation Screen

This problem can often be solved by adjusting your display settings.  

In Windows 10:

  1. Go to your Control Panel
  2. Select Hardware and Sound
  3. Select Display Setting.
  4. Under Multiple Displays, choose Extend to make the projector screen function as a second monitor.
  5. Save your setting.
  6. Now, simply drag your PPT across the edge of your screen and onto the large presentation screen.  You now have your display

On a Mac:

  1. Go the the Apple Menu
  2. Select System Preferences
  3. Choose Displays
  4. Click the Arrangement tab.
  5. The setting of interest is Mirror Displays
  6. Drag and drop your presentation onto your new screen

2 – The Screen Suddenly Goes Blank

Your everyday power saving settings are only minor inconveniences when you walk away from a computer for a few moments at the office.  However, they can create awkward moments in presentations.  

Before you present, adjust your power settings to keep your screen functional throughout your talk.

In Windows:

  1. From the Settings menu, select Power and Sleep.
  2. Under Sleep, choose Never for the time interval before the screen goes blank.

On your Mac:

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Select the Energy Saver menu
  3. Set the sliders for Computer Sleep and Display Sleep to Never.

3 – Your PowerPoint Won’t Open Because of Compatibility Issues

Trying to open a 2010 formatted doc in your host’s 2007 program doesn’t always work.  

Avoid the problem altogether by saving a backup copy of each PPT as a 2007 version on your thumb drive.  Just click the save as option under the pull-down file menu.

If you’re about to enter the stage without a 2007 backup, a second option is logging into your Google account on your host’s laptop.  You’ll be able to upload your PPT from the thumb drive and open it as a Google Sheets file.  It’s a weaker solution in terms of privacy and security.  However, it could get you out of a tight spot.

As an aside, I have run into a number of issues with embedded video playback problems which are due to incompatible “codecs”. I have discovered the solution is to always use PowerPoint 32-bit installs and avoid 64-bit installs which do funky things to my embedded videos.

4 – You’ve Reached the Apex of Your Presentation, and Your Laptop Suddenly Begins to Update.  

To avoid this disaster, temporarily put a halt to all updates before you begin your speech.  

In Windows 10

  1. Go to your Advanced Settings menu.
  2. Select Services,
  3. Choose Windows Update,
  4. Click Stop

On a Mac:

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Select Software Updates
  3. Uncheck Automatically Check for Updates

5 – The Remote Control Doesn’t Work

First, check the batteries – preferably before you begin your presentation.  And always have a set of spares on hand as a backup.

If a change of batteries doesn’t fix the problem, try plugging the dongle on the projector into another USB port.  If all else fails, have a wireless mouse with you so you can advance the slides by hand (at a podium, if necessary).

6 – Your Lapel Mic and Smartphone Have Joined Forces to Create Interference

Cell phones intermittently release signals strong enough to turn a mic into an antenna and cause the production of distracting sounds.  To avoid the problem, turn your phone completely off before the presentation begins.  At the very least, don’t hold it near your wireless lapel transmitter.

7 – No Audio Cable/Connection for the Embedded Videos You Have in Your PowerPoint

Pack extra HDMI, RCA, and audio cables to head off this problem.  Or, if you want the freedom to connect in an emergency without traveling with a case full of extra wires, mirroring devices may provide the solution.  These thumb-drive-sized gadgets plug into the HDMI ports of projectors and allow wireless transmission of audio and visual data.  Miracast, Google’s Chromecast, and Apple’s AirPlay present options for different devices. You can also get HDMI audio splitters or even carry a set of external speakers.

8 – The Presentation Screen Calls for a 16:9 Widescreen Format but You Only Have 4:3 (And it Doesn’t Look as Good)

You could stretch the image to completely fill the screen, but your words and images will appear stretched out.  

The best solution is to adjust your files in advance.  In your PPT file, click the design tab, and select size on the right-hand side of the top menu bar.  You’ll be able to choose either a standard 4:3 or widescreen 16:9 ratio for your slides.

While avoiding technical difficulties won’t help you remember your speech or avoid saying “um” 15 times, you’ll appear more professional and confident. And that’s worth the effort.

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