Showing It Right
March 19, 2007
Q) I’m giving a program to a large camera club next month. What information do I need to give them in preparation for my showing my images? I want it to come off looking professional, but I’ve never done this before.
A) The biggest problem I face in presentation venues is low ceilings, which restrict the size of the screen. When you consider that the lower half of a floor-mounted screen isn’t visible for most of the audience, you can understand that an eight-foot screen won’t give a large enough image to be seen and appreciated by everyone. It’s about the images, after all! For groups of up to 100 people, you need at least a 10-foot screen. As the group gets larger, you’ll need to move up to a 12- or 14-foot-wide screen. The best venues are auditoriums with large built-in screens.
The next thing to consider is the lighting in the room. It needs to be darkened, and putting shades over the windows isn’t enough. Along those same lines, the lighting within the room needs to be controllable so that the audience can see well enough to take notes or move safely around the room without any light spilling onto the screen.
The sound system is important for two reasons. One is for your narration—I prefer a wireless lavaliere mic so that I’m not anchored to the podium. Check before the audience arrives to make sure there aren’t any speakers close to the stage, because when you walk close to them, you’ll generate screeching feedback. Also, be sure the sound isn’t echoing or crackling. If you have sound with your slideshow, it’s a simple matter to plug your laptop into the sound system of a venue, so that you can use the house system for both voice and music. The system will need to have two channels for this to work; otherwise, you’ll need to transfer between the microphone and the laptop.
Ask for a podium that your laptop can comfortably rest on, with room for a mouse if you’ll be demonstrating software programs. I prefer to bring my own digital projector because the quality available at each venue varies dramatically. If you can’t bring your own, check with the sponsors to be sure your laptop will be compatible with the projection unit they’ll make available. If you’re working with slides, make sure the slides are in a compatible presentation tray and that the projector is in good working order, with an extra bulb available.
Finally, be prepared for the worst. For me, that probably was a tent pitched on the side of a building in a busy parking lot in the middle of the day, with 20 rows of chairs lined up before a five-foot-square screen. A pro makes the best of the situation. In this case, we had a bright projector. We draped a roll of seamless background paper to make a larger screen. And we just ignored the sounds of racing engines, trucks with backup beepers and slamming doors.
In this image, the audience is beginning to arrive at the auditorium at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature, an excellent example of an ideal place to give a program with images. The screen is large, the seats comfortable, the lights adjustable, and it was made available to the camera club without cost. It doesn’t get much better than that.