How to do technology for library conference speakers

A lesson learned from my spring of jaunting about to talk at conferences, which I truly hope someone reads and listens to. If you are involved in speaker outreach for a conference, I beg of you: Inform the speakers of how the setup will work.

In the past 12 months, I’ve encountered all of the following:

  • A tech setup on which I had to provide my slides for the talk in PowerPoint for Windows and give them to the event staff to load onto an external computer which then fed them to the podium, where there was a remote for me to use for clicking around.
  • A classroom with a SmartBoard and podium, but no instructions on how to log in to the system or gain access to the right software.
  • A podium at which I could plug in my MacBook, complete with adaptor.
  • A podium at which I could plug in my MacBook, if I remembered to bring my adaptor.
  • A presentation at which I wasn’t told until a week in advance that there would be no projection capacity for me to use, prompting me to need to re-do my entire talk without visuals.
  • Any or all of the above with or without a dedicated tech support person or contact method.

Each one of these was standard for the conference in question, and in nearly every case, it was assumed I would know this in advance – that I would know what “standard” was. So I implore you: If you are involved in bringing in speakers, tell them what to expect. Don’t stop at asking “what are your technology needs?” but instead find out what they need and then tell them what you’re giving them. That way, presenters will know what to do: Do I bring a flash drive with my slides in .key and .ppt? Do I email my slides to someone in advance? Do I work with the tech folks on site? Am I on my own, with assistance-as-available from volunteers?

Anything you know, share it in advance. Presenters will love you for it.


  1. It’s always fun running the gauntlet of conference organisers sometimes…

    I’ve adopted the approach upon first enquiry to state my requirements (which is simple: I present from a MacBook Pro (and yes I always have a vga connector spare), have my own clicker, need a lapel mic as I don’t do lecterns plus access to the audio via 3.5mm jack into my laptop) – it’s then reissued upon confirmation of the booking plus during the run up and has worked for me… most of the time 😉


  2. I do a similar thing to DK above – I tell event organizers that I present from a Macbook Pro, and it needs to be on the podium with me.

    I’ve started being pretty picky about that, to the point that one organizer had to switch rooms/colleges for the presentation. The first college had a “no macs” rule – it was a no-no for someone to plug in a Mac to their precious IT system.

    I do this because of that first bullet point of yours. I had a very similar experience, and that didn’t work for me. They let me use my Mac, but it had to be at the soundboard, in the back of the room. Thankfully, I had a clicker with me. They had some insanely stupid setup where they fed a TV monitor screen that went to the stage so you could see your slides, but it didn’t work on a Mac. Also, I almost always use the presenter notes view of Keynote (which is awesome), and couldn’t see the big screens (on either side of the stage, way far away from the podium). Thankfully, the organizer had made like 300 copies of my slides to pass out, so I swiped one of those and presented from that.

    It was weird, and now I say – mac on the podium or I don’t present.


  3. I agree that it would be nice for organizers to let the speaker know what the setup will be, but isn’t there a responsibility on the part of the speaker to ask for that information. I always do my best to ask all those questions in advance so I can plan accordingly.


  4. Michael, in every instance above I asked, I explained my needs, and was either not told anything, leaving me to assume my needs would be met as the conference organizers had explained they would be, or was told it would be a “standard” set up. “Standard”, as I said, means a bunch of different things to different people. So, sure, as presenters we have to do our part, but the organizers need to be aware that “standard” to them isn’t necessarily “standard” to the presenter, so they too must be prepared to explain, elaborate, and discuss the setup well in advance.


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