12 Things to Do Before You Start a Presentation

I give pretty many presentations about things an aspiring developer might want to know - how to spin up a Node.js service, how to get web sockets firing, how to do some duck typing in JavaScript - you know, fun stuff.

Before I give a presentation, especially a bigger one, I open OneNote and have a glance at my Show Time Checklist to make sure I’m running on a well-oiled machine and have given myself the best chance at a snag free show.

Here’s my list in case it improves your life in some way…

  1. Restart. There’s nothing quite like a system restart. It’s the first thing I tell my grandma to do when things don’t work. What’s that, Grandma? You forgot your email password? Let’s go ahead and find that power button. I put a sticky note with an arrow on it last time I was visiting and you made me brownies.
  2. Open IDE’s I’m usually using some combination of Visual Studio, Notepad++, and the browser (I <3 CodePen.io) to write code. There’s a delay opening VS or N++, so I get those warmed up before I start.
  3. Uninstall previous trials. Sometimes I actually practice my presentation before show time… sometimes, and it’s always awkward when I have to create SampleProject2 because SampleProject always exists. It makes it look like I need to practice or something.
  4. Close all browser tabs. You know those tabs where you were looking up the answer to what you’re just about to teach others? Yep, close ‘em.
  5. Close everything. Close all the windows that you’re not going to use in the presentation. It’s obvious, but this list is a tickler, so I don’t have to think too hard, so I include it.
  6. Open emulators or simulators. They tend to take some time loading their OS the first time, so it’s good to have them open. If you’re showing an Android emulator, open it. It will still be slow, but anyway. :)
  7. Close your chat app. You should have already closed your chat app at step 5 when you closed everything, but this guy gets his own line because he’s a special offender. It’s awkward when your wife emails you a question from the pharmacy during your presentation!
  8. Get your emergency backup in your ALT + TAB. You should never show anything you don’t have a backup for. It’s a rule I break all the time, but that doesn’t make it any less of a good idea. If I’m showing how my brilliant code turns into a beautiful UI, I should be ready for it to turn into a brilliant mess and have a rendered PNG version at hand - you know, from when I practiced this.
  9. Pin presentation folder to Windows Explorer taskbar icon. I have a folder for every presentation with slide decks, code projects, etc. inside. I like to drag a shortcut to my Windows Explorer taskbar icon for show time. I can access it quickly with WIN + ALT + 4, since 4 is the position of my Windows Explorer shortcut on my taskbar. Yours might be different.
  10. Go to presentation mode. In Windows, hit your Windows key and type presentation. You should see Adjust settings before giving a presentation. That opens your Presentation Settings where you can tell Windows to suppress notifications globally. You can also turn off your screen saver, set the volume, and change your desktop background, all of which will be reverted when you are done presenting. Super handy. I’m not sure if MacOS has an equivalent.
  11. Honey and water. My throat loves to sabotage my efforts to speak. I keep honey packs in my bag and down one just before a show. It simultaneously sooths and delights.
  12. Take some breaths. Sounds trite, but this is a big one. The best thing you can do before a show is calm down. Make some small talk with the folks in the front row. If you don’t have something prepared at the last minute, is it really going to help to do it now? I doubt it.

And here’s the list without all of my banter in case you want to drag it over to your own Show Time Checklist in OneNote…

  1. Restart
  2. Open IDE’s
  3. Uninstall previous trials
  4. Close all browser tabs
  5. Close everything
  6. Open emulators or simulators
  7. Close your chat app
  8. Get your emergency backup in your ALT + TAB
  9. Pin presentation folder to Windows Explorer taskbar icon
  10. Go to presentation mode
  11. Honey and water
  12. Take some breaths

Feel free to drop a comment below if you have other ideas for how to prepare for the big hour.