Taking Presentations on the Road: Making your PowerPoint slides work on different equipment

A photo of an empty presentation room with a projector and podium

Every great presenter knows to come into a presentation prepared.

They know their material backwards and forwards, are able to address questions from the audience, and have meticulously written slides on deck. One of the difficult things to anticipate, however, is the equipment and software at the location of your presentation.

Have you ever been to a presentation where the technical problems take centre stage over a presentation? It’s not pretty.

It’s usually best to bring your own laptop computer that has the right files and applications for your presentation – but that’s not always an option. In this post, we’ll provide several ways to make sure your PowerPoint presentation works even when you’re using another computer.

Use Office 365

Microsoft's Office 365 web apps feature a stripped down version of PowerPoint that can be run in web browsers and access your files from the cloud.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suite featuring online versions of familiar applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. One of the great advantages of Office 365 is that documents are stored securely online and accessed wherever an Internet connection is available.

To use Office 365, you need to sign up for a trial account or a paid subscription. Once you have an account setup, you can upload your PowerPoint presentation by doing the following steps:
1. [Click] ADD DOCUMENT or UPLOAD DOCUMENT.
2. [Click] BROWSE or CHOOSE FILE to locate and select the file, then [Click] OPEN, OK.

Office 365 is a great option because if you think of something to add or change before your presentation, you’re able to make basic edits to your presentation using the online Web App.

Save Your Presentation and Viewer Applications to a USB drive

A USB drive is a portable and reliable way to keep your PowerPoint presentation with you while traveling.

It should be simple to transfer save your PowerPoint presentation to your USB drive using Windows Explorer and by dragging and dropping on a Mac.

Once you’re transferred your presentation over to the USB drive, it’s a good idea to also include a program to use to view the presentation because not every computer will have the software to show it. Microsoft provides a free PowerPoint viewer for Windows computers, as well as a PowerPoint viewer for Macs. Neither require a full version of PowerPoint with the limitation that they don’t allow PowerPoint presentation editing.

Upload Your Presentation to Slideshare

Slideshare can be used to present a PowerPoint presentation within a web browser.

Slideshare is an online service that allows you to upload presentations publicly or privately. Once uploaded, your presentation can be accessed online through a browser and be presented in full-screen. For more information, see a Slideshare presentation on how to use Slideshare.

In addition to being a way to save a presentation for use anywhere, Slideshare is a great way to get your slides on the web, so that attendees can access your slides immediately after your presentation as a reminder and reference. It can also open your presentation to the wider web, helping your ideas be found and shared by an even wider audience.

Save the Presentation in a Compatible Format

It can be smart to save your presentation in different formats to make sure that it’s compatible with whatever version of PowerPoint will be available. The default format when saving a PowerPoint 2010 or 2007 presentation is .pptx, which is a full-featured format that supports XML.

In order to make the presentation compatible with earlier versions, you can save it as a .ppt file, which is compatible with PowerPoint 97-2003.

And just to cover all your bases, PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 let you save your files as OpenDocument Presentation (with the .odp extension) so they can be opened in applications that use this increasingly popular format such as cloud-based productivity suite Google Docs and free presentation application OpenOffice.org Impress.

Note: When saving a presentation in a non-default extension, format elements might be slightly different or lost when saving and opening.

Save Media is Compatible Formats

When creating a PowerPoint presentation, make sure that you use the most compatible formats for audio and video. For instance, if the computer you’re using to present is running PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, you will only be able to play:

  • audio saved as .aiff, .au, .mid, .midi, .mp3, .wav, and .wma
  • and video files saved as .asf, .mpg, .mpeg, and .wmv.

Save as a PDF

One of the main ideas behind PDF files (short for Portable Document Format) is that they’re generally compatible with different systems, making them a great format . Saving your presentation as a PDF eliminates transitions and animation, but it is an easy way to ensure that your presentation will work on most systems.

Using someone else’s equipment to make a presentation can be an unpredictable experience. We hope that by using one or more of the strategies outlined in this email that you’ll feel confident that your presentation will go smoothly.

Do you have any suggestions for how to be prepared for any presentation? Please let us know in the comments!

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