Why my next library talk will NOT involve an overhead projector

One evening last week, while sensible people headed outside to enjoy the unseasonal British heat, I arrived at a community library to deliver a talk about my debut novel BLIND SIDE. For some reason I’d decided it would be worthwhile to give this talk in conjunction with a PowerPoint presentation, though I’d delivered it au naturel a few weeks earlier at another library without any particular problems.

Having got through my pre-author life without ever having to give a presentation of any kind, I had no idea how to use PowerPoint. In a flurry of earnest optimism, I spent days at my PC sourcing suitable photos, resizing them, messing about with slide layouts, tinkering with bullet points and ensuring that the text perfectly fitted the images. This shit was not so hard after all! I was all set to deliver the most absorbing talk heard in a long while.

Me by laptop during talkP-Day arrived. I spent the morning fine-tuning my PowerPoint document and the afternoon cursing while trying to fix the spate of errors that appeared when I innocently changed a setting from ‘wide screen’ to ‘normal’. Before I knew it, it was the time to leave the house. I copied the document to my laptop, grabbed my notes and a bottle of water and set off.

I was in library 45 minutes early, just in case. Fifteen minutes before the talk was meant to start, I realised that in my haste I’d forgotten to bring the ten paperbacks I’d ordered especially (IKR). Added to that, I’d been trying unsuccessfully for the past half hour to get the presentation working on my laptop, and then the library’s laptop. Most the images weren’t displayed, leaving text-heavy chunks. (The file was on the large side at 44Mb and hadn’t copied properly to my memory stick, my husband suggested later).

Fortunately those who turned up graciously continued to listen to me despite the mangled, imageless slides showing on the screen (except for the woman in the front row who nodded off for a bit halfway through). Or perhaps most in the audience didn’t even notice the mangled, imageless slides due the library’s blinds (which didn’t close properly) and the abundance of sunshine pouring in, rendering the images almost invisible for the first half of the talk.

Regeneration cover
One of the images that wasn’t displayed (Inspiration)


I did my best to adjust to these unforeseen events but unfortunately forgot to read out the book blurb, which should have been displayed on the first slide. This may have accounted for some of the puzzled faces. Also, I couldn’t read my notes properly because the room was too dark for me to read them and my glasses had vanished, so I had to improvise. Then when it came for me to read an extract from the book, I realised my copy of BLIND SIDE was still in my laptop case on the other side of the library, so I had to jog over to retrieve it.

That night in bed, while replaying the lowlights of the evening and regretting the hours I’d wasting on “****ing PowerPoint”, I recalled my other disastrous attempt at trying to harness technology to communicate visually certain aspects of my book: the BLIND SIDE Settings video!

I’d decided to offer it as a pledge ‘reward’ to a small group of people while crowdfunding the production costs of the book. Lord knows why I ever imagined this would be a good idea. Months later, after countless hours spent amassing photos of the book’s settings and iPhone video clips then learning how to edit them all into a five-minute package complete with voiceover, I stumbled at the final hurdle of transferring the massive file onto You Tube or wherever. Also, by then I was sick of the whole thing and suspected it was so amateurishly made that no-one would ever watch it through to the end, so it would be better to cut my losses and abandon the project. (Apologies, anyone reading this who might have been disappointed not to receive this video.)

Oh yes and I’ve just remembered the ‘live pledging competition night’ I devised and organised while crowdfunding, which involved laptops in a pub hooked up to the internet to show everyone’s % funded! In my head this would be a nailbiting contest – in reality the internet connection fell out halfway through and no-one was sure who’d won.

You live and learn, as they say. So, I’ve made a resolution. No more videos, no more live visual internet thingies and definitely no more PowerPoint presentations. I will stick to writing, talking about writing (with at most a few non-software-dependent props) and occasional blogging.

PS Sorry about the varying text sizes! Need a WordPress guru…

7 thoughts on “Why my next library talk will NOT involve an overhead projector

  1. Oh dear. Still – you gave it a go.

    The varied text can usually be fixed by either writing it in a word file and copy and pasting or highlight the whole thing and ensure you have it all ‘paragraph’ could be that some of this is in a heading font.

    1. Thanks Diane. Re font I tried making it all ‘paragraph’ then using the ‘eraser’ to clear formatting but still some different sized text. So tried out using a heading font instead. Find the paragraph style too small, maybe it’s the WP scheme I’m using

      1. have yout ried going into the html tag and taking out the rogue formatting from there I usually find that clears it.

  2. Technology is always touch-and-go: no matter how well prepared you are, you depend entirely on what’s available at the venue. I find the best thing to do is try and have a Plan B in mind (if you’re planning to show a video on YouTube, bring it on a USB stick just in case, and if you’ve put together a PowerPoint presentation, bring some images in a folder just in case), but you can only do so much. The main thing is just to get out there in front of people!

    As a note on PowerPoint specifically, it’s worth ensuring you’re using a format that includes the images/videos/etc. in the file itself, rather than grabbing them from elsewhere on your computer/drive. When I spoke at the International Agatha Christie Festival in Torquay, I had to fall back on a very old format to ensure that the book video was actually included in the presentation: none of the other options seemed to play it reliably on different computers.

  3. Reminds me of my teacher training days… I got good at PowerPoint in the end but it was very much a case of two steps forward, one step back. Still, you got through your evening and then I hope you had a big glass of wine!

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