The most important part of any speaker series is the speakers. The second most important part is taking care of everything else for the speakers. The worst thing in the world is when a speaker is doing a great job… and the computer running their slides crashes. Or you put their slides in the wrong order. Often they can recover… but as an organizer of the event you’ll feel awful.
Ignite started in Seattle 7 years ago in December 2006. We’re a week away from our 22nd event. I joined the team three years ago, and have one of the most stressful jobs on the team: The Slide Wrangler.
The Slide Wrangler is in charge of getting the slides from the speakers, ensuring everything looks good, putting the final presentation together, and making sure nothing goes wrong during the event. Basically, if it has to do with slides, it has to do with me. If something screws up during the event, it’s probably my fault and I have to fix it. Live. In front of 800 people.
After seeing a lot of questions about best practices on slides over the years on the Ignite Organizers mailing list, I thought I’d put together a list of best practices for Slide Wrangling.
Note – this is written specifically for Ignite events, but it shouldn’t be hard to rewrite your own for any other speaker series.
The 8 Steps to Successfully Slide Wrangling
1. Set the slide submission deadline for 72 hours before your event. Make it clear that this is “slidelock.” You will NOT be accepting changes after this deadline unless you specifically request them. You can ACTUALLY be a little flexible on this, but don’t tell the presenters that or else they won’t take the deadline seriously. :)
2. Review slides to make sure they are all there/follow the rules/there are no issues. If there are issues, email the presenter and request a fix.
3. Set a hard deadline of 24 hours before the event to submit any final edits requested
4. Start to build two slide decks, Part 1 and Part 2 (if you have an intermission for your event).
5. Part 1: Import the slides of each speaker from the first set into a single presentation. Once all the slides are imported, do a quick scroll through to make sure everything was imported properly. Then do some math (how many slides did you end up with, divide by number of speakers, you should end up with 20, which means all 20 slides from each speaker got imported).
6. Once you’ve confirmed all the slides were imported properly, add your “Ignite <CITY>” slide, “What is Ignite” slides, and any other sponsor/announcement/etc slides to the beginning of the presentation. Add an “Ignite <CITY>” transition slide between each presentation.
7. Build your “Part 2″ slide deck (See: Step 5).
8. Once your slide decks are built, it’s time to make sure the slide timing is right. Depending on your presentation software this will be slightly different, but you should be able to select all slides and set the transition to “automatic” and the timing to “15 seconds.” Go back and set the “Ignite <CITY>” transition slides to “manual transmission.” This gives you some flexibility for your MC to introduce the next speaker, for speakers who take a bit too long, or to correct for any other problems.
Now you have two presentations that are ready to go! Hook your laptop up to the projector and go! You can switch presentation files during the intermission.
1. I like to time each presentation on a separate timer (my phone) just in case the timing gets messed up. If I notice the slide isn’t transitioning, I’ll take over manually. This is optional and you SHOULDN’T need it, but it’s just a sanity check.
2. Dropbox is a great way for speakers to submit their slides. It saves you from managing multiple versions of presentations coming in over email from 16 different speakers. They can resave their presentation to Dropbox as many times as they want until the deadline. Once the deadline is passed, move the presentations out of Dropbox to somewhere local on your computer so the speakers can’t try to sneak in last minute changes. Sign up for Dropbox here to get a bonus 500MB of space (full disclosure: I get 500mb free too).
3. Once you have determined the speaker order, rename each of the presentations 1-1-PresenterName, 1-2-PresenterName, 1-3-PresenterName (or for Part 2, rename to 2-1-PresenterName, 2-2-PresenterName, etc). This will make the presentations auto-sort into the correct order, which makes importing them in the right order much easier.
4. Be very careful about slide transitions, animations, etc. I personally recommend stripping out all slide transitions in Step 5. They will often mess with the 15 second automatic timer.
5. I close down every other program on my laptop before I plug it into the projector. Not just instant messengers, but Twitter, Chrome, Firefox, IRC, MS Word, Excel, text editors.. everything. The fewer things running, the fewer things can cause a pop up notification, or accidentally crash, or just generally go wrong.