Equipment – and Backup Plans A, B and C!


Overhead transparencies are flexible, portable -- and now so outdated!

Overhead transparencies are flexible, portable -- and now so outdated!

I’m in transition from using transparencies on an overhead projector to using PowerPoint on a data projector. I’ve always loved the flexibility of using transparencies. With them, I can change sequencing in a blink of an eye to suit the needs of any audience without scrolling through endless screens. So, my author visit hosts smile about my quaint request for overhead and do their best to dig one out and dust it off for me.

But I was really thrown last spring when the librarian couldn’t scare up an overhead projector in the school district (yes, not just the school, but the whole district!) I did happen to have my show on a flashdrive, but they couldn’t get the computer to “talk” to it. Then they offered me a document camera and invited me to put my transparencies under it. The problem was that the shiny surfaces of my images reflected back and washed out the colors. So finally, I put my “real” books under the camera as the kids were filing in, and the assembly began. (Good thing I always arrive 45 minutes early to test equipment!) It was a bit awkward, but the experience gave me the kick in the pants I needed to move to new technology.

So here’s my new Backup Plan:
Plan A: I carry my own skinny Casio data projector and tiny Acer netbook with me with my PowerPoint show loaded and ready to go.
Plan B: I tuck a backup of my PowerPoint in my bag on a flashdrive.
Plan C: I bring along a few transparencies (and of course my books) to pull out if all else fails.

The yellow notebook shows you how compact my Acer netbook and Casio data projector are.  Everything fits into a backpack.

The yellow notebook shows you how compact my Acer netbook and Casio data projector are. Everything fits into a backpack.

But really, if all else really does fail (and it rarely does), I have my voice. I’m a storyteller. And I think we can make it through just fine!

6 Comments on “Equipment – and Backup Plans A, B and C!”

  • I’ve been using a (gasp!) slide projector, but since my first picture book is coming out in October, I’ve been thinking about converting to PowerPoint, since I am revamping my presentations anyway to include the new book.
    Dear Alexis,

    Do I really need to invest in a projector, too? Can’t I bring my PowerPoint on a data stick? Or bring my netbook computer and a cable to hook up to the school’s projector?

    Or is that likely to result in having an equipment failure and no visuals?

    What model of projector did you get? How much does it cost? Is it foolproof?

    How long does it take you to set up all your equipment?

    Jennifer J.
    A little bit of a technophobe

  • I’m interested in the “what model, how much does it cost” question, too. I’d like to buy my own projector instead of relying on the school, but I am wondering how to make sure I get one that will project a clear image on a large screen in an auditorium or gym that may not be that dark. I’d also like it to be reliable and not too expensive! I looked at a projector review website but there were so many reviews and all so technical I had no idea where to begin.

    Thanks! And thanks for all the helpful posts!

  • Hey Jennifer and Mara – LOVE these questions! I’ve answered them in my next blog post called “Data Projectors for PowerPoint Shows – Cost, Set-up & Alternatives.” I hope it helps!

  • Yikes! Maybe I’d better start looking for an overhead projector to buy–at this point in time, I’ll still take my trusty low-tech transparencies over power-point any day. I’ve seen too many presentations derailed by technical glitches, so I’m not nearly confident enough in my abilities or in the equipment to make the switch. I’ve yet to visit a school where they couldn’t scare up a projector, but I know that day is coming…thanks for the heads up! Thanks, too, for providing authors and educators with this terrific resource.

  • Kate – I do have a small portable overhead projector that was given to me in 1994 that fits into a backpack, but since I can no longer get replacment lamps, it’s a matter of time before this is a complete dinosaur. While I do carry transparencies for my backup, I’m thinking that since most schools have document cameras, you could bring images on paper (or pages from your books) to show. In terms of gaining confidence in using equipment, why not set up a meeting with fellow local writers on the school visit circuit for a show-and-tell about equipment. You’ll see how easy & transportable it is to use PowerPoint (and I’m no computer wizard, so if I can do this, you can do this!)

  • Great advice–thanks, Alexis!