Should you present from your own laptop?

own laptop

When using slides, which I usually do for a presentation, the options are almost always to present from my own laptop computer, or from the “presentation computer.” Some organizers almost expect you to bring your own equipment, some want to have the slide deck, or “the presentation” as they often call it, weeks in advance. Some speakers have a fixed deck that they’re happy to send in advance, others like to tinker up to the last moment or prefer to use non-standard presentation tools. In which category do you fall?

Normally, I prefer to present from my own laptop. Why?


  • I like to update my slide deck at the last moment to include current affairs
  • I use Keynote (just another fancy Powerpoint alternative) on a Mac, and not all organisers have that combination available
  • I know my laptop, I have connected it to countless projectors, and I know how to troubleshoot. I like to keep that control
  • I don’t want the organisers to keep and distribute my slides. I spent a lot of time on them, and bought the copyright to some of the materials. Plus, without the stories they are useless.


But there are reasons to forgo using my own laptop.

  • Not enough time to check the tech. In my experience you need at least an hour to test the compatibility between your laptop and the system. Usually you’re done within 5 minutes, but I’ve had several occasions where we needed the full hour to fix things.
  • If I’m in a block with other presenters and there is no advanced tech in the back that can simply switch from one computer to the other it would be distracting, time consuming, and not very professionally looking to switch computers on stage.

An experience

Last week I had to give two presentations on the same day with not a lot of leeway to travel from one to the other. Both organizers preferred me presenting from their laptops, and because of the time constraint that’s what I wanted as well.

Organizer 1 didn’t have a Mac. So I had to translate my slides to Powerpoint. That translation is not as smooth as one would hope. Movies and builds don’t translate well. So I remade my original Keynote slide deck to translate smoothly into Powerpoint rather than updating the slides there. As a result my slides are now Powerpoint proof and my deck is more robust. Win!

Organizer 2 did have a Mac, but it was not the same they tested on. They installed Keynote half an hour before the presentation. Fonts were missing. Someone managed to unplug the sound minutes before I got on. I only noticed when I got on and my intro music didn’t play. I hope the audience didn’t notice, but I felt I made a false start. No win!

Lessons learned

My lessons and conclusions are:

  • As a speaker, I prefer to present from your own laptop. However, if need be, I need to be flexible. Flexible = bookable.
  • I will keep my slides simple. Do I need the elaborate builds, page transitions and fonts? Turns out, I didn’t really. Simple safes time. And issues.
  • I’m creating a test slide to go before my regular deck, containing some text in the different fonts I’m using, a sound, and a short clip – just to quickly see if things work.
  • I need to stay focussed and in control. I should have checked one last time after other people had tested their presentations.

But the most interesting question that keeps popping up in my mind is: Do I really need slides at all?

Why you should NOT write out your speech

Breaking your pencil

I’ve seen it many times. While preparing a speech the speaker grabs pen and paper (or more often a laptop computer) and frantically starts writing. And then keeps revising and revising in a process that can take days, weeks, months. As the big day of the speech approaches he or she realizes that the speech needs to be rehearsed as well. Memorized even. Oops. No time left.

The results are often less than stellar. The audiences notes that there is something wrong:

” She relied too heavily on her notes”;
” He just wasn’t authentic”;
” Her sentences were too long and convoluted”;
” I just couldn’t follow it”;
” I didn’t feel he was speaking to me, just thinking about his text”;
” It was way too long”.

And worse.

You’re not an actor. You’re a speaker. You don’t have to interpret a fixed script, you need to interpret your thoughts, convictions, ideas. To different audiences, that need different versions.


If you want to connect with your audience, you will need to at least make it seem like you are speaking from the heart, not from the paper. And written language is not the best vehicle for that. Spontaneously spoken text uses short sentences, sentences that don’t finish, interjections. Spontaneous speakers look at the audience, react on things that happen, are able to reflect on current events. Spontaneous speeches include matching body language and vocal variety. Using memorized texts this is going to be hard. Not impossible, but it takes a lot of practice time. Time that most speakers that write out their texts don’t take.


Because of the congruence of body language, vocal variety and content, spoken speeches tend to be a lot more convincing than speeches read out or memorized. Why not simply skip the writing fase? The only things that you really need to get clear is your topic, your goal, and your main points. Once you know these, how about starting the rehearsing process immediately? Saves a lot of time. And often results in a better, more flexible speech.


If you don’t write down and memorize your speech it will be different every time you give it. That brilliant sentence you thought of might be missing because you simply didn’t think of it. But so what? Instead you will look fresh and be there for the audience instead of regurgitating you material.

Longer presentations

Writing out longer keynotes? Half hour, full hour presentations? That’s prohibitive. Save yourself the time. Instead of trying to perfect each and every sentence and then try to learn it all by heart, you better spend your time on the subject of your presentation. Come up with new angles. Incorporate current events. Be the authority.

Nerve cell

How to rehearse without text

How do you go about memorizing your speech without writing it down?
Simply by doing it. Give that speech in front of your bedroom wall (imagining the wall is your audience). Rehearse parts of that speech during a walk in the forest. Shout it out lou

d when stuck in traffic. What happens is that even though it will be slightly different every time you rehearse it, the flow of the speech will get better and better. And there is no need to fear that you may forget parts when giving it for real. Since you’re constantly doing that during your rehearsals, and noticed that you’re making up for it, you know you’re ready to go.


To conclude: writing out your speech is highly overrated. It takes an enormous amount of time, often consuming the time you should have spent rehearsing and practicing. Not only that, it will often make the speech feel less authentic and less convincing to your audience. Why not skip the writing all together?


Next time: why you should write out your speech.

images: moritz320, ColiN00B – Pixabay.