Happy 2018. Many big conferencing and presentation skills issues to cover this year but let’s start the year with a small issue about a small object.

They are one of the smallest parts of any conference and yet they play such a vital role. Every conference has one. Most presenters use one. They are often misused, misplaced, left behind in pockets, on conference tables and chairs, tricky to find, usually black.

“They” are slide clickers or pointers, sometimes called remote mouses (or is that mice???…..I can never remember). Anyway, I am talking about the small rectangular box used by presenters to forward their PowerPoint slides and occasionally to point (via a red laser beam) to specific sections of a slide.

And yet despite being a relatively simple, easy to operate device, they are so often misused or misplaced. I am guessing it wasn’t too long ago that you heard a presenter say “Now I am not sure how to use this thing!” or “I think this will make the next slide come up…………oops, sorry, I have gone backwards” and so on.

While there are some cool, multi-buttoned ones available, most of the standard conference issue clickers have 2 buttons – a green button for “Forward” and a red button for “Backwards” – they should not be too hard to operate. Not much margin for error. Most AV technical operators actually take time out before the presentation, to ‘train’ presenters in “Clicker Management” and yet you can be guaranteed a few issues at every conference or event.

Yet while they are often misused, they are actually a great presentation tool in that among other things, they allow you, the presenter to wander the stage, if you should so choose, as you don’t need to stand next to your laptop to forward your slides by hand.

By the way, for the inexperienced presenter, it is worth noting that you don’t need to point the clicker at the screen or towards your laptop to forward slides, the clickers are all wireless and operate at long distances.

As for the red laser beam options which some clickers possess, my strong advice to presenters is to ignore that function altogether. If your slides are so busy with text or contain such a complex maze of graphs and charts that you need a laser beam to draw the audience’s attention to one specific part of the slide, then I would suggest you redo your PowerPoint slides – so that the font is giant and that there is only one point per slide.

And many conferences these days have 2 screens on either side of stage, so laser-pointing to one screen only helps half the audience, at best.

My other advice to presenters is that when your presentation concludes, try to remember to leave the clicker on the lectern or better still hand it over relay-race baton style to the MC or the next presenter. I shudder to think how much time is wasted over the course of a 3 day conference with the next presenter grappling around on stage looking for where the clicker is (actually I don’t shudder, as it’s not that frightening a prospect, but you get my point – no pun intended).

OK, small issue I agree, but I thought these pointed laser pointer pointers were worth pointing out. Bigger conference issues will be covered as of next month.