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Preparing Your Mac for a Presentation

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This post is part of a series called Presentation Fundamentals.
PowerPoint 101: Everything You Need to Make a Basic Presentation
Getting Started with Keynote for iCloud

The days of needing Windows to run an effective presentation are over. With great tools and accessories for running multiple displays — even when one of those displays is a projector — OS X is a great option for your next presentation.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to execute the perfect presentation by preparing your Mac beforehand, choosing the right way to hook up your second display or projecter and ensure nothing will get in the way when things get underway.

Choosing a Connection

When you're hosting a presentation with your Mac, there's a strong chance you're going to be opting to use an external display or projector to do so, which means you're going to need a way of hooking your machine up. There's two basic options to do so: wireless, through a system like AirPlay, or using a traditional physical cable.

AirPlay

AirPlay is Apple's protocol for streaming wireless content, introduced in 2010 alongside a new model of Apple TV. AirPlay allows you to stream, to a compatible device, content like music, movies, TV shows and, since 2010, your entire display.

AirPlay Mirroring allows you to mirror your Mac's display on another screen, or projector, that's connected to an AirPlay-compatible device, such as a second or third-generation Apple TV. By choosing to extend your screen, rather than mirror it, you can take full advantage of second-display features such as Presenter View in Keynote, just as if you were using a physical connection.

Presenter View provides access to some additional tools on your second display.

To set up AirPlay Mirroring, first make sure that both your Mac and the Apple TV (or third-party receiver that supports screen mirroring) are connected to the same wireless network. Then, open the System Preferences app and choose Displays. At the bottom of this pane, check the box marked Show mirroring options in the menu bar.

If more than one option is available under the Connect To AirPlay Display label, select the device that is connected to the display or project that you want to show your presentation on.

The AirPlay icon in your Mac's menu bar offers fast access to some basic AirPlay options.

Next, click on the AirPlay icon in your menu bar and choose your preferred option under the Use AirPlay Display To label. Selecting Extend Desktop is recommended, as this will enable second-screen views like Keynote's Presenter View while still showing your presentation as normal on the external display or projector.

When you begin your presentation, it should automatically begin on your newly-connected display.

Cables and Connections

The second option is to use a traditional physical cable to hook up your external display or projector, useful if your presentation is in a location with an unreliable wireless network or if your display doesn't support HDMI, which the Apple TV exclusively uses.

The Apple Store sells a range of Mini DisplayPort adapters which will work with machines that have a Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt port.

Exactly what cable and/or adapters you need is specific to your setup and differs from venue to venue, display to display. Most displays and projectors will use some form of common display interface such as HDMI or DVI; if your Mac doesn't have a port for this built-in (in which case, you'd simply use a male-to-male cable to hook your Mac up via that port), Apple sells a range of Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt adapters. Alternatively, you can choose a compatible adapter from a third-party such as Belkin which may provide a cheaper, yet unofficial, option.

When your Mac is physically tethered to your external display or projector of choice, you can use the Displays pane in your Mac's System Preferences app to modify configurations for resolution and colour. After that, your setup should be good to go and apps like Keynote will automatically use your connected display for your presentation, providing modes like Presenter View on your primary screen.

Do Not Disturb

During most presentations, you're not going to want notifications, alerts and calls to interrupt. OS X has a built-in feature called Do Not Disturb which allows you to toggle notifications on or off universally.

Under most circumstances, you can open Notification Center (by using your configure gesture or by clicking the right-most icon in your Mac's menu bar), scroll up and use the toggle to enable or display Do Not Disturb.

This somewhat hidden feature, introduced with Mountain Lion, hides alerts and banners when turned on. Though manually toggling Do Not Disturb on is an option, you can also automate this process to certain times or, in our case, when you're likely hosting a presentation. First, open System Preferences and then click Notifications. Then, in the Do Not Disturb tab, check the When mirroring to TVs and projectors box. This option will automatically turn Do Not Disturb on when you're mirroring your desktop to an external display or projector, including when you're doing so to run a presentation.

The Notifications preference pane allows you to modify Do Not Disturb options.

There's a few additional options you can modify here, depending on your specific presentation needs. If you're planning to use FaceTime as part of your presentation, you can check the Allow FaceTime calls from box and choose Favorites from the dropdown field to still allow your favorite contacts to call when Do Not Disturb is active.

Conclusion

The once-accurate adage that Macs aren't useful for work is no longer true. When hosting presentations, your Mac has all a wealthy library of available tools, accessories and applications to help it all run smoothly. This tutorial has shown you how to get set up your Mac for a presentation, connecting it to your external display and ensuring nothing interrupts the main attraction; now all that's left to do is actually present!

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