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Let's talk about hardware for a moment. Your laptop has a video setting called Resolution. It's simply a measure of how many dots or pixels go across the screen and down; the higher the number, the more pixels. Your projector or whatever display you're using for your audience also has a resolution setting. Many laptops and projectors support a variety of resolutions and when connected to each other, they will automatically try and find a resolution setting they both share. If they can't, you are not going to see anything on the screen.
Unfortunately, the settings that they agree on aren't always the best. The display may end up looking fuzzy, stretched, shrunk, or cropped. In this video, I will show you a few things that you can do to improve the clarity of your presentations. We will start simple with a PowerPoint setting that lets us specify the size of our display. From the Design tab, we can click on Page Setup to access this dialog box. You will see the pulldown menu here that lets me specify some common display ratios. 16:9 is normally referred to as Widescreen.
So if you're showing your slideshow on a widescreen display, you'll want to be sure to change this before getting too deep in designing your slides. 4:3 is more common on older displays and many projectors. If you're getting the letterbox or pillar box effect with vacant space along the edges of your display, it's probably because you haven't set this properly, but it also might be due to your laptop resolution. We can adjust our laptop's display resolution by right-clicking on the desktop and choosing Screen Resolution.
Making the right choice here can be a bit of a challenge, since projectors are all different in what they'll support. If you feel you need to adjust this because your display looks distorted or cropped, start with the choices that Windows recommends from the top and make your way down. If all else fails, nearly every display will support the common 1024x768 choice. Note that this is a 4:3 ratio, so make sure you design your slides for a standard, not Widescreen display if you choose this.
Know that not all projectors are going to be able use a Widescreen resolution setting. If your projector only supports the standard 4:3 ratio, you will have to choose a resolution that matches and make sure your slideshow is designed in 4:3. Believe it or not, the cable that you use to connect your display can make a difference. If your laptop and display both support it, use the HDMI or DVI connectors. Otherwise, opt for the standard 15 Pin VGA cable. Using the S-Video port will result in a fuzzy signal, So make this your last choice.
And one quick note about splitters. If you're sending your signal to multiple displays, you should know that some setups will weaken the signal and cause a display to look dim or fuzzy. You can purchase an amplified multiplier for less than $50 if you need one. The last thing we want is for the images that our audience sees to be distorted or fuzzy, and it can be a real disaster to fool around with all these settings while the audience is waiting for us to start. All the more reason to test everything out with plenty of time to spare and have a backup plan in mind.
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