I suspect that I'm not the only planner who faces the challenge of getting workshop presenters to get their graphics prepared on time, on budget, and with a professional look. Just when I think I have them all in line, something will happen to remind me that it's a never-ending project. Here are the steps we take to try to keep things under control.

We get started early and identify our workshop leaders each December, even though our conference(s) are in May or June of the following year. I then send a request for the workshop title and description so I can prepare the workshop sign-up form and the conference program; my ulterior motive is to get them to start thinking about their workshops early.

Use an AV Questionnaire In January, as the workshop descriptions arrive, our media department sends out media production planning questionnaires asking if the presenters plan to use visuals or another form of media, what kind, about how many, and then gives them deadlines for contacting a producer. Presenters also can prepare their own visuals. Typically there is an eight-week window (mid-February to mid-April) for actually producing visuals. Anything not included in this production schedule will have to be produced by the presenter or by an outside vendor.

Help the Do-It-Yourselfers Since all this is charged to my budget, I am eager for presenters to get on the production schedule. I know then it will be done professionally and cost-effectively. If they have to go outside, the expense may be much higher. If the presenter creates his or her own visuals, we offer to create a master slide to use as a guide. We also offer an intranet site where they can choose a design from several offered, and we will meet with them and critique their master slide, offering suggestions for improvement. We encourage rehearsal sessions and offer to sit in.

We give them a drop-dead date for shipping if they want my department to ship their materials to the conference. And even after all this, there are always one or two who will do their own thing at the last minute - and it usually looks it.

The "AutoContent Wizard" will allow you to quickly develop a presentation with sample content already in place. From the "Menu" bar, choose "File" and click on "New." On the General Page, double-click the AutoContent Wizard icon. Work through the pages making choices on each. When you finish, you'll have an outline for developing your own presentation - just replace the sample content with your own. PowerPoint also has a special version of Office Assistant called Presentation Assistant. This will alert you to stylistic errors such as using too many fonts or inconsistent punctuation.

Remember the opaque projector? It was functional, but not very portable. While you haven't been paying attention, it has evolved into something called the "video presenter." These are used a great deal in courtrooms and other venues where flat items need to be projected. It looks very much like a copy stand with a small digital camera over the platform. Some of the high-end ones have 16X optical zoom and SVGA resolution, can store up to eight images, and can even project two images side-by-side (one stored and one live).