To the extent possible, do not use the Internet for presentations. Many Internet access providers are making great progress in their global coverage, but in general, Internet connections should not be relied on, especially for presentations. The many telephone connections and adapters in different countries can be frustrating to work with. In addition, dropped, hung, and slow telephone connections are common. Instead, copy the appropriate materials onto a CD-ROM and use it in your computer. This will provide reliable response.
Carry on (do not check through with baggage) data files of your program materials in at least two different storage media (ZIP disk, floppy, or CD-ROM). Make sure someone back home knows where a complete package of materials is filed, and can overnight or e-mail it to you. Consider an Internet storage option (free, secure, online storage) such as www.freedrive.com. Or, send materials in advance to a Kinko's or similar shop near the meeting facility.
Check with the host country for possibly banned equipment, technology, or goods. Let the meeting venue assist you in taking possession of materials you ship to the site.
Register everything you take out of the country with the U.S. Customs office. Learn the “customs culture” of the host country. Buy insurance.
Check your terminology. Even we native English-speaking techies now have to ask: Is it multiple slide projectors or animated computer graphics? Is that a computer monitor or video monitor? Develop a glossary of terms for the audiovisual technologies you will be using, and get it translated to help when talking with your support staff. Also, bring manufacturers' literature or catalog cut sheets that show a picture of the equipment needed to reinforce your intent. The best bet: Get confirmation of the exact make/model numbers for equipment you need.
Triple-check with the company from which you are planning to rent equipment, asking for specific make and model numbers of the gear, not just generic descriptions. Confirm the compatibility between your source devices and the rented display devices, such as plasma flat panels, computer and video projectors, and monitors. The best quality will always result from matching your computer resolution to the native resolution of the projector or display device. If you are not confident with your AV vendor, locate alternative sources.
In the past, it was absolutely critical that your videotapes be in the same format as the VCRs in the destination country. While that is still valuable advice, there has been a proliferation of multi-format VCRs in the past several years, and these have been readily adopted by AV companies.
Ask about the likelihood of power outages, especially at island destinations. Bring adapters and transformers for everything you are transporting, including laptop computers. Plan around afternoon thunderstorms.
Jeff Loether heads Electro-Media Design Ltd. in Rockville, Md., which provides technology consulting and design services. Contact him at (301) 309-0110.
Remember meanings can vary with the culture. For instance, sometimes, depending on how you ask the question and which country you are in, “yes” may mean “no.” Being on time may be important to you, but it may not be the cultural norm to be prompt. Keep this in mind when you are scheduling your planning meetings, rehearsals, and setups. What you hear as a promise might just be agreement without any sense of commitment. Be clear and check the communication before assuming anything.
Avoid clichés in any presentations — they often don't translate well.