[IMGCAP(1)]At some time or another, we all have to make presentations. The subject matter may vary from showing a client a spreadsheet or a PowerPoint presentation of proposed services, but many times all the thought goes into the presentation itself, with little or none given to how the presentation is displayed.

If it’s one-on-one, and you have a laptop with a large screen, having your client (or other observer) looking over your shoulder may suffice. But it’s hardly ideal, and becomes even less so when there are multiple people who need to watch.

Where you give your presentation is also going to have an effect. When you give a demonstration or presentation at a client office, you really can’t count on there being a large screen monitor or other display device available, though these days, many businesses maintain a large display device of one kind or another in a conference room.

While it’s nice to travel light, it’s a good idea to be prepared with your own technology. In this case, it would be a projector. I’ve used a wide variety of projectors, from pico projectors smaller than a paperback book to home theater projectors that can throw a bright 300 inch diagonal image in a dimly lit room.

The spec to look at here is lumens, which is a measure of how bright the image is at a distance. (It’s actually a measure of light output. Display brightness, such as that from a monitor, is measured in Nits.) You can look up a more precise definition, but what you really need to know are two things. The first is that most pico projectors top out at between 85 and 100 lumens of brightness. That’s enough to give a pretty good image of up to about 40 to 60 inches on a light colored wall in a darkened room. That’s not optimal. The other fact in considering a projector is that lumens aren’t a linear measure of brightness, they are a logarithmic measure.

All of this technical mumbo jumbo boils down to a simple set of facts. You want a high output projector, and you want it to be fairly portable. Professional projectors are expensive—figure anywhere from $700 on up. But you can buy an inexpensive projector that will do the job for a lot less. Two examples are the Epson EX3240 and the Acer H5380BD. At the time this is being written, both are selling for about $400. The Epson weighs a bit over five pounds and puts out 3,200 lumens and the Acer weighs in at 5.5 pounds and has a 3,000 lumen output. Both will throw an image with a 100 inch diagonal viewable in a dimly lit room. And, if you don’t feel like schlepping it to a client, you can always ship it back and forth—just give yourself enough time for it to arrive at the presentation location before you do.

At your office, it’s probably going to be a different story. A large screen monitor is probably the best way to go. How much to spend on one is a function of your budget. If you do a lot of presentations, a 40-inch class monitor will be good, a 60-inch class display even better if the budget permits. And, if you need to have the display available at different locations, the 30 buck rolling cart from Harbor Freight might be a good solution.

Or you could go in a slightly different direction. Most laptops and PCs these days have an HDMI output. And most TV sets have an HDMI input. And a 32-inch TV set is often less expensive than a 32-inch computer display. The image won’t look as good, but in my experience, unless you’re looking at the two types of displays side-by-side, the less expensive TV set works just fine for most presentations. Best of all, if you watch for a sale, you can get one pretty cheap. A few weeks ago, I picked up a Westinghouse 32-inch TV (with an HDMI input) on sale for 100 dollars. Try finding a computer display that size at that price.

Before you rush out to buy an inexpensive TV as a presentation display, take a minute to grab an HDMI cable and view your laptop’s output on a TV you have at home. If you don’t like the way a PowerPoint or a spreadsheet looks on your home TV, which is probably of good quality, you’re probably not going to go the TV versus a computer display route in your office.

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