Five Common Problems With Poor Display of PowerPoint Presentations

Has this happened to you? You connect your laptop to the data projector, fire it up and sure enough the image is displayed on the screen … but … it doesn’t look very good. It is either fuzzy, hard to see, or missing some of the lines. Before you get that panicked feeling, check these five most common problems with the poor display of a computer presentation.

Problem #1 – Resolution mismatch between projector and computer

If your computer’s display resolution is higher than the native display resolution of the data projector, the image may seem to be of poor quality or even missing some of the image. This is caused when a data projector adjusts a higher resolution image down to a lower resolution that it can display. Most of the time the way it does the conversion is to drop lines out of the higher resolution display to come down to the lower resolution. This can result in the missing lines. To solve this problem, there are two choices. The first choice is to adjust the display resolution of the computer to match the resolution of the data projector. This can usually be done through the display settings in the operating system. The second choice is to get a data projector that has the same native resolution as the computer.

Problem #2 – Dual Display Mode on Laptop

On some laptops, the video display circuits are unable to output a strong enough signal to the external video port if the internal display is also on. Toggle to the display mode where the video image is only sent out the external video port to see if this may solve the problem. To switch display modes in Windows 8 and above, press Windows+P (hold the Windows key and press the letter P). You can now use your arrow keys to select the mode you want and press Enter when done (or use your mouse to click on the desired mode). Many laptops also have a key combination that will allow you to rotate between the display modes. If you have Windows 7, this will be the method you use to change display modes. Look for a key (usually one of the function keys) that has a picture of a display on it. You usually have to hold a special Function key (usually labeled Fn) and press this key to switch between the different modes. After you press the key combination, wait at least five to ten seconds for the new setting to take effect before you toggle to the next setting.

Problem #3 – Poor Room Lighting

The image you see displayed on the screen may look poor because the lighting in the room is washing out the image being projected. If there are lights directly above the screen or pointed towards the screen, this will contribute to a poor image. Turn off the lights directly above the screen. If this also turns off too many lights that it would not be comfortable for the audience, you will have to switch to plan B. If the lights can’t be turned off, you can try to unscrew the offending light bulbs in order to solve the problem. You may want to ask the maintenance staff at the site to do this for you so that it is done safely.

Problem #4 – Weak Projector or Bulb

The brightness of a data projector is measured in lumens, a measure of the light emitted by one candle. If you have a projector that has a brightness rating less than 800 lumens, you may not see a bright image until the lights are turned off because the brightness of the projector is too low. If you have a projector that is rated as brighter than 800 lumens, the problem may be the projector bulb. The bulbs in data projectors generally do not pop and go out when they have reached the end of their life. They usually slowly lose power over a longer period of time. If the bulb in the projector is past half of it’s rated life, the image will become quite dim and hard to see. Each bulb has a rated life, usually measured in hours and most portable or boardroom projectors have rated lives of 1,000 to 2,000 hours. To check if this is a problem, ask the technical staff to check how many hours the projector bulb has been used. There is usually a bulb usage option on the projector menu that tracks how many hours the bulb has been used. If it is over half of the rated life, this may be your problem. If you cannot get a new data projector, the only way to solve this problem is to replace the bulb. This is harder because the bulbs are so expensive that replacement bulbs are not usually on site, and even if they are, you need to wait until the projector has cooled down enough to handle the old bulb. The one thing you can do is to dim more of the lights in the room to make the image seem brighter.

Problem #5 – Poor Choice of Slide Colors

Sometimes when all other factors seem fine, our presentation still looks poor. It may be due to the colors you have chosen. In order to have a clear image, you need to pick background and text colors that have a lot of contrast. Data projectors tend to not display the colors exactly as they appear on your computer screen. This can lead to an image that looks great on your computer not looking very good when it gets displayed through the data projector. Try to pick colors with high contrast, such as dark backgrounds with yellow or white text, in order to make the image more readable. Backgrounds that contain images can sometimes cause problems as text seems to blend into the background instead of floating above it.  You can check the contrast of two colors using my free Color Contrast Calculator.

The next time your image looks less than perfect, check to see if one of these problems is the cause.

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By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 4.8 million times and liked over 17,000 times on YouTube.