Preflight Checklist

personal 0 comments suggest edit

I had a dry run today for an upcoming presentation that did not go quite as well as I would like, though I completely expected this as I was unprepared. The good news is, it was a dry run and not the real thing, so I have plenty of time to adjust.

Even so, there’s one thing I did wrong, that I should have known better than to do. In my crazy sleep deprived work frazzled mind, I broke the cardinal rule of a dry run – Treat it like the real thing!

flight Kitty Hawk by gilderm from sxc.huFor example, I have a little pre-flight checklist for every talk I give. I just place it in a file named preflight.txt in the root of each presentation folder and adapt it for each presentation. Even though I try to adapt it to each presentation, there is a core set of items that never really changes from one presentation to another. These are items that almost always apply and many are tips learned from other great presenters such as Scott Hanselman and Brad Wilson.

I thought this might be useful for others who find themselves in a position where they are giving presentations. Perhaps some of you will add to my checklist. I divided it into several categories. The last section isn’t actually a check-list, but a reminder of important keyboard shortcuts.


  • Set Notepad default font size to 16
  • Hide Desktop Icons
  • Close unnecessary toolbar/tray icons
  • Close all unecessary windows including Solution Explorer (use CTRL ALT L to show it)

Visual Studio

  • Launch Visual Studio
  • Set font size to 16
  • Drag necessary files into desktop
  • Start and minimize magnifier
  • Prepare snippets (if you use them)
  • Disable all unnecessary VS extensions
  • Or better yet, set up a DEMO instance of Visual Studio (thanks Mike Minutillo!)


  • Reset all demos. That might mean clearing cookies, clearing browser forms saved data, etc.
  • Open the PowerPoint deck to the right spot
  • Consolidate your demo scripts into a single document per talk
  • Print out notes (and don’t accidentally throw them away like I did)
  • Relax

Important Keyboard shortcuts

  • Window + to zoom in one level (and start magnifier)
  • Windows - to zoom out one level
  • Windows ESC to zoom fully out
  • CTRL . smart tag expansion
  • CTRL , Navigate to
  • SHIFT ALT K to display Solution Explorer (I remapped this on Brad’s advice because CTRL ALT L conflicts with Windows magnifier)
  • CTRL + and CTRL - change font size in NotePad2

I think this checklist nicely complements my presentation tips I learned from my (many) mistakes blog post. Did I forget an obvious preflight option? Do tell!

Found a typo or error? Suggest an edit! If accepted, your contribution is listed automatically here.



17 responses

  1. Avatar for Keith
    Keith August 30th, 2011

    Also, if you use a clipboard buffer, clear it.

  2. Avatar for Chad
    Chad August 30th, 2011

    Did you check the connection to the internet if you need it? What is your backup plan if it dies on you.

  3. Avatar for niels
    niels August 30th, 2011

    And never Forget BACKUP, BACKUP and the most important thing BACKUP :-)

  4. Avatar for Tugberk
    Tugberk August 30th, 2011

    hmm, Microsoft Build is the talk you are preparing for?

  5. Avatar for Tugberk
    Tugberk August 30th, 2011
  6. Avatar for mattmc3
    mattmc3 August 30th, 2011

    Do you use a different color theme in Visual Studio? Do you switch it back to the default? I much prefer to develop with a dark them with lighter text, but the default Black/Blue on White Visual Studio color scheme is much less distracting for an audience as everyone's used to it, even if they dont use it themselves.

  7. Avatar for Justin
    Justin August 30th, 2011

    Personally I like to have a presentation environment in VirtualBox. I set it up, take a snapshot, then reload the snapshot before each presentation. Of course I verify everything after restoring but I like keeping things separated.

  8. Avatar for James Curran
    James Curran August 30th, 2011

    I really like a tip I got from Scott Hanselman : Create a user on your laptop just for presentations, with all the setting already set.
    The other one which I see people ignoring all the time (which you hint at but don't expressly say): In VS, auto-hide (unpin) all panels except for the source code. (I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone try to show code by scrolling the window left/right/up/down while all the time they've got the Solution Explorer and Output panels open).

  9. Avatar for NB Chi
    NB Chi August 30th, 2011

    Make sure your fly is zipped.

  10. Avatar for Geoff Norton
    Geoff Norton August 31st, 2011

    I'm surprised no one mentioned this, maybe it only happens to me, but 2 things jump out:
    #1: Make sure you have every possible connector available to convert your laptop to the projecter
    #2: Pre-flight test #1 several times to make sure you have the resolution, aspect ratio, etc perfect before the majority of attendees arrive. Use your "setup time" wisely.

  11. Avatar for Bernhard
    Bernhard August 31st, 2011

    Given your most recent Tweet, maybe add this preflight check:
    Have all notes, code, presentations, tools used on a USB stick. Will it work on a virgin machine?

  12. Avatar for Chris Martin
    Chris Martin September 1st, 2011

    Even without the pre-flight check, you had a good presentation today.
    PS. I wanted to ask you more about some nuget issues but, forgot to. I'll hit you up on twitter tomorrow. @cmartinbot

  13. Avatar for Jonathan
    Jonathan September 1st, 2011

    You could use Fences to hide all of your desktop icons except for one particular "fence" with your presentation stuff in it

  14. Avatar for haacked
    haacked September 1st, 2011

    @Chris even better, post the questions to

  15. Avatar for RobertC
    RobertC September 4th, 2011

    Pre-flight, zero hour, 9am.
    And I'm gonna be high
    As a kite by then.
    Nobody knows more about cool presentations than:

  16. Avatar for Mike Minutillo
    Mike Minutillo September 15th, 2011

    For Visual Studio 2010 you can create a separate instance with its own settings and extensions. I just wrote a post detailing how :)

  17. Avatar for Christof Wollenhaupt
    Christof Wollenhaupt September 29th, 2011

    use a different user without any notifications, instant messengers, vpn tools, a demo mail inbox, no auto login into social web sites, etc.