Presenting with an iPad

by Peter Watts

You no longer take your laptop to a picnic if you want to play music; you take your MP3 player instead. The same thing is happening to how we deliver presentations, with tablets and even phones becoming potential delivery devices for mobile presenters.

  • Light and easy for carrying around
  • Small enough to be useful even in cramped airline seats
  • Instant-On capacity. Just flip open, and there’s the presentation ready to go
  • Highly usable presentation software
  • Excellent for performing presentation edits in minutes
  • Simple to connect to a projector via a VGA connector

All of these advantages have encouraged me to experiment with my iPad as a presentation tool, and as long as you are aware of the pitfalls, I’d recommend it.

OK. The pitfalls. There are three big ones:

  • No reliable remote control
  • No ability to black-out the screen during a presentation
  • Unable to plug-into the power while connected to a projector

If like me however, you can’t resist going early-adopter, here are some of the workarounds I’ve discovered for presenting from an iPad.

Quick edits & delivery only

An iPad is an oversized iPod, without the functionality of a laptop. It’s good for quick edits on the move, and content delivery, but when it comes to the heavy-lifting of writing your presentation, that remains best done on your laptop.

Buy a stylus

Much of what you’ll want to do requires the precision of a stylus rather than fingers. I’ve found the Pogo Stylus to be excellent.

Keynote converts PowerPoint easily, but check for oddities

Transferring PowerPoint slides into KeyNote is an easy WiFi process, but do check for font changes that knock your formatting around. Also be careful to check any graphics that were originally created within PowerPoint; straight lines that were in there have an odd habit of vanishing!

Slim-down the slides

iPad remote control apps are available, but I’ve experienced their WiFi / Bluetooth connections as too shaky to be relied on in front of an audience. You’ll need to manually advance slides, so remove fiddly transitions and minimize the slide-deck to reduce the number of times you have to return to the iPad. This might seem retrograde, but it’s always good discipline to streamline slide-decks, and iPad’s lack of an effective remote control simply reminds us to keep presentations simple.

Plan the black-outs

The inability to black-out the screen during longer presentations is the biggest single issue with the iPad. Possible solutions are to either create a special slide that stays on-screen during shorter activities, or plan black-out periods long enough that you actually turn the projector off altogether. Many audiences breath a sigh of relief when that projector goes off, so it can be used to indicate a shift from presentation into discussion or activity. Do remember to switch the projector back on at least 90 seconds before you need it!

Maximize your battery

With the iPad’s out-port connected to the VGA, there is nowhere to plug-in the power. For shorter presentations, this isn’t a problem, but if it’s a whole day session then you can extend battery life by reducing screen brightness. Flight Mode can also be used to save even more power.

Practice first

Presenting from an iPad is a different experience from using a laptop. Practice prior to your first time in front of an audience. I would also suggest still taking your laptop with you as backup just until you are completely comfortable.

Is it worth it?

This question depends on the type of presenter you are.

Would I use an iPad for a major audience, large stage event? No I wouldn’t. I would miss my remote control too much.

Would I use the iPad for delivering an in-depth technical presentation, requiring the ability to run separate reveals on my slides? Again no, and for that same lack-of-remote reason.

For myself as a presenter though, constantly flying, performing small edits on the move, and immensely prizing lightness-of-backpack, then yes the experiment has proved worthwhile. The pitfalls I’ve encountered will be rapidly filled as more of us find solutions and workarounds.

Do you have any solutions to share? Please post me back if you have. Be great to hear your experiences.


  1. […] Watch Mark Kyte’s video below and click to read Presenting with an iPad by Peter Watts. […]

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