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Making Presentations With My iPad

I recently gave a couple of talks at devLINK 2010 at the David Lipscomb University campus in Nashville.

One of the talks was technical in nature, the other was a professional development session. These are typical of the presentations I give for conferences, user groups, and clients.  devLINK 2010 made a perfect time to try out my iPad for presentations.

But first a bit of background.

You Need An Adaptor

The iPad is sleek, it’s thin, and it’s attractive. And it doesn’t have room for any external connectors like SVGA outputs or even USB devices. Everything must run through the sole proprietary connection port on the bottom. Fortunately, you can buy a dongle that allows you to connect the iPad to a standard SVGA device. Unfortunately, it’s not the same dongle that the MacBook Pro uses so it’s an extra “thing” to carry around. Every time I pack up my stuff for a presentation I can’t help but mentally singing “I’ve got dongles that dingle dangle dingle.” to the tune of “I’ve got spurs that jingle jangle jingle.” I guess that’s just me though.

Simply connecting the dongle to the iPad and a projector does not automatically send video to the projector. That surprised me. Instead it’s software driven, but not at the iPad O/S level. You won’t find a configuration switch in Settings to send all video output to the SVGA device. Instead it’s driven by the presentation software. That’s disappointing. That means you cannot show apps on the big screen that are not specifically designed to work with a projector.

The Presentation Software

To make a presentation, I bought Keynote. Keynote is software for the iPad that’s similar to PowerPoint. It’s surprisingly rich and powerful. And it’s completely amazing for  a $10 piece of software. It has cool animations, charts, tables, and all of the other things that you’ve come to expect from PowerPoint. You can create your own presentations in Keynote on the iPad or you can edit and show PowerPoint presentations that you’ve created on your laptop.

As you proof your presentation, you see the output on the iPad’s screen. A swipe of the finger from left to right will advance to the next slide. Reversing the direction of the swipe with go back on slide in the deck. One nice presentation feature is that when you put your finger on the iPad and leave it for a second, a red dot appears on the screen and you can use that instead of a laser pointer. Nice.

Unfortunately there are a couple areas where the Keynote development team seems to have been short sighted. First, when you go into presentation mode while an external projector is connected , the iPad screen goes black and only displays buttons that allows you to go forward or back. It doesn’t show the slide that’s being displayed on the projector. That can be bad since you, as the speaker, will have to turn your head from the audience to see what they are seeing on the screen. The iPad doesn’t act like a monitor for you.

Second, if any other application on the iPad takes focus during the presentation, the output to the project is cut off. This happened to me during devLINK. A calendar reminder popped up, killing the SVGA output. Fortunately as soon as I closed the reminder, the presentation was immediately displayed again. It would be nice to have a universal setting to suppress every thing else while in presentation mode.

Putting It Into Action

So, how did my experiment at devLINK 2010 go?

My Technical Presentation

When I give technical presentations, I try to make them engaging and interactive. And the best way that I’ve found to do that it is to incorporate live demonstrations in the presentations. I strive to make each presentation approximately 50% live demos. I bounce between the presentation slide deck and the SQL Server Management Studio.

That’s just not possible with iPad. Obviously SQL Server Management Studio won’t run on a device made by Apple. I thought about connecting to a remote server via an RDP client called WinAdmin that I have for the iPad and doing my demonstrations on that server. But WinAdmin doesn’t support the SVGA output so I couldn’t get the graphics to the projector.

Unless I revamp my presentations and make the demonstrations canned images embedded into the slide deck, using the iPad for technical demonstrations won’t work for me. For devLINK 2010 used my MacBook Pro.

My Non-Technical Presentation

My non-technical “Conducting Effective Meetings” session at devLINK was in the Alumni Auditorium with a seating capacity of a couple of thousand and an on-stage projection screen that was at least 20 feet tall. The session was recorded by devLINK, that’s why I was in the room for the big boys.

The A/V guy came to help me get set up and miked right before the session. I could tell he was a bit hesitant when he saw my iPad. He gave me the “You’re on your own with this one.” glance. Fortunately, I plugged it up and it worked without any problems. The graphics, even on the 20 foot tall screen were excellent. And apart from the small interruption due to the appointment reminder, it worked flawlessly.

In fact, it worked well enough that I’m planning to use it for the SQLSaturday #51 opening keynote address in Nashville on Saturday.

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Posted by Steve Jones on 20 August 2010

One note, I love my remote clicker, since I walk around a lot. I had talked with someone that saw that as an issue, but Joe answered a question for me recently about an iPhone/iTouch app that allows you to advance Keynote.


That's one more thing that makes me lean towards using an iPad for presentations since it's so lightweight.

One other note, I've started to not show some live demos in presentations, and just show before/after screenshots. I think it improves the flow, and it reduces chances of mistakes, explosions, or old versions.

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