29/365 (IPAD)
Image by Jesus Belzunce via Flickr

One of the first things I thought to use my iPad for was presenting and live demos.  After all, it’s such a sleek, elegant device, why on Earth would I want to lug my laptop around at all?  So I started researching ways to present from it.

First choice seemed to be obvious:  Use Keynote. There are a few problems though.  I’m not going to get into it, as it has been well documented in other places, but suffice to say there were enough issues that I decided it wasn’t the right solution to me.  Amongst other things, I didn’t want to have to convert 5 years worth of presentations over.

So I looked into ways to do Powerpoint directly from the iPad.  There’s been several articles on this as well, and so far I haven’t been thrilled with any of them.  Converting them all to images seemed a hassle, and wouldn’t support any of the ‘mouse click’ animations I use when navigating through slides (having things appear and disappear within a single slide with each mouse click, most often to highlight things).  Converting the presentation to video wasn’t even an option as my timing varies greatly based on the audience.  Most of the PPT viewers I tried only did an adequate job of displaying them. Often there were formatting errors, and none of them would support animations or videos.

Which leads me to the method that finally worked well enough that I decided to give it a whirl…  in front of a live audience… in an overflowing room…  full of administrators and tech coordinators… at ISTE.

Here were my requirements:  I needed a way to…

1) Display my Powerpoint accurately, with breaks for each of the animations I’d included.

2) Display videos quickly and easily.

3) Create text to put on screen as needed.

4) Have the option of navigating the web in real time for live demos.

5) Because not everybody is going to Jailbreak, I wanted to be able to do it without bending any of Apple‘s rules.

And here’s how I did made it happen.

The animations piece was one of the hardest to overcome.  Every PPT converter and/or viewer butchered animations, most often just by flattening them.  A major breakthrough occurred when I discovered a little plugin called PPspliT.  Install that and it will display a two button toolbar that has saved me hours of work.  One is an actual button, the other is a modifying trigger.  The button goes through your slides, looks for animations and everytime it finds one it creates a new slide from the new state.  The trigger allows you to ONLY split slides when the animation is triggered by a mouse click.  That’s the version I used.  So I selected the trigger, clicked on the button and voila!  Every time I would click the mouse, I now had a new slide.

NOTE: Don’t bother saving this version!  There’s no need!  Just do this conversion when you want to save and load up a new version.

The next part of the process was getting the resulting file onto the iPad.  While I may have been able to keep it in PPT format, I found that a PDF worked even better.  It was more compact, loaded more cleanly and always looked EXACTLY the way it did on my PC.  So I saved the file as a PDF.  On the PC, I used a a free PDF converter called PrimoPDF.  Like many others, it just sets up a virtual printer.  You click print, select PrimoPDF and it saves your document as a PDF file.  Really easy to do.

Now I have the PDF of my presentation with all animations broken out, ready to be transferred.  I could use iTunes and load it up into iBooks or something similar, but iBooks won’t project via the VGA connector.  The best app I could find for loading and projecting PDF’s was GoodReader.  I’m still stunned that this fantastic app is so cheap.  I could transfer my PDF via WiFi, via Google Docs, via Drop Box, via iDisk… or just use their helper app you can do a drag and drop via USB.  Incredibly fast.

While I’m talking about GoodReader, I also wanted a way to show movies.  Well it just so happens that GoodReader will handle .mov, .m4v and .mp4 videos as well!  I save most of my videos as .m4v anyway, so that wasn’t a problem.  But if I didn’t, I could easily use ZamzarQuicktime Pro or Format Factory to handle that part.  Using that same USB helper, I dragged over two videos that I wanted to share.

Now I have my PDF and videos in GoodReader.  Plug in my VGA connector, load up the PDF and I’m good to go!  Then all of a sudden I realized that I had forgotten to list the URL where people could get my resources.  Thankfully, GoodReader allows you to create AND project text files on the fly.  Just created a new file, bumped up the font and threw it up on screen.  Two clicks and I’m back into my presentation and ready to go.

It loads quick, it changes pages quick, and you even have two choices for how to do so.  You can swipe from slide to slide much like you would images in the photo album, or just tap the screen to do a direct switch to the next page/slide.  That’s the method that works best when you’re building a few bullets on a single slide.  Looks just like it would clicking through PPT.  Plus, you can pinch in and zoom on anything in there that you like.  Perfect for calling out a small URL.

When it came time to show videos, I just hit ‘back’ and loading up the video within GoodReader.  There’s a moment when nothing is projecting, but other than that there’s no problem.  Works great, loads instantly.  And when you go back to your presentation, you’ll be right back on the page you left from!

The only thing I couldn’t do within GoodReader was surf the web live.  For that, I had to use a different app called Expedition.  It was 4.99 when I bought it, but only .99 as of right now.  It’s basically Safari, but VGA out capable and has a built in ‘laser pointer’ to call things out on the screen.  Simple and works great.  I bounced back and forth between that and GoodReader a few times.

That’s about it!  GoodReader was my home base, with Expedition serving as a supporting cast member.  PPspliT allowed me to get my PPT’s into a format that was PDF compliant with minimal effort and then GoodReader took care of the rest.  All in all, it sounds complicated, but in actual practice it’s really simple at this point.  I have all my videos saved within GoodReader, and whenever I’m going to present, I just have to save and transfer a new copy of the PDF over.  Someday I hope to do all my PPT editing and creating on the iPad, but that day just isn’t there yet.

Before wrapping this up, I should add one more note.  There’s one other way to do presentations on the iPad that completely saved my hide a few weeks ago.  I was presenting in an auditorium, up on the stage.  Unfortunately, the projector and accompanying VGA cable was all the way in the back of the room.  They wanted me to load up powerpoint and then just use a clicker to navigate through it.  I wanted to do a live demonstration of a Discovery Education site.  So what did I do?  I plugged my computer into the projector, put my iPad on the podium… and used LogMeIn Ignition to remotely control my entire laptop.  It worked FLAWLESSLY.  Unlike ‘mouse’ applications, LogMeIn displays everything that’s happening on your monitor on the iPad screen.  You move the mouse around and navigate just like you would on the computer.  It’s one of the greatest apps I’ve ever used, and while it is expensive (30 dollars), I believe it to be worth every penny.  Yes, there are free ways to do similar things.  However, none of them are nearly as smooth, reliable, or simple to set up.  I have it set up so I can remotely control my work PC, my work Mac, or my home desktop at any time via my iPad.  It’s been a lifesaver many times over, and was a great way to do a live demonstration in this rather unusual setup.  Certainly got me out of a sticky situation and the audience had no idea that they were an audience of guinea pigs.  So while I wouldn’t say it’s the best setup for presentations in general, it is a great option to have available if needed.  Oh, and it’s also a great way to be able to use all the programs that haven’t been created for the iPad yet!

That’s it!  I hope this has been helpful to you.  And if you have any experiences of your own presenting with the iPad, please share a comment below!  It’s a new frontier and I know we’re all still working the kinks out of it.

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