iPhone Apps for Presenters: Review

Monday, March 15th, 2010 0 comments

With the age of the ‘app’ becoming firmly fixed in the technology market, more and more applications are becoming available to iPhone and iPod touch users. This includes a rising number of applications for presenters. Here we review a number of these, so that you know which ones are worth downloading.

Peeky – 59p

Peeky is essentially a discreet countdown timer for presenters. Rather than constantly check a watch to ensure that he is presenting according to schedule, the presenter can simply set the timer on his device and leave it in his pocket, or on a table. When a specified number of seconds is remaining, the device will flash and/or vibrate a warning, informing the presenter when he should be moving on to the next slide.

The app draws inspiration from the Pecha Kucha and ignite formats, allowing the user to select those formats as defaults for their presentation. The aim of the app is, essentially, to ensure that you do not spend too long speaking on a single slide.

This can be a great help to those who waffle. However, the fact that the user is not able to set a specific time limit for each slide really lets this app down. Very rarely (perhaps only at the events mentioned above) will it prove useful for a presenter to spend exactly the same amount of time on each slide. The app could be greatly improved with this flexibility.

Should I download it?

In short, the app is simple, and does what it promises to do with no extras. At a low price, it could prove useful to presenters who struggle with timing, but doesn’t have much else to offer.

Presenter Pro – £1.19

Presenter Pro contains a wealth of information. With five instructive sections and one ‘rate me’ section, plus a quiz and randomised ‘tips’ that appear if the device is shaken, a presenter could certainly spend a while working through everything. Not only this, but the information is presented in many different formats – depending on the section, the user can watch a video, listen to an audio recording, or select pictures to view the information behind them. If the user finds any point particularly useful, he can save it to a checklist for quick viewing later.

The menu is split into five sections: Structure, Words, Gestures, Visual Aids, and Voice. The rather haphazard organisation results in several overlaps, and it does feel as though the whole application could have been simplified. Message and objectives are underplayed in this layout too – there are a few points in certain sections on the subject, but without its own section, content is not sufficiently emphasised.

The section on words contains what is probably the most useful advice in the application. Presenter Pro advises presenters to use simple, clear language that won’t confuse the audience, or make things sound more complicated than necessary. Presenters should also use stories to bring a ‘real’ aspect to the presentation – at m62, we encourage presenters to use case studies where possible to outline proof of how the benefits have helped companies in the way they could help the prospect.

The introduction to the ‘Gestures’ section reads: ‘Your gestures provide 55% or more of the impact of your presentation.’ There is no evidence to back this up, and the figure appears to be more than a little exaggerated. Is Presenter Pro really suggesting that an audience will be less influenced by your message and visuals than by the way your hands are clasped?

Gestures are not irrelevant, and using gestures correctly to emphasise your point and react with your slides can prove useful in maximising presentation effectiveness. But presenters should not be focusing all of their attention on their gestures, and certainly should not be spending the majority of preparation time rehearsing them. Spending too much time concentrating on specific gestures can result in the actions looking stilted and fake.

The psychological explanation under ‘Why are visuals more effective?’ (found in Visuals > Facts) is a good explanation, but has not been applied fully. The application of this research that Presenter Pro suggests does not allow for information to be absorbed via the aural and visual channels simultaneously, in the form of animated diagrams and charts. While pictures are better than text on a slide, the psychology can be used further to obtain better results. For more information on this, have a look at our visualisation examples.

In vein of this, the ‘great examples’ found under ‘Think in pictures’ are not the most effective ways of conveying your message to the audience. The visual metaphors used do not emphatically imply the text or message that has been suggested. Forcing your audience to think too much about the way your visual works does not make for an easy assimilation of information. The shot of barbed wire has nothing to do with alienation, and this author instead began thinking about farms and afternoons spent walking the dog in childhood. Visuals can distract as well as aid, and should be clearly relevant to the message – and the message only.

Should I download it?

Essentially, Presenter Pro focuses on what we at m62 refer to as ‘soft skills’; body language, tone of voice, and nerve control. While these can be useful to fine-tune your delivery, practising these when delivering a bad presentation will not improve its effectiveness.

This app could be useful if you feel confident that your content and visual aids have been perfected, and you want some specific tips on how to improve your voice or the use of gestures. Perhaps it is not the place for beginners, however: inexperienced speakers may be tempted to focus too much on the finer details, and fail to devote sufficient attention to more integral aspects of presenting, such as messaging and audience engagement.

60 Presentation Tips from Ethos3 – Free

It is immediately clear that this app was made by a design company. The app looks good, and the way you interact with each tip is very neat. The app itself is simply a list of tips, which the user can either read in order, or select from the card-wheel.

The app contains some good tips, such as “make sure you’re using language that everyone in the room will be able to follow” and “pause”, which are great ideas to ensure that your audience remain focused. The advice to “eliminate the weak language from your presentation” is very useful, as is “stand to the left side of the screen”, which many advisors fail to mention. As the Western world reads from left to right, the presenter should stand on the left to ensure no interruption to the audience’s view.

It is odd how little the app focuses on visual aids, considering that it was created by a design agency. Ethos3 quotes that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. Pictures may be more effective than text in a presentation, but using them in this way is still not true visualisation (as explained above).

Should I download it?

The application contains some good tips, but a lot of common sense. Ethos3 reminds presenters to “smile” and “visit the restroom before you present” – advice that one would hope the presenter would already be aware of! The app reads like an ad for the company, for which it serves quite well, but otherwise it is just a list of tips that could be found anywhere on the internet.

CueMe – 59p

CueMe is an app for presenters to use when making their own notes. The application allows the user to colour code his notes, as well as changing the font and size. CueMe is designed to be simple and easy to use, with the added benefit of a timer to help the presenter stay on schedule.

The structure of the presentation format is not immediately obvious, but once it becomes clear the app is very simple to use. The functions utilise standard keys that an iPhone or iPod touch user would be familiar with, and one touch buttons make it easy to edit notes to make important points stand out.

The application also allows the user to input text directly from his computer. The process is a little awkward, involving visiting a URL on your computer browser, but is a great added piece of functionality that saves the user a lot of time in the long run.

When in presenter mode, there is a timer in the top left corner that flashes red when there are less than thirty seconds remaining on a section. This can be very useful for those who have timing issues, as it stops the presenter waffling. Different times can be set for each section (or each slide) enabling the presenter to have a very exact control over the schedule of his presentation.

Should I download it?

In all, the application is well designed, and should help presenters a great deal. While there is no substitute for rehearsal, organising speaker notes in such a way will enable the presenter to deliver a much smoother performance.

Prepare Any Presentation in 10 Minutes or Less – Free

This application promotes what it refers to as the ’3-D Outline’ to presenting, which is essentially a table the presenter users to plan his preparation. The app contains notes detailing this technique and a video explaining it, as a phone-in caller is talked through his presentation live.

The issue with the ’3-D Outline’ structure is that it is not audience focused. No consideration is taken of audience attention span, or of what they might like to hear. While the presentation is rightly focused on ‘objectives’, there is not enough emphasis on selling benefits in the rest of the presentation. Benefits are useful in all presentations – in every presentation the presenter wants the audience to do something at the end of it, and in order for them to do this, you need to tell them the benefits for them of doing so.

Additionally, the ‘How’ section is not fully explored. The approach sees each type of media separately, and doesn’t consider linking them together. The implication is that slides and presenting are not good for the audience. The app fails to realise that slides do not have to be awful, and that other forms of media can be included in the slides, instead of just text.

The worst piece of advice in the app is that on timing. Tony Jeary says, “Sometimes when you’re going through your presentation you think you need thirty minutes, but then you realise that you really need an hour.” He goes on to suggest that the presenter should ask for a longer time slot. This is poor advice for three reasons:

  1. Audience attention spans wane after twenty minutes, so the longer your presentation, the more they will struggle to pay attention
  2. Presentations should be all about the audience and what they want. If they’ve given you a certain time slot, you should respect that – people are busy!
  3. Simplifying your information is the best way to better it. Anyone can present for an hour on a topic he is enthusiastic about; it is harder, but much more rewarding, to cut this down.

If your audience has given you a certain amount of time – stick to it. Even better: Allow time for Q&A, and finish early.

Should I download it?

The claim in the title is a little misleading. The preparation isn’t prepared in ten minutes – the presenter just plans how you’re going to prepare it. This claim is the presentation equivalent of drawing up a revision timetable for exams, and then expecting that table to get you an A.

The 3-D Outline is a reasonable place for the presenter to start when preparing for a presentation, but the process doesn’t really take the user anywhere. For a free download, the table can be useful – but, ultimately, there is far more to preparing for a presentation than that explained in the 3-D Outline approach.

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