The iPad and Interactive Presentations

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 , 0 comments

man-and-woman-presenting-on-an-ipad

There have been more and more articles recently about the accelerating evolution of the iPad as a presentation tool. The iPad has matured beyond a lifestyle gadget into a genuinely useful presentation aid, and presenters are figuring out how to use it to make presentations interactive in a way a static deck could never be.

In certain situations, there is a distance that a conventional deck can place between a presenter and the audience, or even the presenter and his own presentation. When presenting to a group of people, it is natural to stand up and deliver from your laptop using a projector. But if you’re in a small sales meeting delivering to only one or two people, standing and delivering in such a formal manner can feel odd and stilted.

With an iPad, the focus is shifted away from the slide and back onto what the presenter has to say (with the little tablet on engaging backing vocals). This means a presenter can move at his own pace and have a less formal relationship with the audience, or, even better, can literally put his content in the hands of his audience, by allowing them to hold the iPad and control the flow of the slides themselves.

One of the most notable developments in presentations on the iPad, and in fact in presentations in general, over the past few years has been the increased focus on presentation interactivity. The ability to jump around a presentation as the situation demands is undoubtedly an invaluable technique which has been catalysed by the introduction of Apple’s iPad tablet.

There is, therefore, an increasing argument for looking into really fluidic presentations that are flexible in terms of content order. The problem comes when presenters think that a tablet is the solution to all their delivery woes. Getting slides onto an iPad won’t fix anything if their presentation is still fundamentally flawed. Where a tablet can help is when you need to convey information to different audiences who, whilst broadly concerned with the same subject, may have interests in specific areas or particular details.

Creating a conventional, linear presentation may risk alienating members of the audience who aren’t interested in specifics and not providing enough detail for those who are. With an interactive presentation, you can choose to dive deeper into sections when relevant or, more interestingly, create a more personal presentation with audiences of one or two. This enables a presenter to address individuals directly and make it almost impossible for them to disengage.

Unfortunately, while an interactive presentation on the iPad is definitely the way forward, it’s not yet perfect. The biggest issue currently with Apple’s iPad is that we are yet to find an app that remains faithful to all animations and graphical elements and is capable of running hyperlinks. Hyperlinks make a huge difference to interactivity within a presentation, as they make it so much easier to skip to different sections within a presentation at the presenter – or audience’s – discretion. Of course,  with the minimal load time on an iPad it is easy to switch between different presentations within a slide viewer app. However, this puts the control back in the presenter’s hands, rather than allowing the audience members to hold the tablet and select the content themselves as they would browse a website. Until the hyperlink issue has been solved effectively, presentations on the iPad cannot be viewed as completely interactive.

iPad presentations designed to be more interactive are a giant leap forward from bullet points, but they are not a miracle solution for bad presenting. In order to get the most out of an interactive deck, the user must of course be familiar with their content and have the ability to drive further into specific areas of the content when necessary and then return to the normal flow of the presentation. They must know how to interact with it, but they must also have something worth using – interactive bullet points are still bullet points and they will still switch off your audience before you’ve even opened your mouth.

So is the iPad the ultimate solution for boring presentations? No – but no single tool is. Still, the interactivity that should soon be possible holds great promise for presenters, and we’re eagerly awaiting the app that can handle hyperlinks effectively along with everything else. So for now, watch this space.

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