Jamie Garroch, Managing Director of GMARK Ltd., founded the company in 2009 to provide presentation professionals with software and services to alleviate the restrictions of serialized presenting. Jamie conceived the idea and has lead the development of the company’s first product for PowerPoint users, ActivePresentation Designer, which was launched in May 2010. Jamie has always been interested in how emerging platforms such as the Apple iPad can be used for presenting. He also authored a guest article on Indezine that talks about using PowerPoint files on an iPad.
In this conversation, Jamie discusses presenting on an iPad.
Geetesh: Tell us more about your experiences of presenting from the iPad – also do you see the iPad becoming a compelling presentation delivery mechanism?
Jamie: We first came across the iPad as a serious business presentation tool when asked by a client if the content we had developed for Microsoft PowerPoint on the PC could be used on an iPad for their “road warrior” sales teams. Their sales team had very rapidly moved away from the traditional laptop form factor for several reasons:
- An iPad is considerably lighter and more compact to use. It also has a very long battery life and takes seconds to turn on and off.
- When presenting, you don’t need all of the authoring tools and hence a keyboard and mouse. You’re having a conversation and the device is purely a medium on which to visualize your message.
- It always has been very common that a sales person visiting a potential client or existing customer would visit a single person, often a purchaser, on their premises. Before the advent of computers, pitching was done in close physical proximity with the aid of brochures, catalogues and other printed materials. When the PC came along, people became disconnected, purely because projectors and screens make you stand away from your audience. The iPad brings us back to that all important human contact which is essential in developing relationships between one another. There’s nothing to beat sitting next to someone and explaining in “normal two way conversation” what it is you’re trying to say.
During our study of the device, we found that these human factors played a major part in us concluding that yes, the iPad is well placed to become a major presentation delivery mechanism.
Geetesh: Software to view content such as PowerPoint presentations is limited as of now on the iPad – what works best, and what are the challenges involved?
Jamie: There are a number of options for companies and individuals considering using the iPad to present. These include converting to video, converting to images, converting to PDF or uploading to presentation sharing Web sites. The first three suffer from the word ‘conversion’ which entails differing degrees of loss of quality, loss of accuracy and loss of native capabilities such as interactivity. The last relies on an Internet connection which is not an advisable risk to take when presenting in unknown locations.
We found after a lot of trials that the best approach is to use Apple’s Keynote application which is available from their store at $9.99. This software reads PowerPoint files in both .PPT and .PPTX formats and even though there is some translation occurring, the results are pretty impressive. Even better, the presenter has a familiar interactive presentation medium, unlike presenting a sequence of images, a video or a PDF document. There are a couple of limitations though and as long as the presentation author is aware of them, there shouldn’t be a major issue. These are summarized as follows:
- You need to be aware that the iPad supports a very small set of fonts so you need to use the ones that a cross-compatible between the iPad and Microsoft Office. There are less than 10!
- It’s inadvisable to use video unless you are a codec wiz as the Microsoft favors the WMV format whilst Apple goes with Quicktime’s MOV.
- Hyperlinks are not supported by Keynote, unless they are links to Web pages.
- Most of the graphical effects in PowerPoint won’t transfer unless you paste the object back to the slide as an image.
- Stick to simple animations and transitions as Keynote interprets or replaces them if it doesn’t support the one you used (fade and wipe are ok).
- The iPad has a 4:3 aspect ratio so you may need to design with that page set up from the start unless you don’t mind squashed images.