Phillip Gibbs has been involved in the audio-visual production business for 25 years and co-founded IMS Communications, an events production business, in 1991. Over time, clients’ expectations for their conferences have climbed higher and higher; they want them to be memorable and efficient in communicating their messages. They also want them to be eye-catching and to run as smoothly as a TV programme. As technology has changed, shows have become slicker requiring custom software to manipulate graphics, video and interactive devices. IMS designers have taken this development one step further – to help presenters keep to time.
In this conversation, Phillip discusses PresenterClock, a PowerPoint add-in that allows presenters to be on schedule.
Geetesh: Tell us about your PresenterClock add-in for PowerPoint, and what motivated you to create this product?
Phillip: The core part of our services involves producing large events, usually conferences. A problem we often encounter is getting presenters to stick to their allotted time. If one or more speakers over-run, it has an impact on everything else for that event such as timings of sessions, breaks, catering arrangements, and delegate travel plans. Even a well-rehearsed presentation can overrun!
We had investigated various systems to rectify the problem but all were expensive and cumbersome to operate. We initially developed the PresenterClock to show presenters exactly how much time they have left as part of our bespoke software we use to run the show. This was linked to each session allowing the allocated time for each presenter to be pre-programmed and automatically started when the session changed to the new presenter (overcoming one of downsides of standalone clocks).
We also wanted to be able to send messages to the presenters informing them of any changes that may have arisen; maybe the next presenter is held up in traffic, a quick on screen message is quicker and far neater than walking onstage with a piece of paper!
From experience we found that presenters often lost their flow because they couldn’t remember what was coming up next so we thought having a large area showing the next slide was crucial. The presenter notes feature followed from a client request.
We then saw an opportunity to turn this into a commercial product, and the integration into PowerPoint made perfect sense. A problem we had to overcome was of the third video output as PresenterClock requires 3 screens; this is where the USB to VGA adapter comes in. Once we had this final piece of the puzzle we went on to develop the PowerPoint add-in.
Geetesh: Although PresenterClock works on a third display, how different is it from PowerPoint’s own Presenter View – does it add any extra features not found in Presenter View?
Phillip: PresenterClock isn’t designed to be a replacement for the Presenter View. As mentioned earlier, its original main purpose is to replace a traffic light system and show how much time the presenter has left. It shows the next slide and presenter notes which is an obvious added bonus over these systems. Presenter View is more of an operator view, and as such is designed to be used at smaller, more informal presentations, where time is not an issue.
However, if we are comparing the two, the most noticeable additional features are the countdown function (both as a digital clock and as a visually prominent time bar) as well as the change of colour as the presenter nears the end of their time slot. Another important advantage is that multiple presenter timings can be inserted within a presentation containing numerous presenters. In this way each presenter can see their time slot and the number of slides specific to their presentation which isn’t possible with Presenter View.