Professionally Geeking Out

You may have noticed from my posts that I am a geek who talks to people for a living.  Part of that job means that I present to small groups fairly often and larger groups on an occasion.  For smaller groups, it generally works well enough to have a close conversation around a table.  For the bigger sessions I like to let that inner geek escape.  The trick is to do it in a way that looks utterly normal and actually enhances what I’m doing.

Some driving factors I like to have in front of the big groups are mobility, interactivity, and a coolness factor.  While an iPad isn’t exactly revolutionary these days, most people I see present will get up with just a slide clicker.  My iPad lets me show content in different and unique ways that PowerPoint can’t.

iPad - Everywhere
iPad – Everywhere

Problem #1 here is that you need something to project the iPad with.  Using a dongle kills the mobility angle.  An AppleTV would work but not everything has an HDMI input – especially conference room projectors – and who wants to carry one around?  Remember, less is more.  What I do is use an application called Reflector on my laptop.  It’s essentially a software version of an AppleTV and shows up on the iPad to mirror to.  Provided, of course, that they’re on the same network.  That means I have to use a WiFi network where I am or my trusty MiFi.

My streamlined gear.  If I'm going to use it, it needs to fit in here.
My streamlined gear. If I’m going to use it, it needs to fit in here.

Yes, that means I use the iPad, laptop, MiFi, a projector, and a bit of software plus whatever apps are on my iPad.  The upside is that I have total freedom to roam, snappy response, and access to any number of presentation tools.  It also looks totally seamless.

Apps I like for presenting traditional slides on include Keynote, Slideshark, or even Good Reader.  Advantages they have over a clicker are that you can see thumbnails of upcoming slides and can jump instantly from one place in the deck to another.  That lets you have far more flexibility when taking questions and there’s that one image you have 8 slides away.  A virtual laser pointer you get by touching the iPad screen also beats a real one any day of the week.

For other more novel approaches, I like using Paper and Haiku Deck.  Paper (shown above) lets me sketch out a story and then flip through it and draw to finish out concepts.  It’s like pre-staging a whiteboard and drawing and comes across as if you’re in a UPS commercial.  Warning though, a little thought and minimal artistic talent is required.  Seriously, it’s minimal.  You get that the pink thing in the picture is a brain, right?

I always liked the way these would tell a story.

Haiku Deck is an easy tool that enforces a Zen approach.  It only allows you to use a few words per slide and it even gives you a great library of searchable images to use.  And I do mean great, it’s a blast to use.  You can also use your own pictures.  Presentations look very clean and when you swipe, the picture moves at a little different speed than the text.  The result appears very polished and organic. This is a great approach to take when building your own content anyway.

Get the picture?
Get the picture?


My main purpose is not to geek out.  It’s to get ideas across.  Content you show should do nothing but help tell a story and convey concepts.  The show should be the speaker and not a bunch of bullets on a screen.  Actually, in most cases a presentation shouldn’t be a show.  Having a good knowledge of the topic and an engaging attitude can make the meeting an interactive session where the audience gives too and as a result gets more out of the experience.

Of course, using more devices than Batman gives you some geek cred too.  That never hurts.

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