This is a guest post from Eric Byrd of Media Learning partners.
You're all set up for a client’s corporate sales meeting. The projectors are dialed in, the audio system sounds awesome. People are starting to take their seats in anticipation of Jim the CEO’s keynote speech.
That's when it happens. The event coordinator appears out of nowhere and says, "Jim updated his presentation in the hotel last night. He wants to present from his iPad. That's not a problem is it?"
Last minute changes and surprises are a fact of life at even the most well coordinated events. With 14.6 million iPads sold worldwide you can bet we'll be asked to use iPads as presentation sources more and more from now on.
So, to help you prepare for this mobile onslaught I’m going to share three options for incorporating iPads as the presentation source during events. Hopefully this will help you create an “iPad plan” so you won’t be caught in an iDisaster.
Option 1: Direct connect the iPad to the display system
In order to connect the iPad directly you will need adapters to tether the iPad to the physical inputs of your displays. There are two types of connections to be aware of to handle the different versions of the iPad.
The first three generations of the iPad use the Apple 30-pin connector, so you’ll need a 30-pin to VGA, DVI or HDMI connector, depending on your projector or display input. All are available online for between $20 and $60. I suggest having all three adapters handy, just in case. The 4th generation iPad uses a “Lightning” connector. It’s smaller and not backwards compatible with older iPads. I was able to find “Lighting to VGA” and a “Lightning to HDMI” adapters online from various sources (around $50) but I could not find an adapter for DVI monitor inputs.
The HDMI adapters will pass audio but the DVI or VGA adapters won’t. If the presenter needs to play audio along with DVI or VGA video you’ll need a separate audio cable with a 3.5mm phono plug on the iPad side.
A note of warning; I did see Lightning to 30-pin adapters available online, but they don’t pass the video signal. So you will need to stock both Lighting and 30-pin adapters to cover every possibility. A couple hundred bucks is a cheap price to pay to potentially save your bacon in a pinch.
I also strongly recommend having a lectern or stand to rest the iPad on when physically tethering to displays. The connections on the pad are not designed for tugging, so you’re liable to get an abrupt disconnect if the speaker walks around during his speech. That can be disruptive, and get you some nasty looks from the stage. No one needs that.
Option 2: Use the iPad as a remote control
The iPad can also be used as a video enabled presentation controller. Essentially, you load the presentation onto a laptop, which connects to the displays. The presenter uses an application, such as i-Clickr (www.senstic.com), to remote control the presentation on the iPad across a WiFi network.
Once connected, the speaker will see the slides on the iPad screen and can change slides by finger swipe. I tested this with my MacBook Pro and iPad mini and it worked great. It was easy to set up and I was able to see my speaker notes in addition to the current slide image on the iPad.
Another advantage of i-Clickr is that they have Android and Windows Mobile versions of the software too. That means you can mix and match laptop and mobile device brands. There may be other remote control software available out there that works as well, but I only tested i-Clickr for this article.
In the case of i-Clickr there is also an application that runs on the computer. So, you will need to download the application to both the computer and the mobile device. If you’re using your own laptop for events, I recommend installing i-Clickr in advance. That takes care of half the equation. Then you will only need to install it on the presenter’s iPad, which only takes a minute or two.
If you have a “Jim the CEO” surprise, you would also need to transfer the presentation to the computer from his iPad. But, since you need a WiFi network for device control anyway you should be able to use that same network to transfer the presentation.
WiFi networks at events are fairly common but if the event location doesn’t have one you can easily set up a WiFi access point and create your own network. Now that I think about it, that’s probably a good investment too.
Access points are inexpensive. Apple, Linksys, Netgear, and Buffalo all have units between $50 and $100 (you can rent WiFi access points as well). That’s a relatively small cost to ensure you have a network available.
Option 3: Use AppleTV and iOS wireless screen sharing
I actually learned about this from an article by Jeff Carlson in The Seattle Times earlier this year. He says David Sparks told him about the idea. So, credit where credit is due. Thanks guys.
This solution takes advantage of the AirPlay streaming functions in Apple’s iOS devices. Basically, you can mirror the iPad (or iPhone) screen to an AppleTV decoder, across a WiFi network. The iPad treats the AppleTV just like an external monitor.
To set this up you will need an AppleTV decoder ($99, www.apple.com/appletv) connected to your display system. The AppleTV has an HDMI output and can support 720 or 1080 resolutions. If you’re still working with VGA you will need an adapter to convert the HDMI to VGA. Jeff Carlson mentions the Kanex ATV Pro ($59.95, www.kanexlive.com/atvpro), and it’s available in the Apple Store, so it’s probably a safe bet.
Second, you will need the aforementioned WiFi network that both devices can join. Since both the AppleTV and iPad support just about any 802.1x wireless network that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Once both devices are connected it’s a simple process to activate the AirPlay feature on the iPad. (instructions: support.apple.com/kb/HT5209). Select the AppleTV device and turn on mirroring and it’s ready to go. Anything that is shown on the iPad screen will stream to the AppleTV and on to your projector. I tested this with my iPad Mini and AppleTV and it worked like a champ. The iPad recognized the AppleTV immediately and mirroring worked smoothly.
Do keep in mind you are mirroring to the monitor. Whatever the presenter does on the iPad screen will be shown on the projector to the entire audience. Be sure to mention that to the speaker so they aren’t caught off guard.
As for presentation software, I did a test using Keynote for iPad ($9.99 in the Apple appstore) and had no issues. Since Keynote is aware I’m using an “external” monitor it sent a full screen presentation to the AppleTV while showing me a presenter layout on my iPad. That’s important if, like me, the speaker wants to have presenter notes handy. Keynote can import a PowerPoint presentation too, so it is a nice all around solution.
For a non-Apple twist I also tested using SlideShark (www.slideshark.com) software on my iPad. It performed equally well and also presented to the AppleTV as if it was an external monitor. I was able to get speakers notes and even annotate my PowerPoint presentation on the iPad, which was kind of cool. The SlideShark app is a free download, but you do need to have a SlideShark account. Once the presentation is uploaded under your account on their website you can download it to your iOS device to present. A free personal account with 100MB storage took me a few minutes to set up. 500MB and 1GB accounts are also available for an annual fee.
I did notice a bit of delay when changing slides though. Probably due to the encoding/decoding involved with streaming. This was not extreme, and my simple slide animations worked. Personally, I wouldn’t call it a “problem”. It is something to be aware of, however. You might want to do some testing when you first set it up so you know what to expect.
There you go, three options for dealing with an iPad as a presentation source during an event. Being prepared can make the difference between a smooth event and an unhappy client. So, I hope this helps you be ready for the iPad onslaught in the years to come!
Eric L. Byrd has worked in and around the media industry for over 25 years. From radio and TV production he shifted to the integration side of AV. In 2010 he moved into training, teaching Cisco certification courses. He currently creates original training courses on business and technology through Media Learning Partners, which he started in 2012. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on twitter @pitchforsuccess.