Presentation remotes provide you the ability to move around the space during your presentation and engage your audience instead of being stuck behind a lectern (podium), or worse having to tell someone to advance the slides. (That is annoying for you as the presenter, the audience, and no one on your team wants to be a human presentation remote.)
I always say a presentation is just a conversation and a remote allows you to step away from the computer to share your message and to dialogue with your audience. Otherwise, if you’re using a visual aid like PowerPoint or Prezi, you have to stay near the computer or run back to it to advance your slides. Criss-crossing the stage is irritating because it is a distraction to your audience’s attention span and it breaks your momentum as a presenter. I always suggest using presentations remotes whether you’re a new presenter or a keynote speaker. (Having something in your hand like a remote also helps many speakers, myself included, to minimize excessive hand gestures.)
What to look for in presentation remotes:
- Remote works on the computer you’re using to present – This first requirement may sound like a no-brainer, but many presenters practice on their computer and get to a conference or bid presentation and then are required to use the computer provided. (Although this is changing to a BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] philosophy.) The obvious issue here is Mac vs. PC, but even different versions of the same computer can throw a spoke in your wheels. My husband was surprised to find out his Apple Remote didn’t work on his new Apple Macbook Pro laptop. Apple did away with the IR (Infrared) a few years ago, and their tech support suggested he use his iPhone as the remote— umm, no.
Also, if you use Apple’s remote (shown at the top of this post), you can only sync it with one computer at a time. This single synchronization prevents someone else from changing the slides on you with their remote or for your remote working another computer, but you need to deactivate your remote if you change computers.
- No drivers for your remote – Even if you’re using a universal remote, you can still get stuck when a conference requires you to use their computer because many IT departments prevent installing software. I’ve even seen a speaker that used her own computer and couldn’t get the remote to work because she made a computer update that wasn’t compatible with that driver. Try to find a remote that plugs-and-plays without software updates. Keep in mind, many companies use an older computer in their conference room so you might get stuck with compatibility issue.
- Program Compatible – All these tips using a remote may scare you away from using a visual aid completing because of all the technical problems. However, compatibility is getting easier as technology advances, leading to fewer challenges and less headaches. (By the way, it is okay to present without a visual aid too.) Double-check that your remote works with your visual aid program too. Prezi is a great program, but not all remotes can make it work. For example, the Apple Remote requires you to install a third-party app on your computer to make Prezi work. Even with that app, there are times when Prezi makes an update and the app doesn’t work perfectly until they make their updates or your OS doesn’t support the app anymore. Again, computer programs are becoming more universal and working together easier, so this is becoming less of an issue, but you still want to be prepared.
- Pressing the play button on your remote – Many presenters incorporate video into their presentations. Utilizing video is starting to become a trend in both bid presentations and thought leadership presentations as the smartphones improve their video production value and wifi becomes more available at conferences. (In case you didn’t know, you can link [not embed] a video into PowerPoint, Prezi, or Keynote, but you need a wifi connection to play the video from YouTube, Vimeo, or other web server.) Be wary that not all presentation remotes have a play button, which forces you to go back to the computer to move the mouse and click the play button. I rarely see this tactfully done, and it usually breaks the presenter’s momentum temporarily. One trick to playing videos seamlessly is having a colleague nearby to click the play button on the computer when you’re ready. Besides being less of a distraction, it shows that you came prepared and rehearsed.
- Practice with your presentation remote – The key to making presentations remotes work seamlessly with your presentation is to practice with your presentation remote during walkthroughs and your dress rehearsal. Get used to your remote, so you are not fumbling with the buttons and skipping around your slides accidentally.
I mentioned earlier that holding something in your hands can help prevent overdoing it with the hand gestures. The opposite is true too. Because most people talk with their hands, and usually their hands are not holding anything, you need to get used to talking with a remote in your hands. Hey, I had to learn to hold my arm still when presenting with a hawk on my wrist when I worked at a zoo, you can make it work with a presentation remote that ways just a few ounces.
Don’t let the remote fluster you. Practice with it so you’re comfortable using it without staring at the buttons each time you hit it.
Also, if the remote doesn’t work have a backup plan. Just like I put my slide deck on my computer, on a thumb drive housed in my computer bag, and I upload it online using DropBox, you want to be prepared in case something doesn’t work like your computer or your remote.
Big tip on presentation remotes — always carry extra batteries for your remotes! Trust me on that.
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