September 1, 2008

Step away from the laptop

Since we've been talking about coming out from behind the lectern, let's talk about coming out from behind the computer.

PowerPoint users are frequently seen standing in one place, pushing a button on their computer to advance their slides. This is almost as restrictive as standing behind a lectern, although sometimes people walk around in between slides. But then they have to return once again to "the button."

Like standing behind a lectern, being tied to your computer:
  • freezes you in position
  • inhibits gestures
  • reduces eye contact with your audience (every two minutes you're looking down for that key)
  • and keeps you from moving freely around the stage.
So let me share another of my favorite tools, the wireless presentation remote.

The remote allows me to move around the stage or speaking area unhindered by my equipment. It fits comfortably into the palm of my hand with buttons that are easy to access without looking, so I'm able to advance slides, gesture and use my arms without feeling like I'm holding onto a huge electronic device or interrupting the flow of the presentation.

Some remotes are tiny and invisible in your hand. Some are as big as a TV remote control and have a ton of buttons and features, like laser pointers, countdown timers with vibrating alarms, built-in mouse, audio controls, buttons for blacking out the screen or going to the end of the slideshow and more.

Some have a short range of 30 feet or less, while some have a range of up to 150 feet (in some conference rooms or auditoriums, the speaker is nowhere near the computer). Radio frequency (RF) remotes can receive a signal from any direction, so you don't have to face the computer while you talk, while infrared frequency (IR) remotes have to be pointed directly at the receiver. There are now Bluetooth remotes as well, but with limited range. (Google "presentation remote" to see what's out there.)

My RF remote fits comfortably in my hand, has an omni-directional range of 100 feet, and only a few buttons -- one for slides to go forward, one for slides to go backward, and one to black out the screen. It has a laser pointer and a tiny clock, but I prefer to use my countdown timer.

Now that you've stepped away from the lectern, step away from the computer! You gain freedom of movement, freedom to interact with the audience and maintain your connection with them instead of having to retreat back to the keyboard whenever you want to change a slide.

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