5 iPad Presentation Tips

After getting frustrated working with Keynote on the iPad (s aapl) for the last month, and giving and planning a few talks, I’ve come up with some presentation tips I want to share with you. Used properly, and in a situation that allows it to play its strengths, the iPad can be an effective presentation tool.

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1. Make sure the iPad is the right tool for the job

That line I just used, about properly and in a place that allows it to play its strengths? Make sure where, and what you’re presenting, is ideal for the iPad. Remember, you won’t be able to use a remote, or have any sort of presenters view. So, if you’re giving a talk in a small conference room where you’ll be sitting at a table with the iPad hooked up to the projector, that’s a perfect use of the tool. Giving a Steve Jobs-style presentation in front of 5,000 people and a large stage? Not so good. I’m giving a talk in a month about e-books on the iPad (self plug: June 9 at the Boston Mac User Group) in a lecture-style room with a table in a convenient place to allow me to walk around and tap the screen, so I might use the iPad there.

2. Do the dirty work on the desktop, but think of the iPad

My presentation tool of choice is Keynote, but PowerPoint will do OK. Keep in mind the screen on the iPad is 1024×768. Make sure your presentation is that size when you design it. Also, don’t resize any graphics in the program. Do all your work in a graphics program and import the image at the size you want. If you want an image to take up the whole slide, resize it in a graphics program.

The iPad handles editing poorly. Any object groupings will be lost when you import it. I’d recommend only light edits on the iPad, like when you realize right before the talk that you misspelled the CEO’s name.

Fall in love with iPhoto. I have an album in iPhoto named “Presentation Images” and all my images for talks go there. That library also syncs to the iPad, so I can add an image if I need to.

3. Keep it simple

Transitions — which you should avoid anyway — can cause some problems on the iPad. Some are supported, some are not. Rather than risk it, use minimal transitions and only when needed. Don’t get fancy with line spacing, either, as that nice, tight, and finely kerned type you have on the desktop will likely be reset to default spacing.

Also, keep in mind if your talk is going to end up on a widescreen projector as pie charts might get distorted. Unfortunately, if you create a widescreen presentation, it’ll come into the iPad full screen and still get distorted on a widescreen monitor.

4. If on a Mac, use the Padlicious services to render custom fonts as images

For informal or fun presentations, I love Comiccraft’s Comic Book Fonts. However, I can’t use them on the iPad. Padlicous’s Text to Render services are a lifesaver. Select the text in Keynote and use the service to create an image of the selected text. Delete the text block and replace it with the image. Now, when you present you’ll be free of the default fonts.

5. Do several test runs before presenting

I know, you’re rehearsing the talk constantly, but make sure you’re rehearsing it on the iPad and in a similar situation. Just in case you ignored tip #1, now is when you find out any issues with the import, or if having to tap the iPad screen to advance to advance the slides really is a hassle. You’re going to want to have your rehearsal environment be as close to your venue as possible. If it’s a new enviroment, plan for the worst case scenario you can.

Honorable Mention Tip

Bring a backup of the talk on a USB drive in all possible formats — if you’re a Keynote user, have an exported (and checked) file in PowerPoint and PDF. This way, if for some reason the iPad doesn’t play nice with the projector, you’ve got a fall back plan.

Related TechUniversity Screencasts: Keynote Transitions & Effects