I’ve mentioned previously that the presentation that I put together for RP120 Profile Roasting Practices (presented by Andrew Timko of Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Co. at the SCAA conference in April and will be presented again at the Roasters Guild Retreat in August, though I don’t know who is presenting it there) was the first presentation that I had put together with Microsoft PowerPoint. Of course I’ve put together other presentations in the past, but these have been without the concern that others should be able to edit and present the material. For something like an SCAA class that’s going to need to be adapted to different venues and updated over several years, it makes sense to standardize on something that a lot of people use. For me doing a one off presentation with my own hardware and with control over the venue that’s not an issue so I’ve tended to just roll my own software for handling that. When these presentations are at the shop, I like to get everything set up before opening and as long as I have a screen there, I figure it should show something interesting. Sometimes that’s just a slideshow that can advance itself, once I took the KDE Marble library and had it spin a globe, periodically having that zoom in on a different coffee producing country. When it’s time to start the presentation, I just pull out my phone which connects to the computer running the presentation and with a tap I can switch to the presentation and advance through it that way. At the end of the presentation, I can switch to something else that runs itself until I have time to put the equipment away.
You’ll note that this description features display and control aspects, but not authoring. The source of my slides has been either a folder full of images or pages of a PDF (generated with pdfTeX). With PowerPoint it’s easier to bring in animations, varied transitions, and the like, but for static content a real graphics editor or a real typesetting program makes it much easier to produce something that looks fantastic. I don’t really want an authoring tool for my own presentations. Really I just hate fiddling with text boxes in a GUI and prefer being able to command the program to do exactly what I want, hence TeX.
One thing that I like to be able to do when presenting is go off script. I tend to encourage people to ask questions as they have them. It lets me adjust the presentation to the interests of the audience. I’ve seen other presenters come in with their material split among multiple presentations or documents displayed by multiple programs, I’ve seen people fumble about with trying to get to the right slide after such a switch or to bring up an appropriate slide to help answer a question from the audience, so I think the multi-track presentation approach that I’ve taken might be broadly applicable. Now with tablet computers reasonably cheap, I think it’s time to take advantage of them as a better presentation remote control.
Multi-track: Allow arbitrarily many slide sources: images in a folder, pages of a PDF, I’d be surprised if Microsoft didn’t have some way of querying and controlling PowerPoint from another application through ActiveX. Present these in such a way that it’s easy to switch to another track temporarily and then switch back where the presenter left the previous track.
Random access: Allow the presenter to see the slides and transition to any slide without passing through intermediate slides.
Manipulation: Presenting a high resolution photograph? The presenter should be able to zoom in and pan to emphasize details. Drawing tools should also be available to highlight key points.
Notes: I never use them (preparation and knowing your material ftw), but I might if I had a separate screen available to glance at presenter notes.
Integration: Not everything is a static slide. Maybe I’d want to bring up a video, why not just let mplayer or similar handle that? That KDE Marble example? That could easily be done as a separate program that can be controlled from the presentation.
Security: I’m not the only person who’s ever hand rolled presentation software. The risk of such for a technical audience is that you’ll have some bright kid in the audience figure out your control protocol and hijack the display for fun. It’s never happened to me, but it’s happened to others and in every case I know of it could have been prevented by requiring authentication and encryption on the control channel instead of trusting that plain text commands sent over a public network will only come from a legitimate source.
Local Control: Of course sometimes the remote doesn’t work. Networks can fail, batteries can run out of power, devices can break. In such a case it should still be possible to go back to the host computer (or better, have someone else who also knows the material there) and take back control locally.
The idea is to use the tablet in such a way as to allow the presenter to get out from behind the podium while still maintaining the sort of control available on the host system and without exposing the underlying system to the audience. That is, the audience should never see anything that isn’t part of the presentation.
I don’t have time to work on this now but it’s on my to do list. I don’t expect it will unseat PowerPoint, but I will prefer using it.
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- c0d3 said: In part I present for a living and I rarely use PowerPoint. I can present on stage without any backup and only use slides or props where appropriate to demonstrate something. Never for a bullet item. I think your on the right track.
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