Using a tablet or e-reader for Speaker Notes; Issue #238 June 21, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Using a tablet or e-reader for Speaker Notes

One of the sessions I’ll be presenting at the Presentation Summit conference this September in Austin, TX is on the topic of being more environmentally friendly with our presentations. While PowerPoint presentations are seemingly all digital, they tend to generate a lot of paper with the handouts, speaking notes, and flipcharts that are used in many presentations. In my session I’ll be showing techniques to eliminate the paper associated with many presentations.

One of the techniques I’ll be showing is a technique that I have started to use that eliminates the speaking notes that I would print for each presentation and then promptly recycle afterwards. Instead of printing 30-50 pages of notes, I now carry those notes on my iPad and no trees are sacrificed for the presentation. Here are two ways to create speaking notes that you can carry on a tablet or e-reader device, like an iPad, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or any of the other similar devices on the market today.

If all you need is a preview of the upcoming slides, you can use an electronic version of the Handout printout available in PowerPoint. I suggest the PDF format for the electronic file because it is a universal format that almost every tablet or e-reader can use. Print the handouts at four or six per page from PowerPoint to a PDF file. The size of the slide on the printout is the same in the four per page and six per page layouts, it just depends on how many slides you want to see at the same time. I find the nine slides per page layout too small to read on a tablet or e-reader. Transfer this file to your device, and page through as you speak instead of flipping pages in a printed set of pages.

If you need some notes about each slide, use the Speaker Notes section of PowerPoint below the slide to capture the key points you want to make on this slide. Don’t write a transcript of what you want to say, just some of the key words or phrases that will jog your memory on the key points you want to cover. Format these notes in a large font so they will be readable on your device. I find I need at least 18 point or larger for my eyes to be able to read the words if the device is on the table in front of me when speaking. Print the Notes printout from PowerPoint to a PDF file, which will create a document that shows your slide at the top of the page and your notes at the bottom of the page. You will have one page per slide and you can flip through them on your device.

After you have transferred the PDF file to your device, there are a few settings or techniques I have found helpful. First, make sure that the brightness and contrast settings are high enough that you can see your notes in the lighting of the room. Many of the devices adjust for ambient light, and I have found that manually adjusting the brightness has helped make it easier to see my notes when presenting. Also, set the auto-sleep mode off so your device does not go to sleep in the middle of your presentation. Since it will be on the whole time, make sure it is fully charged before you start.

Practice flipping pages on your device so you can do it smoothly. I use the Good Reader app on the iPad to read PDF files and it has two ways to move between pages. I can swipe from right to left to flip the page or just tap on the right edge of the page to go to the next page. Practice to see which technique you will be most comfortable with on your device. Figure out where you will put the device, whether on a lectern or table, instead of holding it, although you can do this too if it is comfortable.

I’ll be covering this and many more techniques to make our presentations more environmentally friendly in my session at the Presentation Summit. Check out all the great sessions at and join me and 249 other attendees Sep 18-21 in Austin, TX. Get the early bird discount if you register by June 30. See you there!