The best presentation remote available now.

It has been years since my last presentation remote review, so it's a good time for an update.

A good remote is a valuable tool for anyone giving a presentation. Even though it feels safer to present from behind a podium with your computer, don’t do it. It is much harder to connect with your audience from back there.

So if you are out on stage moving around, you need a good remote to control your slides. But which ones are any good?

Recap: What to look for in a presentation remote.

A good presentation remote should be three things: reliable, simple, and small. Your technology is the last thing you want to worry about as you tell your story. It needs to just work. 

The only controls you need during your talk are Forward/Back and Black Screen. Any extra buttons, controls, or mini-joysticks are just accidental-presses waiting to happen. Simpler remotes are better.

Additionally, you should be able to gesture naturally during your talk. If it looks like you're holding a magic wand with LEDs on it, your audience might pay more attention to it than you. Smaller remotes are more ergonomic and less distracting. And a presentation remote should never have LEDs. Ever.

The best presentation remote is not...

Unfortunately most of the presentation remotes available today are not very good. It seems manufacturers have added more buttons and features to compete with one another, but those features don't make the remotes any better at their job.

The top remotes sold on Amazon right now are the Logitech R400 and Logitech R800 —  but, despite their high rating on Amazon, I do not recommend either of these.  They both look good, are well made, and feel nice to hold, but they have terrible button placement and compatibility problems with Apple's Keynote software. 

The Logitech R400

The Logitech R400

All of the buttons on the R400 and R800 are arranged where your thumb naturally rests as you hold the remote. It is easy to feel the difference between the large Forward/Back buttons without looking, but it is not as easy to feel the smaller buttons that are directly below.

One of those lower buttons (the one of the left) is the "End Slideshow" control that immediately kicks you out of your presentation. That is not a button you ever want to accidentally press during your story, but its placement makes it almost inevitable that you will. Do a quick search of the Amazon reviews for the word "accident" and you can read the stories. 

Additionally, the "Black Screen" and "End Slideshow" buttons both don't work properly with Keynote on a Mac. Yes, there are ways to make it work by modifying your Mac's keyboard inputs with special software — but who wants to do that? And what do you do if you are ever presenting from a computer that is not your own?

The Logitech R800 has two additional features over the R400,  a countdown timer and green laser pointer. A countdown timer on a remote is a good idea in theory, but I put it in the category of extra technology to worry about during your presentation. If the timer is set incorrectly, or if you accidentally press the timer buttons while you are presenting, it just creates problems. Timers are great to have, but they don't need to be built into your remote. And a green laser pointer, while cool and different, is not dramatically better than a red laser pointer in practice.

My favorite remote is...

So after using several of the best sellers on Amazon, I still recommend the same remote I did years ago — the simple Kensington Wireless Presenter. It's small, reliable, and extremely easy to use without looking. It also works properly with both Keynote and PowerPoint (both Mac and Windows) without needing special setup. 

The  Kensington Wireless Presenter with Laser Pointe r

The Kensington Wireless Presenter with Laser Pointer

I have presented with one of these remotes for almost a decade and have never had a problem with accidental button presses. In fact, it has never done anything unexpected. It just works. 

The newest models are better than ever because they are made from a material that feels nicer to hold and they now take AAA batteries instead of a watch battery. There are two versions available, one with a red laser pointer and one without. I recommend the one with the laser, but either will do the job.

The Kensington Wireless Presenter is neither the most feature-rich remote, nor the most expensive. But from my experience, that is what makes it (still) the best presentation remote you can buy.

The best presentation remote

If I can help it, I never deliver a presentation without a presentation remote. Remotes are the secret weapons of professional speakers. They’re tools that can make your delivery surprisingly more effective and powerful.

Steve Jobs Remote.png

Free yourself.

In Public Speaking 101 they tell you to get out from behind the podium and walk around while you speak. This is great advice since podiums often act like barricades, blocking the energy flow between you and your audience. Going mobile for an analog speech is easy, but things get tricky when you have a slideshow to control.

A presentation remote is the solution. A remote frees you to walk around the stage while still “driving” your presentation. It saves you from having to jump back to the podium to advance each slide, or worse, having to awkwardly announce “next slide” to your buddy controlling the computer.

Less is more.

Not all presentation remotes are created equal.

Marketers know the human brain has a built-in affection for customizable buttons. More buttons and a higher price may seem like they indicate a better product while you’re standing in the store reading the box, but when it comes time to actually use your presentation remote, less is truly more.

Just like the remote for your home theater electronics, many presentation remotes are guilty of “feature creep”. (A note to the engineers of the world: Just because you can add another feature with its own dedicated button, doesn’t mean you should.)

The last thing you want to worry about during your speech is figuring out the right button to press. I’ve had to use remotes with upwards of fifteen buttons, including a mini-joystick for controlling the mouse cursor. Simply put, this is overkill.

If you have to navigate an application interface during your presentation, ditch the mini-joystick. It’s much smoother to walk back to the computer to use the regular keyboard and mouse. It’s okay to hang out behind the podium for this portion of your presentation — your audience will naturally focus on the demo instead of you.

The key to using a remote successfully is acting natural. Keep your gestures normal. You want to draw as little attention to the device as possible. Especially avoid deliberately pointing the remote at the screen to advance to the next slide. A lot of people do this because it's how we control our televisions, but presentation remotes are omnidirectional, so no pointing is required.

Which remote is right for me?

Kensington Remote.png

When it comes to presentation remotes, I'm a utilitarian. A good presentation remote feels comfortable in your hand and has just four buttons: 1) Next, 2) Previous, 3) Pause, and 4) Play.

The buttons should feel responsive, with little or no lag time (too much button-lag leads to the fumbling, “hold on a second, I jumped too far” situation).

The presentation remote I’ve used for several years is the Kensington Wireless Presenter Remote ($49). I love the simplicity of its ergonomic design, and the fact it has perfect plug-and-play functionality on both PCs and Macs. It’s also very convenient that the USB receiver can be stored inside the remote itself, so it doesn’t get lost. I’ve used many remotes over time, and this is my top recommendation.

A presentation remote is a small initial investment, but worth it. It’s a tool that will allow you to explore new styles of delivery and make you a more confident presenter.