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.
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?
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.