It's that standard microHDMI port that sets the BlackBerry PlayBook apart. Through that string of plastic and metal stream billions of bits per second, bringing a crystal clear; high-definition image to any monitor or projector that supports HDMI. The PlayBook has a standard port that connects to a standard microHDMI (Type D) cable that connects to a standard HDMI port on your display. It's easy to connect; it's easy to use.
Since the day it was announced, it was clear the BlackBerry PlayBook would be a powerful presentation tool. Connecting easily through the HDMI port, slideshows; images; music; and video are all shown on the big screen in high definition clarity. Both the videos app and SlideShow To Go offer presentation modes that allow the action to continue on screen while the presenter does something entirely different.
With all this power at my fingertips, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Just how easy is it to use the PlayBook as a presentation tool? Check out the video up top, then follow me after the break. I'll show you how I made that presentation and where I ran into trouble.
Probably the easiest part about using Presentation Mode is actually using Presentation Mode. To use the mode, a microHDMI cable must be connected to the PlayBook and an appropriate display device, like an HDTV or a projector. In the image above, you'll notice that the Presentation Mode button in the videos app is greyed out with a line through it. Since my tablet wasn't attached to an HDTV when I took the screenshot, the feature is not available. Once connected to an appropriate display device, the icon will change to white without the line through it.
You'll be able to use Presentation Mode in the videos app and in Slideshow To Go. Both of the apps use a similar button but they are found in different places. To put Slideshow To Go into Presentation Mode, simply tap the button in the toolbar at the top. In the videos app, the button is on the upper right portion of the screen. This button will fade away while a video is playing. Tap the screen to make it come back.
Once you're in Presentation Mode, your audience will only see the presentation side of your show. While running a video or slideshow in this mode, you'll be able to do other things "behind the scenes." You could be playing a video for your audience while you get a web page ready. Your audience will only see what you permit them to see. This makes for a very smooth presentation.
To leave Presentation Mode, tap the button a second time. Alternately, you can close the app that is presenting on screen.
Know your limits
Featuring a wide assortment of tools, the BlackBerry PlayBook is a paragon of presentation prowess. Yet with that statement come a few qualifiers. First and foremost, Slideshow to Go is a bare-bones application. Animations are not supported; transitions between slides are not supported. In some older presentations of mine, text appeared as the wrong size and looked disjointed. This was most probably due to the tablet not having one of the 756 fonts that are installed on my computer. In my own experience, I found it easier to create images in Photoshop and paste them into the PowerPoint presentation rather than worry about text wandering about the screen.
Were it not for the benefits of presentation mode, it would be easier (and look nicer) to create the slides as high-quality images. At least in the pictures app, the images have some transition effects. Perhaps future apps will be able to take advantage of presentation mode. For the time being, only videos and Slideshow To Go support this feature.
Presentation mode is certainly a big plus; but there are some quirks of this mode that can both help and frustrate. Consider presentation mode for videos. While your video is playing on the big screen, you can minimize the video app and do other things, like ready a webpage or review presentation notes. While the video plays, the audience will see nothing of your work behind the scenes.
Here's where it gets a little tricky.
The presentation modes of SSTG and Videos will override the other. Play a video in presentation mode, minimize the app (the video is still running on the monitor), open Slideshow To Go, and put that into presentation mode. The video pauses and your slide appears on the screen. Of course, this works in the other direction, too. Putting a video into presentation mode will override the slideshow.
Putting it Together
So how can you put all this to your advantage? The goal is to weave text, images, video and/or the web into a seamless experience for your audience. Using presentation modes, you can quickly switch back and forth between apps, notes, and even the web, all behind the scenes. True, this is all very complicated. It's worth it; a polished and rehearsed presentation will make a much larger impression than one stumbled through with hastily scribbled notes.
Create the Show
Before slide one is produced, take some time to create your show. You're on stage in front of an audience; your show should be memorable. Take the time to craft what you'll say and what you'll do in your presentation. Based on this script or outline, you'll see what slides need to be made, what music needs to be produced, and what videos need to be edited. This simple step will set the tone, style, and pace of your presentation. Take an appropriate amount of time to create a good show.
For me, I sat down with good old pen and paper to write the basics of my script. I knew I wanted to showcase the PlayBook's music, video, web, and slideshow capabilities; so I structured my show around that. As I wrote what I wanted to say, I thought about what slides would emphasize my point.
Once I had my script done, I had a pretty good idea of what the show would look like. I knew what video files I had to create, what audio needed to be edited, and what images needed to be downloaded from the internet. I had my GamePlan for my PlayBook Presentation.
Build the Slides
A common mistake among presenters is a tendency to read the presentation to the audience from slides overflowing with text. Slides are there to support the presenter, not the other way around. Otherwise your audience may as well stay home and download your PowerPoint from the web.
As you create your slides, remember well the limitations of Slideshow To Go. Slide transitions and animations won't work, so there's no reason to spend extra time creating those effects. If you're using pictures; music; videos; or the web, how will your slides interact with those elements?
For me, I used a CrackBerry.com logo as a holding slide. Built in to the presentation, this holding slide appears on screen whenever I need to transition from a slide to another element - like video or the web. The logo also appears at the end and beginning of each video segment. If done right, it will be very difficult to tell when the video-to-slide changeover occurs.
Music to brighten the soul
The people who make movies have known this for decades: music triggers emotions. When the heroine is about to be ambushed, it is the discordant music that lets the audience know that danger is just around the corner. When the hero emerges from the battle, the music swells to triumphant notes of victory.
While you don't have to add a musical score to your show, a little music here and there can help drive home specific points. Music isn't just about emotion, it's also about timing. Some of the trickiest parts of my show have to happen while I'm talking. I use music to give myself audio cues as to where I am in the show. Music helps me keep everything in sync.
With the quality of 1080p video coming from your PlayBook, it would seem foolish to discount the power of video in your presentation. Whether presenting customer testimonials to the board or discussing the fragile coral reefs in Biology class, a show that includes video is to be remembered. Moving, high-definition images make a connection to people. Ideas with video are suddenly more real.
When editing my videos, I knew I wanted them to blend with the slides. I made sure that holding slide was the first and last thing on my videos. That way, it makes it very difficult to tell when I change from video to slide and vise versa.
Now that you have all the pieces created, it's time to put them together as a show. Take the time to practice what you will say, how you will say it, and when you will say it. Just as an actor in a play, you and the PlayBook both have your lines. Practice your lines so that you refer to your notes rarely. It will be this calm, confident, and prepared individual your audience will see.
Now cue up the video, load the web pages, and break out the slides. Make sure you do at least one full "dress rehearsal" of your show before you take it on the road. Take the time to work out any kinks in timing or how you will use your various media. During my trials of preparing this presentation, I learned several things about the video player; namely that it just did not want to play a video file I created. I had to go back and change the video to work better. That's definitely not something I'd like to learn 10 minutes before the show.
Don't forget, you're an actor on stage. Sure the BlackBerry PlayBook has can play music, video, slides, and more all at the same time, but is always up to the presenter to put on a show for his or her audience. It is that great presenter that transforms the boring presentation into a truly awesome show.