How to make great presentations with the BlackBerry PlayBook

Presentation Mode buttons
By Joseph Holder on 8 Jul 2011 12:09 pm EDT

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.

Presentation Mode

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

Pulling all together is hard work but worth it. 

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

Begin with a goal in mind 

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

Don't overfill your 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 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.


Make your videos a part of the show 

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.

Reader comments

How to make great presentations with the BlackBerry PlayBook



I'm quite sure that you were speaking with someone from Walkersands not too long ago.

They must right the wrong before we give up for the sake of RIM and it's reputation.

Just incase you are forgetting:

From: Robert Chilver
Subject: STORY IDEA: The Death of Blackberry

Hi Editor,

Would you be interested in a story on how and why the blackberry is falling behind other smart phone platforms?

Because of its challenging development environment, along with several other factors, Blackberry's mobile capabilities fall well short of the competition. Developers are beginning to ignore the Blackberry platform altogether, leading to a severely lacking app market. Users are taking notice and it's very likely Blackberry's best days are far behind it.

Adage Technologies, a web and application development firm, would be happy to speak with you or offer a contributed article on why the Blackberry is falling behind and if there is any way it can compete with juggernauts like the Android or iPhone platforms. Please let me know if you would be interested in hearing more and we can go from there. Thanks.

Robert Chilver


They need to make a FULL public apology first, don't they?

I think that Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP would love to go after Walkersands for a tonne of cash in court for promoting slander, damage to good will, encouraging slander.

They must right the wrong !!!

Apply for RIM's Marketing department... Bet they could use you.

I'm just not sure why you didn't do a presentation on the BlackBerry PlayBook itself! Why not talk about it, on it!

So looking respectable and professional is now considered pretentious? Really? What's wrong with a suit?

Of course, it would have been even better if a hot iron had actually touched that suit before putting it on.

he's just going to make a 5min video and all dressed up? PLEASE!

i could understand if hes in a meeting or just got out of work.

Wtf are you Gok Wang posting in disguise with a "Queer eye for the straight guy"? Who cares what the bloke's wearing you fucking wierdo.

yea i am actually. so shut the fuck up.

tell me would you wear a suit just to make a 5min video about blackberry? its pretentious.

Jesus Christ dude, it's obviously a performance and supposed to be a little comedic. I mean, he interrupts himself on his own television ffs.

Business people still wear suits. If you're appealing to business users who will most likely be making presentations like this then you don't rock up in a tee shirt and thongs (flip flops to you North Americans).

Anyway, I thought it was "neat". And BB could certainly use a marketing deptartment because from what I've seen so far, they either don't have one or they need to sack the lot of them and start again!

You are AMAZING ... if any manufacturer could make such a good case for its products it would be worth a bundle.

I agree with a prior comment ... send this to RIM and I bet you'll get a job offer... you would be precious asset for RIM... but ... and there is one BUT ... you are also an asset for RIM doing this piece not being a RIM employee.

Just keep it up ... AMAZING ... AMAZING ... AMA...

Its nice to see a demo of how the Blackerry Playbook can be used for Presentations. Video and live interaction with the browser really does add a whole new element to a presentation while keeping the presenter head-up, front and center.. Great job!

I am curious.. I have heard rumors of Playbook getting DLNA certification. Will this bring wireless (HDMI-less) presentations to the Playbook? To be able to stream a presentation without being tethered could really add additonal dynamics. It's exciting to see RIM bring these capabilities and tools to the Playbook.

Thanks for taking the time to show us how it can be done.

What you should consider doing next time is have a second eagle eye camera film what you are actually doing on the PlayBook and put it in a little PiP window of your video (and/or release it as a second video) so we can see all the practiced magic that went in to pulling off what was a slick presentation!

I think you did a great job showcasing the power of the PB as a presentation device, I'd love to be able to peek behind the curtain as well...

OK, I hate to be a Debbie Downer (haven't watched the presentation) but why the hell is a cable needed when there's this great thing called the BLACKBERRY PRESENTER?

Why hasn't this been shown off with the Presenter so you can go cable-free?

Does the BlackBerry Presenter work with the PlayBook's presentation mode? Heck, does it work with the PlayBook at all?

Nope it does not work because it will not connect with the bluetooth.

I just did a presentation on my Playbook for school (summer school sucks)and everyone thought it was great, it also made my professor go out and buy a 64gb for himself. Great job JH another great walk through sir

Great job Joseph! Thanks for mentioning the limitations of docs-to-go. I thought it would work better.

Im sorry but that was horrible. It did showcase what the PB could do, but the presentation was not good. He got lost many times, lost his train of thought and was flicking through on the screen to get the right item he was looking for.

I appreciate the effort and I get what he was trying to say, just not executed well in my opinion.

That was a good presentation Joseph. I was just wondering...Did you also pull your suit jacket from a pocket as well? It looked liked a crumpled grocery bag @ the bottom.

Indeed they will Michelle. I would love to see these paragons of presentation showing us how they think it should be done.

Takes a lot of 'balls' to create something like this and broadcast it!

But what's that saying? Ah, yes -

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better..."

And that's what makes them great, unashamedly fun and accessible. I'm sure if you cast aside your hipster sensibities you could start to enjoy it too :)

So much like for this, really inspired me to crack on and use the PB for some important presenting opportunities.

Good use of humour too re: the Timing! scene, great work all round!

Obviously opinions vary wildly. I keep thinking there's a ton of potential for this device, but, at least on the software side, it's just not ready for prime time. Aside from the limitations of Slide to Go that Joseph mentioned, which are huge, there was just too much going on that was distracting him. To be effective, the whole slide and video show would have to be in one cohesive unit, so that all he would need is single screen taps to keep the show moving. Watching Joseph messing around with the PB so much was a distraction from his presentation, IMHO.

I can't believe I've owned the PlayBook for this long and didn't realize the presentations on it could be THAT GOOD!

Excellent presentation, thanks for sharing. It will be very useful to me.

Like and +1

People just don't understand the power of the PlayBook until they pick it up, and use it for a few hours.

I have had mine since launch day (April 19th), and has used it EVERY SINGLE DAY since then.

It's AWESOME, hands down !!!

I've long been a fan of RIM, wasn't sure on whether I would buy it or not. I read everything about the PlayBook and firmly believed it would be awesome, but then figured I just had a biased opinion because I've always been a BlackBerry guy.

I walked into BestBuy and was instantly hooked. 20 mins later I walked out with a 64 GB version that was fresh off the truck. It goes with me everywhere! :)

Joseph...Don't mind me. I was just poking a little fun with ya. I did state that you made a great presentation as my first statement. Unfortunately, a few folks can not perceive a joke and feel a need to rush to your defense. Relax people.

thanks for showing off the presentation chops of the playbook. you showcased everything very well i'm impressed!

Once again, Playbook is an outstanding hardware platform with a near perfect interface but has poorly executed functionality.

Being in what I believe to be the core target market of early Playbook adopters ( hard-core BB Phone/BES user), I still can`t consider the PB 'Professional Grade.'

Presentation mode is useless for any presentations that aren't totally canned, that is, requiring no changes from presentation to presentation. Granted, if you somehow load a graphic intense 30meg presentation on your BB phone you can change 'some' of the text, but since you can't transfer data to the Playbook do you really want to run a presentation through BB Bridge off your phone?

Traveling and presenting for a living I am still forced to haul the laptop to make minor presentation changes. How else can one do it? Still no Citrix connector, Really? Professional Grade?

Great post Joseph. Well done! RIM talks about what is possible and you are showing us how and wowing people across the world while doing it.