How to deal with the limitations of PowerPoint and Keynote with video conferencing software
Presentation software and video conferencing tools mix like oil and water. It’s a particularly unfortunate thing when tens of millions of teachers are forced to use PowerPoint or Keynote to educate children remotely on a daily basis. These apps were not designed to interactive presentation from a distance, and about nine months after the pandemic began, the seams are not only visible, but they have torn off like an old Bruce Banner shirt.
The fundamental problem is the full screen presentation mode. For in-person presentations, this makes perfect sense. With two screens – a laptop and a projector or powering a broadcast or webinar system – a presenter can view notes, use markup tools, run builds and play videos, and see their next slide or even the set of slides to come. They don’t need another screen to too see the participants, or they are in an environment set up by the IT department with multiple computers to allow this.
But compress it into a computer (often a monitor) that Zoom, Teams, Meet, or some other video conferencing software is running on, and it’s a conflict and a mess.
With two monitors, run PowerPoint or Keynote in full screen mode to see your notes and get presentation tools, and you can’t see the people in the presentation, which is especially important for teachers. (Zoom notably has a video overlay that can show a gallery view of people, but it’s a small window and it lacks full controls.)
With just one screen, full screen mode doesn’t even allow you to access your notes or other tools.
Switch to slide show as a window view in PowerPoint or Keynote, which puts all interactive slide features, including versions, in a stand-alone window, and you get more control over your surroundings, but you still can’t view your notes. Disconcerting! Why design it that way?
(In PowerPoint, with a slide show open, click the Slideshow menu, then click Configure the slideshow. To select Browsed by an individual (window) and click Okay. In Keynote, just choose Reading> Play slide to window. You can also add this option to the toolbar with a presentation open by choosing View> Customize Toolbar and dragging the item onto the toolbar.)
Here are some suggestions on how to work with PowerPoint and Keynote in a video conference setting while having more flexibility.
Export your Keynote presentation to PDF format. You can share the presentation as a play-in-window during your videoconferencing session and view your notes while viewing the PDF. To choose File> Export to and select Include Presenter Notes. (PowerPoint doesn’t have this option in macOS.)
Print (sigh). As absurd as it sounds, print your slides with notes so you can review them on paper while presenting yourself as a slide show in a window.
Slides as a virtual background in Zoom. In Zoom, use slides as a virtual background, a beta feature that lets you select a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation, which Zoom then converts to PDF and presents in your standard video window. You can overlay yourself on a transparent background as an on-screen presenter. Interactive parts of a deck, such as builds, movies, or audio, will not appear or play. (In Zoom, click Share Screen, click Advanced, select Slides as the virtual background, and then click Share. You are then prompted to open the slide set.)
Use two computers. If you are fortunate enough to have two computers that you can use, connect to video conferencing from both machines and introduce yourself on one, while viewing the video conferencing session on the other, including chat comments or other comments.
Use the Keynote remote control. With Keynote on an iPhone or iPad paired with Keynote on a Mac, you can view notes and manage slides on your mobile device. I talk about it at the bottom of a previous column.
If we’re lucky, Apple and Microsoft will have enough first-hand experience in the form of meetings within their companies and will work with school districts (especially Microsoft because of its Teams meeting software) to understand the limits to overcome. I also hope to listen to the tens of thousands of parents from both companies see the teachers grapple with this on a daily basis.
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question posed by Macworld reader Nikia.
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