Presentations: Choosing a Presentation Remote Control

Microsoft PowerPoint Tips & Tricks, Presentations

If you deliver digital presentations using Microsoft PowerPoint or other presentation software programs, how do you advance to the next or previous slide? You can move forward to the next slide with the keyboard or the mouse or even have someone else help you, but this can be awkward or keep you locked in near your laptop. For more professional results, use a presentation remote control to easily navigate through your slide shows.

Presentation Remote Features

Many projectors come standard with a remote, but features vary and may not always be easy to use. A better choice is to use your own personal presentation remote control. When evaluating a remote, look for these features and decide what is important to you:

  • Ergonomic and easily fits in your hand. Keep in mind that you might be using the remote for an hour or an entire day. Plus, a smaller remote will usually have fewer and more accessible buttons, fits in your pocket, and is great for travel.How to choose the right presentation remote control
  • Simple to use. In most cases, a smaller, ergonomic remote is easy to use but test it before buying. One of my friends loves her small remote, which is only about the size of a flash drive. The tradeoff is she needs to press 2 buttons together to make the screen go black, a feature that doesn’t always work.

I was reminded of the importance of an easy-to-use remote when I watched an excellent presenter pull out a huge remote that looked like a price scanner gun from Home Depot. As he fumbled with a large panel of buttons, the remote dropped to the floor and broke open with batteries flying across the stage.

  • Transmit distance. Remotes operate with three different technologies: RF (wireless radio frequency), IR (infrared), and Bluetooth. There are also smartphone apps that can turn your device into a remote via WiFi or Bluetooth connections. A huge drawback with IR remotes is that you need to point the mouse directly at the receiver for it to work. You won’t likely find these anymore unless your office has some “old school” technology. Bluetooth and RF remotes have a range of 50 to 100 feet. With some remotes, you can have your back to the laptop and move to the middle of an audience. What do you need for your presentations?
  • Built-in mouse. Some presenters will sacrifice a bit in size to get a built-in mouse; usually, a small button like you see on some laptops. Other remotes have a trackball or a touchpad. I prefer a separate wireless mouse that I use for portions of my presentations. I find a built-in mouse to be too awkward, but it might be great for your purposes.
  • Visible laser pointer. If you’d like a built-in laser pointer, make sure to test it for visibility and practice moving it slowly. Some of the pointers have such a small laser dot that it doesn’t show well on screen. Would an animation be a better way to highlight parts of a slide or a process?

While you can locate some remotes at your local computer store or office supply outlet, your best option may be to find someone who has a remote and try it out. A popular Bluetooth remote is the Logitech Spotlight Presentation Remote which has a range of up to 100 feet. Although pricier than other remotes, the Spotlight has an advanced pointer to highlight, magnify, or pinpoint areas of focus with a digital laser. My current presentation remote control is the Logitech Professional Presenter R800 which includes a green laser and a cool timer that vibrates to tell you when your presentation time is up. The R400 model is also ergonomic and easy to use. I also often use a very simple finger ring remote ( which makes it easy to discreetly navigate presentations while still offering the features of more robust presentation remote controls. Yes, I’m nerdy enough to actually pack two remote controls in my laptop bag.

There are many other models and brands to consider. Personally, I don’t like remotes loaded with tons of features that you might not need; these remotes are typically bigger or more complicated to use. Remember, you should be using a remote so that you don’t call attention to the technology and your audience can focus on your content.

Tech Options for a Remote Control

With Bluetooth technology, you may already have a presentation remote control on your wrist or on your desk. Some presenters leverage their wearable tech and use their Apple Watch to control a slide presentation. Other options include running a presentation from your smartphone or iPad. Check with your IT support department or tech-savvy colleagues to see if this is a good option for your presentations.

Practicing with a Remote Control

After you choose a remote, practice with it before you use it. Don’t just try it at your desk, you need to also set up your laptop and remote and actually run through your presentation. The first time I did this, the screen kept going black, or I would accidentally advance to the next slide. The problem wasn’t with the remote; it was that I was holding my presentation handout in the same hand and accidentally hitting a remote button through the handout. An easy adjustment but not obvious if my only rehearsal was in my office.

I personally like to choreograph my slide actions into my presentation notes to avoid looking back at the projection screen to check my location. Or, set up your laptop in the meeting room so you can glance at the screen and still keep the connection with your audience.

Rehearsing with your remote should be a built-in part of your presentation rehearsal to avoid distracting your audience and accomplishing the goal of communicating your message.

Bonus Tip: Always bring extra batteries; many speakers change out batteries for every presentation. If possible, label the remote or put several business cards in the carrying case in the event that your remote is misplaced.

© Dawn Bjork, MCT, MOSM, CSP®, The Software Pro®
Microsoft Certified Trainer, Productivity Speaker, Certified Speaking Professional

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