A Tip: Presenting with an iPad

About a year ago at a conference, someone looked at my iPad just before I got up to present a paper.[1] That what I was doing came as a surprise made me think I should pass this tip along to readers here.

This is a screen shot of the paper I recently submitted for the conference proceedings[2] of the Yeats Society of Korea's 2017 International Conference on W. B. Yeats and Movements in Literature, Art and Society in Seoul:


And here is what appeared on my screen while I presented.


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to increase the font size on an electronic device. What it does require is for us to not loose sight of what we can do with a digital-first document. It is easy, after all, to get attached to the thought that the time of the presentation is tightly tied to its length.[3] But once the paper is completed (Well, as completed as any presentation draft gets....), we are free to change its appearance to suit our immediate needs. 

The sharp eyed of you will notice that these are two separate files. I use a duplicate of the completed draft because it invariably needs editing to account for the fact that you can do things in writing that you cannot in speaking -- and visa-versa. Long sentences, for example, can be complex on the page or screen (see footnote one below) without risking losing a reader in a way that they cannot when a speaker encounters a listener.

Using a synched electronic copy also means I have a backup. If something goes wrong with my iPad, I can pull out my phone and access the file. It may not be as convenient but it sure beats having to try to receive your paper from memory.

Incidentally, this approach also works with paper printouts and on laptop screens. These methods have some drawbacks, of course. Printing in a larger font means more pages and an increased chance of the pages getting shuffled (I always make sure to have the page number formatted as "X of Y pages".) and laptops are more awkward while standing at a podium and it is not as easy to scroll through a document while presenting as it is on an iPad. These are, however, things that can easily be worked around if you haven't jumped on the iPad bandwagon.


[1] For those outside of the humanities who may be more used to other methods of presenting (e.g., poster sessions), I generally give a 20 minute presentation when I attend a conference as part of a 90 minute long panel. Any time that remains after the three presentations (additional time is eaten up by introductions, people getting up and sitting down as one speaker makes way for the next, people running over their allotted time, and the like) is a Q & A and discussion period. Immediately following this, everyone rushes for the bathrooms and/or the coffee station.


[2] One of the nice things about the Yeats Society of Korea's conferences is that the proceedings (seen below, with a pen added for scale) come out before the conference and are distributed to the attendees for their use during the event. As such, we all have the papers in front of us and can make notes in them as we listen. This past year, we also received it electronically and I was able to use Goodnotes to annotate the document.

[3] For those who have not done this regularly, a twenty minute paper is roughly eight double spaced, 11-12 point pages long. 

Dr. Matthew M. DeForrest is a Professor of English and the Mott University Professor at Johnson C. Smith University. The observations and opinions he expresses here are his own. You are very welcome to follow him on Twitter and can find his academic profile at Academia.edu.