SlideShark Solves The Present PowerPoint-On-iPad Problem

I spend a lot of time delivering PowerPoint presentations, pitching ideas and data and hopefully some pizzazz and inspiration. And that means I'm lugging my 7-pound laptop and 1-pound charger around, projecting via a dodgy VGA cable with doubtful video qualities, and mouseclicking my way through the story. It's all good because it's all I've ever known. And it beats swapping foils on an overhead projectors. (Why do they call those transparencies foils??)

But, sometimes it would be so much more convenient for me to toss my 1.3-pound iPad2 sans charger into a small bag, hop on the US Airways Shuttle to New York, and pitch the deck while leaving the laptop and charger at home. And if it's true for me, then it has to be true for your iPad-totin' sales teams.

Until now, I've not found a decent PowerPoint solution on iPad. As much as I believe that Microsoft will eventually offer PowerPoint on iPad, I need an answer now. Apple's Keynote requires a big adjustment for me (and for the rest of my ecosystem), and PDF rendering kills the thrill of PowerPoint builds and messes up my storytelling punchlines.

Then along comes SlideShark from online presentation vendor Brainshark. It's animation-complete, hassle-free, PowerPoint-on-iPad (PoiP). So far it works like a champ.

Brainshark is known for its ability to host presentations with voiceover and other stuff as a way to train sales folks and others online and on mobile devices. The company has been around since 1999 and has won over many enterprise customers. Their favorite factoid is, and I quote, "A Brainshark is created every 3 minutes and viewed every 2.5 seconds, with over 1 million views/month."

Brainshark has adapted its slide-conversion, hosting, and business technology to create a nice solution for presenting PowerPoint on iPad. [Queue the other vendors with PoiP solutions: Contact tschadler (at) forrester (dot) com.]

My experience so far:

  • I created a 10-megabyte PowerPoint deck with my usual mix of slide and chart animations and mix of words, data charts, and pictures.
  • I registered for a SlideShark account and uploaded the deck to my account in the cloud, then watched while it was converted into SlideShark format in about a minute.
  • I installed the SlideShark iPad application (from the beta site; your experience may vary) with no troubles.
  • I downloaded the converted presentation to the app so I could run it offline.
  • I plugged in an Apple iPad video cable and was off and running.
  • Slides presented beautifully, with the fonts and colors preserved and chart animations intact.
  • I advanced the slides with a tap or a swipe (have you caught yourself swiping the TV or desk phone yet?).
  • To go back or jump to a slide, I swiped up and selected from the chart list (picture below).

The company plans to support Apple's new AirPlay Mirroring (video streaming from iPad to Apple TV, a $99 gadget that you can use to wirelessly project these slides to a projector) as well links in slides, embedded audio, and more enterprise functionality in forthcoming releases.

Here's a picture showing the SlideShark app in slide layout mode. You can start from any slide by finger swiping up to reveal the slides then selecting the slide you want to start the show.

Now some caveats:

  • There is no ability to edit presentations on the iPad, so it's not a complete solution the way Keynote is.
  • This is a first-generation product, so it's still untested at scale. Business users beware -- carry some kind of backup in case something happens when you're in front of a client.
  • SlideShark launches with a free model and a paltry 25-megabyte storage limit. With my 10-meg file, I'm almost half used up. (Not sure if I can delete the file from my SlideShark folder and free that space up.)
  • Brainshark hasn't yet announced how it will support businesses, so I can't yet recommend this for enterprise use. I'm sure Brainshark will solve that problem, so don't hesitate to call them up and ask.
  • Microsoft and probably 10 other vendors will also offer this (or already do), so this may only be a stopgap solution.

None of these caveats change the core value: many people need to present PowerPoint decks and need or at least crave a good iPad solution. And SlideShark fits that bill nicely.