You can give impressive presentations from your iPad‚ and perhaps even leave your laptop behind‚ if you prepare well and know what to expect. It's even easier to take to the podium with newer technologies like AirPlay mirroring and the latest version of Keynote for iOS. Here are tips for moving presentations onto your iPad and delivering them live.
Get it together
Apple's $10 Keynote for iOS ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ) can import presentations made in Microsoft PowerPoint ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) or in Keynote for OS X ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), but in both cases you're likely to lose a great deal during the import process. Say goodbye to some fonts, transitions, and builds that aren't available on the iPad, plus audio and more. (Presenter notes are supported, however, whether created on the iPad or imported from a PowerPoint or Keynote for Mac presentation.) Therefore, when feasible, create your presentation directly on the iPad.
If you do use Keynote on a Mac, be sure to read Apple's Best practices for creating a presentation on a Mac for use on an iPad, which guides you in selecting compatible templates, fonts, and other features. Once you've created your presentation, you need to move it to your iPad. Although the iOS version of Keynote supports iCloud's Documents in the Cloud feature, which automatically syncs documents on all your iOS devices with Apple's servers, the Mac version of Keynote still lacks integrated support for this feature. (OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion will have access to iCloud's Documents in the Cloud.)
Instead, you must log in to your iCloud account in a Web browser at www.icloud.com, click the iWork icon, click Keynote, and then drag your Keynote document into the browser window. After it uploads, the document will appear automatically in Keynote on your iOS device--but keep in mind that this process doesn't eliminate the compatibility issues I mentioned a moment ago.
If you don't use iCloud, another way to move the presentation onto your iPad is to open iTunes, select your iPad, click on the Apps tab, and select Keynote. Drag your presentation to the Keynote Documents list. Then open Keynote on your iPad, go to the Document Manager (if it's not already visible), tap the folder icon in the upper-right corner, and then tap your presentation. Or, if you want the convenience of cloud-based syncing without iCloud, a service called DropDAV ($5 per month) enables Keynote users to connect to Dropbox ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) via WebDAV.
One note: If you've already created a presentation in PowerPoint, also take a look at SlideShark, a free iPad app for viewing and displaying PowerPoint presentations. It's not perfect, but it does a better job supporting PowerPoint documents than any other iPad app I've seen.
Use an external display
If your audience is very small--perhaps you're showing your portfolio to a potential client or giving your boss a quick demo--you could show your presentation on the iPad itself, albeit without the presenter notes. But you're more likely to prefer using a projector or other display.
Plug it in One way to do this is to plug a video adapter into your iPad's Dock connector, and then connect that to your display. You'll get the best results (and the highest resolution) using a display or projector with either the $39 Apple Digital AV Adapter (for displays with HDMI inputs) or the $29 Apple VGA Adapter (for displays with VGA inputs).
If you're connecting to a television with neither HDMI nor VGA inputs, you can instead use the $39 Apple Component AV Cable or the $39 Apple Composite AV Cable, as appropriate, although both offer lower resolution than the Digital AV and VGA adapters. Although this wired approach works just fine, it's difficult to hold your iPad while giving a presentation without the video cable falling out--I speak from personal experience.
Mirror a newer iPad With an iPad 2 or later, either the Digital AV or VGA adapter lets your iPad mirror everything from its internal screen onto the external display, which may be useful if you want your presentation to include demonstrations of other iPad apps or content that's not within Keynote itself. However, note that on the original iPad, where mirroring is unavailable, Keynote itself produces no external video signal until you tap the Play button (which is probably what you want anyway).
If you prefer to roam across the stage holding your iPad while you speak, you can beam your presentation's audio and video wirelessly using AirPlay mirroring--provided you have an iPad 2 or later running at least iOS 5. To pull off this trick, you'll need an AirPlay receiver connected to the projector or display and on the same Wi-Fi network as your iPad. Apple's $99 Apple TV ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) can serve this purpose, if you happen to have one handy. Alternatively, assuming a Mac or PC is available, you can install either of two similar utilities: AirServer (Mac version, $15; Windows version, $8) or Squirrels' Reflection (Mac only, $15). Either of these apps can turn a computer into an AirPlay receiver, no Apple TV required. They even support displaying screens from multiple iOS devices at the same time. Note that the PC version of AirServer currently lacks audio support, but the developer says it's "coming soon."
Once your AirPlay receiver is set up, you can mirror your iPad's display by double-pressing the Home button, swiping the multitasking bar toward the right, and tapping the AirPlay button. Tap the name of the device you want to use for mirroring and then set the Mirroring switch to On.
(Image Caption: With an app like Reflections or AirServer running on your Mac, you can mirror your iPad's display and audio wirelessly.)
Control the presentation
Once you tap Play, you can use your iPad to control the presentation as well as provide presenter notes for yourself (a cheat sheet, if you will) that the audience won't see. To change what's on the iPad's screen when using an external display, tap the Layouts icon and then one of the follow buttons: Current (the current build of the slide as shown on the external display), Next (the next build, which may or may not be the next slide), Current and Next (current and next builds side by side), or Current and Notes (current build and any accompanying presenter notes). This final layout is the only one to display presenter notes, but you can supplement it by tapping the button in the upper left corner to display a list of slide thumbnails, which can aid in navigation (tap a thumbnail to jump directly to that slide).
(Image Caption: In Keynote's Current and Notes layout, you can see presenter notes underneath your slides. The thumbnails on the left are optional.)
To advance to the next build or slide, tap once anywhere, or swipe toward the left. To go back, swipe toward the right. A nice extra in Keynote for the iPad is a "laser pointer": Touch and hold on the iPad's screen to show a red dot, which moves with your finger on the main display. Lift your finger and the dot disappears. This is useful when you want to call attention to a particular area of a slide. To end the presentation (and turn off Keynote's video output), tap the Close icon.
(Image Caption: To highlight a particular word or image on a slide in Keynote, use the simulated laser pointer.)
If your iPad is physically connected to your display--or if you want to be able to move around during your presentation without carrying the iPad with you--you can download Apple's Keynote Remote app ($1) on your iPhone or iPod touch. Follow the instructions to pair Keynote Remote with your iPad using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and then your iPhone or iPod touch becomes a remote control for Keynote on your iPad, complete with previews of your slides.
Senior contributor Joe Kissell is the senior editor of TidBits and the author of the ebook Take Control of Working with Your iPad.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information about iCloud, AirPlay, and the third-generation iPad.]