Using a Wiimote for presentations

    Posted by Phil Hawksworth on
    and tagged #talks #tools and #tips

    Over the last couple of years I've given a number of presentations. No matter what the subject matter of the talk, there is one question I always seem to get asked afterwards:

    Was that a Wiimote controller you were using to control your slides?

    The answer is yes. This is a quick post to explain why and how.

    Why use a wiimote?

    There are lots of products out there. I started using a Wiimote for three main reasons:

    1. Bluetooth not IR. A controller must use bluetooth. I started using the provided Apple IR Remote, which does fine, but if you need to ensure line of sight to your laptop, it means you think about that every time you change slides. I've even seen presenters pointing their clickers at the giant projector screen behind them in an attempt to advance a slide. It isn't your TV! Agony.
    2. Custom commands. I use Keynote for my presentations. Keynote has lots of useful keyboard shortcuts to help you during a presentation and you are guaranteed to forget those commands when you need them on stage. Mapping those commands to a button on your remote can save you some nervous keyboard fumbling.
    3. Money. I owned one already and wasn't sure how often I'd need to do this when I started.

    What do I use?

    I use a bit of software called Osculator to pair the remote to my laptop and map whatever buttons I want to the correct keyboard commands. It costs $29 but has a free trial which you can experiment with. There are others available, some of them free, but this worked best for me.

    You can save your key mappings and configuration for use in future. If you're interested, you can get my key mappings to try by downloading my config. Just load open the file in Osculator, pair your wiimote and you are ready to play.

    My mapped commands

    I try to have as few buttons active on my controller as possible. I'm clumsy enough already without the risk of rebooting my laptop or tweeting my browser history to the audience via a misplaced thumb. These are use useful to me, and perhaps to you:

    I considered mapping a button to the x key. That little gem of a shortcut switches your presenter screen and the display screen. Very handy, but I tend to only need that when I'm plugging in and am at the keyboard already.

    What, no wrist strap?

    That's right. I finally took the plunge and removed the wrist strap. That's because I live on the edge and am confident that I can grip onto the wiimote throughout a talk without accidentally throwing it into the fourth row. My friend, Jake Archibald prefers strapping in before giving a talk. But that's because he's a big girl's blouse.

    Jake's belt and braces Wiimote style
    Tight grip and wrist strap - perhaps essential given Jake's "propeller hands" style

    Other thoughts and tips on speaking

    Some more experienced speakers have posted some of their tips about speaking at (and attending) conferences recently. Those posts have been useful to me and some of them have their own preferred clicker. Take a look at:

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    Photo credits: Alex Sexton and Philip Tellis