How to Use Your E-Reader (iPad, Kindle, NOOK, etc.) to Sharpen Your Web Presentations

Last month I presented a “sold out” webinar for The Project Management Bookstore. We had nearly 1300 people registered for “Become a Project Management Minimalist.” (The system maximum was 1000!) While I was delighted to have such a great response, it was a bit scary to know that so many people would be counting on me to present a worthwhile session.

As a veteran presenter, I’ve learned that the best way to prevent stage fright and rambling is to rehearse and know your material cold. In addition, for webinars (when the audience can’t see my desk or screen), I like to have sticky notes all around my computer screen or embedded notes on my slides to keep me on track. Unfortunately, this was going to be a longer session, so that meant I’d need far more sticky notes than I could physically handle. And worse, the presenter’s controls wouldn’t allow me to see privately annotated slides — the audience was going to see each slide exactly as it appeared on my computer screen. So the big question was how could I get control of all the notes and prompts I needed for the session?

Then it hit me! My little e-book reader could display PDFs. And I can easily turn its pages with just one finger. So why not make myself an annotated version of the presentation, load it as a PDF to the e-reader, then flip through it while I’m doing the webinar?  My PDF “cheat sheets” could include several unique prompts for each slide.

So that’s what I did. I made my files, then rehearsed to get the feel of using both the e-reader and the computer at the same time. It was easy! During the session I referred to my PDF-based e -“cheat sheet” while sending out the matching “clean version” of  each slide to viewers.  The graphic above illustrates.

Below is one of the slides exactly as my audience saw it. (And exactly as it appeared on my computer’s screen during the webinar.)

What webinar viewers saw.

The next graphic shows the matching “cheat sheet” slide exactly as I saw it on my e-reader. Because I could see the clean slide (above) on my computer screen, it was easy to find any content covered up by my annotations in the PDF.

Benefits of an E-reader “Cheat Sheet”

All in all, I was pleased with the whole process and I’ll likely be using it again for my next online presentation.  To summarize, here are the benefits of creating an e-reader PDF “cheat sheet” to help with your web presentation:

  • You can prepare more notes and warnings for yourself than you could with sticky notes, etc. because your e-reader will “feed” them to you in one easily-managed page-load at a a time. (I even inserted the warning “SHHHH….” on the slides for a couple of topics where I knew I would be tempted to over-talk or rant!)
  • Days before the session, you can kick back in your favorite chair and rehearse your session comfortably. No need to stay chained to your computer!
  • During the session, the annotations help you to stay focused and on schedule. You won’t be as likely to wander off-topic or stumble while searching for the right words.
  • During the session, you will be able to use your energy to share confident enthusiasm and a sense of fun, instead of nervously wracking your brains to remember key points.
  • During the session, you won’t forget that important or amusing war story. Rather, you’ll “spontaneously” recall it as it pops up in your e-reader’s annotations.


  • In addition to the usual web presentation tools (computer, slides, microphone/camera), you’ll need:
    • Your web presentation saved as a PDF file
    • Any tablet computer or e-reader that will allow you to upload and display PDF files. (iPad, Kindle, NOOK, Sony Reader, etc.)
    • A software package that will allow you to annotate a PDF file (i.e., add colored notes, call-outs, etc.) and save it. (Note: The free Adobe Reader will not allow you to annotate and save PDFs. I use PDF XChange Viewer for making my annotations.  It’s also free and has lots more annotation features. See my review of PDF XChange here.)
  • Follow these steps:
    1. Create your presentation exactly as the audience will see it using your presentation software (PowerPoint or whatever).
    2. Use your presentation software to save a PDF version. (Make sure your PDF presents each slide as a single, full page.)
    3. Open the clean PDF file using the free PDF XCchange (or any PDF editor) and then create your annotations.
    4. Save the PDF file with the annotations and load it into your e-reader.
    5. Rehearse your session and get comfortable with your notes & presentation.
    6. Practice moving through the slides on the computer screen, turning pages on the e-Reader, and talking into the microphone at the same time.
    7. A few days or hour before your session, test the online presentation system to make sure everything is working properly.
    8. Before your session begins, make sure your e-Reader is either plugged in to a power source or the battery is fully charged.

And finally, remember to have fun! While it may be a bit more complicated to set up your session using your e-reader “cheat sheet,” it will ultimately make it much easier for you to sharpen your message, recall all those key points, and “ad lib” those great war stories!


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Posted: October 24th, 2011 under Uncategorized.
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