Today, we expect our smartphones to be able to do it all, and they often do manage to fulfill our needs in situations that formerly would have required much heavier equipment. If you speak at conferences, present information at meeting,s or otherwise use slideshow presentations, you can use your smartphone to enhance the presentation — or even, in some cases, use them in place of a laptop to output the slideshow.

Presentation apps

Assuming you’ve created the presentation on your computer, the first step is to get the presentation file onto your phone and be able to open it. Depending on your mobile operating system, you can transfer the file by connecting the phone to your computer via USB, wirelessly over Bluetooth, e-mail it to yourself, or put it into a cloud storage location or on a web server where you can download it to the phone. With Android phones, most of which have microSD cards, you can also transfer the files from your computer to the card (if your computer has an SD card reader) and then onto the phone that way.

There are dozens of apps with which you can view PowerPoint or OpenOffice presentations on your smartphone, whether it’s an Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone. Of course, Windows Phone has Office Mobile (including PowerPoint Mobile) built in. For Android, you can use ThinkFree Office Mobile Viewer, which is a “lite” (and free) version of ThinkFree Office.

Sometimes, you might need to create a new presentation on the fly and not have access to a laptop. In that case, you can use a more full-featured Office program, such as ThinkFree Office Mobile or DocumentstoGo for $14.99 (USD) each, or QuickOffice Pro for $19.99 (USD). These are some of the most common Office suites for Android, but there are many others available for various mobile operating systems. It’s handy to have one of these, even if you never create presentations on your phone from scratch, as you never know when you might need to make a quick edit to update some statistics or customize the information for your audience.

In my experience, QuickOffice Pro does the better job of rendering PowerPoint 2010 presentations (see Figure 1).
Figure 1

QuickOffice Pro renders PowerPoint 2010 slides beautifully.

Getting it “out there” to the big display

Once you have the presentation on your phone where you can view it, the next challenge is outputting it to a monitor or projector. Although many of today’s high-end phones have HDMI out ports that can be connected to a TV or projector with an HDMI input, many will only output select types of files through this port, such as videos that were recorded by the phone. There are various workarounds to the HDMI restrictions — one Droid owner was even able to hack the device to output to the screen of his car’s entertainment system.

The iPhone doesn’t have an HDMI output, but it can be connected to a TV or projector with composite AV inputs by using a special composite AV cable that connects to the device via the 30-pin dock connector.

Using your phone as a presentation remote control

Even if you’re showing the presentation from your laptop, your phone can be used as a remote control so you can roam around the stage or room and not have to go back to the laptop to change slides, trigger animations, etc. You connect the phone to the PC via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (you generally have to install an application on the PC), and then you can go to the next or previous slide by swiping a finger on the phone screen or pressing a button. Most of these applications allow you to jump to any slide, toggle a black screen to hide the presentation, and otherwise function like the remote control devices made for presenters (at a much lower cost). An example of a slideshow remote app for Android is PPT Remote, and PowerPoint OpenOffice Remote is another (free) app for controlling presentations with Android phones.

The Gmote app will do the same thing… and more. You can also use it to turn your Android phone into a keyboard/mouse for the connected computer, or browse the web on the computer (which is displaying the web pages on the projector) and control it from the phone. Gmote also works as a Media Center remote control.

If you have presentations created in Keynote on a Mac that you want to control remotely with your iPhone, you can use the Keynote Remote app. If you want to use a Windows Phone as a remote control for PowerPoint presentations and Windows Media Center, you can use Virtual Remote Presenter and Media Control apps.

Finishing on time

Yet another use for your smartphone when you’re giving a presentation is to keep you on track and on time. Speakers are often allotted only a specified amount of time in which to give their presentations, and sometimes there’s not even a clock on the wall in the back of the room to help you gauge how you’re doing.

Presentation Timer from Computer Whisperer is one simple little Android app that lets you set the time for your presentation. It starts out with a green screen, which turns yellow when you’re getting short on time, and then turns red when your time is up. There are several Android apps by the same name, some of which ring bells or vibrate to notify that your time is up.

Figure 2

Presentation Timer will let you know when you’re running out of time.

Silent Timer for iPhone displays a countdown timer and can be set to vibrate at specific times, such as when you have 10, 5, 3 and 1 minute remaining, or you can set it to vibrate every 1, 3, or 5 minutes.

Speaker notes

PowerPoint’s “presenter view” is great, because it lets you see your speaker notes on the laptop screen while projecting only the slide itself onto the projector screen. But what happens when you find yourself with a setup where you have to stay at a podium where the microphone is fixed so that the audience can hear you, and your laptop has to be on the other side of the stage so it can connect to the projector? I found myself with that dilemma not long ago.

If you have your presentation on your phone, you can set it on the podium and display your notes there, so you don’t end up having to “wing it.”

Sound effects

Here’s another use for your phone when giving presentations. I’ve been in a situation before where the laptop I was using for the slideshow had no speakers attached, which meant I couldn’t include sound effects in the show. A workaround was to load the sound files onto the phone and, at the appropriate moment in the slideshow, play the applicable sound (which was picked up by the microphone on the podium where I was speaking).

Voice recorder

Many times, we have a question and answer period at the end of our presentations, and it’s nice to have a recording of those questions asked by members of the audience (and your answers). Most smartphones have a voice recorder function built in. If not, you can download a recorder app such as Voice Recorder by Mamoru Tokashiki for Android. Tape-a-Talk from Markus Drosser is another application that’s a bit more configurable. Both are free, although the latter has a Pro version for $5.48 (USD) that lets you fast forward or rewind during recordings, cut out parts of a recording, and repair recordings if the phone crashes or the battery dies during a recording.

There are dozens of voice recording apps for the iPhone, such as Blue FiRe, that provide much more functionality than the default Voice Memo. There are also multiple voice recording apps for Windows Phone, like the $.99 (USD) Voice Recorder 2.

When using the recorder to keep a record of Q&A sessions, remember to repeat the question before answering it, since the recorder may not pick it up when coming from the audience (and this is always a good practice anyway, in case others in the audience weren’t able to hear the question).


The next time you need to give a presentation, don’t overlook the role your smartphone can play. From creating and playing a “quick and dirty” presentation from scratch to enhancing a presentation that you give in the traditional way with a laptop, there are many ways you can put your phone to work while you’re on stage.