Because “imagine everyone's naked” is terrible advice


A good reason to use a remote for your talk is to avoid needing to be tethered to your laptop.

Someone photoshop me into the Michelangelo fresco, please.

It’s up to you whether you want to use a remote or not. I don’t tend to move around a lot on-stage, so I usually don’t have to stretch to reach my laptop, but I still like using a remote because it lets me move between slides more naturally than needing to touch my laptop every few minutes.

Remotes you shouldn’t use

First of all, don’t use the Apple remote.

It has a great form factor, so it’s tempting, but it requires line-of-sight to your laptop. Even if you plan on standing behind it, you won’t be lined up with the IR receiver (and the latest MacBooks don’t even have an IR sensor either). Every time I’ve seen someone try this it’s been a disaster.

Second of all, don’t use the other Apple remote. Apple makes an app called Keynote Remote that lets you control your slides from your iPhone. While a good idea, it communicates over wifi or Bluetooth, which leaves yourself open to the risk of either of those breaking on you (and it’ll happen). Additionally, I’ve seen a remarkable amount of people accidentally brush their phone while they’re in the middle of their talk and end up moving slides when they didn’t intend to.

Remotes you should use

Pretty much any other remote that has a real connection to your laptop and real buttons.

I use a Logitech remote that I’m a big fan of. It has simple buttons, is light and comfortable to hold, and even has a green laser pointer available for when someone in the audience is giving me gruff and I want to blind him in the eyeballs. Like most of these types of remotes, it has a small USB dongle that slides out of the bottom… plug it into your laptop and it identifies as a USB keyboard so there’s no extra software or other horsecrap to install.

When you’re up on stage, just act normally. You just need a quick tap of a button to go forward; no need to telegraph your button press to everyone. Don’t forget to practice with the remote, either. Even though it’s not rocket science, you do have to get a little comfortable with it so you don’t lose your train of thought while you’re switching slides.

Update: I’ve since added an entire page dedicated to picking a presenter remote, so if you’re looking for different options, check it out.