How do you whiteboard to an audience of 200+ people without a whiteboard?
As a Solutions Architect, my job entails not only giving presentations to customers, but also at Lunch & Learn sessions and at conferences. It is very important for me to be able to pass on information, concepts, and design decisions to groups of various sizes. I noticed that more I used PowerPoint, the less engaged my audiences became. Somewhere, there was a disconnect between content and delivery. People glanced at the screen, then check their phones, email, or whisper among themselves. At first I thought it was me, but i noticed the same behavior when I was an audience member. I realized that I was guilty of the same behavior as well. I needed to mix things up and get the audience engaged again.
Last year I changed things up by getting rid of PowerPoint and bringing in a couple of whiteboards to a lunch presentation. By eliminating slides, the audience had to pay attention while I was talking. I used the whiteboard to illustrate my ideas and to expand the discussion. It was a resounding success, with attendees telling me that it was one of the best presentations they had ever seen.
Since that event, I have not delivered a PowerPoint presentation. I have exclusively used whiteboards when speaking to an audience. While there have been a few logistical issues, such as getting whiteboards where none exist, the results have been outstanding. Yet my greatest obstacle to date was approaching.
I was scheduled to present at a conference in Seattle to an audience of over 200 people, in a room that was too large for all attendees to see a whiteboard. If I couldn’t overcome this obstacle, I would be forced back to a slide deck.
I have an iPad, and occasionally use a whiteboarding application in small meetings. If I could figure out a way to extend this to a larger audience, I might still have a chance to do things my way. I purchased an AppleTV, and by using the AirPlay feature I was able to connect my iPad and my television via my home WiFi. I found a new whiteboard application, 2screens, that was AirPlay compatible. Bang! I could now project my iPad whiteboard to an audience. Since AirPlay requires a wired or WiFi connection between the iPad and AppleTV, and I could not be assured of signal at the conference, I decided to use my iPhone as a access point to connect the two. It was now time to put my design to the test in front of a live audience.
I was slated to give a presentation on VDI Performance in Seattle last week, and brought along my AppleTV, iPhone, and iPad. With everything set up and the projector showing my whiteboard app for all to see, I was mic’ed up and started speaking while carrying my iPad. I was able to walkout among the audience, side to side, taking questions during the session. As I walked and talked, I used the whiteboard to illustrate my points. My drawings appeared instantaneously on the screen at the front of the theatre. As with my other whiteboarding sessions, I captured the attention of everybody in the room. My new “digital whiteboard” worked like a charm.
One other thought that came to me a few minutes ago. I am writing this post during a layover in Detroit heading home to Maine after a week in Seattle. I started this blog with a whiteboarding post almost a year ago… during a Detroit layover heading home from Seattle. Funny how things work out when you aren’t paying attention.