Ten years ago, I wrote a long post comparing the pros and cons of uploading PowerPoint slides to webinar platforms vs. displaying them in PowerPoint on your computer and using screen share to show them to attendees.
Uploading and storing slides in the webinar room is now a very rare methodology for display to attendees. Microsoft simply added too many PowerPoint features too rapidly. It became a practical impossibility for webinar software vendors to keep up with all the fancy tricks that PowerPoint was capable of.
I think the final nail in the coffin was when PowerPoint added the Morph transition effect. That's not even a hard-coded movement that gets attached to a slide and its elements. At display time, the PowerPoint slide show display algorithm looks at two sequential slides and dynamically tries to interpolate smooth motion that gets from the first to the second. It's magic. Even if a webinar vendor could jimmy up something analogous, their motion paths wouldn't correspond to Microsoft's interpolation and some user would complain that their carefully designed presentation failed to display correctly.
So by and large, web conferencing vendors have conceded that they just need to do a good, fast, smooth job of displaying a presenter's screen. Fair enough. If you are giving a solo presentation, that's all you need. But…
MULTIPLE PRESENTERS ARE A PROBLEM
I spend an awful lot of time moderating webinars for clients with teams of presenters handing off from one to the next. Today I managed a webinar where we had seven different speakers, each showing a few PowerPoint slides. Imagine trying to change presenter control seven times, each time involving a break in the display flow, and the new presenter asking "Can you see my screen?" and finding out that they showed the wrong monitor, and having the aspect ratio change, and so on. It would be a madhouse.
So I run the PowerPoint from my computer for all presenters. They see my slides and narrate, while I try to keep up and advance the presentation at the proper times.
I tell the presenters to work slide change cues into their speech:
- "Moving on, we'll see…"
- "On the next slide you can see…"
- "The next thing we want to take a look at is…"
But inevitably I get an endless repetition of "Next Slide" "Next Slide" "Next Slide." Not very conducive to a smooth, professional content recitation.
A MODEST PROPOSAL
Why doesn't some clever webinar vendor build a simple signaling mechanism for presenter-level participants? Just a little icon they can click. All it does is flash a signal on the screen of the active screen-sharer as an indication to change the slide. No vocalization needed. It's also great for telling the screen-sharer when to advance animation builds.
Still not picturing it? Have you ever seen one of those World War II movies where the parachute squad is getting ready to make their drop? As the pilot reaches the drop zone, he pushes a button and a light goes on in the back of the plane. Everybody yells "Now! Now! Now!" and careens out the open door. On a webinar, the speaker is the pilot controlling the button and the moderator showing the PowerPoint in screen share mode is the person waiting for the signal so they can take action.
SHARED CONTROL DOESN'T WORK
If you have made it this far (thank you!), you are probably an experienced webinar pro. Maybe you have used a solution like GoToWebinar, where the screen sharer can grant mouse and keyboard control to another participant. "I'll just sit back and let the narrator take control of my computer to advance the slide when they feel like it."
I have tried that. It's terribly impractical. If I have my mouse somewhere else, trying to type a response to a question or chat with the presenters or manage a setting, suddenly I lose control and the mouse zips over to the slide area while the presenter takes over my system to make the slide change. After a few rounds of this, you'll never do it again.
So there you have it. Will any webinar vendor implement something like this in their screen sharing platform? I'm not holding my breath, but I'd love to be pleasantly surprised.