Many years before I started PresentationTools, I worked as a audio-technician on live concerts. I learned that to run a show, you need hands-on tools tailored the live-event workflow: to raise the volume of the lead singer, you grab the fader that sits in front of you. There is no time to fiddle with the computer-mouse.
Later in my career I started working on corperate events with responsibility for wireless microphones and powerpoint-presentations. What surprised me in my new position was that I had to use the mouse and keyboard to do critical tasks during the show. There was simply no other way to control Powerpoint. When the new speaker entered the stage, I dragged the computer-mouse to find the next presentation. This just felt so unnatural compared to the audio-mixers I was used to with physical buttons and faders.
The problem was the time and effort it took to close and open presentations. If this was only a playlist of pre-recorded videos, it would be easy, you could just push the “Go” button every time you play a new file. Unfortunately, Powerpoint and similar presentation-programs don’t have a go-button like that. To me it seemed that Microsoft didn’t have the professional event-market in mind when they created Powerpoint: What happens between the presentations is none of their concern. When I asked on a Powerpoint-forum about a quicker way to change presentations, the answer I got was: Why can’t I just merge all the presentations into one large file? Well, if you receive all the files a USB stick 30 minutes before show-start, and you have a mixture of presentations in 16:9 and 4:3 format, you know that this won’t work.
That’s when I decided to create a solution myself. Me and a programmer spent some weeks to create the first version of what was to become Auto Presentation Switcher, an automation-tool for switching presentations.
The first version of this software was a great success for me, it managed to switch presentations, and it’s basically the same code and method that is still being used today: When a presentation is displayed, the shortcut Ctrl + rightarrow takes you to the next presentation in the folder. I then had the “Go” button I wanted, and although I still used the keyboard, pushing this shortcut was so much better than dealing with the computer-mouse. Now I could just sort all the presentations alphabetically/numerically in the folder, and then, during the show, the shortcut would bring me forward.
In the beginning I just wanted to keep this solution to myself, it felt like I had a secret weapon that gave me a competitive advantage in the market. Or rather, it allowed me to do the same job with lower pulse, more comfort, and less mistakes. It gave me some buffer to do my job properly.
But I couldn’t keep the secret for too long. My colleagues were curious on what I was using, and I couldn’t always keep quiet about it either. I realised that the tool we had created was too valuable to remain hidden. That’s when I decided to start my own company, PresentationTools A/S, to share it with the world.
Written by Morten Brekke Stensland, founder of PresentationTools A/S