[App] Using iPads to Replace the Conference Screen

July 21, 2011

in Apps, Mobile, Presentations, Tools

I often speak about the need to challenge the basic assumptions of a conference in order to improve the event’s experience, and one of these assumptions is that you need a big screen so that the speaker can show his slides, etc.

A common deterrent to change the way an event develops is the lack of tools that conference organizers have access to, specially in events with small budgets. Now the “App Economy” is providing many of those tools at a very low price and Idea Flight (website, iTunes, twitter) is an example of his.

Idea Flight is an iPad App developed by magazine incumbent Conde Nast that enables a presenter to run his presentation from his iPad and have up to 14 other iPads following it through the same wifi network (or 3 in total via Bluetooth). While it’s not yet ready for being used in large conferences, it might become very useful in your next corporate meeting and maybe sometime soon enough it will scale up to allow more simultaneous users.

Idea Flight lets one person (the Pilot) use their iPad to control a presentation to an audience (their Passengers) to other iPads via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. This does not require additional cameras, equipment, dongles, connectors or wires. The transfer happens so the Pilot has complete control over whether or not the Passengers have access to a hard copy. As a Pilot, one swipes through their presentation at their speed and can lock and unlock the content for Passenger to browse at their will. Files can be accessed via Dropbox, iTunes file sharing, email, or Keynote.

Document Format

It currently only accepts documents in PDF format, which can conveniently be obtained by exporting a document from both Apple’s Keynote and Microsoft’s PowerPoint (and several other programs). Hopefully other formats will follow soon.

LinkedIn Integration

A nifty feature from Idea Flight is the integration with Linkedin profiles. Attendees can make their profile visible to the other attendees so that they can exchange their professional details without needing paper business cards.


The App is free for “passengers”, e.i. people that follow the presentation. To enable the “pilot” function you need to make an in-App purchase that costs 5.99 euro.


As I mentioned before, for the time being the App is limited to only one format (PDF), one device (iPad) and the amount of people that can be included in a presentation (15 wifi, 3 bluetooth).

Fixes to increase the usefulness

Hopefully, Idea Flight will soon be available for other mobile devices (tablets) but also laptops. I often carry my 11″ macbook air to meetings, instead of the iPad.

  • http://twitter.com/daveixd Dave Malouf

    Gianfranco, I wonder if at a conference the idea of having everyone’s head down looking at your slides is not really the right mood you want to set. There is something (I would also say at a board room meeting as well) about having people’s heads facing towards the speaker.

    I agree there are some interesting things to think about and my students came up with a concept design where not only sharing the screen, but being able to comment on it for yourself and for the back channel (and front channel) were all considered. Unfortunately, our concept required speakers to have final slides in advance which wasn’t going to happen for the intended market.

    — dave

    • http://www.gchicco.com Gianfranco Chicco

      Dave, that’s probably because you’re imagining a “traditional” setup (where I agree it might not be the best). Think instead that the setup is in a park or inside a museum… people are facing in different directions, there’s no possibility of a big screen against a wall… and the speakers are walking around the audience, making eye contact, touching them, and not on stage in the far front of a “shoebox”.

  • http://twitter.com/VernonComputers Vernon Social Media

    I would only say that a common problem from event-goers is that they can’t *see* the screen. Even from the picture, look at how far away that is. Idea Flight brings the presentation right in front of you. It’s convenient!

    • http://www.gchicco.com Gianfranco Chicco

      Yes, in that case it would be a support for the main screen :-) [hope Idea Flight evolves into a more flexible tool in the near future]

  • Pingback: Present to 14 iPads Simultaneously with Idea Flight #edapp « Moving at the Speed of Creativity()

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