Presenting with Apple Watch

I've been using Keynote on the iPhone to control my presentations for a few years now. My standard presentation setup is to run Keynote on my iPad connected to the projection equipment and use my iPhone as the controller. This is effective, reliable and convenient as it's one less thing to remember.

With the Apple watch comes along two ways to control presentations from this new device. Both Keynote and PowerPoint for iOS have companion Apple Watch apps that are able to control their respective parent apps.

Here is a brief comparison of each without, at this point, any comment on reliability as I have not used either in anger so far.


The Keynote Watch app can operate in two modes. Firstly, it can control a Keynote presentation that's running on your paired iPhone. In this mode, you would connect the phone to the projector and control it with the watch.

In the second mode, Keynote on the Watch can control Keynote on your iPhone which is itself operating in the existing remote-control mode to control Keynote on another device. It's a bit like Keynote Inception and, at first blush, is at least 100% more chance of wireless failure than I'm entirely happy with. Still, this is the only way that you can use your Apple Watch to control Keynote on your Mac or iPad.

I was initially confused about this as it's not obvious what puts it into each mode but here's the rule: if you have a Keynote presentation open in Keynote on your iPhone when you launch the Watch app, it will control that presentation. If you're looking at the Keynote file picker when you launch the Watch app, it will go into Keynote Remote Remote mode and start trying to connect to Keynote on your Mac or iPad. That's a lot of Keynote.


Once the presentation is running, the entire surface of the screen is a big "forward" button. This is obviously ideal for no-look advancing of your slides: just mash your big thumb anywhere on the screen of the watch. You do get a slide progress counter at the bottom and there's the current time in the top-right corner - but no indication of elapsed time since the start of the presentation.

A force touch on the screen reveals two additional options: Back and Exit Slideshow. I quite like this approach as it's rare enough that you want to go backwards through slides.

What is lacking on the watch is any of the other niceties of the Keynote presenter display. Presenter Notes are obviously not really going to work here but it would be extremely helpful if the watch screen included the red/green "Ready to Advance" indicator and the number of builds remaining in the slide.


The PowerPoint watch app is basically the same idea as the Keynote app: forward and back through your slides. PowerPoint, however, only has the ability to control a presentation running on the Watch's paired iPhone. There's no ability to control PowerPoint on a third device.

As with Keynote, the PowerPoint app has to be running on the iPhone. First, you're presented with the Start Slideshow button.


When you're presenting, PowerPoint offers a couple of additional options on the main screen. You get the ability to navigate both back and forward as well as an elapsed time counter and a slide progress counter. To me, this is a win-one-lose-one scenario: the elapsed time counter is a great addition. However, putting both back and forward buttons on such a small screen would - I imagine - increase the chances of a navigation error.

PowerPoint provides two options with a force touch: Restart and Exit Slideshow. I can't think of too many PowerPoint presentations after which I would wish the presenter to have such easy power to restart the show, but I suppose there is a use case in there somewhere.

Setting up the Watch for presenting

In order to usefully use the Watch as a presentation remote, you're going to want to make a few adjustments.

Firstly, I think that you're going to want to take the watch off your wrist. Unless you're a very stationary and gesture-free speaker, it's going to be really obvious when you go to advance a slide with your Watch. Also, for the next few months at least, you're going to be That Speaker Who Controlled Their Presentation With Their Watch And Was A Bit of a Douche rather than the Speaker Who Was Awesome.

You want to have the face of the watch nestling in your cupped fingers. The same place you'd interact with a TV remote or a more traditional presenter's remote. I found that taking the watch off, re-closing the sport band and placing three fingers through the band, in the way that you might pick up a watch to look at it, was an effective way to hold it. The most important thing here is that you don't distract your audience by fiddling to switch slides and you don't make a mistake when navigating.

Secondly, you want to make sure that the watch doesn't turn itself off or otherwise jump to some other function while you're using it. To minimise the chance of this, you should:

  • Disable Wrist Detection, the feature that locks the watch if it comes off your wrist. You do this in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, in General > Wrist Detection.
  • Set "Activate on Wrist Raise" to "Resume Previous Activity". You can do this right on the Watch in Settings > General > Activate on Wrist Raise. This ensures that, if the watch does sleep during your presentation, tapping the screen will bring you back to the remote app, rather than the watch face.

I've been presenting exclusively with iPad and iPhone for several years now and it has been unfailingly reliable for me. With the advent of the iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch, it seems entirely possible to me that my presenting kit just got a whole lot smaller.

As always, if you're interested in hiring me to present to your school, university or business, I'm available.