First, let me admit that I don’t have a lot of experience with presentation pointers. The few presentations that I’ve done over the course of my career did not involve PowerPoint slides — or any other type of slideshow, for that matter. I’ve been lucky enough (so far) to be able to avoid them.
However, I have a lot of experience viewing slideshow presentations, and have watched presenters wrestle with the various types of slideshow embarrassment. Like when the staffer in charge of the slideshow gets clumsy. (“Let’s go back to — no, not that slide, the one before that — no, I guess it’s the one before — yes, that’s it…”) There’s also the oops-I-went-too-far-hold-on-while-I-find-the-back-button awkwardness. And then there’s shaky laser pointer syndrome.
Logitech has come out with a new presentation device that the company claims can make all the difference for a presenter. The Logitech Spotlight presentation remote is a small, sleek device that allows you to not only move your slideshow forward and back, but to spotlight (hence the name), magnify or circle areas of the screen; you can also use it as a cursor to click onscreen links.
The Spotlight is small (0.48 x 1.10 x 1.59 in.) and lightweight (1.7 oz.); its rounded form fits nicely into the palm of your hand. At one end is a USB dongle which pulls out of the device, revealing (within the inch-deep recess) a micro-USB port for charging the unit. (According to Logitech, one charge should last up to three months.) The dongle connects to your computer and communicates with the Spotlight via radio signal; you can also connect without the dongle using Bluetooth.
The device is very simple, with only three buttons. A large, curved center button (which is easily found by your finger even if you’re not looking at it) takes you to the next slide. The much smaller button below takes you back a slide.
But the most interesting of the three is the small pointer button, just above the center button. It can be set (via the Spotlight’s app) to show up to three different onscreen pointers.
- The spotlight feature highlights the area within a round “spotlight” and darkens the rest of the screen so that your area of concentration is more visible; the size of the spotlight can be adjusted.
- The magnify feature does just what it says: It magnifies the content within a circular area.
- The circle feature just shows an outlined circle without affecting the content any other way.
You access these features by holding down the pointer button for a couple of seconds; you can then cycle through each of the activated features via a double-press. If the highlight is centered on a link or onscreen button, a single press will then act as a left-click.
The Spotlight can highlight a section of your presentation while darkening the rest of the slide.
Installation of the supporting app is easy, and includes a quick tutorial video. Once installed, a drop-down menu allows you to adjust the various features. This includes the ability to assign one of several abilities to the top or bottom buttons, including fast forward, blanking the screen, scrolling, and volume control. You can also set it for a custom keystroke.
I tried out the Spotlight on a Mac using a PowerPoint presentation, and it worked as described, moving the slideshow backwards and forwards with little effort. The large center button is very easy to find by touch, and the device works no matter what direction it’s facing.
Interestingly, while the forward/back buttons only work on the specified presentation software (PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides or Prezi), the spotlight/magnify/circle features worked on my Mac no matter what was on the screen. For example, I could magnify a portion of a Microsoft Word document and spotlight a tweet on my Hootsuite app (and click on a link within the tweet).
One of the neat things about the Spotlight is that it works even over a remote connection. To test it, I connected two separate laptops — a Mac and a Chromebook — via Chrome Remote Desktop, ran a presentation on one of them and used the spotlight on a PowerPoint slide. It was completely visible on both displays.
And so that you won’t be worried about overshooting your time, the Spotlight will vibrate five minutes before the end of your presentation and at the end; you can set it for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or a custom time.
At a list of $130 (vendor price), the Spotlight is a premium presenter with a premium price. Logitech’s next most expensive device, the Professional Presenter R800, offers a green laser pointer, a timer and vibrating alerts for $60 (Amazon price). Kensington’s Expert Wireless Presenter offers a green laser pointer, cursor control and a 4GB micro SD card to store your slideshows on; it retails for about $55 (Amazon price). And there are a multitude of simple devices out there that cost around $20.
So is the Spotlight worth the price? That depends. If you only do the occasional presentation, and/or deal with only simple slideshows, probably not. But if your livelihood depends on doing a lot of presentations, and you want to lessen the amount of performance angst you need to deal with, the Spotlight is worth checking out.