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Practical Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — At the Macworld/iWorld conference and expo this week, I gave a presentation about how photographers can incorporate the iPad into their workflows. I’ve given presentations before, but this year was different because I did it entirely from an iPad, untethered by wires. If you do any type of presenting — whether it’s at corporate events, meetings, or at the front of a classroom — I encourage you to give this a try.

In years past, presenting meant connecting a projector to my Mac laptop, provided I had the right adapters and dongles at hand. But with Keynote for iOS, I can give my presentation from the iPad itself without dealing with the Mac. Until recently, that also meant having a handful of adapters. (And believe me, I had them in my bag as a last resort, just in case.)

The trick to presenting from an iPad wirelessly is to throw an Apple AirPort Express and Apple TV into the mix, which gives you a private wireless network to work within. In my experience, one can never rely solely on a venue’s public Wi-Fi. It requires a little more setup, but it means the iPad isn’t shackled to a podium if you prefer to roam the stage.

(I can’t claim this setup as my idea. I first became aware of it from David Sparks, a fellow Macworld speaker, at . David’s a smart fellow.)

Before arriving in San Francisco, I configured an AirPort Express to create its own Wi-Fi network and password-protected it. It’s not connected to the Internet, but that was OK for my presentation. If you’re working within a trusted network, such as at your workplace, then you could skip the AirPort Express; however, this approach minimizes the number of things that could interfere with your connection.

Next, I set up an Apple TV so that it connected to my new private network. The Apple TV served two essential purposes in this scenario: it provided an HDMI video-out connection to the projector and it was the AirPlay target to which the iPad’s screen is shared.

The AirPort Express and the Apple TV are both small (about 4 inches square and less than a pound), requiring little room in your bag, and include single power cords — no unwieldy power bricks to tote along. And they’re each just $99.

When it was time to practice or give the presentation, I fired up the AirPort Express to create my network, plugged the Apple TV in to power and to the projector, and waited for it to connect to the network, and then set my iPad to also connect to the network.

The only item in the chain that was outside my control was the projector itself. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to ask about it ahead of time, and I’m glad I did: my only connection option was via VGA, a now-ancient plug style.

I own a VGA-to-30-pin iPad adapter, but that tethers me back to the machine. Instead, I used a Kanex ATV Pro ($59.95,, which bridges the Apple TV’s HDMI port and the projector’s VGA input. It’s a great solution for outfits such as schools that can’t yet afford to replace their older projection equipment.

Ensconced within this password-protected Wi-Fi bubble, I set the iPad to mirror its screen to the Apple TV: pressed the Home button twice to reveal the row of recently used apps at the bottom of the screen, swiped left-to-right, tapped the AirPlay button, and selected the Apple TV, and threw the Mirror switch.

What’s on the iPad appeared on the projected screen. From there I launched Keynote and started my presentation or dropped into other apps to demonstrate techniques live. And because it was a private AirPlay network, I could also use a recent-model Mac (2011 or later) to mirror its screen if necessary. Or, just in case the demo gods chose to not favor me and the iPad freaked out, I could run the same Keynote presentation from my iPhone without any trouble.

The highlight was that I was free to roam with the iPad. Only a couple of years ago, presenting meant I was tied to a lectern. I didn’t do cartwheels on stage — but I could have if I really wanted. That’s the next best thing.