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5 meeting apps for project managers

Ian Sharpe bought an Apple iPad “because it was cool” but knew its potential for managing projects would go beyond the ‘latest gadget’ factor.

Sharpe is a principal consultant with UXC Consulting, part of UXC Limited, the largest Australian-owned provider of ICT consulting services. Like many in the project management field, he immediately saw the potential of the iPad as a tool that could make liaising with clients and doing presentations easier.

“I started with some of the pains I had as a consultant and as a project manager. Those pains were: having to carry around a lot of documentation in paper form, having to carry a laptop around—when travelling on the train I needed something that was lightweight, allowed me to easily reference documents and be able to provide feedback to staff and clients on the go,” he describes.

“Then I thought to myself, I do a lot of presentations and if I have a way of presenting PowerPoint presentations simply, it could serve as a virtual brochure and also to drive presentations for workshops or client training.”

Sharpe sought apps that would be suitable for project managers conducting meetings and presentations. Here are five of his top picks:

1. Dropbox (www.dropbox.com)

This cloud-based storage facility is no stranger to multiple devices: in fact, you probably already use Dropbox as a repository for sharing files between your PC and smartphone. Your first 2GB are free, then the next level up is US$9.99 for 50GB.

“The ability to host files in the cloud and have them accessible across your PC and other devices is extremely useful,” says Sharpe. “What it is excellent for is storing general reference material, files, templates, documents at your fingertips.

“For example, I use Dropbox for online storage to be able to access references for AIPM Competency Standards, or PMI Standards or IPMA standards. I did a calculation and found that if I were to carry around all those, the stack would be three metres high and weigh 20 kilos as opposed to a slim and light iPad.”

2. iAnnotate (www.ajidev.com/iannotate)

Just as the name says it allows you to annotate PDFs, PowerPoint and Word documents with a stylus or in type.

“The clever thing is then being able to share these back to whoever you need to say ‘here are all the changes I’d like you to make’ or just send them a report with all of the mark-ups visible,” says Sharpe. “The person at the other end is opening up a normal annotated PDF so they don’t need anything other than Acrobat Reader to see things in context.”

3. iThoughts (www.ipadmindmap.com)

Brainstorming on steroids!

“I do a lot of workshops and in workshops I do a lot of brainstorming,” explains Sharpe. “There are several ways I can use this to drive the brainstorming part and give my client a nice visual on screen reflecting the fluid and fast nature of brainstorming and also have something that could be readily worked with and turned into deliverables, into an action plan.”

In tandem with a data projector, the project manager can evolve the mindmap as the client discusses ideas. “I’m capturing it on the screen and they are seeing what’s being captured,” notes Sharpe.

“What most of the other mindmapping software doesn’t do yet is capture a standard file format for mindmapping that you can then use with other applications—specifically Mind Genius (www.mindgenius.com). In Mind Genius you can, at the press of a button, turn that into a work breakdown structure.”

Transportability between programs is crucial because it means less rework and more accurate depictions of what you plotted in the meeting. “It used to be that you’d only bring across the name, now you can bring across the dependencies and resources should you want to go to that degree,” says Sharpe. “It’s a very swift integration and quite impressive.”

4. Keynote (Apple app store)

This one is for the presenters who want all the functionality of PowerPoint in tablet form. While you’ll still have to make sure all your precious slides work the way you need them to—”it’s about 90% effective in that if I bring it in I will have some minor changes to make”—Keynote has been one of the better apps for importing PowerPoint, Sharpe believes.

“I was frustrated that I couldn’t just take a PowerPoint and open it up on the iPad in the native PowerPoint format. Keynote gives me the ability to design a presentation or tweak the presentation to get it looking like the original PowerPoint, working in the way it was designed and intended to.”

The Keynote Remote app also allows you to use your iPhone as a presentation remote and, paired with the Apple VGA adapter, you can connect your iPad to a data projector and present it on the big screen.

5. i-Clickr (www.senstic.com)

Along the lines of Keynote Remote, i-Clickr is another presentation remote you can use on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

“You could use that to drive a presentation on your laptop directly from your iPhone or iPad,” says Sharpe. “If you’re going to buy a remote control you’re looking at about $100 and that’s all it does; $10 for an application on a device I already have? It’s an obvious move.”

What are your favourite meeting or presentation apps?

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Adeline Teoh is the editor and publisher of ProjectManager.com.au. She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
Adeline Teoh has written 54 articles for us.