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Using Your iPad for Visual Preaching

By Larry Witzel

Pastor using an iPad for preaching.A few months back, I decided to try using my iPad for preaching. When I speak, I don’t use a manuscript, instead relying on the sermon graphics as visual cues. My problem was that when we moved into a new facility earlier this year, the screen on the back wall was too small for me to read from the stage, and the congregation’s screen is almost directly overhead. So I had to print out my slides with a color printer, which added a significant extra step to my preparation and limited last-minute changes.

The iPad offered a promising solution to the problem, while adding some nice features. First, the large, bright screen made it easy to read the slides. Furthermore, when presenting with the iPad you have 4 different possible views, which you can change on the fly: current slide, next slide, current and next slide side-by-side, and current slide with speaker notes.

Second, you actually control the slides from your iPad, so you don’t need a remote clicker, too. Third, the iPad presentation display shows a timer, which starts when you make your first slide change, so you can easily see how long you’ve actually been speaking. Fourth, it allows you to make quick changes just minutes before you begin, right from the iPad. And finally, if like me you use slides as visual cues for your sermon, it gives you confidence to know that even if the projector quits working—or the power goes out completely—you could still preach your sermon from your slides, right on the iPad.

The best part is that all of SermonView’s slide sets are compatible with Keynote on the iPad, so I was able to seamlessly move my preaching graphics to the device for presentation.

Aside from a small technical glitch (more on that later), the experience was amazing, and I’m hooked. So I wanted to share the specific technical details of how this works, along with some tips for making it easier.

The big picture

The key to this whole solution is a new Apple technology called “AirPlay.” This allows an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to send whatever is on the screen to another Apple device.

Until recently, you had to have a Mac connected to the projector for this to work, which made it a very expensive proposition. But last year, the company released Apple TV, which is a small black box that would typically sit next to your TV. This device also receives AirPlay, so by putting an Apple TV in your projection booth you can take anything on your iPad and project it.

What you need

Here is what you need for this solution:

  • Apple TV with remoteAn iPad with Keynote installed. Keynote is Apple’s presentation software, a $5 app for the iPad.
  • An Apple TV. This small $99 device is what your iPad connects with to send images to the projector.
  • A WiFi router. If you don’t already have one, get the cheapest new WiFi router you can find, generally $30 or less.

Tip: This doesn’t have to have an Internet connection. You just need a network to which both the iPad and the Apple TV can connect.

  • A projector with HDMI input. Almost every new projector in the last few years has an HDMI input. But if the projector in your sanctuary is more than 5 years old, you might need an HDMI-to-VGA adapter, which you can pick up online for under $10.
  • A computer for building your slides. This can be either a Mac, using Keynote, or a Windows PC, using Microsoft PowerPoint.

The bottom line: If you already have an iPad and a projector, you can get completely set up for less than $150.

Initial setup

Tip: if you’re not technically inclined, ask one of your young adults for help.

  1. If you don’t already have a WiFi router installed in your building, set that up first. It doesn’t need to be connected to the Internet, though if you have a DSL or cable modem connection that would be helpful for updating the Apple TV software.
  1. AirPlay on the Apple TVConnect the Apple TV to the projector, turn it on, and connect it to your WiFi network. You use the little remote to enter your WiFi password into the Apple TV. If you have an Internet connection, it will probably want to update the software, which can take up to 30 minutes, depending on your connection speed.

Tip: Set your screen saver delay to an hour or more, so that it doesn’t kick on during the sermon. Also set the sleep delay to 5 hours, because if it’s sleeping AirPlay can’t wake it up.

  1. Enable AirPlay in your Apple TV settings.

Tip: You should also set up an AirPlay password, so that someone else with an iOS device can’t hijack your projector during the service.

  1. Connect your iPad to the WiFi network.

Remember: If you don’t have an Internet connection, your iPad will show that it is connected to a network, but you won’t be able to access email, browse the web, or use any apps that require an Internet connection.

Using AirPlay

Once you see the main Apple TV screen being displayed with your projector, and have your iPad connected to the same network, you’re ready to try out AirPlay.

Turning on AirPlay on the iPad

To turn on AirPlay on your iPad, double click the home button. (That’s the one button on the front of your iPad.) This brings up the “multitasking bar,” which shows the most recent apps you’ve used on the iPad.

Now swipe that bar to the right, revealing some audio/video controls. If the Apple TV and iPad are both set up correctly on the same network, one of those will be the AirPlay button.

Tap the AirPlay icon, select your Apple TV, and turn on “Mirroring.” (In the image, you’ll see that I named my Apple TV “Slide Booth.”) You should now see the contents of your iPad screen on your projection screen.

Preparing your slides

  1. Use your computer to build your slides, as you normally do. I find creating new presentations on the iPad to be incredibly frustrating. Keynote on the iPad doesn’t have a lot of the presentation development features found in PowerPoint or Keynote for the Mac, making it hard to get things to look the way I want them to. So I just use my laptop to create the slides. Download whatever graphic sets you need from SermonView.com, import them into your presentation, then add your key points and scripture verses. If you use PowerPoint, you can add notes in the bottom notes field for each slide. You’ll be able to view these on your iPad during the presentation.

Tip: If you want to use a nice cross-dissolve between slides, like I do, in PowerPoint I would select “Fade,” or “Fade Smoothly” on PowerPoint 2003 and previous versions. However, this does not import to a similar transition in Keynote. You’ll need to use the “Dissolve” transition in PowerPoint, which Keynote imports as a nice, smooth dissolve.

  1. Transfer the PowerPoint file to your iPad. I use Dropbox extensively, so when I save the file in my Dropbox folder it will automatically be available using the Dropbox iPad app. You can use another method for transferring, or simply email the presentation to yourself and open it on the iPad.
  2. Open the PowerPoint file in Keynote. This will take a moment to import, then will be available for you to use.
  3. Make last-minute edits on the iPad. While creating complete presentations is difficult on the iPad, it’s pretty easy to fix typos or add a slide here or there.

Preaching with the iPad

Before the service begins, turn on the Apple TV and make sure you can connect your iPad to it with AirPlay.

Tip: Turn off AirPlay after you test it in the morning, because while it’s on everything you do with the iPad is getting sent to the Apple TV device.

A few minutes before you begin preaching, turn AirPlay back on.

When you get up to speak, have your A/V person switch the projector over to the Apple TV. You now have full control over your slides while you preach. When you’re done, turn off the projector before you turn off AirPlay.

My technical glitch

The first time I preached with my iPad, I added a slide just a few minutes before I started. I had already turned on AirPlay, so everything was getting sent to the Apple TV.

As I stood up to speak, my slide guy switched the projector over to the Apple TV input. But instead of showing my title slide, the Apple TV had a dialog box open: “An update for Apple TV is available. Download it now?” Uh oh, I thought. “Hey, Grant,” I said, “would you mind canceling that update? Now is not a good time.” Laughter.

When he canceled it, suddenly the Apple TV started racing through a history of all the screen states of the iPad since that Apple TV dialog box opened. In about 30 seconds, it showed every letter I typed, every slide I moved, and every app I had opened during the previous 30 minutes. I stood there watching, and just said, “Wow.” When it was done, and my title slide was showing, I said, “Well, that’s my sermon for today. Let’s sing our closing song and go home.” It ended up being a delightfully funny moment, and we moved on from there. The rest of the sermon slides went off without a glitch.

Here’s why I share this story: any time you adopt new technology, especially for something as important as your weekly worship service, you need to test it. A lot. Don’t just assume it’s going to work the way it does at home. The best thing to do is actually run it real time during the week before your first time, doing your pre-service test at 8:30 a.m., for example, then waiting until at 11:30 a.m. to do a full run-through. Better yet, do the testing with your A/V team, so they get some experience, too.

In this case, I had already used the system for several weeks in our new believer’s class. But in that environment, my WiFi router wasn’t connected to the Internet. Upstairs, it was, and that small change caused a pretty significant glitch.

It’s your turn

Preaching with an iPad is clearly not for everyone, and it may not be a tool you’re comfortable with. As the saying goes, you need to fight in your own armor.

If you’ve read this far, though, I encourage you to try it out. Let us know how it goes, and come back to share your experience.

For me, this powerful tool is a game changer, and God willing I look forward to preaching with an iPad for many years to come.


Apple’s AirPlay page: http://www.apple.com/airplay
Using AirPlay on iPad: http://ipad.about.com/od/iPad_Guide/ss/How-To-Use-Airplay-On-The-iPad.htm
Troubleshooting AirPlay: http://support.apple.com/kb/TS4215



Written by Larry Witzel
November 13th, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Visual Preaching

3 Responses to 'Using Your iPad for Visual Preaching'

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  1. Thanks for the directions all clearly laid out. I would only add, that you can utilize you iphone as a wireless control remote with downloading the app that has the same keynote logo on it with an arrow.

    Yes, I have been utilizing this for a few months and really love it. I am getting a adapter to convert the digital audio (optical output) to analog so that I can play videos too from the iPad.

    Ted Calkins

    Nov 14, 2012

  2. I fully endorse this technical opportunity. By having full control from my IPad and all visual information in one place, including speaker notes, my presentation is far more fluid.

    I have found effective put my scripture passage in the speaker notes and flash passage related key words or phrases on the screen for my audience. This adds impact to the passage without cluttering the screen visually.

    Rick New

    May 22, 2013

  3. Love the article. I’ve been using iPad for Keynote presentations, like these ideas.
    One caution. If the presentations are prepared elsewhere, make sure to run through them on the iPad, because sometimes bullets, fonts, etc. will change.


    May 23, 2013

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