Picking a clicker

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There is nothing worse than when clickers go bad. It throws the presenter off their game, and the audience gets uncomfortable –  sitting awkwardly as things grind to a halt.

I’ve been there. I’ve tried tons of clickers. Some I’ve liked, others have inspired me to test their aerodynamics.  Moreover, I’m often the one handing it to an exec before pushing them on stage.  I want that exec smiling when he or she comes back.

Now, there are clickers out there that can work reliably even when you are separated from your laptop by 30 feet of concrete.  Here I’m assuming you are looking for something for more general use (but if you are interested in the big guns I’ve put a few links at the bottom).

Sadly, clicker models come and go quickly.  I’ve tried making a list of my top picks before, but it always seemed instantly out of date.  Instead, I want to pass on some thoughts on what to look for while shopping:

A real on/off switch. You don’t want the clicker to turn on while in your bag and be out of juice when you need it. Clickers with on/off buttons that can be accidentally depressed while in transit are to be avoided.

As few buttons as possible. I can’t imagine a clicker with less than two buttons, but I don’t see a lot of value in having more than that. You need to be able to move forward and backward through your presentation, anything else adds unnecessary complexity. Plus, when you hand it to someone else they will immediately get how it works.

A spare battery compartment. I’ve only seen this on a few models but it’s great to know you have a hot spare ready to take over. Batteries will die, and at the worst moments.  (If you can’t find something with this feature, rubber band a spare battery to it while in transit.)

Storage for that little USB receiver you put in your laptop. This is a common feature, and not having it is a deal killer.  I have enough trouble remembering to get the receiver back, I don’t want to lose it along the way.

Bluetooth? The pairing process is tedious, and what if you have to switch laptops at the last second?  It’s not worth it.

Quality (But there’s a catch…). You want something rugged enough to stand up to your road-warrior lifestyle. Sadly, it’s hard to get an idea of how tough they are before buying. Sticking with a well-known brand like Targus, Kensington, or Logitech is a good idea. Be sure to check the online reviews.

Value (…this is the catch). I’ve loaned out more clickers than I’ve gotten back. I’ve also stepped on them, lost them, and dropped them down stairs. As a result I try not to overspend, and even buy two when possible.  So yes, buy quality — but don’t think of it as a long-term investment.

Now, some things to keep in mind AFTER you make your purchase:

  1. Put your email address on it to increase the chances it will find its way back to you.
  2. Put a brightly colored piece of tape on it so you can easily spot if from across the room.
  3. Don’t be fooled when it works great in rehearsal! When the audience takes their seats, each with 1-5 electronic devices running, your hard-working clicker suddenly has to work a lot harder.  Rule of thumb, find the maximum distance in rehearsal and then plan for 1/4 of that at showtime (or consider the pro options below).

This might sound like a lot to think about for such a simple piece of equipment, but I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons. I hope this helps, and keep those spare batteries close!

//peter

 

* The best production folks I’ve worked with use systems from Intersapce and MasterCue when they need to haul out the big guns.

Peter McKiernan
peter@zumcom.com

Director | Peter@zumcom.com