Monthly Archives: November 2008

What the designing of the Boeing 777 taught me about how to use Apple’s Keynote to give memorable presentations

My attention this week was partially taken up with the news that the Boeing Corporation had completed tests on a core component of its newest design, the 787 Dreamliner, below.

Boeing 787 roll out at Everett

Boeing 787 roll out at Everett

The Dreamliner is Boeing’s answer to rival Airbus’ giant A380, which recently commenced service from Melbourne to Los Angeles with QANTAS. Smaller, and with a longer range, Boeing believes it is a better match for what the flying public desires than the Airbus competitor.

Built of new lightweight but very strong materials, some of the parts being assembled here in Melbourne, the Dreamliner is undergoing many tests before taking its first ever flight. This week on its website Boeing showed video of a very important test outcome: the destruction of the wing box, the central part of the aircraft to which the wings will be joined as well as the fuselage. It needs to be able to withstand huge forces and strain. You can see the test here.

In my work with fearful patients, especially those who believe severe turbulence will rip the wings from the aircraft, I show a similar test performed by Boeing more than ten years ago when its 777 was being tested before entering service. In this case, Boeing built a plane just for the purpose of destroying it, to see what forces the wings could withstand before breaking. To do this very strong steel cables were attached to each wing tip and pulled up in increments, with the hope the plane’s wings could withstand 150% of the worst the weather and a pilot’s poor handling could throw at it, as well as test it in advance of heavier versions being built.

In regular flight, wing tips can flex above or below the centre line by six foot. In the test, the wings bent twenty four feet from the horizontal before an explosive compression took place. You can see the video I show below:

It’s a pretty impressive video, and can start the cognitive shift fearful flyers need in the quest to feel safe on board commercial aircraft. (Touch of irony: The guy in the frame above holding his neck is former Boeing Commercial VP Allan Mullaly who was initially in charge of the 777 program. Later, he was cherry-picked to become Ford’s CEO and it was he and the other Detroit CEOs who copped huge ridicule when each flew in their company’s corporate jets to Washington DC seeking automotive bail-outs this week.)

I first saw this video, narrated by actor Peter Coyote, after a visit to the Boeing plant in Everett, Seatte, WA, and purchased the five-VHS tape series, made by PBS.

The design and manufacture of the 777 set new principles of collaboration for Boeing, between various departments as well as launch customer, United Airlines. (In the wing destruction video, above, the guy who puts the binoculars to his eyes, at 1’27”, is United’s liaison staff member.)

But the design of the airliner was also a first for Boeing in that it used computer workstations to perform many of the designs previously performed by hand on paper. Different departments  designed various systems, such as air-conditioning, hydraulics, moving control surfaces, interior design, etc. At various times in the past, full-sized aircraft mockups were designed, often out of wood or clay (much like cars are designed) to see how the various systems “came together”.

Every so often, a hydraulic element would “interfere” with the positioning of say an air conditioning duct. Then it was back to the drawing board for each department to eliminate this “interference”. Call it stamping out the bugs, to use a coder’s lingo.

What they had to do was design “affordances”, room for piping and other elements like wiring to co-exist in the same space. The advent of large and powerful computers and CAD/CAM software allowed engineers to make redesigns easily achieved while calling up other departments’ system designs to make sure of their shared affordances. (If you go back to the Boeing website and look at the middle video describing the undercarriage, you’ll see how many systems are involved and the close tolerances needed to allow the gear to move into position.)

It is here that I learnt of this concept of affordance, and I now apply it in my presentation magic training.

If you got to Wikipedia, here, you will see a variety of definitions of affordance, some of which contradict each other.

But if you’re reading this while toying with your iPod, then you’re likely to experience the kind of affordance I have in mind for my presentations. It’s an aspect of industrial design that leads the eye and hand to act in a certain way. The iPod’s scroll wheel and menu system were designed such that no manual was needed to operate the device, and learn its nuances.

Indeed, just this week, I was showing a colleague an iPod for his first time. He wanted to borrow it to record some lectures, and I was happy to lend it to him together with attachable iTalk recorder hardware. Within a few minutes, with me guiding him with words, and he using his fingers and thumb, he caught the essentials and reproduced them on his own without my advice.

This is affordance at work, and it has perhaps reached a near-zenith with the iPhone where again one needs very little instruction as to its use, and the design implicitly guides you into action. Contrast that with how Steve Jobs described its so-called “smart phone” competitors at the iPhone’s release almost two years ago, and you will also understand the concept of “interference”, where the menu system seems to be conspiring to make your use of the competing phone difficult and thus stressful.

Users, and audiences for that matter, give up if the task they are being asked to perform is too stressful or interfering with how they usually do things. Sometimes they know what they should do, and other times they don’t understand how things operate but that doesn’t matter as long as they get the main message. This is how magic becomes entertaining, when we know we are being fooled, but don’t know how the trick is done.

In presentations, I use my knowledge of neuroscience, and the social psychology of persuasion, to create affordances leading the audience where I want them to go. This is why the use of colour, pleasing animations, movies, sounds, text which matches voice, and other affordances make for engaging and memorable presentations.

It’s why I choose to use Keynote rather than other software because it better matches my desire to create affordances, not just for the audience but for slide design, while say, Powerpoint seems more intent to my taste on creating interferences.

This is why I so often describe Keynote as eliciting creativity because it seems to reduce the likelihood of interferences, even though at times I wonder what the programmers were thinking about. For instance, in Keynote 4, the addition of Instant Alpha has changed the way I work with Keynote. Look at the video below to see what I’m talking about.

Using Art Text’s wonderful icons, I wanted to use a paper clip to create a special effect, which most in an audience wouldn’t notice (but a Keynote user would).

Here’s what it looks like when I try to place the paper clip onto the picture in a way that emulates the real thing:

All that happens is that the picture covers up the clip. Of course, if you send the Clip forward of the picture, you will simply see the clip sitting on top of the picture, not doing its job of being a paper clip.

But with some use of a new affordance introduced in Keynote 4, Instant Alpha, a photo retouching device previously only available in third party software such as Photoshop, and somes screen shot magic, I can fool the eye into believing the photo is being placed between the loops of the clip – a 3D illusion in 2D, seen below.

It’s a very simple illusion which many wouldn’t bother to notice because it’s something they do most days (using paperclips) and is hardly outstanding. But those who create presentations will momentarily wonder how I did it, knowing it’s doable, but which “magic” was elicited to do so.

If you got a hold of the original Keynote file I created, you could “reverse engineer” my actions by looking within Keynote’s Inspector at the actions I created and seeing each step. In my Powertools session at Macworld 2009, I’ll be creating features like this, some more complex, and showing how to use Keynote’s abilities to elicit illusory acts which take quite some time to plan and execute in the design phase, and which may only last a few seconds in the audience’s attention span. So be it.

The whole idea about knowing the secret of affordances is that you are abandoning the cognitive style of Powerpoint (which is about making life easy for the presenter with bullet points, copy and paste text, and chintzy clip art providing a dumbed down message), by making your slides tell a story to make life for the audience easy, allowing your central message to penetrate and stick.

You see, if your presentation contains interferences – jarring transitions, pixelated images, written text competing with what your saying, and smartass animations for the sake of it – your messages are compromised and won’t stick. What will stick is an idea that will spontaneously form within about three minutes (the length of a speaker’s “honeymoon” period after commencing their presentation) which is that the audience will first check their watches, then their iPhones or Blackberries, and then how covertly they can leave the auditorium.

Affordances, if you know how to create those that sync. with how the brain works, will engage your audience. The best affordances involve the audience. Some presenters choose to do this, depending on their personal style, by asking questions directly of the audience, or having them chat to the person next to them, or have them close their eyes and imagine a scene, or break people up into small groups and have them do tasks. All well and good, and I’ve used each of them and more in workshops.

But I take particular pride in involving audiences without their knowing I’m doing it by my cognitive style, supported by what I can do with my voice, my body, and my slides.

In my Powertools workshop, we’ll look at all these factors and how to (hopefully) seamlessly integrate them while always keeping a focus on the central story. Indeed, telling stories is a major affordance by my definition, tapping into the human hard-wiring for story telling.

While it’s great to become extremely competent with your presentation software, knowing its in’s and out’s and becoming technically proficient, the danger is that this same competency can become an interference if all you do with it is to show off your prowess and thus lose your message in the process.

I’ve seen this happen when some have seen my presentations, taken some of the effects and devices, and applied it without suffcient thought to why I did what I did. What’s left is a pastiche of clever animations, funny cartoons, and an audience that leaves amused but not persuaded.

And a presenter who thinks they’ve abandoned their old traditional means of presenting in exchange for something for the 21st Century, but they’re only part of the way there. As are we all!

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Apple’s Keynote as an enabling technology for Generation We

There are times when I don’t give workshops on Presentation Magic, but use the magic to distill complex and confusing ideas in workshops on Technology. Note I use a capital T here, to speak of the concept underlying what a technology is.

I’m often invited to speak to groups who by dint of their age, or life experiences, didn’t jump on board the Internet Train but instead have been thrown on board by their employers, children or friends and expected to enjoy the ride. But it’s not fun when you’re just being jostled about in rattling carriages with windows half-open and you can’t enjoy much of a view. Oh, and those same “benefactors” give you their hand-me-down Windows 98 boxes, or conversely Windows Vista! But that is the subject of another blog!

So I see my task for this group is to be a travel advisor and commentator, a kind of Lonely Planet guide, helping them plan their itineraries, pack the necessary gear for the trip, and make the journey more comfortable. Believe it or not, in my other work where as a Clinical Psychologist working with fearful flyers, I actually do take on that role, but that is also the subject of another blog, here.

In workshops like these, my primary aim using Apple’s Keynote is to illustrate the journey we humans have taken to get to 2008 technologies, by noting that all the Ages of Man have been denoted by the tools humans used, or the outcome of using those tools.

Think about it: We have the Iron Age, not just because ferrous material was discovered but the use to which it was put; and thus we also have a Copper Age and a Bronze Age. Later, after the Middle Ages and the Dark Ages where the Church’s edicts ruled how knowledge about nature was to be understood, an Age of Enlightenment dawned, led by the likes of Sir Isaac Newton.

In living memory, following another technology-based age, the Industrial Revolution, we’ve had the Information Age, the Age of the Knowledge Worker, and now with Web 2.0 and beyond, the Age of Connectivity, following the advent of the Internet which some have suggested has caused a more profound global shift than the Age of Moveable Type, i.e., Gutenberg’s development of print technologies.

By heavily illustrating these concepts in Keynote, I’m allowed to convey to my workshop audience the concept I hold to: that while technologies about us mught shift very quickly (e.g, the adoption rate of the cellphone, with the major exemplar being the iPhone) we humans don’t change too quickly at all – we use technologies for the same purposes as our ancestors did thousands of years ago. And sometimes we must acknowledge how technologies live double lives: that for which its creator intended it to be used, to solve some identifiable problem better than the previous “mousetrap” (for better, read cheaper, faster, more reliably, etc); and a second purpose, when others seeking to solve other problems, co-opt the technology to serve them.

So while the Internet’s fathers in the US, particularly around Stanford and MIT, wanted a means to have academic departments communicate and share files, would they ever have conceived of Google or YouTube or the iPhone for that matter?

We’re talking here of the late 1960s… a time of major social change following Kennedy’s pledge to put a man on the moon, the spread of the integrated circuit, and the effects of the introduction of the contraceptive pill.

There were movies and books discussing the “generation gap”, where a motto sprang forward in the late 1960s: “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

But in recent times, analysts and social commentators have argued that this simple dichotomy based on year of birth is insufficient to explain the social changes currently being experienced. So we have descriptions of “Baby Boomers”, Gen X and Gen Y, and some say Gen M, where the M stands for Media or Me, reflecting a certain self-centredness perceived by Baby Boomers in their offspring.

But in a video below, made prior to the US elections urging young people to get out and vote for the first time, the young people portrayed describe themselves as Generation We.

The “We” is a collective noun, and reflects I think on new social media’s enabling one of technology’s main purposes: connectivity.

This is a generation of can-do’s, opting not to wait for their parents’ generation to fix the problems they created in their pursuit of happiness bought by consumerism. This is a generation who knows that technology must be harnessed if their future is not to be stricken with the excesses and ignorance of the previous generations.

And this is the generation who can decipher complex messages as long as they are delivered in an appropriate and appealing way. This generation, who have grown up with the expectation that information is available to them at the touch of a button, will not tolerate dumbed down, bullet-point driven message delivery methods (you knew I was getting there eventually, didn’t you?).

This is a group who will see thousands of messages in their lifetime, each competing for limited attention span. This group demands a much higher level of involvement in their own learning, who will not tolerate being lectured, and who will be far more self-sufficient than the current crop of recent college graduates.

If you are going to work with this group, either at college or by employing them, be aware that you will have to explore new ways of reaching out and holding their attention.

You will really have to understand learning styles, and accommodate the variations which hitherto have been ignored under a welter of poorly designed conventional slides or boring uninvolving presentations.

It’s presenting for the times we live in, with the available research on how knowledge is shared and shaped demanding technologies which can truly be called “enablers”.

When presenting I choose to use Apple’s Keynote as my enabling technology because it’s a better match to my cognitive style of conveying my ideas. It’s a personal thing, but I find Powerpoint even on the Mac, stifling and constraining. Mind you, when I speak to general audiences about styles of learning I’m platform-agnostic, and I rarely talk people out of using Powerpoint unless they expressly ask me what I used in my talks. That tells me they saw a difference and might be a little open to shifting their allegiances if they feel confident they can reproduce the kind of effects the have just witnessed.

Now take a little time to view the Generation We video, bearing in mind the pre-election period it was created in, and I thank my colleague Shawn Callahan of Anecdote.com for the heads-up.

Why Apple’s Keynote keeps raising the bar when it comes to presentations – it’s all to do with why it was created in the first place.

Is the Powerpoint style of presenting on the way down?

Is the style of Powerpoint on its way down?

There’s a long running comparison between Microsoft and Apple that suggests that while Apple can turn on a dime (or sixpence if you prefer) when it comes to dealing with the changing technology landscape, Microsoft is like the Titanic, unable to chart its way through troubled waters, and make the necessary rapid diversions to avoid obstacles, foreseeable or otherwise.

It had a chance to do so with mobile phone technologies, but CEO Steve Ballmer who saw the iPhone coming laughed it out of contention and continued on his predictable path. We’ll see where the SS Microsoft navigates to in a year or two with respect to cellphone software and market share.

It’s its sister ship, SS Powerpoint (above) that I’m considering in this post. Some time back, I wrote a blog entry entitled, “Just what is it about Keynote that is changing the way people present? where I trawled through the blogosphere looking for who was using Keynote and why. I was searching for others’ notions of Keynote’s ability to elicit creativity, non-conformity and and persuasiveness in its users so as to deliver impactful messages.

Since that time, I’ve noticed (because I look for such things) an increasing number of high profile presenters overtly using Keynote. I’ll update that blog entry soon, transferring over onto this Presentation Magic blog. Just this morning, on a discussion list I subscribe to, I saw the following message:

“My employer wants me to look into taking an advanced Apple Keynote course…. Our company is looking to migrate from PowerPoint to Keynote and I am the person who will be performing all of these tasks… I’m pretty versed in Keynote, but I think I’m just at the tip of the iceberg with the program. I know it can do more.

Well yes; it can.

In my travels where I’m just speaking about presentations, much like my friend Garr Reynolds with his Presentation Zen approach, I take a platform-agnostic stance. Audiences have not come to learn about software choices. But no matter whether the audience are teachers or CEOs, they know they haven’t seen Powerpoint in action.

They see razor sharp text (usually just a big word or two per slide), megasharp pictures (no pixelation), unfamiliar themes and backgrounds which don’t compete with what’s in the foreground (the message!), movies which play flawlessly within the slide without revealing the controls, spoiling the sense of a seamless presence, and they see intriguing, enhance-the-story transitions and builds (otherwise known as animations).

It’s not that Powerpoint, the application, can’t do these effects adequately – it can. Indeed, it goes one or two better than Keynote when it comes to picture manipulation abilities, for which one needs to leave Keynote 4 and seek third party assistance, such as Photoshop. And it has better timing controls, for sound and image “ins and outs”, something sorely lacking in Keynote 4, but which I expect to be addressed in an update, utilising the timing features we’ve seen in iLife apps. such as Garageband, iMovie and iDVD.

For me, in 2008, the historical differences in the products’ DNA is becoming glaringly obvious. Powerpoint, the app., can’t seem to shake off its corporate lineage, its graduation from being an ersatz overhead transparency producer for the Mac Plus and an adjunct for sales and marketing professionals, complete with bullet point templates for outlining a widget’s selling points.

Keynote’s origins, as a medium for Steve Jobs’ keynotes, where he would display his company’s wares, came as a cinematic, narrative device. Few will disagree that a Jobs’ keynote is a keenly anticipated event, often as not letting the non-techie world know where the techie world is heading. That’s not to say Jobs usually introduces unheard-of products. But he and Apple have displayed an uncanny knack since 1997 to reinvent the familiar, and turn it into something emotionally satisfying rather than a sterile object to be endured due to an impenetrable user interface or lack of reliability.

To help persuade us of Apple’s foresight and ability to provide emotionally satisfying products and future offerings, thus building up anticipation and desirability, as we witnessed with the iPhone introduction in 2007, Jobs uses Keynote to tell stories. Even when on rare occasions it fails, he tells stories such as when he and Woz would play pranks in their dorm using Woz’s gadgets, all the while no doubt hoping that the tech. gnomes in the support area are getting things working again. Pronto!

Keynote was designed from the ground up as a story telling device in the tradition of movie making, hardly surprising given Jobs’ involvement in Hollywood. It elicits in the user, scene construction, editing facilties, and high quality graphics and sound reproduction. A great deal of thought has been put into matching its themes with default fonts and photo cutouts. The reflection and shadowing effects, which Powerpoint has now added and in some ways exceeded, allows for lifting images and text off the page, playing into the audience’s depth perception capacities it takes for granted.

The capacity of Keynote to allow for exceptional vividness and presence is one of its secret herbs and spices, all too easy to neglect when all you’re doing is preparing the next bullet point series (must remember to keep to the 7 x 7 rule – as if!), and locating brain-wearying clip art. At least Powerpoint 2008 for the Mac has eschewed clip art for high quality photo objects.

One shouldn’t underestimate the story-telling, narrative-building capacities of Keynote. More than ever, the power to weave a story arc, with its beginning – middle – end, is essential for conveying complex ideas and concepts to naive audiences. By “naive” I don’t mean willfully ignorant, but an audience who is attending in order to learn and assimilate unfamiliar concepts into their own knowledge base. In order to do so, presenters would do well to make essential assumptions of the audiences prior knowledge, and build a story, using metaphors and similes and even biographical tales.

This is where Keynote’s advanced transitions and builds help the presenter weave his or her story, sometimes applying cinema quality dissolves Powerpoint is incapable of achieving, or advanced masking controls, much like matte artists at Industrial Light and Magic.

Indeed, it’s my guess that we will see in the next Keynote update even more acknowledgement of its cinematic heritage by the inclusion of the sort of effects we have come to see in such Apple products as Final Cut and Motion.

For the past five years since its introduction, Keynote has gently added new features, starting from a fairly low base compared to the bells and whistles Powerpoint users have come to expect. Long time users had to become quite innovative and clever in their use, making up for Keynote’s feature deficits, yet capitalising on its superior visual and text qualities. In Keynote 4, Apple unleashed some of the most desired and necessary features such as motion, alpha masking and scaling.

Keynote still lacks the diversity and multiplicity of features Powerpoint boasts. But if the feedback I receive is to be relied upon, audiences certainly don’t notice the disparity. Indeed, because they so often see the same unimaginative themes and unnecessary animations in Powerpoint, the simplicity of Keynote shines through.

It does mean that Keynote users work harder to achieve these effects, using the application’s precision features. This may come as a shock to those who expect Apple products to make life easier, but this is to misunderstand the desired effect: to make the audience’s task easier in understanding the presenter’s essential points.

I was once told that an expert makes a difficult task look so easy a beginner could contemplate undertaking the task, only to discover the task’s inherent difficulty.

Helping audiences understand difficult concepts, including ones they may intially resist, requires tools which help the presenter make the difficult seem possible. Keynote’s cinematic qualities taps into the dominant medium by which we learn and are entertained simultaneously.

Powerpoint will get there too, once its users shift from its cognitive style incorporating an overabundance of the written word, and it improves its graphics abilities. We are already seeing this shift with a number of books recently published acknowledging its deficits, and helping its users achieve more, focussing on essential presentation skills. Google the names “Cliff Atkinson“; “Stephen Kosslyn” and “Rick Altman“.

But by then, Keynote will have leapt ahead, improving its audio handling abilities, and incorporating sophisticated timeline features to assist presenters’ ability to have even more precise control over the slide and its elements. As Keynote’s strengths attract more third party developers, expect some thrilling breakthroughs in presentation capabilities.

That’s what I’m looking forward to including in my Powertools workshop – I won’t be surprised to receive news of such developments in the lead up to Macworld. Plus more rumours of a Keynote 5 on the way.

Powerpoint users may console themselves that it is still the dominant knowledge transfer tool on the planet. But today more than ever given financial circumstances, it’s time to stand out from the crowd and differentiate oneself. And with Macintosh market share growing, more and more switchers will peer inside their new Macs’ Application folder and wonder what this trial iWork bundle can achieve. Some will “get it” straight away, revelling in Keynote’s comparatively simple interface, while others will wonder how they will get by with such a “minimal” set of tools. But if they persevere, use facilities like Apple’s online seminars featuring Keynote or sign up for Lynda.com self-paced tutuorials, they will ultimately come to understand why Keynote generates so much enthusiasm by its long-term users, despite its shortcomings.

Please use the comments section to share your Keynote stories, especially if you’re a switcher. You can be assured Apple’s Keynote team will be listening!

Will Obama’s Victory speech change the way people present for the better? And does that mean more acceptance of Apple’s Keynote software as the tool of choice?

This week in Melbourne we’ve observed, neigh(!), participated in two races: a 22 horse race known as the Melbourne Cup, and a two horse race in the US, which will have a far greater impact on the world’s future than the horse race.

Nonetheless, in an ironic twist, so iconic has the Melbourne Cup become (it is the second richest race in the world after the Dubai Cup), that Victorians have a public holiday! Yes, we get a day off from work in celebration of a horse race, while the rest of Australia works. It’s not called “The race that stops a nation” for nothing!

This day off gave me time at home to further prepare some presentations, and try and get my Macworld 2009 workbook ready for publication. From it and my blogs, I hope I can publish a book (in print or pdf) which details some of my thoughts and actions when it comes to presentations.

You see, I believe being able to present well, whether it’s at a conference for scientists, or a small business proposal meeting to raise funds, be it a CEO delivering at an annual shareholders’ meeting, or yes, a Presidential candidate trying to get your vote, it is a fundamental 21st century skill. It’s also one of the most feared modern human activities! I count myself lucky to have had much exposure when I was young to presenting, whether it be in class at school or college, or on radio, in print, or on TV. I feel comfortable in all media, and indeed have taught media management skills previously.

When a tool like Keynote comes along, as it did in 2003, one grasps it fiercely, having recognised its qualities to elicit emotional responses to message delivery, quite at variance to the dominant message delivery platform for presentations, Powerpoint. Yes, I have seen bad Keynote and good Powerpoint, but each is rare!

With Obama winning on Tuesday, we were witnesses to two very important speeches: Obama’s victory speech, and McCain’s concession speech. Each was a emotional symbol of the man’s character, as I heard and felt them.

McCain revisited himself, without the weight of the Republican party hopes resting on his shoulders. Here in Australia, the power of the former conservative government was in keeping its factions in check, while pointing to the opposition’s “ownership” by powerful trade unions (sound familiar to my US colleagues?) in over-riding more moderate progressives within the party.

This year, the Republican factions became all too obvious and those more moderate Republicans and swinging independents refused to hear the same old FUD (see my previous blog entry, comments and all).

While Sarah Palin impressed many at the Republican Convention and held her own during the single Vice-Presidential debate, it was clear to me she had been well-rehearsed and coached, and had much presence and appeal.

But in her one-on-one interviews, her lack of depth, both intellectual and political, was on show for all to see. Like actors, she was only as good as her last performance, and while many will hold on to her initial presentation at the Convention, her later performances with the likes of Katie Couric and the merciless parodies by Tina Fey will likely see Gov. Palin reduced to a page on Wikipedia.

Obama left his best speech until last, following McCain’s concession speech, which you can see him watching below, courtesy of a Flikr link here.

Obama watches McCain's concession speech

Obama watches McCain

While those who had kept an eye and ear on Obama since 2004 knew he was going places through his oratory and passion, it’s only in these last two years and in particularly these last few months when many have really listened to the man speak.

His speech on Tuesday night in Grant Park, Chicago, will be listened to again and again, for all manner of reasons. It reminded me of one of my slides from my Macworld 2008 presentation, which I modelled on this book, below:

Peak Performance Presentations

Peak Performance Presentations

In my presentation, I wanted to remind the audience that we ought not rely on technology to help us be persuasive. That like lead actors, we need to use technology as support acts to help us get our message across, not be the message. Initially, I showed a humourous video of technology gone wrong, then referred to a blank slide where I reminded the audience that some of the most memorable and influential speeches in living (and recorded) memory came without technological assistance (albeit with microphones).

On a blank slide, I brought in a panel showing Winston Churchill behind a microphone, accompanied by a his voice: “We will fight them on the beaches….”

This slide occupied the left third of the screen, such that audience members were now expecting the other two thirds to be filled with more speeches. I then showed a picture of JFK behind the microphone on the slide’s right third, with his voice saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you…”.

This left the middle panel to be filled.

I chose to fill it with Martin Luther King behind the microphone, with his voice: “I have a dream…”

It was a powerful moment in the Macworld presentation, and I was taken back to that moment when I listened to Obama’s speech on Wednesday, my time. No doubt in a future presentation, I will likely include parts of it, perhaps leaving Churchill to one side, especially if I’m working with a youngish audience.

There are any number of phrases to select:

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.”

“And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.”

And while it’s long, these three paragraphs, with their story telling, and emotionality, will no doubt bring a tear to some:

“This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.”

And while I will show a picture of Obama when we hear his voice, as the audio concludes, I’ll transit to this picture of Jesse Jackson listening to the speech (I think a very slow dissolve will add to the emotionality), and no doubt many in the audience familiar with him will be empathising with his feelings, knowing his struggles and how his hopes have now been realised.

jackson
You see, even though I might be telegraphing what I will do in a future presentation, it won’t spoil the emotions of the moment nor the persuasiveness of slide and my commentary.

What this all means is that we now have a President who is an orator of the first order, unlike the incumbent President Bush, whom Dave Letterman pillories each night in his “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches” parody.

My prediction is that now more than ever is the time when expectations of giving great presentations, whether in scientific or academic conferences, in business or in ministries and schools, will peak. Lacklustre Powerpoint-based “shows” will no longer cut it.

This will be the case especially in schools and colleges. This election had a huge turn out of young people, some voting for the first time, impressed no doubt with the change desired by so many, together with Obama clear technological savvy  with his exemplary use of SMS,  Facebook, iApps for the iPhone and so on.

This is a cohort who are themselves media savvy, creating their own entertainment and news reporting, and it is this group who will reject long winded, passionless speeches and bullet point-riddled presentations with accompanying chintzy clip art and moronic “beanie” people. This is the group who take megapixel-sharp photos with their cellphones, and share them on Flickr and Facebook.

This group will expect their teachers and figures of authority to present well, and Obama has set a very high standard indeed. Expect an increase in enrolments in speech coaching groups like Toastmasters.

But just as importantly, this is a group very switched on to the Mac, which as you know comes bundled when purchased with a trial copy of iWork and thus Keynote.

I’m guessing in the next update of Keynote we will see even more movement to a merging of Keynote and elements of iMovie and Garageband. We have already seen how the current version of Keynote has numerous export options suitable for podcasting. But I also expect to see more tools to help Keynote help you create memorable presentations. Like most things Apple, it will guide its users to be more creative, then get out of their way when they need to be centre stage.

This is why Paul Kent, MD of Macworld, and who invited me to present at once more at Macworld 2009, is such a smart guy.  But he has made life tough for me. He knows he wants my Powertools workshop to evoke the same reaction as this year’s presentation, where I showed Keynote in action rather than talked directly about it (to the disappointment of about 10% of the audience, judging by the evaluations).

But he also asked me to show how I go about thinking and creating with Keynote, so you get to see how the magic happens. Unlike a magician who never gives away his or her secrets, I am in my element sharing my knowledge, receiving feedback, and showing how to do things differently. Not just to be oppositional, but because my way of doing things differently is a better match for what the science of persuasion and influence tells us.

Teaching presentation skills is so much more than teaching the mechanics of how software works, which seems to be how so many workshops on Powerpoint operate.

Over to you now… regardless of your political persuasion and whether you think Obama’s actions can match his rhetoric, what do you think about my central thesis, that he has raised expectations for anyone who wishes to speak to an audience?