It’s not every day that one gets a chance to visit with the team responsible for the ongoing development of one’s favourite piece of software, to be asked to do a presentation using that software for open discussion between developer and end-user, and to have a slide praised and queried by the manager of the team that put together the effects one used (motion)!
Well, that’s what happened to me Wednesday in Pittsburgh when I accepted an invitation from a senior member of the Keynote team to visit and present.
I want to thank the team for their warm reception of my work, their generosity of spirit and their reading of my blog which from time to time seems to have made some impact upon their conceptualising of future Keynote feature sets.
When I return to Australia next week, I’ll write in more detail of my visit. But off the bat, let me make it clear I signed no NDA and was given no secret information about upcoming changes to Keynote. Suffice to say, that work on improving Keynote continues apace, the team is focussed on the opportunities Keynote can give to presenters like me, and they are eager to understand how end users employ their product.
I can certainly offer guesses based on my observations and spontaneous responses to my ideas and slides, and formulate a speculative roadmap, but this should not be interpreted as anything more than educated guesswork. Moreover, I feel ethically bound not to speak of things I gleaned because the team acknowledged to me their race to best their competitors and the need for surprise and delight when introducing new feature sets, as we saw in the introduction of Keynote 09. While I and others had been steadily picking up clues about KN09′s new features from Steve Jobs 2008 keynotes, the feature additions KN09 introduced were unpredicted delights, as well as extensions of previous feature sets.
I’m not the first presenter who uses Keynote to present to the team, and I understood that such invites are extended to those who use the product in either unusual ways (ie., in ways the team may not have expected Keynote to be used) or because there is recognition of the presenter’s status within the community, such as my workshops at Macworld these past two years. Both of these events have been related to my writings on Keynote, my obvious passion for the software, and the feature lists I have written of wanting, which have appeared in my blog writing over the years.
These feature requests have been written about with evidence provided as to why I want them included, how it would change my presentations for the better, and with evidence marshalled as to the impact on an audience should the features be included in a future version.
So in discussion with the team leadership, it was agreed that I would start with my philosophy of presenting, the scientific basis of my ideas, and then shown some real examples of presentations I have given to a variety of audiences.
I would do the talk by doing the walk.
And along the way, I would explain how I performed certain builds and why I chose to organise my ideas a certain way. Within the talk would be some feature requests of my own, plus those of others who had contacted me on the Apple Keynote group on Yahoo. I didn’t provide a laundry list, but preferred to do a presentation that offered the ocular proof of certain shortcomings, and offer evidence of how including my requests in version updates would be of benefit for a large number of presenters, justifying the development expense.
For every claim I made in my presentation, I tried to offer up evidence of its importance, and I did this by both example, as well as involving the team by having them observe my ideas in ways they couldn’t ignore. By this I mean I took advantage of my psychologist’s knowledge of neuroscience and perceptual systems to both amuse and educate the group. By the way, the group included both engineers and coders, as well as design interface folk, some of whom had only communicated with each other previously via videoconferencing (presumably iChat).
Some of the ideas I proposed for future versions had clearly been canvassed before, and had been either rejected eventually (for reasons I didn’t ask about), or are in development currently (I didn’t ask about those either, not wanting to get into NDA territory).
So both I and the assembled team had our own agendas to fulfil in this meeting. For me, it was a somewhat daunting task to use the builds, animations and transitions my audience has created, and who know how the magic was done, or who could easily work it out after a few moments. Quite different than other crowds where if you use Keynote in certain ways, you will get your fair collection of reinforcing “Oohs” and “Ahs” and even in front of a Keynote-crowd, a few “How did he do that?”
Nor did I want to do a dog-and-pony show to demonstrate my skills. There are others with far more talent at “Gee Whiz” stuff than I. No, the point was to illustrate my philosophy of presenting, provide evidence for how I see Keynote differentiating itself from its competitors, and how and why I see the world of presenting developing into “Presentation 2.0″. For Keynote to lead the way, I wanted the team to understand the improvements it could develop, and remove some of the hurdles (limitations and extra clicks) I have to work around currently.
I’ll go into more depth in Part II, and include material I only thought of afterwards (and regretted not saying while I had the team’s ears there and then), but there were two concepts I wanted to get across early.
These relate to the concept of “Presentation 2.0″, and for this I showed some slides from a stack I use in a presentation I give on Web 2.0 called, “Technology – how did we get here and where are we going?” This is a talk for technophobes (usually my psychologist colleagues) who are fearful they are out of the swing of things technical and need a crash course in technology updating. This talk allows me to expound on some of my ideas on the history of technology, and leads into the brain sciences and how, while technology may change swiftly, the reasons we use technologies haven’t changed much in thousands of years of human endeavour.
Now I need to point out that I had no idea of the level of knowledge the KN team had of my ideas, of whether they were au fait with the writings of Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte, leading Presentation 2.0 thinkers, and how the team used Keynote to give inhouse presentations. Was I preaching to the choir, or was there real learning to be offered up regarding presentation skills? Certainly, team management was very aware of Garr and Nancy’s work, and their philosophies and practices.
Nonetheless, I ploughed on, in the knowledge that my take on presentations was both complementary to Garr and Nancy, but also came from a different place, away from design per se, and more from human learning and the brain sciences.
I showed how contemporary media are employing some of the graphical designs I too employ in my slide construction, and why.
While showing these ideas, and asking for the team to consider making them come to life on the slide with less clicks and more options (within reason), I emphasised what I think is at the heart of Presentation 2.0 and its links with Web 2.0.
At the heart of Presentation 2.0
What’s at the heart of Presentation 2.0? Think for a moment where we are now with Web 2.0. There is a direct line between service and product provider, and consumer, such that consumers or end users can blog, or tweet, or facebook about providers and influence the decisions of other potential consumers. We get valid information about product reliability for instance from bloggers and commenters on blogs, as much as we do from mainstream media reviewers. Think about the reviews you read on Amazon which includes “official” editorial contributions and reviews by purchasers, perhaps much more like us, and thus to be considered more reliable than biased writers.
And there are a huge number of sites by which to locate reviews, recommendations, rumours and insider stories.
Put these the concepts together, as I did to the KN team, and you come up with two properties in short supply currently (or more than ever before): Authenticity (who do you trust) and Attention (who should I attend to, given competing sources of information and competition for my time?).
I wanted the Keynote team to understand that when I construct my slides these two ideas stay in my mind, and they are more to do with my audience than they are with me. I need to establish my Authority and Authenticity for my audience to keep engaged, and I need to know how the brain works, so that despite my endeavours to increase the former two A’s, I embrace the challenges to the other A, Attention, which can wander due to how our brains function.
I spoke of these concepts early in my presentation, because it helps explain why I choose to perform certain slide constructions, and how I contemplate the intended impact on particular audiences. This is why it was important not to do a dog-and-pony show, but to demonstrate my conceptualisations and how Keynote figured into them. Now I don’t know how any individuals in the KN team responded to my audience-centric approach, but I do know on occasions in responding to their questions, I had to work a little to get my point across, given the team is very much about the end user experience. But in my case the end user is my audience, and Keynote merely a tool to achieve a particular series of effects upon my audience.
So in offering up a set of features I wished to see included in future versions, I couched these requests in the context of helping me achieve my dual aims of generating Authenticity and demanding Attention. My hope on the day was that my audience in Pittsburgh would experience my authenticity, and thus my authority on the subject, not just from my writings, but from their own experience with me. And that I kept their attention despite competition from their high workload drawing them away from the meeting, and having seen all the Keynote razzle-dazzle before – since they constructed the effects!
Next week, when I return to Melbourne, I’ll write Part 2 of this blog entry, and include some of the features I requested, and show examples of things I overlooked to mention in the heat of the moment. And when the team members looked at each other, as if to say, so why aren’t we doing this?