Monthly Archives: March 2011

Oh my, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a presentation that stopped me in my tracks – Deb Roy @ TED just did

Oh my, it’s not everyday I wet myself in slack jawed “Did I just see what I just saw” response to a presentation, but by both its content and its presentation style, I am blown away by one of TED’s latest talks posted.

This is from MIT Cognitive Scientist, Deb Roy, detailing – and I mean detailing – his son’s word development.

I promise you, you have not see visual display of data like this – ever. No wonder he is turning it into a commercial venture.

Stop what you’re doing and look below, and enjoy (Oh and after, go to the TED page itself here and scroll down through the comments, quite a few negative and unimpressed, and then read Deb’s reposte):

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Xander Soren demoing Garageband at the iPad 2 keynote – you’ll not see a finer example of a tech presentation and demo for many years

At last week’s iPad 2 keynote, those of us watching and waiting for evidence of new features for Apple’s Keynote presentation software received both good news and bad.

The bad news was that we saw nothing new beyond that which we’ve seen in the past year of Keynotes from Apple. In fact, we saw less evidence of the inclusion of new effects when compared to the keynote introducing the iPad 1 in January 2010.

The good news – by inference – is that the next update to Keynote has been baked and must now be cooling, ready for serving. What’s holding up its delivery to hungry Keynote users I would assert is a timing issue, rather than a development issue. Perhaps the next version of Keynote is tied to the release or update of some other Apple product, like MobileMe or or AppleTV, before it goes to the public.

Or perhaps, as I have suggested in a previous blog entry, it will be released when Keynote for the iPad 2 is released March 11 in the USA, March 25 in selected other Apple countries, and then elsewhere. Keynote 2 will move closer to parity to the existing desktop Keynote feature set to take advantage of iPad 2 increased horsepower, one assumes.

The other good news for watchers of Apple keynotes was the sprightliness of Jobs’ performance. Many had assumed he would remain on medical leave, meaning his usual deputies would give the show. Clearly, Jobs has deep affection for the iPad, seeing it as yet another disruptive hardware/software product from Apple which “changes everything” to use an expression from a 2007 Jobs keynote, when he introduced the iPhone.

If you are a presenter who likes to watch others perform, for both inspiration, direct learning, or merely to admire expertise in action, this past week’s keynote is one to watch several times to truly add to your principles of presentation. While others may view the keynote to learn of the iPad’s attributes, presenters have an opportunity to view not one, but two masters of presentation in action.

Jobs clearly is one of them, and while his deputies did a fine job, only one truly stood out as simply astounding. And when you watch Jobs’ reaction as he accepts the slide clicker at the end of his deputy’s presentation, you know Jobs has witnessed presentation magic on the stage. It would be easy to think he’s pausing in wonderment at what the iPad has achieved, but without a blow it out of the water demo I doubt his reaction would be such momentary muteness.

I’m referring here to the presentation of Garageband by Apple Music Marketing Director, Xander Soren. You can see his presentation commence in the official Apple keynote podcast (you can subscribe to and download Apple keynotes in iTunes) at 47:30 when Jobs makes the introduction to Garageband.

Before I make my pitch for the quality of his presentation, you should know Xander doesn’t get it easy. Not just does he follow Jobs’ presentation, but he is the third and last of the deputies to do a demo: he’s preceded by Scott Fostall discussing iOS 4.3, and Randy Ubillos, Apple’s Chief Architect for Video Applications demoing iMovie.

Like Randy and Scott, he has to do both the walk and the talk when demoing, something that Jobs is doing less and less of in recent keynotes. If you recall, when Garageband was introduced in 2004, a year after Keynote was released, Jobs himself demoed the software, assisted by the musicianship of John Mayer. It was a fairly complicated demo, and close observers of Jobs will know he keeps a bound notebook on hand to follow the demo precisely, yet surreptitiously. (If you have very complicated presentation, it’s wise to emulate this and print out each slide and its builds and keep it not far from your Mac or PC.)

What is also known is that Jobs demands perfection of his fellow presenters. His own legendary rehearsal routines are well known, and over the years until recently he has held the stage on his own for more than two hours without reading a script, merely using Keynote’s presenter display (where he can see the current and next slide – invisible to the audience) to cue him in. I use the same method, but it requires much rehearsal knowing what stories to tell for each upcoming slide, and segueing easily between slides and their stories. It gives Jobs’ presentation an almost personal touch, as if he’s in conversation with you. (I am still amazed at how many Powerpoint users are unaware it can also employ presenter mode, perhaps because until Windows 7, using another monitor for screen splitting was a pain).

For those less fortunate in their presentation skills, Jobs can be a hard act to follow, where they might read cue cards as Cingular CEO Stan Sigman (below, left) did at the 2007 iPhone release (to the heehawing in the blogs that followed – one can imagine how the twitterati would have pounded on him. Indeed, one commenter on the Macrumors site said: “I was enjoying my cookies and milk, watching today’s keynote with marvel & excitement when the Cingular CEO came on and I passed out on top of my cookies and milk.”)

(At this point, I’ll share a fantasy I almost put into action at my first Macworld 2008 Presentation Magic workshop, a year after the iPhone’s release. Being an unknown at the time to Macworld audiences, I was going to appear from behind the very large projector screen, carrying a whole bunch of cue cards, approach the microphone, tap hard on it in a most amateurish way, and then introduce myself as Les Sigman, Stu’s nephew at which time I would “accidentally” fumble my cue cards into the air and onto the ground, where I would then stand frozen with fear. As it is, the talk still got plenty of laughs and the audience and I had loads of fun).

Sometimes, this desire for presentation perfection means the keynote seems a little out of kilter, as if a product or more likely a person couldn’t meet Jobs’ standards and that demo was aborted. At other times, beyond his control perhaps, Jobs concedes the stage to a fellow CEO with hilarious results, as in the time in the 2005 Macworld keynote he introduced Sony President, Kunitake Ando, to discuss video products for what Jobs declared would be the Year of Video HD Editing.

Usually, Jobs exists the stage when anybody else presents, staying on long enough to shake hands and handover the slide clicker, then he’s off to the stage wings to observe. Contrast this with performances by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer where he stands on stage, hands on hips brooding over the demo. (See my blog entry here for my description of Ballmer’s epic fail at CES 2010 when he “introduced” Windows powered tablets in an attempt to gazump Apple’s rumoured tablet introduction a few weeks later.)

If you read the blog entry, you’ll see how I wondered aloud why Ballmer was so ill advised as to demo the tablet standing and holding it on his belly, working it upside down. It’s a perfect metaphor for Microsoft’s historic poor grasp of human factors and useability. I suggested in the same blog he ought to have sat in an armchair to do the demo, the way most people would be expected to use the device. Perhaps he was in such a hurry to get it over and done with, that sitting down would have drawn it out too much. A few weeks later, it’s exactly how Jobs, Schiller and others demoed the iPad.

Let’s come to Xander now, after this rather long prologue, and why I believe it will be a long time before you see another presentation of a tech product that will surpass its quality.

Unlike his colleagues, Xander (who has presented previously on stage at the Back to the Mac event in October 2010), went directly to the armchair and picked up the iPad to rip straight into his demo. At this point, we knew he meant business, yet he appeared warm, effusive and welcoming. He had a tough task, moving his attention – and thus ours – between looking and working the iPad, giving eye contact to the audience, and occasionally looking up at the big screen behind and to his left, mirroring his iPad’s display.

From there, he is word perfect. I don’t believe I caught one “um” or “er” or word trip. He pauses appropriately, his words flow mellifluously, and essentially he’s easy on the ear and the eye. His presentation is musical in its tone, and content.

At 49:00, as he begins to demo a keyboard instrument, he says: “I can type on that (piano) icon right in the middle there” and that’s exactly what he does, and we share in what comes next. Xander repeats this style throughout his demo, leading us easily as to what will happen next, even if our knowledge of musical instruments is lousy, like mine!

His demo could have been incredibly hard to follow, as I find most of Randy’s for iMovie, I’m afraid to say. But Xander’s presentation style allows me to be comfortable in my ignorance, remain engaged, and share in his delight at the iPad’s capabilities.

Xander then takes his presentation to another level, by creating music on several different devices, from keyboard to guitar and drums, and it all sounds so musical. You just want to grab an iPad and play it, even if you don’t know a G string from a boombox. Of course, the “wow” factor is helped by Garageband’s capabilities, turning the iPad from the critic’s “toy” into something you can expect professional musicians will use on stage. I imagine they can put three iPads side by side (the picture below shows 15 white and 11 black keys) and get a full keyboard, each with its own octave range.

As Xander takes us through several of Garageband’s instruments, those of us who might be getting a little concerned that we will miss out on all this fun because we’re unmusical are saved when he demoes how the software can help us create music with its built-in tools (This part of the demo starts about 54:20). What could have seen the presentation meander down an unhappy path is saved by another “Gee Whiz” demo of Smart Instruments, which wraps up his presentation. Watch how he emulates a text based slide by mentioning the name of the instrument and then sliding the iPad screen to the instrument in perfect synchrony: “We have smart guitars… (slide)… smart keyboards… (slide)… bass… (slide) .. smart drums…”

Xander then refers to Smart Instruments as “musical training wheels”, a great metaphor. From there, a new feature is shown, allowing a canvas to display various instruments in order for a song to be created, returning us from baby steps, to how professionals construct songs. In order for us to understand the significance of this technical achievement, Xander cites how the Beatles in their heyday created their songs with huge equipment which could only record four tracks while the iPad can record eight. The Beatles’ four track recorder was “the size of a washing machine and… weighed 300 pounds” up against the iPad’s 1.3 pounds. This kind of presentation comparison helps us remain in a state of delight with what we can potentially achieve (leaving aside a heavy quantum of innate talent!)

At 1:00:00 Xander finishes his presentation with words of encouragement to us, his audience, stating Apple can hardly wait to see what its users come up with once they get a hold of iPad with Garageband. It’s hard to believe he has packed so much into just 13 minutes – less than a standard TED talk.

Jobs walks back on stage, momentarily flummoxed himself!

"I dont believe what I just saw"

In conclusion, if you’re a presenter of any material – technical or otherwise – you owe it to yourself to watch the iPad 2 keynote and in particular Xander’s performance. And then watch it again to extract all the presentation magic and musicality you can. It would not surprise me at all to learn that Xander also plays a horn instrument, such is his breath control throughout his performance.

I think soon I’ll have to write that blog article about how to control for all those off-putting “ums” and “ahs” and other connectors that connote nervousness and possible lack of preparation and rehearsal.

Um, soon…

The more conservative an industry, the more conservative and unengaging their presentations (sigh)

[I attended an aviation symposium a few weeks ago, and tried out a new text writer for the iPad. How best to try it out other than using it to blog in real time. Below, the results, cut and pasted into WordPress for the iPad].

I’m Sitting in an airline and aviation conference in the Human Factors stream, and being persecuted with poor PowerPoint.

Already we have had to drop out of the show to go in to Windows Media Player to show a humorous video the presenter hoped would stimulate our interest. She succeeded in getting a few laughs due to the slapstick nature of the video (one of those “motivational” slick videos).

The outstanding thing so far, from a presenter’s viewpoint, has been the disconnect between what’s on the slides – mainly text – and what is being said.

What we have been seeing is a slab of text with the usual bullet pointed listings, which is read automatically by the audience, to judge by the audience heads rotating towards the screen and away from the presenter. This is followed by the presenter talking without a script, in ways that have little connection to the words on the screen.

In this way, the presentation becomes a lecture, not an engaging presentation, not helped by the fact we are in a university lecture theatre.

The presenter is also standing well away from the slides, which subtly tells us the slides are irrelevant to what she is saying. This of course is a tad ironic, given we are discussing human factors in aviation disasters! Much of this subject is bounded by issues of attention, getting and keeping it, in the face of potential overloading of sensory channels. If only presenters, especially those who talk about training adults, would apply their own knowledge base to their presentation efforts.

There is also a disconnect when the presenter refers to future slides coming up in the talk. This is ok if you’re asked a question from the audience on a topic which you will refer to later, but what’s coming up ought not to be given away by the presenter themselves unless there’s a very good reason to do so. I think it happens when presenters are unconfident in their ability to tell stories, and thus link concepts.

We are also being given lots of potentially interesting examples but they are not being illustrated, only described with words.

But the examples in fact cry out for a picture, or a short movie, so we in the audience are challenged to change modalities of information transfer, lest staying in the same narrow modality – listening – leads to boredom.

Judging by the lack of spontaneous questions and minimal note taking, I’d say many are feeling disengaged and wondering how relevant this talk is to them personally, and to the subject in general. In other words, did the talk’s abstract meet their expectations upon delivery. Of course, in the aviation industry, aircraft manufacturers are severely penalized financially if their products do not meet promised expectations.

In which case, as her talk was coming to an end, I formulated a fantasy question to ask, (but I was too prudent to actually ask):

“Dear Presenter, if you were to apply your knowledge of human factors to your own PowerPoint, what would you apply first and where?”

The iPad as Enterprise Trojan Horse – lessons for those who don’t learn from history (with Keynote as lead warrior)

Macworld 2011 has come and gone, and I am happy to say my presentations featuring Keynote went very well. I’m now awaiting the formal evaluations to be shared from IDG which I will post, warts and all. You can read two attendees’ post-workshop reviews to get a feel from an attendees’ viewpoint of what happened on the day:

1. From Ron Albu, the President of the Hawaii Macintosh and Apple User Group, click here.

2. From Gary Bowman’s blog, here.

The picture at top was taken by Gary who kindly allowed me to post it here.

I will give an extended description of the full day workshop in a blog article to come, but I was very fortunate to have two senior members of the Apple Keynote team attend. They observed the workshop and listened closely to other attendees and their desires for how Keynote ought to evolve. Of course, I also offered demonstrations of Keynote’s strengths and weaknesses in the hope it might add to some future feature set.

The day after the workshop, I offered a User session of 75″, featuring Keynote on the iPad. At the time, Keynote had just been updated so that it could now operate in presentation mode, just like its older sibling on the Macintosh, and it also featured presenter notes.

I had to admit to the group present that I only occasionally use Keynote on the iPad for presentations, as usual files have until now been much too media rich to survive the transition to the iPad. I do use the iPad version almost as a sketch pad to jot down ideas for a future presentation much the way others might use a “back of the napkin” pen and paper technique to record ideas.

That said, as I do for most workshops, I started this session by placing the iPad in some kind of historical context, by firstly saying that I had written about my desire for a tablet and Keynote application for it in later 2004, here.

Here is a partial screen shot of what I wrote:

I include this screenshot (do go and read the rest of the article where I mention Keynote magic) so as to give you a date at which I first thought about tablets and Keynote for presentations.

So after this curious introduction, I then spent some time showing screenshots from the webpages of some fairly well-known iPad naysayers who shortly after January 27, 2010 when the iPad was first shown (my presentation also fell on January 27), roundly criticised the device as Jobs’ folly. It so reminded me of the reviews the first iPod received almost ten years ago, when it was greeted with much mirth from pundits who wondered who would spend $399 for a 5GB mp3 player. Who, indeed!

[UPDATE: Horace Dedieu has today blogged a reverse chronological of pundit short sightedness here, for your bemusement. It's based on Terry Gregory's aaplinvestor blog here.]

Now a year later, I showed the same critical pundits display long term memory loss (or active avoidance of their own short sightedness) since they were now lauding the iPad and criticising the wannabees still to find their way to the marketplace. I suppose when a device has been the fastest selling device in history (according to some estimates) and has 90% of marketshare, it would be awkward to not laud it.

With the humorous pokings at the tech media out of the way, it was my turn to take aim at what might be a surprising target: Keynote for Macintosh users.

If there was a group who were most vocal in their disappointment with Keynote 1.0 for the iPad, it was Keynote 5 users. Like me, they too had long hoped for some other ways to use Keynote, and when the iPad was shown on January 27, 2010 in a demo by Phil Schiller, the belief was formed by many that it would merely replicate the functionality of its bigger, older sibling.

Of course, once they paid their ten bucks and began bringing in their large, multi-build, multi-transition and multi-font desktop Keynote files, disaster struck. Keynote for the iPad lost many of their carefully constructed builds, could not handle animations, lost fonts, and worst of all, lost the ability to maintain groups, whereby images and text could be grouped as one image for various builds and effects.

Oh, and not to mention the absence presenter notes and no presentation display such that current and next slides could be seen adjacent to each other (since corrected in the current version, 1.0.3). Keynote could display out to a projector, but it couldn’t even operate in mirror mode.

All this meant that well-versed users of Keynote for the desktop were in for massive disappointment and frustration. Essentially, these were independent presentation softwares, and unless your desktop file resembles a very simple but all too typical Powerpoint slideshow – all text and minimal builds and transitions – there was no point in creating a super show in Keynote and then moving it over to the iPad. Which by the way required such circuitous efforts as to make many of us scratch our heads and wonder, “What were they thinking?

Truly, the various comments I received was that Keynote 1.0 was a rush job, done at the behest of Steve Jobs in order to give the iPad the semblance of a business tool, rather than a toy for kids to play games with…

But in laying some criticisms at the feet of my Keynote-using brethren for having such high hopes even though we all knew the very low processing and graphics power of the iPad, I also suggested to them that if one had come in from the cold of the land of Powerpoint for Windows – again,  all simple text slides and minimal use of animation and transitions – Keynote on the iPad would prove to be a delightful revelation!

I suggested that such users, perhaps purchasing their first Apple product (or their second after their iPhone) would nonetheless be wowed by Keynote for the iPad with its albeit limited transitions and builds. But limited in this case is a subjective term, given the low level of advanced presentations one sees in workshops and conferences. For this group, Keynote on the iPad could open up new possibilities, in much the same way those of who first began using Keynote for the Mac in 2003 had discovered a new way of producing visually rich presentation styles.

I went a little further, and noted that Keynote for the iPad was clearly a very popular app on the App Store to judge by its published rankings, and that the engineering team had produced three updates in a year, while the desktop version was still waiting for its impending update after more than two years waiting. Now we know where all that energy has gone – the Keynote team is not a big one, and Apple has limited resources after all.

What I did say too is that I expected there to be increasing parity between the feature sets of the two Keynotes, so that one day there will be easy transfer between the two platforms with no loss of functionality. Indeed, in at least one respect, Keynote on the iPad is ahead of the desktop version, in ways that suggest what we may see in a the next update. I’m referring to the ability of Keynote to layer objects on a slide, and move them forward and backward relative to other objects.

I make great use of this undervalued property of Keynote in my workshops. On the desktop version, its implementation is in dire need of improvement, and indeed Powerpoint  2011 for the Mac has a “coverflow” type means of showing and moving slide elements. On the iPad it’s also down with a slide control, as you can see in the screenshot below:

I see feature parity between the desktop and iPad versions as the next goal, with perhaps feature sets unique to the iPad to take advantage of its useability much like we see now in its versions of Garageband and iMovie. Who knows what the gyro might mean for presentations! Now that iPad 2 has arrived with its twice as fast processor and “up to nine times as fast” graphics processor, I fully expect Keynote to be updated on the iPad perhaps to version 2, and coincide with the release around the same time, of the desktop version. Don’t lay bets on this, however, as guessing when Keynote will be updated is like asking when QuarkExpress would move from System 9 to OS X (for those who remember what a laggard it was).

So with sales of iPads exceeding even Apple’s expectations (as was told to me by the Apple crew who attended my workshop), I return to something else I discussed and showed in my User group presentation: that I believe the iPad, and Keynote with it, is acting as a Trojan Horse to move Apple products into industries and sectors where they have been unwanted by the IT leadership for various reasons, cost and security being primary, and “it’s not Microsoft compatible” being in the mix too.

The story of the Trojan Horse is of course a wonderful metaphor for the secret intrusion into well-guarded locations of troops who would bring mayhem once released from the wooden beast in the dead of night.

In the iPad story, it’s not CTOs who are asking for the iPad to come into the enterprise, but it’s coming from both ends – workers bringing their own iPhones and iPads so as to better get work done – and CEOs who have discovered the delights of these products, much to the chagrin of the security minded IT departments who inwardly scream about another system to learn about, especially after years of sniping at the little computer company who could.

So for my workshop I created the video below to represent the story of the iPad acting as Trojan Horse. Watch it to the very end, and I’ll tell you more about it.

The video was gathered from YouTube clips of the movie of the Trojan Horse from a few years ago, and the mp4s downloaded moved into iMovie 6HD for editing so as to get the sequence I wanted. The sound was also heavily edited.

The video was then exported as an mp4 into Keynote, where the pictures of the iPad were duplicated into a grouped array, and then used with a motion build to move in almost precise timing with the Horse saddle as it moved into the walled city.

This got quite a laugh at Macworld, especially as I explored the metaphor of the serfs dragging the Horse in. I described these as the enterprise workers usurping the IT department and playing their role in deciding how they should work with available technologies, as you can see from screenshot here:

Later when the beast has come to a halt, the city leaders inspect it (pictured below), and I described these as being the C level personnel: CEO, CTO, CMO, CFO etc, all somewhat flummoxed by the appearance of this beast, little knowing what was in store for them.

At the conclusion of the video, I use various rotate, scale and motion path effects to create the images of the Horse basically taking a crap using iPads, metaphorically suggesting the iPad would crap all over its competition, as well as making the early naysayers (neighsayers?) look like horses’ asses.

As I read the various reviews of the iPad 2, there is a curious dichotomy.

One group expresses disappointment that iPad 2 didn’t go far enough in improving upon iPad 1, yet their suggestions as to what ought to have changed are the same old laments: no USB, no Flash, not 128GB, and the all too familiar wail of Apple’s closed garden.

Others are delighted to see the evolution of the iPad with its cameras, new form, and improved processing power. I fall into the latter camp, and look forward to seeing if my predictions of parity between the two Keynotes come about due to these improvements which now doubt will occur on an annual basis.

In fact, I fully expect Keynote on the iPad to one day have unique features not in the desktop version which might make some consider it as their primary presentation creation tool. Now that would truly fulfill the role of the Trojan Horse!