Monthly Archives: April 2011

Presentation skills for scientists and evidence-based practitioners: don’t lose your audience Authority with lousy Powerpoint or Keynote

I was in Sydney several months ago presenting to the X World conference on Presentation Magic. Attendees are those who work in university settings administering and training in Apple based hardware and software. Apple Australia is a major sponsor and usually brings out a few speakers from the US who are experts in various Apple software implementations.

I was invited to give an hour’s talk, using Keynote, to help attendees make a shift from their standard way of presenting to something a little more appealing for their audiences.

Two of the slides I included, and spoke about of relevance to scientists, was the one below, using the Magic Move transition:

Slide 1 contains the words Triple A; slide 2 has the three A’s aligned vertically and the words, Authority, Authenticity, Attention then build in secondly using the animation, Dissolve by Letter from Centre.

I refer to the Triple A “engine” as one of the driving forces behind developing persuasive and engaging presentations, especially where the presenter is allegedly an expert in his or her field, and is delivering complex information to a lay audience. Such as in Climate Change science.

The term “Triple A engine” is one I’ve borrowed from a book entitled, Sex and the Internet: A Guidebook for Clinicians, by the late Al Cooper. You can find out more about the book here.

In the online sexuality context, Cooper spoke of how the internet was (initially) causing a sexual revolution due to the Triple A engine of online behaviour:

Access, Affordability, Anonymity.

Indeed, before Keynote’s Magic Move transition came along in the latest version,  I’d offered workshops on online sexuality and created the same effect using these words manually over several slides, but Magic Move makes it so much easier, and is a major inclusion on the iPad version of Keynote, making up for much of that apps’ animation feature absence.

In the current context, it helps audiences get a grip on your ideas, especially ones they may be unfamiliar with or challenged by, if you keep those ideas initially to a maximum of three ideas. Any more, and it becomes a list and the switch off factor jumps by an order of magnitude. This is because of Cognitive Load being stretched if we go beyond three ideas being held simultaneously. It’s why we often “chunk” new telephone numbers into sets of three, e.g. 212-555-2091.

There are many “terms of three” in the natural environment to help us make sense of the world. We can describe objects by their length, width, and height; we can describe an aircraft’s movements in three planes: yaw, pitch and roll. Pigments can be described by hue, saturation and colour. And so on. Things described in threes seem to be more memorable to most humans.

Because I only had an hour or so at X World, it was enough to bring this Presentation Triple A engine to the audience’s attention. But in longer training sessions, I expand with examples on what each term means, and this can itself take an hour. This is because the concepts underlying the Triple A engine are so central in helping scientists in particular get across their complex messages to a variety of audiences.

Before looking at each one in turn, please think about the Triple A’s as if they were deposits in the Bank of A. Your rich Uncle Thaddeus or Aunt Maude has died recently and you being their favourite nephew or niece their will allows part of their considerable estate to be paid to you in trust. Your task, the executor of the will tells you, is to make philanthropic advances with your bequest, in particular, to improve knowledge sharing amongst both strangers and friends on important topics.

You can dip into the account to make withdrawals to invest in a potentially risky venture, but overall your task is not to become a spendthrift but to keep the account growing so you might eventually pass it on, or forward, to someone else who can continue the good work of knowledge sharing.

Your Bank of Authority

One trust account is entitled Authority.

When you are invited to give a keynote or address it’s more than likely someone will have setup the situation such that before you open your mouth there is a promise to the audience of your authority status: that you have something important to share, and it’s worth the audience’s time, energy and perhaps money to be there to witness your presentation. There is something they will gain by being there, both tangible and intangible.

(My hope after a Presentation Magic offering is that attendees can leave the presentation and almost immediately make changes to how they present or conceive of their next presentation. That’s a tangible outcome. An intangible one might be the memory of attending a concert by a favourite performer – oftentimes, the sound doesn’t match the recorded song, but being there will stay with you for a long, long time, like the time I witnessed Frank Sinatra perform in Honolulu in 1987 or so. His voice was already compromised but, ah… the experience of being there…)

Moreover, your presence will have been announced ahead of time in the usual publicity outlets, plus the newer social media ones, like Twitter as well as push email. Your audience might receive a flyer by snail mail or email detailing who you are and your subject.

Your background or bio will usually be spoken once more by the event’s host, and you will be invited onto stage, hopefully to generous applause.

Those on the motivational speaking circuit (doing it tough except for the most famous during the GFC) will hear their audience revved up with motivational music, and I get the feeling you’re expected to bound onto stage! Often times, when hype is part of the audience experience, the host will ask the locals to give you a real “Texas ( or substitute Organisation, or state, or country) welcome”. To then sit there with your arms crossed over your chest would be considered churlish.

Of course, for scientists, this plea for authority status is a little different! Usually, to help convey your status, the host will announce the number of publications (and journals) you have written; what professional memberships (and subcommittees) you belong to, awards and grants you have received, and so on. It would be unlikely the number of times you have appeared on Oprah, David Letterman or Good Morning America will be mentioned if the audience is made up of peers; but if it’s a lay audience, their mention will add to your authority not detract from it.

(As an aside, because of my awareness of such issues, I will usually supply the event co-ordinator my own bio having sussed out who my audience will be. Groups of psychologists will get one, IT managers another, lawyers a third, each emphasising what I want the audience to know about me to advance my authority, ie, to maintain my Bank of Authority balance).

The next contribution to your bank account will assisted by the physical attributes of the presentation setting. This is where I and my hosts usually need to negotiate. Hosts have usually in advance setup the location according to standard hotel or venue properties: a lecturn with a microphone, a laptop (usually a PC) sitting next to the lecturn, or if a little more advanced, a presentation remote following your uploading your powerpoint to a central server.

I get into trouble here because I insist on using my own laptop, my own remote, and my own remote monitor for real time monitoring of what the data projector is showing. This means I also bring with me my own 17″ monitor and VGA splitter box so that the laptop’s video signal goes to the data projector and the monitor. This usually means I bring a l-o-n-g VGA-VGA cable, as well as a powerboard for the monitor and splitter box.

(I did this at the X Conference and it surely impressed upon the A/V technicians present (it was a very professional conference setup) that I was also a professional in my field: “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” is the usual comment, especially when I also bring out my audio cable extension chord, showing I have thought about all possibilities. To the A/V guys, and the host who witnessed me setting up, it stamped my authority as an experienced presenter, before I even opened my mouth with my opening comment. By the way, treating A/V professionals with respect will get you a long way, especially if things start to go south. Treat them with disdain, and should problems develop, you’ll be amazed how the problems seem unsolveable or keep popping up. Capish?)

So with introductions over, it’s the presenter’s turn to hold the stage, and it’s here that either an almighty withdrawal from the Bank of Authority occurs, or a little interest is added. In other words, it’s the presenter’s for the taking or losing.

So here’s a list of how to squander that good fortune that has been carefully nurtured:

1. You approach the lectern and give the microphone a few strongs taps, sending thumps through the loudspeaker system, and a squeal of high-pitched feedback as well. The audio technician at the back of the hall rips off his headphones to protect his eardrums, and then curses you for potentially damaging his expensive Sennheiser microphone. In his eyes, you’re already an amateur regardless of the professional introduction made about you.

Of course, perhaps you’ve been told off by a technician in a previous talk, so you’ve now learnt to just blow into the microphone to make sure it’s on and achieve the same loss of authority. Next, you can squander your authority by speaking right into the microphone and causing more feedback and a sudden cutting of volume back at the mixing panel.

Wise speakers know just how far to stand from the microphone having watched their host introduce them, and leave it up to the audio technician, when there is one, to adjust the volume up or down to suit their your voice.

2. You start with a “Good Evening” or some other salutation, then say as you turn to face the screen (putting your back to the audience), “Let’s see if I can get these slides to work…” Or, rather than using the remote control, you hit a key on the the laptop nearby hoping to start the slideshow but instead you drop out of the show and reveal the three hundred text-filled slides which comprise your hour long talk, much to the collective groan of the audience who at a less than conscious level say to themselves, “Oh dear! Yet another boring Powerpoint”.

3. Your first slide is so complicated and overblown with words and images showing not just your subject title, and your name, but all the sponsoring organisations and stakeholders whom you’ll have to thank sooner or later. The less than conscious take from this by the audience is of someone trying much too hard, and a diminution of your authority. You see, after all the introductions and advanced publicity to establish your authority, the time for proof has now arrived, and any more padding is seen as artificially inflating. If artificial sounds like artifice, there’s a reason for that. One definition of artifice is:

Clever or cunning devices or expedients, esp. as used to trick or deceive others: “artifice and outright fakery”

Here’s one such “opening slide” from a deck downloaded from the web:

The actual presentation slides contain some very useful information for its intended audience, but the opening slide, perhaps seen on the screen while the speaker is introduced looks like it was put together hastily on the flight to the conference. The circular words on the logo bottom left would be so small as to be illegible to anyone at the back of the conference room.

Here’s another one from a figure of assumed authority:

I think you’ll agree, an incredibly busy and dense opening slide, meant to convey authority, but what it conveys to the audience is, “You’re gonna be working hard in this presentation reading lots of my slides”.

Now this would be a good slide to include in a deck that will be posted online, since it gives contact details for follow-up, but this type of slide should be avoided in a live presentation for what I hope are obvious reasons.

And if you think I’m wrong about the “working hard” criticism, take a look at slide 16 (of 51) of the deck:

How can you expect to have your authority confirmed (“do the walk and the talk”) when you:

1. Use stick figures embedded in non-sensical chintzy clipart
2. The left sided motif containing much wording and lettering is a positively distracting and overloaded slide “feature”.
3. The robotic continuation of the conference title and theme further adds to slide clutter. Show it on the first slide, and be done with it. Include it if you must on your downloadable slide set, and that’s it.
4. One hopes that the bulleted theories, lower right, were brought in singly perhaps each with a gentle dissolve, but the lack of thinking about the slide would suggest: Not.

I’ll finish this first part of this series of blog articles intended for scientists by suggesting that so many scientists or those who come from an evidence-base and whose selection for conferences is based on their research being evidence-based, appear to eschew any evidence for how best to present their work to a variety of audiences, if their published powerpoints are reliable sources of evidence in themselves.

It’s not that they don’t care. I don’t know any scientists who don’t wish their presentations to go well, and the old ideas of presenting just to add to your CV is an attitude of the past, I believe.

No, it’s the usual culprits: social conformity, time pressures, working in a text-based domain which is fine for personal communication but which is shallow for large group presentations, and of course, the ease with which tools like Powerpoint and Keynote can allow for slide construction which originally in 35mm format was the province of trained graphic designers.

We’re now living in a world where it’s so easy to convey or be bestowed authority but one where our need for quality assurance of experts is never more necessary. Learning how to take control of this by virtue of your slide construction and presentation skills is I believe a very important – no, essential – component for those who wish to make an impact on their audiences.

In the next blog articles, I’ll look at the other two A’s, Authenticity and Attention.

For now, your comments are welcomed.

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Another reason so many Powerpoint slides still suck – and it’s all to do with Windows itself (or at least Microsoft’s design philosophy and other oxymorons)

(Note to readers: I started this blog entry in June 2010 and for reasons I will work out with my therapist – ahem, just joking – never got around to finishing until today. It’s never been off my mind to finish it, and indeed when I went back to finish was astonished that I had started it almost 10 months ago. Truly, I thought it was only a few months old! So I hope you find it worthwhile for all the time and energy I have less-than-consciously spent working on it…)

There are often times when I visit businesses, not usually associated with high end mission statements, where the owner has put up in plain sight, appealing aphorisms or philosophies of life. Sometimes these are humorous warnings against stealing:

And at other times, there’s the plaintive cry of those feeling they’re stuck in a world of mediocrity:

“How can I fly like an eagle when I’m surrounded by turkeys?”

My thoughts turned to the world of presenting when I read this, yet again, on a visit to tire business. The lament of those who seek to break out of the usual paradigms but who feel held back by the dominant way of doing things.

As regular readers will know, I’m forever on the lookout for explanations for why the world of presenting is so… mediocre, when we have at our disposal such wonderful tools to allow us to share what’s in our heads with those around us. I remain particularly appalled at the lack of progress being made by those who use slide show software, such as Powerpoint and to a lesser extent Keynote, when there is a body of knowledge from the world of multimedia training that exhorts us to do away with the usual, and proceed with the less-than-usual which has an evidence base to support its takeup.

The relationship between the eagle and the turkey suggests that it is not an easy or simple procedure to lift oneself above one’s peers and perform the unconventional. That there is a weight of social conformity that keeps us close to the ground and not excelling.

Here are a few of the reasons I’ve thought about, including the reasons offered by others:

1. “There is not enough time to develop visually rich slides. It’s a better use of my time simply to write out my presentation, then transfer it to slides, and add bullet points and subheaders.

2. Everybody in my faculty/business does it this way, and I’m not one to rock the boat.

3. My ideas are too complex to be represented visually – words are my best way to convey information

4. When I open up a new Powerpoint or Keynote file, I’m presented with a Header and subheader, and first bullet point. Isn’t that how you’re supposed to present?

5. My marketing department demands my slides have a certain look and feel. I can’t breach their requirement.

6. It’s too hard to locate royalty-free images in the time I have to write my presentation.

7. No one ever showed me another way to present.

8. My students want my slides to have all text and room to write on the documents I hand out. I can’t argue against that.

9. I’m a scientist, not a story-teller. We deal with facts, not emotions and pretty visuals.”

Now these are the overt, spoken reasons I hear when I do my Presentation Magic workshops. And I need to prepare in advance my rebuttals in a manner that does not belittle the questioner but raises the possibility that change is likely and manageable without too much relearning.

But in the field of social conformity, which is one of the major reasons presenting has been so slow to change, it’s the unspoken norms which must be addressed. It’s the idea that some people don’t know the question to ask (about how to change) because they don’t see why change is necessary.

I know this because speaking with attendees at my workshops often elicits two connected responses:

1. I thought you were going to teach us about how to use Powerpoint (or Keynote). You know, the mechanics and special effects you can achieve, as well as things like font selection and colours; and

2. I didn’t get what I expected. I got so much more. You’ve made it really difficult to go back to how I was presenting before because it’s so clear to me now that I need to change. When is the follow up workshop!

I kid you not – this is what I hear over and over again. Even amongst my colleagues who are slowly coming around to acknowledging the important of presentation skills in their work as psychologists, their own experience of the workshop is sufficient to shift their thinking. The evidence base I demonstrate and refer to (by other psychologists such as Richard Mayer and John Sweller, as well as Stephen Kosslyn and Michael Gazzaniga) helps support what I’m doing but it’s the attendees’ own experiences within the workshop that are the most persuasive.

Social conformity – or “that’s the way we do things around here” to put one meaning to it amongst many, can also be referred to as an affordance in engineering or user interface design terms. It’s a shortcut that allows the user to “know” what to do next without resorting to a manual or code of ethics. It’s what helps you walk into an unfamiliar restaurant and know what to do to get fed:

 Sit, wait for a server with a menu (if one isn’t on the table already), peruse menu, get waitstaff attention, give order, wait for meal to arrive, eat (with or without added liquid refreshments), seek bill, pay, leave. (One could add “refer restaurant to social media like Yelp to make comment” if it fits).

Occasionally, affordances get it wrong. I remember a local bank I used to visit where to leave the bank you pushed the door outwards. There was a sign saying “PUSH” to assist your actions, since doors can also be pulled inwards. But underneath the PUSH sign was a handle whose affordance was to hold and PULL it. I often just stood near the door, with my banking done, and watched how many people pulled on the handle even though the word above the handle specifically said, “PUSH”. The affordance offered by the handle superseded the word’s affordance. When things like this go against our expectations, and we try one or two times to make things happen they way we expect them too – and then they don’t – we can often experience a surge of panic, not knowing what to do because our usual assumptions are broken.

Eventually the bank learnt of its design error and removed the handle, leaving behind a flat plate whose affordance was “PUSH ME” aided by the word “PUSH” above it.

Many Macintosh users who often say about their computers “It just works”, speak not merely about reliability of the hardware. It’s also about the Human Interface Guidelines which have been part of the software design rules for twenty-seven years. It’s why so many users rarely open a software manual, preferring to let the interface “rules” common amongst all applications guide them. From freeware to shareware to expensive commercial applications, there is a similar “look and feel” across applications. Until of course, Apple decides to break its own rules when updating system software or differentiating between consumer or professional software, such as iMovie and Final Cut Pro (at least until Final Cut Pro X is released soon).

The same can now be said for the iPhone and iPad. By having the software change according to user need (“I’m going to make a phone call now; I’m going to check my voice mail; I’m going to watch a video“, etc.) these devices get around the physical limitations of their competitors’ hardware, and which is why the iPhone in 2007 so shook up the mobile phone marketplace. The easy transfer of user interface knowledge between iPhone and iPad mean that owning one of them easily lends itself to knowing how to use the other.

One small visual example before I move to my main idea is illustrated in the YouTube video below. Here’s a happy customer unboxing his iPhone 3G and about to sync it for the first time. The part I want you to focus on occurs around 24 secs into it, where we see the iPhone about to be tethered. Take a look then I’ll explain what I’m on about:

If you have an iPhone yourself you will have noticed what I’m referring to many times, perhaps now with greater awareness.

But at 24 secs in the YouTube video notice next to the right arrow at bottom left of the screen how a light seems to shine from left to right telling you to move the arrow in that direction. So, not only do you have the arrow icon itself, you have an animation that completes the message of what to do – slide it to the right for an action illustrated to take place.

If you have your iPhone on lock automatically, you’ll see the same animation highlighting the words “slide to unlock”. When you wish to switch the iPhone off  by pushing the top button, a red arrow appears at the top of the screen with the same animation highlighting “slide to lock”. So we have two different messages, illustrated the same way but offering the same affordance to deliver opposing messages. They are separated by location and colour, so as to reduce confusion.

In a similar way to take a call, the “Accept” button is highlighted in green, and the “Ignore” in red, conventional colours for “go” and “stop” which you’ll see even on rudimentary phones complete with matching phone icon.

The animation of the “slide to unlock” words is something I’m working on emulating in Keynote, by the way. It’s not as simple as it looks because I want only the letters to highlight, not the spaces in between. Otherwise, it would be easy to do by moving a white shape with shadowed edges and partly transparent over the letters. I only want the letters to sparkle. I’m guessing the next version of Keynote may include these kinds of effects, and indeed many of the features which make the iPhone so easy to use, like the screen glowing where you touch it, or numbers of the keyboard highlighting in blue, are the sort of call outs I discussed with the Keynote team when I visited them in Pittsburgh almost two years ago. I hope they took heed for Keynote ’11.

So let me get to the main point of this blog entry.

All around us, sometimes in plain sight and other times outside of our immediate awareness but visible once we are directed to see, are affordances that let us know what to do. They require no further explanation, have immediate impact, and often are language-independent. Such affordances often last the test of time, and become cross-cultural icons.

If we have to think too much, the affordance is not that at all, but an interference, such that we have to slow down (if we’re driving for instance) or go back for another look, or we get confused and flummoxed. For instance, imagine a flight crew in a 747 when the interior lighting during an evening flight is momentarily lost due to smoke in the cabin or a fuse blows. As much as crews train repeatedly in simulators so they know where to place their hands in the dark when reaching for controls, in a moment of high arousal, even the highly trained can lose the plot. So aircraft developers have offered affordances to reduce the cognitive load or thinking burden in emergencies.

Take a look at the centre controls of a 747, below.

Each important control has its own shape, so that without looking the pilot has “haptic feedback”. That is, he or she can feel by the shape of the control, which moving surface or unit it controls. Flap settings, which extend and add curvature to the wing to aid takeoffs and landings is shaped like a wing cross-section, known as an aerofoil. The speedbrake, which controls moving surfaces on the top of the wing to aid in fast turns, rapid descents, and to help the aircraft “stick” to the runway on landing by destroying wing lift, has a unique shape.

The undercarriage retraction lever has a rolling wheel on the end of it (not shown). And the many other controls also have unique shapes connected to their shared purpose.

One of the things I like about Keynote, for instance, is that the main controls are kept simple and uncluttered. Other controls, for more subtle adjustments, like timings and text properties are kept in the Inspector panel which can be moved away or shut down, or duplicated if need be.

It has been this way, with minor variations since its introduction in January, 2003.

Powerpoint for Windows has undergone various more radical shifts from Powerpoint 1997 through to 2000, 2003, 2007, and now 2010.

Along the way from 1997 to now, Windows itself has been revised in its “look and feel”, from Windows 95, Windows 98 (and 98SE), Windows Me, Windows 2000/NT, Windows, Xp, Windows Vista and now Windows 7.

Mac OS X has undergone its own changes too since Keynote was introduced when the current system was OS 10.2 Jaguar, which many including myself would suggest was the first version of OS X which allowed one to put the previous system, OS 9, to final rest.

At the time of Keynote’s release then, the current Mac platform was Jaguar and the current Windows version was Windows Xp. This version was current (with the addition of various performance packs) from 2002 until Vista’s release to the public at the beginning of 2007, a very long time in computer measures.

So from the introduction of the first really useful Windows version (Windows 95) until the introduction of Vista, some twelve years elapsed. In all that time, the look and feel of Windows was very much the same, even if under the hood, extra measures in security and operating finesse were taking place.

Let’s have a look at the typical look and feel that Windows users were afforded during these times, which also marked the ascendancy of Powerpoint as the default slide presentation tool for academia and the enterprise, as well as the military and government sectors.

The best way I think to examine this look and feel is to review the icons Windows uses to tell the user what’s happening, and what to push to get something happening.

Let’s look at a potted history of Windows icons:

And as Windows matures:

And into Vista:

And a panoply of Windows 7 icons, showing the change process:

Many Mac and Windows will be familiar with these icons. They are short cuts if you like which clue you in as to their functionality without the use of verbal descriptors. In the main, they are unambiguous, as they should be. A few require some prior knowledge of their purpose and functionality.

Now shall we contrast these with icons offering similar purpose and functionality from the early days of OS X (Jaguar):

Notice, above, the icons in the Dock. Ever since OS X with its Aqua “lickable” interface was introduced by a synesthetically-oriented Steve Jobs in 2000, it has incorporated photorealistic icons together with animations to indicate what it is and what it’s doing. Remove an icon from the Dock and it disappears in a puff of smoke. Laughable if you’re a Windows long time user, but unforgettable if you have been around the Mac world long enough.

But Apple also introduced CPU-cycle sucking shadows around its windows to help display front and rear proximity, and indeed it appears giving OS X the perception of depth has been an important interface element which extends to iDevices too. In my Presentation Magic workshops, I spend a lot of time on best utilising the illusion of depth on slides to keep audience engagement high, and direct eyeballs where I want them to go, in anticipation of the next element to appear. Shadows are but one element influencing depth perception, by the way.

Click on an icon in the dock and it bounces while it opens, to indicate something is happening. For some people using the new App Store, the leaping of a downloaded app into the dock is a little too much perhaps! But this leaping effect also occurs when you download more podcasts on your iDevice, when the number of the downloaded podcast leaps from the “Install” or “Free” green rectangle to the bottom tray, flashing in red to tell you a download is underway.

As Mac OS X has evolved, its system icons as well as that of third party apps have also evolved and continue the theme of realistic pictures conveying some meaning other than being a place holder. Indeed, one of the things Mac users look for when purchasing apps, especially those that have been ported from Windows, is the look and feel of the apps’ windows and folders. If it looks too Windows-like, one’s expectations that it will behave like a Mac app also falls away. This is a halo effect of course, and may not turn out to be true.

But looking like a Mac app inspires confidence, and helps transfer learning from familiar well used and liked apps to new and unfamiliar ones.

Windows users accommodate to the well demonstrated fact that its applications seem not to have any similar look and feel across apps., and indeed one must act as if to learn a new interface each time one installs a new unfamiliar app.

To get to my point: I’ve been on the look out for why so many presentations from bright articulate people are so woeful. Most of the woeful ones seem to come from Powerpoint on Windows users.

As much as I have reason to believe social conformity and outright laziness and ignorance have much to answer for, I’m also suggesting that living on the Windows desktop to perform your professional work means you’re surrounded and influenced by poorly designed, childish, pixelated and garish icons. Which I suggest is not going to lead you – afford you, if you will – the desire to make visually pleasing slides as a major consideration, despite the overwhelming evidence that aesthetics has much to do with engaging audiences.

Microsoft’s designers have much to answer for, in this regard, perhaps out of their own ignorance, hubris, and slavishness to internal decrees. That Powerpoint in its current iterations on both platforms still persists in using a floppy disk icon to convey “Save” – one of the most important features of any application – is most telling (See below next to the orange P for Powerpoint).

It’s a real wonder, given most people under thirty have probably never seen a floppy disk in the flesh, and those over thirty would never want to see one again.

This is not the case of an icon becoming a universal standard, but laziness of thought and design which permeates so much of the Windows look and feel.

I’m of the belief it will take a whole generation to come up through the ranks to kill off this expectation about the quality of slides. This generation will have been exposed to dazzling graphics on TV and in the movies, as well as their own creative efforts hopefully using their school based Macs with Keynote, as well as the graphical charms embedded in their iDevices. Their expectations will hopefully influence current presenters to change their ways.

Until the current generation of Powerpoint users take on training in presentation graphics, brain-based learning or simply switch to Macs and Keynote, many of us attending presentations at conferences will needlessly endure examples of slide construction which reflect too much time subliminally taking in the Windows desktop and its lamentable icons as the de facto standard, without thought or reason.

(Coda: For an illustrated history of Apple’s User interface complete with inexplicable changes, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber’s presentation in New Zealand in February, 2011, should not be missed, here. Although how John finishes his talk is a salient lesson in how not to do it!)