Category Archives: Powerpoint

The moment I lost my cool presenting on Keynote at Macworld this year (and why)

Many who attend my Presentation Magic workshops are often in for a surprise. Some come along hoping to learn more about the mechanics of Keynote or Powerpoint; some to overcome their performance anxiety, and others because they’ve been before and want to know what new goodies I may have to share in an updated workshop.

In truth, I cover a lot of these bases, except the one about the mechanics of Powerpoint, but then again there is no shortage of coaches for getting better at working through all that Powerpoint has to offer.

But as I frequently mention, all that sage Powerpoint advice hasn’t improved the “presentationsphere”, especially in the worlds of science, medicine, engineering and the law.

No, what attendees get is a day of reasoning about why it’s important to change the way we present, to understand to whom we’re presenting, how to best take our complex messages and make them accessible and memorable, and then see first hand how I think through all of the above, with examples I have constructed, or in the case of others’ presentations, deconstructed.

This year, I returned to Macworld/iWorld after a year’s absence to show how my presentations have been affected by the introduction of Keynote 6 on the desktop.

I drew about 50 to the all day workshop, and SRO to the 45 minute quick look I gave a few days later.

It was at the Quick Look session that I momentarily lost my cool. In truth, I tried to pack too much into a brief session, including how to use Keynote with Green Screen or Chroma Key effects, much like you see weather presenters on the TV news.

I wanted to show how understanding where the presentation landscape was moving – to a much more interactive and less linear style – would drive the future use of Keynote, and change how its users thought about presentations in general.

So I was feeling somewhat under the pump, as the saying goes, juggling a variety of Keynote stacks, so I could move swiftly between ideas.

Things did not start well when I played a game of Keynote-based Family Feud, selecting two member so of the audience to guess the top answers to the question,

What are the best new features in Keynote6?

The intention was to use the Keynote 6-based hyperlinked stack of slides to highlight some of its improvements. This is based on an old stack going back to Keynote 3 or so, when hyperlinking was introduced to Keynote. It’s a way to have fun, and show the power of such a feature to “move around” a slide deck with a live audience and bring more engagement to the presentation.

To do it, I use my iPad to mirror the projector data display, and by pressing on its screen, can either produce a “buzz – you’re wrong” sound, or a “bing – you’re correct” sound, with which a numbered panel “cubes” around to reveal the correct answer and how many votes it got.

Unfortunately, the two competitors I chose were not sufficiently familiar with the possible answers, that I had to return them to the audience and turn it into an audience-wide activity. We got to all fiver answers in the end, and I was able to show some of the features. But it was also clear to me that for many in the audience, the switch to Keynote 6 from Keynote 5 was not the Little Shop of Horrors it had been for power users hungry for an update after almost five years.

Indeed, I would hazard a guess that for many, Keynote 6 and its equivalent on the iOS, was their first experience at Apple’s efforts on the presentation front.

This led me to the next part of my brief talk, and that was the justification for why it’s important to understand and use the best tools available to get across complex messages. As in previous workshops, I showed a variety of scenarios where presentations were being employed in unexpected scenarios, such as cruise ship lectures, sermons and of course MOOCS, the online training courses which have traditional universities quaking.

But I also wanted to say that in the world of science, those who endorse the scientific method, with their publications appearing in scholarly journals written in an academic style – devoid of self-reference and emotion – are coming up against opposing camps who do not have to hold to the same level of peer review,  scientific endeavour, and who are well-funded.

I had in mind a video to show, one which I have used on various occasions, featuring the television performer, Jenny McCarthy, below, speaking on ABC television about dietary treatments for autism. I wanted to hold her up as a poster child for whom television wishes more of, because she brings “easy on the eye and ear” charm, even though her message(s) are often contradicted by the published data in scholarly journals. In the ABC TV news item, only very brief mention is made of a journal editorial in Pediatrics, the bulk of the time going to McCarthy’s personal experiences, which are contradicted by Pediatrics.

Voila_Capture2014-05-05_11-27-18_pm

Now, almost everything I say in my workshops has been rehearsed and matched to the slides I show. When I go off-script, I usually render the screen black (the B key on your keyboard or a button on your remote) and have a discussion with the audience.

But in preparing to discuss why presenters need to upskill, and with my arousal levels already high with wanting to get through all material I had prepared (which needed a very tight adherence to allotted times), when it came to my introducing the science vs. anecdotal evidence argument (one characterised by Jenny McCarthy’s interview), I blurted out a phrase which I had thought about in preparations, but had decided was too emotional to actually mention.

What I said was,

“There are Barbarians at the Gate”.

 This a two-part reference to firstly, a book and movie of the same name, the story of the leveraged buyout of the R.J. Nabsico company. It stars my favourite Barbariansatthegate-bookactor, James Garner, in a central role as his character orchestrates the aggressive buyout from Nabisco’s shareholders.

The whole movie is available to watch (it being a Made for TV HBO special) on YouTube here:

Barbarians at the Gate

My use of this film title really is idiosyncratic. My thinking was to use the word “Barbarian” in the way many ancient societies had used it to denote those who did not belong to the mainstream society, whose values were uneducated and callous, and who had a disregard to seeking a society’s higher values and ethics.

The term itself has an incredibly rich history as a reading of Wikipedia will show.

…”at the Gate” is a reference to an imminent takeover. It’s my personal reference to the many threats to the pursuit of evidence as orthodox science best offers, compared to anecdotal evidence, folk lore, and that derived from politics, religious belief and the seeking of power.

It was my emotional recognition that contemporary science is losing the battle for the public mindset in such important endeavours as climate change, vaccination, evolution, and evidence-based health care, such as some US states’ refusal to fluoridate their water supplies.  Some would include gun control efforts in health care too.

One of the ways it’s losing that battle is the across-the-board poor presentation skills scientists display as they present to themselves, and seem to have very little idea of how to present complex ideas to the general public.

It’s a lament I continue to mention in my own promotional materials for conference workshops were I say that presenters are expected to describe their research conforming to an evidence-base but usually present to their audiences with a distinctly non-evidence based means, the so-called Death by Powerpoint.

It’s a really serious challenge for scientists who hold themselves to a higher level of evidence, who couch their findings not in certainties but in probabilities, and whose language is replete with unemphatic suggestion. Non-scientists in contrast ignore such niceties and speak publicly far more often in certainties, hyperbole, and misleading statistics. They capitalise on the general public’s poor understanding of science, and its methods.

Others have previously joined the chorus, such as Richard Somerville, a scientist at UCSD, and science communicator, Susan Joy Hassel. Writing in Physics Today, October 2011 (PDF), they declare

It is urgent that climate scientists improve the ways they convey their findings to a poorly informed and often indifferent public. 

They set out a number of hypothesis for this declaration as well as ways the indifference of the public can be overcome, especially how science uses language, as seen in this diagram below:

Voila_Capture2014-05-05_08-40-02_pm

[ASIDE: Thus, I'm certainly not alone in recognising this gap between how science publicly presents itself, and how scientists think when they're off the record. It's why attending conferences is so important for professional development because it's at lunch, or over coffee, or in a low-key networking event that leading scientists will speak more about their hypotheses and opinions - educated ones - and where one can learn so much. As a private practitioner in psychology, I try and abide by the evidence my betters in research provide, but it's usually  years behind what I'm discovering from my patients.

So while I allow the research-based evidence to guide my practice, thirty years of working with thousands of patients is not to be sneezed at, especially given the research can't be descriptive of all the permutations and combinations of patient presentations (symptom description) I've seen over the years. As one of my supervisors once remarked, therapists learn the most from their patients, then the supervision of their work with patients, then from workshops and other professional development, and least from the first degrees. Professional knowledge "turns over" so fast one might have to start learning facts again as soon as one's degree course is completed!  END OF ASIDE]

There are very few scientists who know now to work the media, understand its games, and respond accurately yet firmly to journalist questions. It’s as if they’re always fearful their Head of Department is watching or the Fellows committee of their professional society is tut-tutting over some effort to explain complex phenomena in lay terms.

So we have few science media stars, or conversely, the few that exist are trotted out like the Usual Suspects such that in time their important message is lost through sheer familiarity.

What this means is that science and its practitioners must deepen the reservoir of talent who can reach out to the public with understandable and actionable message delivery. They must enrich themselves with stories the public can understand, rather than the story telling implicit in writing research-based publication: Introduction, Subjects, Method, Results, Discussion, References.

They must help the public understand in meaningful, visually elegant ways statistical concepts, probability theory, uncertainty, and confidence limits. So rather than being persuaded that 95% is a high level of confidence in one’s hypotheses, only to have an opponent say “but you’re not 100% sure, are you?”, scientists should offer up an understandable metaphor to throw back at their conservative interviewers:

“If you knew an area you wished to cross was 95% covered with land mines, leaving a random 5% free, would you take the risk of crossing; or, if you wished to swim across a river but knew that of the 100 people who tried before you only 5 got across with the rest being taken by crocodiles would you take the risk? Well, that’s how certain we are of…”

Concluding remarks:

All this means the modern skill set of scientists, at a time when conservative governments such as we have here in Australia are diluting the role of science in society, must encompass more than lab-based endeavours. It means starting with giving better presentations to themselves and the community, and seeing presentation skills as an implicit component of being a professional scientist.

Those in the sciences who dismiss these endeavours as not core to scientific endeavours might sooner or later find themselves without funds to carry out applied research, much less basic research.

To invoke another movie, All the President’s Men, scientists would do well to heed the words of Deep Throat to Bob Woodward: “Follow the money” to see how science is currently confronting barbarians who wish nothing more than to dismiss science’s values, methods and endeavours as an intrusion into their “entitlements” to carry on, business as usual.

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Aside

On April 1, 2014 – just a few days after I had presented on Keynote 6 at Macworld in San Francisco – Apple produced significant updates for its three versions of Keynote – MacOS, iOS and iCloud. In addition to … Continue reading

Advice for scientists who present: In this second blog entry, I look at a better use of charts and graphs, especially the use of Keynote’s MagicMove transition (with a special reference to Steve Jobs use of graphs)

In a previous post, I began an excursion into how science presenters can be easily and unwittingly seduced into giving very poor presentations by dint of their training and facilitation of their professional association’s publication standards.

It was left with a complex diagram I often use in my workshops about IT where I try to persuade late adopter colleagues to review their relationships with technology and give thought to how best to bring themselves up to date (hint: buy an iPad).

The diagram was designed in 2008 by Nick Felton at the request of two New York Times op-ed writers, W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm, and his complex graph was then repurposed by Apple pundit, Horace Dediu, in 2012.

The link to the original NYT article is here, and the Dediu link here.

I want you to see in part how I use this diagram, employ Keynote in doing so in my workshops, and give you an idea of how I discuss it via my voiceover. It will begin a discourse on charts and graphs, one of the essential tools for scientists which can either make their presentations clear and engaging, or become utter turnoffs in their obfuscation. The video is 5 minutes long. I’ll wait…

What I wanted you to see is that it is possible to take a complex diagram rich with information, and interact with it to better engage your audience. And to combine another’s analysis of the same data but a different purpose using some of Keynote’s most useful elements – Magic Move – to make a segue between the two.

This leads to:

Unwitting mistake #6: Poor use of data-rich charts and graphs

Let me say at the outset that I have a rule of thumb that I apply to graphical portrayal of data:

Use these rich sources of presentation persuasiveness wisely. They are not things you show because science demands it, but because they serve a purpose. Because of the latter, you owe it to your audience to help them understand what you are trying to convey showing your graphs and charts.

There is a corollary to this rule of thumb, and it relates to a point I made in my previous blog entry about audiences varying between having superficial subject knowledge through to the profound. The corollary is this:

The less your audience knows your subject or is unfamiliar with the use of graphs and charts, the more you need to gently step through your graph, building up each component in a coherent story telling. The addendum to this applies the same narrative to hostile or skeptical audiences.

Let me illustrate with one of the greatest expositions of graphs as story telling in recent public memory. It starts with Steve Jobs introducing the original iPhone at Macworld in January, 2007. One where he embarks on a persuasive story of why the iPhone was created, and why it has a chance of succeeding despite various pundits and competitors saying its market was “mature” (unchangeable) and the iPhone was too expensive.

We start here with a screenshot, below, from Jobs’ iPhone keynote. If you have the entire 2007 keynote (available on iTunes or YouTube), it starts about 30 mins in. Jobs has just been discussing the properties of the current (2007) crop of “so-called” Smartphones, and wants us to know the iPhone has a place in the universe. He claims it’s because the current crop are neither that smart nor, in particular, easy to use. In other words, the current mature telco industry is saying, “You can have smart, you can have easy, but you can’t have both. We don’t know (or care) how to do that”.

For Apple, that is an industry worth challenging because the status quo has been accepted as unchangeable (A little like the science presentation scene, no?).

Jobs starts us on his journey of challenge – his narrative of why the iPhone is the right risk for Apple to take – with this simplest of graphs:

Voila_Capture2014-03-12_03-55-43_pmJobs “cubes” this graph in, and then says,

“If you make a Business School 101 graph of a smart axis (Y) and an easy to use (X) axis….”

That gets an audience laugh perhaps because of Jobs’ use of a really simple graph together with his “I’m-almost-embarrassed-to-say-it” expression of, “Business School 101″. What Jobs is about to do is school the telco industry using the most basic analysis of why they are wrong. Next:

Voila_Capture2014-03-12_03-59-25_pmJobs now slow builds in a circle showing the placement of the current majority of phones in use – dumb or feature phones – near the extreme of the “not so smart” Y Axis. They are zero on the X “ease of use” axis because that’s not why people buy them – it’s a given, and not a branding element. No one is claiming our phones are easier to use than our competitors, because all they do is make calls and send texts. (In fact, I always thought Nokia’s range of dumb phones possessed the most superior User Interface, compared to Ericsson or Motorola).

Jobs now wishes to make the case for where the current crop of alleged smartphones lies in his graph:

Voila_Capture2014-03-12_03-59-53_pmAnd he actually refers to them, something some of those in advertising would say is to break the Golden Rule of naming your competitors. But so confident is Jobs that Apple’s iPhone is a “leapfrog” above these (he actually uses that term, below) that he is not concerned to both name them, and later show them.

Steve Jobs: "We want to make a leapfrog product"

Steve Jobs: “We want to make a leapfrog product”

Having heaped scorn on the existing batch of dumb, feature and so-called smartphones, Jobs shows us why the iPhone has a reason for being:

Voila_Capture2014-03-12_04-00-26_pmJobs says Apple wants to make a product that is “way smarter… and easier to use” than the usual suspects, and – before we’ve even seen what it looks like – places the green iPhone icon in the top right quadrant, well away from the others, visually in a category all on its own. If the tech industry had  really studied this diagram during the keynote, rather than chuckling at Jobs’ seeming dumbing down of his Business School 101 graph – a true Jobsian misdirection – they may have detected the tsunami of innovation and change that was about to be unleashed upon them. Through hubris, inertia and groupthink, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Google, and especially Microsoft were caught flat-footed, and it started with such a simple, yet revealing graph.

Of course, Jobs was a master story creator and teller, and not all scientists are so gifted or empowered.

But let’s see some of the easy catches scientists can make to at least give themselves a better chance of successfully engaging and persuading their audiences.

To do this, I need to remind you of my previous blog entry, where I asserted your presentation needs to stand alone, be its own entity, and not merely a cut and paste job from your paper publication.

Here’s why:

Voila_Capture2014-03-13_04-47-49_pmWhat you’re seeing here is a Powerpoint slide, not a screenshot of a journal PDF from Neurobiology. It was used in a medical presentation I located in a random search using Google.

Now there is a place for showing you have gone to the original source for your slide. I do this on a frequent basis, although I always start with the first page of the article, and sometimes even show the cover of the journal opening using Keynote’s Flop (right to left) transition to suggest a page turn of the cover.

I then use Magic Move to focus in on a selection of the page, as in the diagram above. In the Powerpoint from which this slide is taken, there is simply a change of slide.

There are some issues though with this slide, however. For one, the images are heavily pixelated. Not such a serious problem however, and those at the back of the room probably won’t notice it. But what is disconcerting no matter where you sit is the tiny print explaining the meaning of the figure. This is fine to include in a printed journal document, but in a slide in a live presentation it’s out and out junk. Clutter. Distraction. Attention splitting. Confusing, Frustrating. Message denuding. This is ironic considering the figures are comparing brain activation areas in dyslexics and normals on certain reading tasks.

How would I do this instead if it was me showing this figure? Clearly, the figure is  intended for meaning extraction by profoundly knowledgeable audiences. The use of acronyms and letters is meaningful to only such audiences and would require significant explanation for a lay audience.

What the author is trying to do is show differences between two groups on specific tasks. But in showing us all the twelve images (6 pairs) simultaneously we would have to have significant prior knowledge to know the meaning of these image variations.

For a lay audience, the idea would better be handled by taking some time to show normal responses on the tasks, then contrasting them step by step (once more using Magic Move to move from pair to pair of images) showing the changes for dyslexics across tasks. In other words, tell a story about the tasks and what they are testing for, and how it is that the images portray significant differences between the test groups.

Here’s another example from a colleague with a purpose built slide, not one taken directly from a publication:

Voila_Capture2014-03-14_12-17-37_am

What we’re seeing are two different measures of the same subject group side by side. The presenter first talks about one measure, say the one on the left, then transfers his, and presumably our, attention to the one on the right.

But why have both appear simultaneously and split our attention when the presenter can only describe one at at time? Where would the harm be in just using one graph per slide?

Here’s another slide from the same presentation to drive the point home:

Voila_Capture2014-03-14_12-20-09_am

Now, just because your software allows you to show four graphs at at time doesn’t mean you have to do it this way. It’s not like you’re giving handouts and trying to conserve paper. Unless indeed that’s what you’ve done, and have now asked your audience to turn to page 16 of their handout where you will walk them through each graph step by step. In that case, I don’t have an issue with this slide. Indeed, when I speak with academics they explain to me their students demand the slides ahead of class. And workshop attendees demand handouts to take something away with them for their cost of attendance.

(Aside: I never give handouts, before, during or after my workshops. I suggest at the beginning of the class how attendees can best make use of the visuals and information I’ll be presenting, and I let them know I will follow up with an email of links to services and ideas I will make mention of, including unplanned references spontaneously arising through group discussion.)

But unless you are making direct comparisons between the graphs and you need them all on the one slide, it’s just overwhelming for a live audience. What the presenter could do is:

1. Start with all four and say, “We conducted a series of four experimental procedures the results of which are summarised on this slide. Let start with the graph top left and have a closer look at what the results mean.”

2. From there, you use the Magic Move transition to zoom to that graph and explain to your audience what’s happening.

3. You do the same shift of attention for each of the remaining three graphs.

4. You zoom out again to show all four graphs and then offer a summary of what can be gleaned having exposed subjects to four experimental conditions, and where the data either advances a hypothesis, rejects it, or constructs a new set of hypotheses not previously considered.

Here’s a quick and dirty screenshow using Keynote 6 (KN6 falls over currently when exporting to Quicktime movies unlike the mature Keynote 5):

Here’s another slide from a Powerpoint show which demonstrates one of my other pet peeves:

Voila_Capture2014-03-14_12-31-59_am

Once more, we have two graphs on the one slide. What I really dislike is the now ingrained habit of labelling the Y (vertical axis) with English (not Chinese, or Japanese) words starting from bottom to top. It’s hard to read. Now if the idea is to say, “Yes but it signifies increasing levels (e.g. 80 – 200)” why aren’t the numerals also rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise, like the words?

The other “explanation” I hear is that in space-constricted slides where screen real estate is at a premium, it’s easier to write words in a vertical plane to conserve space. Really? Look how much white space there is on this slide.

Surely, the designer could have taken one graph at a time, significantly enlarged it, and then found space to write the Y axis description horizontally, making it much easier to read.

What I do like about the slide is the author’s header, which specifically tells his or her audience the graphs’ meaning. It cues us in to look for the important elements in the slide, which the presenter then explains to us.

I almost always either use graphs with such an explanation header, or I completely leave off any descriptions, preferring to gently build the graph item by item, Jobs-style, drawing out important differences or similarities in a cohesive narrative.

A few more guidelines:

  1. If you are going to use visual elements like photographs, try and use one per slide rather than cover your slide with numerous smaller pictures overlapping each other. There needs to be a specific reason why a slide has multiple pictures, collage-style, which otherwise simply clutters the slides and divides audience attention.
  2. Make sure when using visuals they do not pixellate when you enlarge them. I have rejected truly brilliant photos in favour of less suitable photos (or none at all), if when enlarged, they pixellate. It’s just too distracting.
  3. Make sure you remove any watermarks on photos which are not your own. It’s just plain unprofessional.(UPDATE: Following a comment below, I want to be quite specific about this point.What I should have written is, don’t just drag and drop a watermarked image into your slide. Do the right thing and purchase the image, thus killing two birds with one stone.I believe Getty images have released a huge tranche of its materials for free use in personal blogs. Worth pursuing as is paid services like iStockphoto (which now sells movies and backgrounds), and similar. And there is also Flickr and Creative Commons images to pursue with correct attribution. Also see Matt Shipman’s recent Scilogs science communication blog article here for ideas and free resources.I use a paid app from Glencode called Viewfinder to help track down images this way. These third party helpers and more will be demoed at my Macworld workshop March 26 this year.)
  4. Be wary of mixing styles of data visualisation in the one slide. Look below at the slide for an example:Voila_Capture2014-03-14_12-20-55_pm

The task with the slide above is to give consideration to how an audience will respond to this very rich slide. Where should their attention go? To the pictures or the graph? Would it not be better to show one, then the other and use your speaking to make the connection?

There is now on the web an enormous library of guides for how to portray data sets visually. With the current emphasis on “Big Data”, there are now specialists in this area who can assist to produce complex charting which are useful for paper, convention expo or website viewing, but which overwhelm a slide unless you can use Magic Move to move around the slide bringing singular attention to each component. Here’s a Big data style expo stand I located today at an IT convention in Melbourne:

Voila_Capture2014-03-14_05-05-22_pm

Also, go to the Roambi website here which makes apps for iPad and iPhones to assist with data visualisation on a large scale. Use it for inspiration.

Concluding remarks:

The challenge for scientists is that in the main they are using “small data” from their experiments, or “medium data” from meta-analytic studies then constructing the graphs themselves. This can be  either using the built-in tools Powerpoint and Keynote offer, or purpose-built apps which can construct complex charts (eg. Excel and Numbers) then import them into your slidestack.

But whatever you do, make sure you stand back from your slide metaphorically and empathise with your audience.  Ask if the slide is achieving your aim of providing persuasive information which best illustrates your ideas and findings, or is it there because science presentation dogma demands it.

In my next entry in this science-oriented series, I’ll look at the biggest challenge for scientists as well as those in the humanities: the use of text on slides. Is there a way to use text that still keeps audiences engaged and with the presenter, rather than reading and racing ahead?

The unwitting mistakes science presenters make, unknowingly facilitated by their professional Associations (Or: it’s time to move science presentations into the 21st century)

Students in the Northern Hemisphere are by now half way through the college year. Freshman college students will have been exposed to a variety of presentation styles in their lectures, some better and some worse. Here in Australia, students are commencing their academic year, given we are coming to the end of our summer.

For myself, my professional association, the Australian Psychological Society has  completed its annual conference in Cairns, in far north Queensland in October 2013, and has called for papers for its next conference the same time this year. I didn’t attend in 2013, having recently returned from the American Psychological Association’s annual convention, held in Honolulu in August.

What each psychological association has in common is their expectation that presentations at their respective conferences will reflect an evidence-base of what works in professional psychology. Attendees expect to hear about current research findings, often derived from traditional experimental methods and statistical analyses.

However, what each also has in common, sadly, is the generally poor quality of presentation skills.

The irony is that while each emphasises the empirical base of the science, few presentations bother to use an evidence base for presenting science.

Psychology is not unique in this shortcoming, and the same criticism can be aimed at many of the sciences. Fortunately, the APS has recognised the growing importance of presenting to a diversity of audiences, and so this year I will be travelling Australia conducting presentation skills workshops under the APS auspices. (It’s open to non-psychologists too). The Australian Health regulator, AHPRA, which oversees all health practitioner national registrations, complaints and continuing education requirements has also recognised presenting as an important skill set.

When it comes to conferences, travelling away from home to exotic destinations is a great way to both holiday and refresh one’s batteries, as well as gain important new insights and networks.

There’s an opportunity to watch and hear the best in their business keynote their latest ideas and discoveries, or perhaps present themselves.

The younger academics might be presenting for their first time to peers and superiors in the hope of attracting interest in their work, and perhaps a job offer if the rest of their CV matches the presentation.

In the sciences and medicine, there’ll be two hour symposia composed of twenty minute formal presentations, then question time; half day and full day “master”  workshops, as well as poster sessions where those whose papers didn’t quite make the cut can nonetheless discuss their ideas in a 30 minute informal scenario where conference goers can move around the area dipping into conversations about a student’s Masters or Ph.D research, printed on large laminated sheets in the style of a science paper: abstract, introduction, subjects, method, results, discussion, etc. Stuff you learn to do in your first year undergraduate studies your teachers hope is the start of your professional career.

Getting a spot in a symposium or workshop is a major achievement where you’re either well known, or know someone who is well-known and can sponsor your work and vouch for your ability to do the profession proud when you present.

From experience, one often witnesses presentations demonstrating original research or ideas never before presented, or one sees a recently published paper presented “live” inclusive of new research not yet ready for academic publication (it may have been submitted, but not yet accepted) but which extends the already published research.

Presenting at such a conference can be a daunting task, even for senior members of  the profession, well-versed in its ways. Preparation and rehearsal go a long way of course, but new ideas or a criticique of existing paradigms or dogma requires more than just the voice of authority or prestige. At the very top of any profession, it’s not about the money or prestige but about a true sense of advancing the profession and leaving a legacy.

I’ve attended conference presentations by such people, downloaded their presentations when I couldn’t attend, and ventured far and wide in my presentation skills interests apart from science, including how the legal profession presents both academically, at conferences, and to employees and clients.

In this blog entry, I want to guide you past the most overt presentation errors scientists make, often without awareness of these errors. Sometimes they are committed because the profession demands they be committed in order to conform to some pre-conceived notion – or dogma – about presenting that the profession has carried within it for decades.

Other times, a university or research institute or government section’s Marketing or HR department defines how a presentation will look, complete with logo or brand or “team colours”, as well as fonts, size and all. See below (click to enlarge) to see how seriously some organisations take their “look and feel”, from presentations, to business cards, to newsletters to websites, etc:

The entire pdf “visual identity guidance” document from this cancer research group can be downloaded here.

Much of the advice is well founded if a little pedantic in a corporatese kind of way… but on the next page is an interesting guide to the use of visual images in publications. What’s even more interesting is their use of unedited iStockphoto images, complete with the word “iStockphoto” left on one… something I’ll discuss as one of the deadly sins of presenting a little later (click to enlarge):

Now, I could understand leaving on the iStockphoto watermark if this booklet was advising employees where to source their images (especially if a group purchasing arrangement is in place) and with the specific advice to purchase the desired image so as to remove the watermark before placement in a presentation. What I can’t understand is the tacit approval to go outside the research facility and use images anyone could use, rather than supplying their own inhouse images unique to the establishment. The worst case scenario is presenting at the same conference as a rival who just before used the same images!

This leads me to begin my list of unwitting errors scientists make.

Unwitting Mistake #1: Not changing your presentation to suite your current audience

1. Often, conferences and conventions take place over several days, feature more than a dozen concurrent tracks to choose from, and a variety of delivery styles, from short presentations of ten to twenty minutes, longer keynotes of 45 minutes, masterclasses of two hours, as well as full day workshops. Each requires a different appreciation of the audience’s knowledge, needs and aspirations.

Take a look at this diagram I created in Keynote to help begin the analysis:

Presentation format

No one expects an extensive review of the field in a 20 minute original presentation. Such presentations usually form part of a symposium either invited by the conference scientific committee, or submitted by a group, such as a university or hospital department. Here, it’s the desire to showcase current research via four or so short papers, each related to the others, whose main theme is pulled together by a senior faculty member with sufficient gravitas and authority to discuss why the research matters.

Those symposia are usually attended by others in the same field, whose knowledge can be considered profound. There is little time for each presenter to give much backgrounding or explanation of specific terms, and audience members are expected to be up to speed with the methods and prior research briefly discussed.

Where scientists make errors, possibly due to time considerations and lack of formal presentation training experience, is taking these same presentations, which may have received much applause and recognition when originally presented, and then offering them, unchanged, to a lay audience.

These lay audiences attend for a different purpose, usually to witness the application of basic research, and possess only rudimentary awareness of the field. They’re not interested so much in experimental method but more in the current status of the field as it relates to them, e.g., Is a cure far away or in the near future? Is climate change real and is it truly man-made? Their IQs may be on par with the presenter’s but their knowledge is much more superficial.

When scientists take their same convention presentations – those they give to their peers – to such a lay audience, they can find themselves working hard to help the audience fill in their gaps of knowledge. They sense it’s not going over well, so they exceed their time limits, and appear unrehearsed. No one doubts their authority, but not all will come away impressed by the scientist’s communication skills. These may be exemplary for his or her peers, but it’s a different skill set when it comes to less informed audiences.

Such audiences may include those in the same field but without the deep foundational knowledge those immersed in a specific research area possess.

Often, speakers offering a short presentation to their peers may also be invited to offer a keynote to the entire convention, with there being few or no competing tracks. The science committee has often invited them, at some expense, because conference goers want to hear leading researchers present, even if the field is not one of primary interest, but for which they have an appreciation none the less. In my experience, science committee choice is rarely based on presentation ability.

Once more, the same “deep” presentation needs to be modified for this professional audience. Language is altered, from the profound  “we extended Smith and Jones’ landmark 2003 research by…” to the lay or less knowledgable presentation’s “let me spend a few moments explaining how we setup the experiments”.

It’s my belief the best presenters science has to offer – for both the highly specific through to the lay audience – carefully prepare their data and literally mould it to suit the situation. But it’s not just the data they consider; it’s how their data and its meaning will be conveyed in the most informative and dare I say persuasive manner possible. After all, why present if not to persuade? Well, the answer can all too often be: to add another presentation attendance and paper to my CV.

Such is the demand on scientists to justify their livelihoods that sometimes we in the audience pay the price for poorly conceived delivery methods from presenters who clearly don’t care if we learn anything or not.

There is one more audience parameter that needs to be mentioned in this climate of polarised debates when it comes to certain topics which challenges the neutrality of science research. That is audience bias. As much as scientists may wish to offer a value neutral exposition of their research, its application may have strong emotional and monetary considerations for their audience. So, I can add a third dimension to our table which may influence how a presentation is to be constructed and delivered – ONSIDE, NEUTRAL and HOSTILE:

Voila_Capture807Now it’s not my idea to intimidate science presenters. It’s more about starting a conversation about the various parameters that can take an average but easily forgotten presentation to something stellar, career changing and memorable.

Unwitting Mistake #2: Not knowing or forgetting a presentation is not the regurgitation of a published paper, but is a medium of knowledge transfer unto itself

Them’s highfalutin words, I know, but this is one of most common and easily remediated mistakes those who undertake science communication instruction need to modify very early in their training.

Below are some photos of slides I took during a symposium at the APA convention in Honololu, 2013. These pictures are from a single 20 minute presentation:

abstractAPA

CBTAPA

AmygdalaAPA

IMG_2027 CtndAPAprocedureAPAConcAPA

What you are witnessing in this series of slide photos I took with my iPhone is not a presentation, but a paper intended for publication in a paper journal (or online as a PDF) placed onto Powerpoint slides: a cut and paste job from the original Word file, most likely.

How can this be in 2013? In the last few years, I’ve been railing against the dumbing down of presentations through the unwitting overuse of bullet points and half-sentences.

In this case, what we have is no effort at thinking about the presentation and its intended live audience. Perhaps it came about because the presenter was in an enormous hurry and had no time to prepare. Highly unlikely since the APA gives you months of acknowledgement that your presentation has been accepted.

Or more likely, it’s the way the presenter has always presented; has seen others in her university present, and worse still, seen others at international conferences present.

But I’m afraid I have worse news: The presenter actually read the slides to us, word for word. And as I looked around the seminar room, I noted one more very disturbing thing: no one in the audience I witnessed seemed to mind. It’s as if they all accepted this as par for the course.

This kind of presentation is not a one off – I’ve seen it too many times to think it’s out of the ordinary.

Now if you’ve come here to this blog entry after referral from a friend and wondering why I am making such as fuss about this, my message is this.

When you read an article in a publication, you have time to pursue the references, to decipher the tables, charts and graphs at your leisure, to look up the references over your morning coffee, and to read at your own pace, perhaps starting with the abstract, heading to the Discussion section, and then closely examining the Results section in more minute detail. Each scientist has their own style of reading journal articles.

In a live presentation, you don’t have this luxury. It is the presenter’s role to tell her story, and use her slides as her augmenting or support crew to illustrate convincingly the veracity and worth of her story.

In plain terms,

It is insulting to the audience to be read to

It utterly disconnects the audience from your presentation, and renders you an impassive narrator while the audience races ahead and reads for themselves the content of the slides.

Scientists are fortunate compared to business presenters because we have our story arcs laid out for us by historical convention, especially if we are reporting original experimental outcomes.

The APA publishes on its website a tutorial for those starting out where it clearly educates how scholarly publications should be constructed:

APAStyle

The story arc in its publications are expected to conform to this structure. At its live presentations at conferences, no such demands are made, but clearly there is an expectation that original research conforms to this story arc too.

But is it really the best way for live audiences to be kept engaged during a keynote or brief paper? Can one hope to achieve the same appreciation of one’s original research in a presentation as can occur in a paper publication?

It seems to me we must start to think about the delivery of scientific story arcs to a live audience in profoundly different ways, and even more so when our audience does not have deep subject knowledge and comes from a hostile base. Your scientific colleagues might approve, but the audience will not be shifted one iota. This is also why the mainstream media is so hungry for scientists who understand how media works, who its audience is, its deadlines, and its use of narrative.

Unwitting mistake #3: Unhelpful room layouts

Take a look at the picture below which I took at another seminar at APA Honolulu, August, 2013:

PresentationTennis

What do you notice immediately?

The presenter is in the corner, behind his miked podium, Stage right. Centre stage is the presentation discussant alone on a table for seven, and Stage left is the Powerpointed slide, in usual “filled with text” fashion.

The audience, occupying the middle of the room, is forced to play “Presentation Ping Pong” going back and forth between presenter and his slide.

I dread when I walk into such arenas as an audience member, and despise it as a presenter. This is why I scope out the room the day before if it’s at all possible. And why I never, as hard as it is, never stand behind a podium. It has all the appearance of authority at the commencement of your presentation, as you’re introduced and make your way behind the podium, only to lose it once you reach it and do one or more of several things:

  1. Tap the microphone several times, and ask “CAN YOU HEAR ME”? The several hundred dollar mike and the audio operator with headphones on will not appreciate it.
  2. You bring up your presentation by showing us the entire slide show contents of 200 text filled slides, with the occasional cheesy clipart.
  3. You immediately start to read your slides from the laptop, vanity monitor or the projected image as if you had no audience present.

Once more, it’s up to those in charge of scientific presentations and conventions to do what they can – even at the fundamental structural level of designing the room – to assist presenters in what is for many one of the more difficult but nowadays mandatory parts of their professional lives.

Unwitting mistake #4: Failure to understand the power of stories

I spend a lot of time discussing storytelling when I speak with scientist presenters. How do I do this?

In my Presentation Magic workshops, I often show brief clips of favourite movies; those clips which stop you in your tracks to watch over and over again. Such as when you visit a friend and the movie is on in the background… and you say, “Hey, have you seen this movie…?” And when your friend says, “Nup!” you say, “Quick, sit down… there’s this great scene coming up.”

Just like a favourite piece of music you can listen to over and over again because it has emotional hooks for you, there are some movie scenes that feel the same. I usually show a few of mine during my workshops, asking the audience if they can guess what movie they’re from, then asking them to form small groups and share with others their own favourite movie sequences, and why.

The choices discussed often form a kind of movie Rorschach test, telling us something about the viewer via his or her choice. Almost always, there is a personal meaning the viewer extracts from the scene, such as the comeuppance of a nasty character, a “hit it out” of the ball park by an unexpected baseball hero, a rescue by a very ordinary passerby, or a scene where you know how it ends but want to see the reactions of those who don’t know what will happen next… a favourite story arc of master story teller, Alfred Hitchcock.

Indeed, this sequence in my workshops is the commencement of an important discussion in presentation skills training, one that has now caught on fast:  the place of story telling in helping make complex ideas more readily understandable.

Some would say there are only a limited number of story “styles” traceable back to ancient times with their fables, biblical and metaphorical accounts, and so on.

The rise of psychoanalysis in the twentieth century with Freud and later Jung exploring the role of universal conflicts, dreams and fantasies, collective beliefs and archetypes is still a potent force in the twenty first century.

The power of storytelling is to convey complex and perhaps difficult messages to unbelieving or sceptical audiences, for which there is a body of neuroscience knowledge that likely underpins the uniquely human quality of both telling and witnessing others’ stories, to perhaps better understand and change our own.

So, back to the mistake of confusing live presentations with published papers, and why a presentation should not be a repurposed or reformatted paper: It’s because each tells a story in a different way.

Take a look at this diagram below which I’ve been using recently in workshops for psychologists on IT. I found it on Horace Dedieu’s blog and it refers to a New York Times’ article he cites, published several years ago (click to enlarge):

The graph was developed by famed data visualiser and self-chronicler, Nicholas Felton, who was a recent visitor to Australia for his own presentations to designers.

Essentially, Felton’s NYT graph shows the rate at which various technologies we now take for granted were taken up in the last hundred years. The dependent variable is percentage of US households, and we can see along the independent (X or Time axis) how newer technologies, when they penetrate customer resistance, penetrate much more quickly than the older ones, like the telephone, electricity, and refrigeration, all of which are near 100% penetration currently.

In my IT presentations, I often discuss what happens when a product reaches 50% home penetration, how there are often dips after the products reaches a certain acceptance (sometimes called The Valley of Disappointment), and what happens at 80% (it’s more about marketers trying for brand loyalty rather than convince potential customers to purchase for the first time).

But the graph, while offering the newspaper reader plentiful data to immerse oneself – tracking uptake for various products over 100 years – is time consuming, given its data density.

I would not ordinarily, even for a switched-on audience, show such as graph, or more pointedly, create one of my own for a stand and deliver audience. It’s much too dense and would take too much time for even hard core data visualisers to work out what’s going on.

It’s worse when you’re standing up speaking with this in the background because its complexity (and I think it is a terrifically informative graphic) will easily distract your audience from you and what you’re are saying as the audience tries to work out what’s going on. Those who are easily confused by such graphs will just turn off completely and go play Angry Birds or Candy Crush.

But there are ways and means for using this in a live presentation and still stay in control of your presentation. Left as it is with the speaker likely using a laser pointer to try and track a product’s time course, an audience will quickly turn off and disengage.

In my follow up blog entry, I’ll spend a little time and effort discussing the importance of using graphs and charts, and how there are better and worse ways to achieve your goals of being an influential, entertaining and persuasive presenter.

Unwitting Mistake #5: Applying the principles of Garr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte and me without forethought

What the heck am I saying, you might be asking?

It’s this: In some domains, you are better off staying with the status quo that elevating yourself above your peers and betters, lest you be seen as a smart-ass. For certain audiences, especially those with deep profound knowledge of the subject, perhaps greater than the presenter’s (think PhD examination committee), shifting away from traditional means of presenting and employing the new guidelines espoused by some of us (who are thoroughly over how most academics present), may set your audience against you.

They may perceive you to be obscuring statistically insignificant findings or poorly thought through outcomes with glitz and glamour (you know, when presenters go crazy with builds, animations, transitions when the presentation does not call for it). In other words, the deeper the knowledge level of the audience, and the more hostile or disbelieving they are, the better it is to leave aside flashy presentations, and get to the meat and potatoes swiftly – no nouvelle cuisine. 

This doesn’t means returning to the standard default Powerpoint of 6 x 6 slides filled with text. It means being cautious with the visual elements of your presentation, using charts and graphs judiciously, and adhering to the advice offered by your supervisors if you are a graduate student.

Later, as your career develops, you can introduce more 21st Century components, or you can take the risk as I do each time of challenging dogmatic “principles” of presenting, as long as you’re prepared to wear the consequences.

More to follow in another blog entry soon, and I will be discussing more of these ideas at Macworld in a few weeks time in San Francisco.

Powerpoint so far has Apple beat when it comes to working with object layers on a Keynote slide. But perhaps the solution is in your pocket (if you carry an iPhone there)

One of my much hoped for features for the next update to Keynote is a more user friendly, visually appealing means to organise objects on a slide.

Power users have often given their presentation some extra oomph – a Wow! factor – by having objects appear from behind other objects, move to the front and then perhaps disappear behind other objects. This gives a presentation something of a 3D feel, helping to move away from boring text displayed in a flat disengaging manner. You can try and get away with plentiful text by adding some shadows, animations and greying out sections of text to highlight others.

As humans we’re built to see the world in 3D to help us detect movement, distance and relationships between objects both to defend ourselves against potential danger, as well as to attract us to food sources. There is also the small aspect of sexual attraction and seeing the world or at least a potential sexual partner in (fully rounded) 3D has much to offer (ahem!).

For some time now, both Keynote and Powerpoint have allowed users to move and align objects on a slide, sending them forward to backward, or to the front of a stack of objects or to the back.

Unusually for Apple, there has never been a visual means for doing this on a Keynote slide. You couldn’t drag an object behind another – you had to use a primitive menu item (or its equivalent keyboard shortcut), as you can see below in Keynote 5:

Voila_Capture4This is hardly intuitive, easy or granular. There was a menu bar too to give a visual reference to layering –  Front Back - but it’s very primitive in Keynote 5:

Voila_Capture7

And because of Apple’s insistence on not allowing you to rename groups or objects in your build order inspector (this covers all versions of Keynote including 6), you get, below, these kinds of confusing build lists where you have to really be on task to know which object or line is selected.Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 9.06.37 pm

Voila_Capture6

Notice in the build list just above with all the line builds, it finishes on build 19. But if there were 25 builds you couldn’t extend the build window to see them all in one hit; you have to scroll down the list, which means the very top builds, perhaps where you’ll drag these last builds, scroll off the table. Not good.

Keynote 6 has improved this somewhat so you can enlarge your build list and see all your builds – no more scrolling.

Each time you click on a build, the object will highlight on the slide. If the object is hidden behind layers of other objects, you won’t see its outline or a transparent effect so you can see just which object you have grabbed, but merely its resize handles – again, not very useful. I’ve occasionally found myself trying to move such “highlighted” objects, but I’ve only succeeded in moving the top most object. Meaning I can get caught in a merry go round of undo and redo commands. Clearly, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Over on the iPad and the iPhone and Keynote for iOS6 and now 7, we got our first clue that an interface change was on its way for desktop Keynote. Because we move objects around iOS screens with our fingers – we actually “touch” the object – Keynote’s user interface on them needed a different paradigm.

Here’s what it looks like with respect to object layers on the iPhone:

IMG_2245

So having highlighted an object – its handles show up as blue dots – we can move it forward and backward with our fingers, not by touching the object but via a slider control. The iPad controls are much the same, and you see notches on the line corresponding to elements on the slide.

This interface design was not found on Keynote 5, and has not made its way into Keynote 6 at this point. The look and feel of an older Keynote for iOS has been reproduced in Keynote 6, suggesting its new interface is not yet fully baked, below:

Voila_Capture8

Notice how the iOS7 version slider controls have not made their way into desktop Keynote.

A potential solution to see the arrangement of the objects in a visual way has already been offered to Apple from Microsoft’s Powerpoint for Mac 2011.

Below is a video I made after firing up my Powerpoint and importing a slide with multiple objects lined up overlapping each other which I created in Keynote 6, and exported as a Powerpoint file. It has ten overlapping elements and in the video you can see how Powerpoint represents these objects and allows you to move them and change their order. Note, however, that in moving them, their location on the slide doesn’t swap with the object it’s replacing – that has to be done manually once you’ve satisfied with your new order.

Naturally, Apple doesn’t want to blindly copy what Microsoft has done here, and kudos to its design team. I don’t use Powerpoint sufficiently to know if this solution works out well, so let me know if you use it frequently and if it’s just a pretty face or is truly functional.

Apple needs to come up with a better solution than just a slider control. And I do believe that solution is in your pocket if you have an iPhone with iOS7 installed.

One of the new features of iOS7 is its new Safari browser with a new twist on something that’s been around for a long while: Coverflow. In the Safari browser, Coverflow has become tabbed browser such that we can see all the open tabs in an animated form, as seen  from my own iPhone 5 in landscape mode:

I think perhaps now you’re starting to get the picture. Let’s take the same 10 objects inserted onto a Keynote file I used for the Powerpoint movie, and play a little with how it might look in Keynote 6. When you watch the video, below, note that I have taken some liberties with the rather empty tool bar and filled it with the front and back tabs, and played the same iPhone movie, this time in portrait mode, with the objects (the websites) popping a little to make the connection between scrolling through the popup movie and the highlighting or calling out of the object on the Keynote slide as it become the front object in the movie. It’s not pretty or that accurate, but you’ll get the idea:

What do you think? Wouldn’t it be preferable to have a visual analogue of  object layering on a Keynote slide rather than rather primitive Forward and Back tabs?

If a dumb shmo like me can come up with this, let’s hope the geniuses at Apple can bring us something truly special and functional.

Keynote 6 retains hyperlinks, but they’re buried treasure – further thoughts on Apple’s management of iWork (and a quote from Klaatu).

In my previous blog entry, my first about Keynote 6, I wrote that one of my liked features – hyperlinking slides, files, websites and emails – had gone MIA: Missing in Action.

But today I had cause to look at Keynote for iOS 7 and it has retained hyperlinks, here: Voila_Capture812

So, in Keynote on the iPad, you go the Spanner (Tools), select “Presentation Tools”, then select the first item in the drop down menu: Interactive Links.

The familiar hyperlink menu items will show themselves, in much the same layout as occurred in Keynote 5 for the Mac, along with their shortcut or alias blue arrows and associated functionality.

By now, the thought will have occurred to you: “If this feature exists within Keynote for iOS, and there is parity between iOS, Cloud, and Mac OS, where is it in Keynote 6?”

Well, here’s a screenshot of it in Keynote 6:

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As you may have noticed, there is no Inspector or obvious button, menu bar or “thingy” of any sort to guide you to this Keynote element. For reasons best known to themselves, the Keynote engineers and UI designers decided not to replicate the iOS layout, only the functionality it seems.

So, how do you create Hyperlinks as per Keynote 5?

1. Highlight (select) an object on your slide.

Voila_Capture813

As you can see, it’s the blue square, now with white “handles” on each side and corners to resize it.

2. Place your pointer over the object, still selected, and hold down the Control key, and click your mouse or trackpad to bring up a menu list. In this case, below, the “Add Link” option is highlighted.

Voila_Capture814If you click on this menu time, something familiar from Keynote 5 will make itself known to you:

Voila_Capture815An important question some of you may be asking, about now: How does Keynote 6 handle hyperlinked slides in Keynote 5 files? Do they get lost and messed up?

To answer that question, I imported a Keynote 5 “Family Feud” file I had created as a gift to the guys at Doceri, the iPad-based software I use to monitor and annotate my Keynote presentations. It’s very complex, containing 35 slides so all possibilities could be covered for a typical 5-item contest. (It’s based on a Keynote 3 deck I used from here, which you will need to convert to Keynote 5, before converting to Keynote 6!). Here’s what it looks like, complete with sound files – one for correct, one for – buzzzz – incorrect, and two others for the intro and outro music themes:

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Notice how each of the five answer boxes has the familiar hyperlink blue arrow. This is a very complex test for hyperlinks, and here are all the answers revealed when the game ends:

Voila_Capture817

I am pleased to say all the hyperlinks and related sounds remained intact, and useable. By the way, I use Doceri on my iPad when I play this game in my workshops on various subjects. Touching the bluish area outside the answer panel will produce the “wrong answer” buzz, while touching any of the black answer panels, initially with just the number on them in the first illustration, will cause the panel to “cube” down and reveal the answer, along with the pleasant “bing” sound to denote Correct!

Further thoughts on Keynote 6, and iWork’s future

These past few days of experimentation and curiosity-seeking with Keynote 6, complete with the discovery of hidden features, have helped confirm my previous thinking about Keynote’s path, going back in this blog more than a year or two.

I have previously written that all the wishing and hoping for a Keynote update might produce an Oscar Wilde epithet:

There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

Predicting and hoping as I had that one of the biggest improvements to Keynote would be the addition of a precision timeline to better manage builds, transitions, movies and sounds, I also suggested this would require a complete interface rebuild. There had been hints dropped by Apple that this might happen: One way was at Macworld presenting a Presentation Magic workshop where a new Keynote team hire had attended who specialised in User Interface design. The other was Apple more recently had advertised for additional designers to join the iWork team.

Knowing what had occurred with both iMovie 08-09 and Final Cut Pro/X, I was preparing myself for the same to happen to Keynote. I would get what I wanted but at considerable expected cost. This in fact is what has happened.

But the rebuilding of Keynote was not merely an interface or veneer issue: It’s clearly a rebuild from the ground up to make parity and thus compatibility with Keynote in the cloud (for Windows users if they can dare tear themselves away from Powerpoint), and Keynote on iOS devices with their 64-bit chips.

(Judging from the Apple discussion groups for Pages 5, we Keynote 6 users got a frolic in the warm Tahitian beaches!)

This is the all important Activity Monitor graphic that begins to tell the story:

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Keynote 6 (blue icon) is 64 bit, and Keynote 5 below it is 32 bit. And for good measure, the current Powerpoint for Mac (2011) is:

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There’s a roadmap happening here. 64 bit ought to offer faster, more robust management of Keynote files across all Apple platforms which are 64 bit.

But the speed of the Keynote app is only a small part of the story. At the moment, Mac presenters – and now with Keynote in the Cloud and iPads, we have Windows users too – have numerous presentation software choices. But the big two remain the FREE Keynote on whatever platform (with hardware purchase or iWork 09 upgrade), or the purchase of MS Office or Powerpoint alone for a couple of hundred dollars, or a much cheaper educational bundle or a freebie thrown in by a reseller. Whatever.

There is also cloud based Google presentation software, as well as a number of open source projects of varying capabilities and compatibilities.

Apple knows how many recent copies of Keynote 09 and Keynote iOS are out there via monitoring of its online App stores. It can see where its buyers are: desktop vs iOS. We know 170 million iPads have been sold, all of which can use Keynote for initially $9.99, and now free. Hmm… how many copies of Keynote for Mac OS do you think are out there, being used on Macs? To paraphrase Steve Jobs (2007): “Are you getting it yet?”

Power users of Keynote, like Final Cut Pro users who abandoned ship, have every reason to feel Apple has thrown them under the bus, including all those – like me – who “sold” the Mac platform to Windows users on the basis of Keynote 5′s attributes alone. Any Keynote power user who has followed the usual fare of Powerpoint demoes at a conference or convention has become adroit at discussing each software’s pros and cons when audience members shocked at what a computer can do on a big screen – shocked, I say! – come up and are crestfallen to discover you didn’t use Powerpoint (they kinda knew that) and Keynote is Mac only, at least “back then”.

Now many may feel that, just as Apple cannibalises its own products when it introduces a new iPod or iPhone, they too are being fed as human sacrifices (OK, calm down, their work is) to lesser mortals: non-power users, Johnny-come-latelies who have not paid their dues during Apple’s beleaguered days, and who have come to the Apple community via iOS devices, not Macs.

It’s as if Apple owes power users and pro presenters something for their patience, loyalty, proselytising, evangelising, cleverness and demoing. As a long time President of a Macintosh user group (iMUG), I’m very aware of our place in the Apple firmament: more of a pesky nuisance than anything else. Apple resellers too have discovered their place in the same universe, soon after Apple opened their own bricks and mortar  as well as online stores. We know how that worked out, and is still evolving.

It’s another way of saying: This Keynote is not for you, but the millions who will put it to good use with their first Mac and their first iPad, and perhaps even their first presentations. There: I’ve said it. Get used to a new reality.

So, stay with Keynote 5 and the years of building great, Powerpoint-busting Keynote files, which will still operate in Mavericks on laptops which will have better power usage. Buy an AppleTV and a Kanex VGA-HDMI adaptor so even with older VGA projectors you can be wirelessly roaming the lecture theatre with your Macbook Air or iPad (mirroring and controlling the Air via Doceri or similar).

But every so often, break out Keynote 6 and see what it has to offer. There ARE some improvements, and I and others will blog about them soon.

There’s clearly plenty of room for Keynote to improve. We’re at the bottom of an upgrade cycle, not the top. If you return to Powerpoint, where will it go next? More bloatware masquerading as new features because Microsoft has manoeuvred itself into a corner – its hardware is not setting the world on fire, competing with its own OEMs who are not happy. It needs to keep selling software because that’s its business.

So every two years or so, its Office suite gets a visual overhaul accompanied by much muttering – think Ribbon – and features which just bog it down. There are those who can do wonders with Powerpoint, and each year they meet and show off what their presentation software can achieve, here. (One day, its convenor Rick Altman, will work up the courage to invite a Keynote specialist to attend to give demoes and comparisons – Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte don’t count since they themselves would likely not self-describe as Keynote specialists or evangelists, but more presentation skills builders).

My advice is this: Learn from the Final Cut Pro/X users who stayed the distance, as well as taking a more long term view of where Apple is heading. It knows that in a few years time, laptops will become even less conspicuous and PCs will be relegated to “Big Iron” kind of duties in number crunching and rendering farms. Apple doesn’t just know, it’s working to make it happen.

The A7 chip, iPad, iOS and 64 bit computing is the beginning of the next cycle of personal computing, and Keynote is at the beginning of its next development cycle. It marks the end of presenting with Keynote as we used to do it. Those using Powerpoint simply don’t know it yet, but their usual way of presenting will not stand up to the task of 21st Century learning, creativity and knowledge management.

So, you have a few choices as I see Apple offering it. To paraphrase Klaatu,

Your choice is simple: join us and think and present differently, or pursue your present course and face disengagement.

Keynote presentation power users: Don’t upgrade to Keynote 6 until you’ve read my experiences with the new version. You’ll save yourself much grief. (The news is not all bad).

It’s now been a few days since the October Apple keynote announcing new products and services. Much to many Keynote presentation software users’ initial delight, Keynote 6 was announced, almost five years after the last significant update.

I write “initial” because for many, to judge from Apple’s own discussion support groups, and others on Yahoo, this update feels retrograde, with too many existing elements cast out, and insufficient hoped-for new features added.

Indeed, some expected they could open their existing and in some cases very complex Keynote 5 files and expect them to somehow be transformed magically into something ethereal. Or at least just work.

I did this too, only to watch a shopping list roll down before my eyes, of missing builds replaced by a default “dissolve”, missing transitions – ditto – and missing fonts.

This of course was the same experience I “enjoyed” when I opened Keynote on the iPad the first time in July, 2010, again with the hope of full compatibility.

When that didn’t happen, and another year went by with no upgrade to Keynote (but numerous updates to the iOS version), Apple’s intentions for iWork became clear.

So, before you go installing iWork – actually the three apps that used to be referred to as iWork – please bear the following thoughts I have previously cast on this blog in mind. And then I’ll make some recommendations. Don’t rush in – I did before the free update for iWork DVD installed apps actually became free (it took about 24 hours after the October keynote), and paid $40 for Pages 5 and Keynote 6.

On this blog, I have suggested, not based on insider knowledge, but a long time user and observer, that Keynote 5 would not receive an update until there could be parity between iOS and Mac OS versions.

With the A7 chip and Mavericks, and the maturing of the “iWork in the cloud” beta,  that has come about. It’s a distinct poke in the eye to Microsoft and we long term power users of Keynote are the poker. We have been sacrificed on the alter of “progress”, parity, and another nail in the Microsoft hegemony/monopoly/”we control the vertical – we control the horizontal” – attitude to the consumer.

But I also predicted much gnashing of teeth from said Keynote users would parallel our colleagues in the Final Cut Pro sector who had hoped for further evolution of their professional “It pays the bills” software, only to be rendered (ahem!) Final Cut X. For some it felt as if an iMovie Pro had been thrown at them: They were insulted as power users. The same can be now said to be happening to Keynote power users, who’ve been with the program for a decade.

Many in the Final Cut Pro world of course left for seemingly greener grass and the open arms of Adobe and Avid, who facilitated this unexpected gift from the gods. But those who stayed with the Apple program have apparently received their reward as FCP X has matured, and now we see it matched to the Mac Pro. One can reason with some predictability that the same  iterative process will happen with Keynote given how well it had been selling on both desktop and iOS devices, and especially for the latter, the generation of schoolchildren with iPads who will never touch Powerpoint.

For now, I am following my own advice:

1. Install KN 6 (and Pages 5) on the Mavericks partition on my Macbook Air (Haswell). Do not install on the Mountain Lion/Keynote 5 partition. KN6 does not work under ML. (I have a developer license for Mavericks). Make sure your Time Machine has been put to good use.

2. Duplicate mission critical keynote files and transfer them to the Mavericks partition, and convert them to KN6 and see the tragedy that unfolds…. dissolve, dissolve, dissolve…

2a. IMPORTANT:  If you have installed Mavericks on a single partition  and now have KN6 and KN5 on the same hard drive as your KN5 files, don’t double click these files to work on them. They will open in KN6, which will try to convert them. If you want to work on them in KN5, rather than play in KN6, first open KN5 then either use the “Open…” menu item or drag the files you wish to use onto the KN5 icon in the dock.

Mavericks sees KN6 as the default for ALL Keynote files. You’ve been warned.

3. See if some of my proudest achievements in Keynote can be fixed in KN 6 (e.g. shaking book) or at least repaired or even improved; hey, you never know. (Have Kleenex tissue at the ready). Update: there are improvements to be made, and even less clicking in some cases. I will post later how I fixed and improved the Shaking book effect. I do believe Apple was inspired by it via the inclusion of a new “jiggle” effect, as well as a new “pulse” build.

4. Explore which of my third party KN stuff, from developers like Jumsoft, etc., remain compatible, including motion background themes (QT looping) movies. Monitor their websites for signs of life.

UPDATE: Sadly for now, Quicktime movies with transparent backgrounds which I like to use a lot are currently broken. Much unhappiness in the 3rd party add-on industry over this. For many,  this will mean staying with Keynote 5 not just to keep doing what they’ve been doing, but even for creating new presentations from scratch. If you open these same files with their transparent QT movies in KN5 in Mavericks, they work. Below, an example of a beating heart from Jumsoft, and what happens in KN6.

5. Check out how my helper apps may have been affected, e.g. Doceri for annotating slides, and whiteboarding in Keynote. UPDATE: Doceri is fine – phew! OTOH, Animationist with its beautiful titling effects, will suffer for the same reasons as listed in 4., above: transparency loss.

6. Keep reading blogs and Apple discussion lists for hidden gems (yeah, right! Much gnashing of teeth currently. Most major websites such as Ars Technica, iMore, CNet currently all carry mainly strongly negative “what were they thinking/smoking” jibes at Apple’s iWork engineering team.

7. Watch for KN 6.0.1 to address some of the shortcomings, bugs, etc. This has got to be a long term process and will surely test many long term users resolve. Prezi will welcome them, some will return to the bosom of Powerpoint (“The herd may stink, but at least it’s warm”) while some like me will divvy the work between KN5 and KN6 in the short term.

8. Stick with my day job as a clinical psychologist, and presentation skills trainer where even current KN on the iPad is better than how most use Powerpoint on the desktop – seriously. That’s not to say Powerpoint on Windows doesn’t have a hugely impressive feature set – it does. But 95% of presentation only ever use 5% of its capabilities – in other words, dull, or replete with the most awful “art text”.

9. My guidance to you: If you’re doing mission critical presenting right now, stay with KN 5 even on Mavericks. Only if you’re starting a new project from scratch, or have the time and energy to update your older files to KN6 (and learn what repairs you’ll need to do), do you employ KN6.

10. There are some immediate disappointments. I am unhappy to lose the Fall transition; the lack of a timeline for precision build timings appalls; while item grouping has improved (more on this in a later blog article), multiple grouped items are all still named “Group”, making it difficult to navigate busy files with numerous groups needing to be layered. Smart builds, like those rotating turntables and object swapping has been dropped. The Keynote engineering team were always disappointed in their take-up, even though they had a huge splash when Steve Jobs first showed us the iPhone. Remember the spinning elements: “It’s an iPod; it’s a phone; it’s an internet communicator – are you getting it yet?”,  created with Smart Builds.

UPDATE: The loss of hyperlinking within a KN file, and between KN files is for me, a serious one. It will change some of my conceptualisation of knowledge transfer, and my attempts to be more immediate and less linear in my teaching.

One must remember that KN1 initially did not have hyperlinking, and it made its first appearance many years later. It’s not the most used of its features to judge from Keynote workshops I have conducted; of course, after I showed what it could do in terms of audience engagement, I’m sure many explored it further. I do expect it to return in a KN6 update.

FURTHER UPDATE: It’s there in KN6. But buried. I am working on a new blog article about it.

11. Slide editing of Quicktime movies remains the same: Imprecise, and only one “In” and “Out” point for each movie. I would have hoped how movies can be edited on the iPhone might have made its way into Keynote, but it will surely come later.

So, in summary, it’s not the gee whiz, pull out all the stops, show us what you can really do Apple upgrade starved Keynote artists had been hoping for after five years. Our imaginations filled the void, ignoring where Apple is making its money, with iOS devices.

But now that we see a road ahead, powered by A7 chips in iOS devices which will no longer be referred to as toys, or media consumption devices (go back and rewatch the Apple video showing the diversity of iPad uses which starts with the wind energy generators), these content creation devices will drive Keynote further.

There may be a surprise awaiting us with a Keynote Pro with a look and feel of Apple’s Pro software like Final Cut X and Aperture (we can dream), but for now there is a workflow for power users, and that is to keep doing what you’re doing with Keynote 5, and find the time to play with Keynote 6 and become curious and explorative. There are some hidden surprises I will blog about soon.

Apple’s iPhone 5C and S event: Did it reveal new features of a Keynote software update due very soon?

For presenters and especially Apple Keynote users, last week’s iPhone 5C and S keynote contained some hints as to Keynote’s roadmap.

While many Apple observers lamented the lack of surprises at this event, there were several unexpected signs that desktop Keynote hasn’t been forgotten, given its last significant update was January, 2009.

1. I’ve been saying for some time now that much of the iWork team’s resources has been spent on iOS versions, to the neglect of desktop iWork. Far from being almost an afterthought with the introduction of the iPad, Keynote on the iPhone and iPad has proven itself a very worthwhile addition to those presenting in schools, colleges, government agencies, and corporate settings. Apple has acknowledged Microsoft’s failure to compete in the Tablet sector, as well as its recalcitrance to port its cash cow Office to the iOS ecosystem. It has done this by releasing iWork apps to all newly sold iOS devices, free. With iWork for iCloud also having moved out of beta allowing those in the Windows ecosystem to see and create with Keynote, rather than using Powerpoint, it’s another potential nail in the Powerpoint coffin. (It will need lots of nails to seal that coffin!)

2. The employment of the A7 CPU in the iPhone (and one might expect in upcoming iPad refreshes), one of the main complaints I’ve had of Keynote on the iPad – it’s lack of desktop feature parity – may well be overcome. I’ve said for some time that once Keynote for iOS can match the features and power of desktop Keynote, then the latter will received its much anticipated update, making transferring files between the two UNIX-based platforms seamless.

3. While many Keynote users watch these product update keynotes for hints of what the next version might bring, our patience is often tested and unrewarded. But it’s just possible we did see last week a hint of what the next version of Keynote might include.

I’ve been thinking for some time that it’s taking a very long time for presentations to shift to a much more visual style. I’m working on a blog article about that, especially for those in the sciences and medicine, but I think it’s safe to say one of the most egregious mistakes presenters make is their inclusion of too much text on a slide. It’s as if all they do is write their paper in Word, then dump the text on a slide, denuding it of grammar, and adding the obligatory bullet points and sub-sub headers.

Clearly, helping presenters move away from such slides is a major challenge, so perhaps the task is to meet them half-way, especially for those where text is central to their presentations such as the law and regulatory agencies. So I’ve even been thinking that rather than adding new themes (backgrounds), transitions and builds, Apple’s next Keynote will feature some major text builds, including call outs, highlights, and other ways to acknowledge the importance of text, while still delivering animated, engaging presentations.

What follows below are screenshots from last week’s iPhone event, which you can download in iTunes or watch via AppleTV and its Apple events app. It’s possible that I will show was created outside of Keynote, but here’s hoping it’s evidence of a new upcoming text feature. You can also view the keynote via YouTube, which Apple has recently posted:

1.  We start where Apple CEO Tim Cook announces that Apple will release not one but two new iPhones, which we see as outlines.Image

and hands over the slide controller to Worldwide Marketing VP, Phil Schiller, below.

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Before he says a word, Schiller clicks the slide controller below,

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and we return to the outline of one iPhone.

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Them Schiller launches into his announcement about the iPhone 5C. What comes next is difficult to describe in static pictures and words, so a viewing of the Quicktime movie of the event is recommended. But let’s have a try, anyway.

As Schiller sets up the iPhone 5C announcements, the iPhone outline, together with the circular home button icon, begin a wipe build out. Not your usual one with Keynote 09′s limitations, but they seem to follow the lines themselves, rather than top to bottom, or left to right, etc., below:

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More progress showing the lines being wiped:

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Until there only remains the right side of the outline, and a small crescent of the Home Button. But the animation  then continues, and we see new shape forming in a continuous sequence:

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as the letters iPhone 5c begging to build in as a random letter wipe:

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and continues:

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until we almost see the whole word:

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Later, when Schiller introduces the 5S, he repeats the same build-in style:

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Now I’ve tried to replicate these builds using the current complement of Keynote elements which is my wont when I posit Apple has snuck in a new feature, but without success – perhaps you will find away to duplicate it. So it seems this is a new text build, which is likely extended to line, shapes and images such that outlines can be built in other than with wipe builds.

Later in the keynote, when the iPhones’ release dates per country are spelled out, there is another text effect, but this time it can be easily duplicated with the existing features, using scale and move builds. It occurs when Schiller highlights China in the list of the first tranche of countries to receive iPhones, September 20th.

Here’s the sequence:

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And we see China enlarge moving the other countries away:

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I tried to simulate this textual effect using Magic Move over two slides, but it turns out you can use one slide giving the first three countries atop China their own text box, then China in its own box, then the remaining countries in a third box. One simply moves the last group of countries down, scale and move China, and slightly elevate the top three countries with a move build, and you’re done. Here’s my version:

It’s certainly a good lesson in calling out specific words in a heavily text based slide, rather than using colour, movement or – please, no! – a laser pointer!

When might we see a new Keynote?

Apple has at least one major event to come this year, likely October with Macs, Mavericks, and iPads the feature artists. I expect that when new Macs and Mavericks (OS X 10.9) is officially released, which will finally allow AppleTV to utilise Keynote’s Presenter Display and allow complete untethering of your MacBook Pro, this will be a great time to show a brand new iWork. I expect, at least for Keynote a very significant upgrade with a bountiful supply of new features to take advantage of Mavericks and Keynote on 64-bit iOS devices. (I also expect some kind of mid-level database to be added to iWork, what with the demise of Filemaker’s Bento).

In the next week or two. I’ll publish on this blog a new post regarding scientific presenting at conferences, as well as seminars and in-house symposia to address several traditional presentation errors which have ossified for too long, and where change is vitally necessary.

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