Category Archives: Presentation Skills

A Keynote tutorial showing an advanced use of MagicMove to animate a still photo

Microsoft has finally acknowledged how poorly the vast majority of its Powerpoint users apply their technology. Too much text, and chintzy clip art.

In Office365 its Office team has introduced two “new” features called Designer and Morph.

Here is an official video from one of its engineering team, Christopher Maloney.

Apple Keynote users are likely to shrug their shoulders knowing that Keynote has had such design aspirations almost from its beginnings in 2003, and the Morph equivalent, MagicMove, was introduced by Phil Schiller at Macworld in January 2009. (Steve Jobs had stopped keynoting the year before, when he introduced the original MacbookAir).

Since then, many Keynote users have adopted MagicMove into their workflow, although many of us have always thought Apple could do so much more with it.

Perhaps it will now that Microsoft has caught the bug of more evolved animation, but if MagicMove does up the ante, it will likely be because the desire for iOS parity has been achieved with more powerful A-series processors and more RAM in Apple’s mobile devices.

The bleating that accompanied the shift from Keynote 5 to Keynote 6 a few years ago, when quite a few special elements of Keynote were omitted, has quietened. More features have been returned or added to Keynote, and at least there appears to be life in the iWork engineering team with more frequent updates in recent months.

I am a big user of MagicMove, because it saves time, mouse clicks and “build clutter”. When a single slide has so many builds, it’s hard to decipher what one has created. This is not helped by the Keynote team who have not updated the layering of elements in the way Microsoft achieved it years ago, as shown in the video I created below, in 2011!

The other problem with its build order is the inability to name groups after one has combined elements. All groups are simply labelled group, rather than an even minimally useful: Group 1, Group 2, etc. Perhaps that is still to come.

It seems clear to me though that Keynote users are some of the most creative people out there, taking what the engineering team offers, then re-purposing it in novel ways which perhaps surprise and delight the team. That was certainly the experience I enjoyed when I visited the team in Pittsburgh in 2009.

So I want to take you through another tutorial on using Keynote’s MagicMove to create some popular designer memes you’ll see in videos and current affairs television, where the graphic artists have employed very expensive pro software.

I get better with Keynote when I’m inspired by the pros and try to emulate what they do as much as possible in Keynote, and only when necessary step outside and use inexpensive third party software.

Here is an example of a meme I will attempt to emulate in Keynote. What you’ll see below is a pro-user’s After Effects tutorial using a parallax effect to create movement on a still photo. The effect is seen in the first minute or so and the rest of the video is the “How to” part:

Clearly, for some presentations you’ll need to leave Keynote to use either After Effects from Adobe, or Apple’s own Motion. Each has quite a steep learning curve if you’re used to the simplicity of Keynote. The resultant movie will then be imported into your presentation.

But Keynote still has some tricks up its sleeve. In the video tutorial below, I step you through how to bring movement to a static photo, like the After Effects illustration above.

It uses Keynote’s MagicMove, Draw with pen, and Mask with selection elements, and also utilises a third party software from MacPhun called Snapheal Pro. As always your comments are valued, especially if you have other workflows to share.


An Apple Keynote two-part tutorial showing how to create more engaging stories using “Draw with Pen” and the “Line Draw” build

Continuing my series of tutorials to help beginners to Apple’s Keynote presentation software, in this blog entry I am going to show you some examples of using the Line Draw build together with the “Draw with Pen” shape selector.

Using these two elements can allow you to illustrate an idea demonstrating change over time, as if you are drawing a free hand line with multiple curved elements. The idea is to replicate in Keynote the diagram, below, which I used for a workshop on introducing new IT for psychologists and the challenges altering one’s workflow can bring.

From Alex Miller's Pure Danger Tech website

From Alex Miller’s Pure Danger Tech website

I have divided the tutorial into two videos. The first is how to create the line from scratch within Keynote, below. The second is a tutorial using the same animated line, but this time stopping it along its path, allowing the presenter to interact with the audience before moving to the next element and repeating the process, all within Keynote.

Using the diagram, above, this will happen three times.

Video tutorial 1: Creating the line using “Draw with Pen” and the Line Draw build.

Video tutorial 2: Stopping the Line Draw build at three locations to emphasise ideas for the audience.

There are numerous ways to achieve the same effect. Drop in comment to share an alternative idea.

A Keynote presentation skills video tutorial on using hyperlinks – how to move beyond linear slide shows to something more interactive.

One of the problems with current slideware tools like Keynote and Powerpoint is their encouragement of linear presenting styles.

You start at Slide 1, and finish at Slide N, wherever that may be. You might decide to skip over some slides if time is running out, or your judge your audience can safely ignore Slides 5,7 and 10, for example.

Such linear presenting is very worthwhile for brief and to the point sessions.

But if you are running an all day workshop, or you’d prefer to be much more flexible in your content delivery, and invite your audience to participate in the proceedings, then you’ll need to learn about Hyperlinks.

In the video tutorial aimed more at beginners (but advanced users will enjoy too), I take you through some user cases for hyperlinking, and then show you how to create them.

Please share with your friends, and use the Comments section to provide feedback and suggestions for further video tutorials

A Keynote “How To” for beginner users: designing a slide using a quote to attract attention

Continuing my work on bringing Keynote features to readers, in the video below aimed more at beginners to Keynote, I show how to design a slide for high intensity quotations. This is a meme that’s getting around professional TV shows and their twitter feeds, and for a beginner transiting from Powerpoint, the tutorial highlights some of the basic mechanics of the Keynote user interface. The aim is to produce an engaging slide like the one below which contains a number of elements.

A design meme I'll reproduce in a "how to" in Keynote

A design meme I’ll reproduce in a “how to” in Keynote

Notice the elements:

  1. A large, full screen very sharp image.
  2. A portion of the screen is set to the left, fuzzed.
  3. On which bold sans serif text is laid, the quoatation
  4. The authors’s name in a smaller weight, but leaving the viewer no doubt the connection between author and quote

And now, here’s the video which you can follow to recreate this kind of image on your own slide. At the very end, I’ll demo a more advanced technique for users who have gained experience using move and wipe builds.

More “How to” adventures with Keynote’s Line Draw build to add spice to your presentations.

Following on from my previous illustration of Keynote’s new Line Draw build, here’s a demo of some more uses for it and how to use either arrows or free pen drawing to illustrate an idea about something that might “spread”. In this case, railways across the US.

I was inspired by a documentary movie about the American Mustang horse, and wanted to see if I could emulate the effects used to demonstrate the horses’ spread across the continental US. This is one way I keep myself fresh with ideas for Keynote, and try to push its limits before resorting to a more expensive harder-to-use option. These options, like Motion, can be great for making webinars, but I like the flexibility Keynote gives me for my live presentations.

Once more, I’ve tried to show the effect and how it’s done in a way that allows you to follow along with your own Keynote file.

Steve Jobs’ Keynote work ethic, and Keynote 6.6’s new build, “Line Draw” – learn what it does

In a timely post last week, pre-dating the release of significant updates to Apple’s iWork suite, former Apple VP Jean-Louis Gassee offered up a “Monday notes” blog entry mentioning his work with Steve Jobs, and in particular, Jobs’ use of Keynote, his presentation software first brought to market in 2003 (click to enlarge):

Jean-Louis Gassee's blog quoting Phil Schiller on Steve Jobs keynote preparation

Jean-Louis Gassee’s blog quoting Phil Schiller on Steve Jobs keynote preparation

This really echoes my own thoughts about Keynote, and presenting, and I still believe Apple’s competitor to Microsoft’s Powerpoint elicits within me a flow of ideas and concepts which its competitors can’t – just trying to manage their layout and mechanics interferes with my creativity. Others may feel other software best helps them with their thinking through of ideas.

I must say that for many people the thought of putting Jobsian efforts into their presentations feels very unnatural, especially those time-poor, such as teachers. You’ll note too how the description speaks of Jobs’ ever-present awareness of how best to convey an idea to a particular audience. Indeed, in Walter Isaacson’s biography, there’s a story of Steve Jobs being in hospital for treatment scolding his treating doctors for their poor presentations, and offering to coach them in Keynote. Jobs clearly believed that providing presenters with better tools might assist them with better presentations . I’m guessing he would not brook the argument that it’s not correct to blame the tool, but the carpenter for a poor job. For me, a poorly balanced and blunt saw will interfere with an accomplished carpenter’s efforts. Similarly, even the most expensive and exquisite Stradivarius will not make a mediocre violinist anything more than mediocre.

During the same week that followed, Apple made some major changes to its iWork suite, even though it named these as just point changes. It took the cloud based offerings out of beta, added new features, and improved iWork apps’ abilities to open old files created from previous versions. For Keynote 6.6, here are the published changes from the Keynote Help file:

New features in Keynote 6.6

New features in Keynote 6.6

In this blog post, I want to focus on and illustrate the new build animation, Line Draw.

I have previously used existing Keynote elements to achieve the same animation, but it has been complex and inelegant. Line Draw is simple: it refers to drawing a line with an arrowhead or other endpoint and having it appear right at the beginning, rather than at the end, which occurs if you use a Wipe build-in.

There is a little more to it, and so I have created a kind of “How to” Youtube video for you to study, and incorporate some other ideas for animating charts. I’d estimate it as requiring moderate Keynote skills and knowledge. Stop the video where you need to, but certainly try to emulate what I’m doing to best learn.

Here’s the video – watch it full screen:

Essential new tools for bringing presentations, using Keynote or Powerpoint, to a whole other level

Last week, I spend time on Australia’s Gold Coast in Southern Queensland attending my professional society’s Annual Conference. This year, it celebrated 50 years and I was fortunate to be asked to be a member of the Organising Committee. I also gave a pre-conference half-day workshop on Presentation Skills, as well as being a panellist for a Social Media symposium, and chairing two symposia on technologies and animal-assistive therapy.

The Presentation Skills workshop gave me the opportunity to do the “walk and the talk” to about 25 attendees, the maximum the room could accommodate comfortably.

Interestingly, the room was in a very modern Convention facility, decked out with the latest technology whistles and bells. This included screens next to each room which could be updated with information about sessions. I had informed the AV people I would be using my own MacbookAir, and I would bring up my own adaptors.

Usually, I visit a new venue the day before to check out its layout and AV facilities so I am ready to go when the first attendee walks in. On this occasion, I landed the night before, so my first chance to see the room was an hour before the scheduled commencement.

The setup for other presenters was the usual configuration now commonly found in conventions to minimise problems: you go to a “blue room” where the AV people have some networked PCs and you offer them your Powerpoint on a memory stick. They upload it to their server, and add in your name to the first slide of the symposium which lists all the presenters with names hyperlinked. That way, the session chair just clicks on the next speaker’s name, and their Powerpoint opens.

The system on the Gold Coast unusually allowed for presenter mode, such that the standard PC on the lectern could  display both the current slide and the next one, something I find incredibly useful but few others seem to use.

In this system there was no way to accomodate a Mac running Apple’s Keynote.  Which is why I let AV people know ahead of time of my particular needs. However, in my workshop room, there was a wireless USB device which allowed the Mac to be seen by the projector, but only in mirror mode, disallowing presenter mode. This wasn’t satisfactory as I am set to work in presenter mode, and I wanted to show it as part of the discussion on how to improve presenting styles.

So it was back to plan A, which was to connect the Macbook Air via an adaptor to the projection system. This proved difficult as the system wanted an HDMI adaptor, and I had brought only the usual VGA adaptor. My Bad. It now becomes standard practice when visiting a new venue to bring both, as well as an AppleTV if I want to display attendees’ laptop displays (if they have a Mac) or their iPad’s or iPhone’s. Using HDMI also means audio can be passed through as well, rather than a separate cable (which sometimes is tied down and will not stretch to the Macbook. You put your Mac where the AV team says to put it!)

On this occasion, I didn’t hook in my AppleTV, so if I was going to display attendees’ screens, another solution would be needed. For a laptop, that would mean the wireless USB dongle mentioned above; for an iOS device, they would link wirelessly to my MacbookAir using my own wifi router and software from Squirrels called Reflector. The latest version is compatible with Android and Windows devices.

If an AppleTV was connected, it would use Airplay to mirror all Apple devices. I am finding this kind of setup in lecture rooms and modern convention centres to be on the increase. The only struggle can be making sure all devices connecting wirelessly are on the same subnet mask and you know any passwords for Airplay. This is why I bring my own router, but you can also bring and connect an Airport Express which will help connect 50 devices on the same subnet, as long as it can be put in bridging mode or connected to the available network over Ethernet. If it sounds like the “just give us your plain and simple Powerpoint file” is simpler and less trouble, you’d be correct.

In days of yore, of course, this was all unnecessary, as you rocked up to your presentation with your carousel of 35mm slides, and there was no sharing of others’ work. Your transition to the next slide was audibly heard with a definitive “chunck-chunck” sound, when the slides were advanced. So in those days, transitions were audible, not visual. Occasionally, a slide would be upside down or back to front, or even get caught in the gate and melt!

I started my workshop with a couple of slides using movies and effects simply not possible with either 35mm slides, overhead transparencies, or indeed likely never seen by this audience: this is my shaking book slide which I have written about previously. Here it is again:

This is my way of sending a direct message in the first few moments of the workshop that we are doing something different today.

But I also have two other means of demonstrating this “different way” of presenting which commences even before the first slide is shown.

In an effort to impress the group we will be doing a “presentation as conversation”, I refuse to stand behind a lectern and instead stand to the left of the screen if this is possible, with the MacBook Air over on the right side near the mixing panel and connections. Thus, if the audience looks to the front of the room, they see me on the left, the screen in the middle, and ancillary equipment to the right. The task is to remain in charge of the presentation even though the screen dominates the room, and the audience expects the screen to be the main medium by which they will learn. They will soon learn however that physical layout is only a small part of their learning experience.

The second clue that something different is happening comes when the audience notices I am holding my iPad in my left hand, and I might have a small Kensington clicker in my right. It’s the iPad which will control the flow of slides with the clicker as backup. (The second backup is walking up to the MacBook and hitting one of the keys which advances the slides manually).

There was a time when I travelled to present and would place the iPad in a stand in front of me to operate as a vanity or “confidence” monitor. Most modern keynote arenas will have these on display on the floor and if you’ve watched Apple’s own keynotes or those from TED talks, you’re also likely to have seen them in action, such as here:

Steve Jobs delivering a keynote and his confidence monitors below stage in presenter mode

Steve Jobs delivering a keynote and his confidence monitors below stage in presenter mode


Above is Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, in a TED talk and her confidence monitors.

These are great if you’re unlikely to move around very much. In the case of Steve Jobs and the huge stages he once worked, several pairs of monitors were strategically placed along the foot of the stage so no matter if he was extreme stage left or right he could see the monitors. His slide stacks often contained hundreds of slides and builds, too many to memorise so confidence monitors ion presenter display are needed to keep the story on track.

In a small workshop room where space is premium and where the stand with an attached iPad could obscure the screen for some at the back, another option is needed.

And this is where my three favourite presentation augmenters come into the picture, apart from the MacbookAir and Keynote itself.

They are:

  1. An iPadAir
  2. Doceri software, installed on both iPad and Macbook
  3. Bakbone magnetic holder, attached to the iPad.

There was a time when I wanted both hands free when I presented, with my right hand surreptitiously holding the Kensington clicker so that slides or builds would advance as if by magic in concordance with what I was saying. After the first few times, I think audiences stopped trying to work out how it happened and just accepted and perhaps expected the style throughout the rest of the presentation.

This is now one of the important evidence-based rules of presenting such that audio (what I’m saying) and video (what the audience is seeing) are in sync. The two most important sensory channels (auditory and visual) work together, rather than splitting; splitting or mixing up the channels confuses an audience at a “less than conscious level” and if you keep doing it in your presentation, they will attempt to restore the balance by doing their own activities and ignoring you. That is, they will reach for their iPhone or speak with their colleague next to them.

Having “split channels” is one of the ways many presenters unwittingly disengage their audience; it is easily “cured” and will lead to improved engagement and message delivery and recall. It is an essential skill presenters need to learn, and then impose upon their slide conception and building. By example, once I have a basic draft of my slide or set of slides, I will rehearse what I will say and practice my timing of slide builds. If it seems awkward or much too fiddly, I will try to automate the builds so they flow together rather than me having to remember when to click to advance. With really complicated slides with lots of automatic builds at precise intervals, I may even export that slide as a movie and then bring the movie back onto a slide, and let it roll. But that requires a great deal of rehearsal to hit your “marks” accurately. The “shaking book” example I began with started out as a complex slide, but it now a single movie replacing perhaps 25 builds.

Recording a complex set of single slide builds also helps with those times when the presenter clicker decides to stop working, or some background operation on the Mac decides to kick in (e.g. Spotlight, or when you’ve forgotten to shut down Mail and it’s automatically connecting to the Mail server). This is when you might double click because the first click didn’t advance – except it did, but was delayed and now that beautiful point you were making has been skipped because you double clicked!

If you export the slide builds as a movie in HD, your audience will not see any loss of picture quality, and it adds a safety net to your presentation. Mind you, it can also bulk up a slide stack, so don’t go overboard either!

So nowadays I hold the iPad in my left hand rather than have it attached to an immobile stand. It’s almost like returning to the bad old days of having 3×5 cards on which you have written your main points. These were yesterday’s presenter screens, cueing you in to the next element of your story, rather than reading the notes on the slides (egregious presenter error of the highest order, except if you are expressing a quotation from a nominated source).

Initially, I was worried that I may be harshly judged if the audience saw me refer to the iPad in my hand. Previously, my use of a vanity monitor would be done as surreptitiously as using the clicker, so as not to allow the audience to see me clueing myself in. You’ll often see the Apple V-P’s glancing down at their vanity monitors during their keynotes in quite obvious fashion, certainly much more so than Steve Jobs ever did. It’s neither good nor bad, just what it is.

But now, carrying the iPad with me, roving about the room, it’s very obvious what I’m doing but I no longer concern myself that the audience is “in” on my presentation tricks. Indeed, many come up to me afterwards and ask about the arrangement I use, principally because they would like to emulate its obvious effectiveness.

This is because the software I use on my iPad allows me to mirror the Macbook’s display in presenter mode, or, mirror what the data projector is displaying to the audience. The former is important for me as I may have roamed the room and now can’t see the Macbook to cue myself into the next slide or build. The iPad mirrors the Macbook’s Keynote (or Powerpoint) in presenter mode, and lets me see current and next slide using some wonderful software called Doceri.

I’ve blogged about the Doceri software before, and it’s recently received a small update to make it compatible with iOS9. It’s from SP Controls in South San Francisco, and I continue to be a beta tester and feed back ideas for product improvement. The software has very much found a home in teaching environments such as schools and colleges, and less so in presentation arenas, not surprising given how uncomfortable with change many presenters can be.

But the other reason audiences accommodate this rather strange or unfamiliar approach to presenting comes via Doceri’s ability for me to annotate the current slide on show. When in mirror mode (the iPad is displaying what the audience is seeing), I can draw, underline, bring up other pictures to colour in, take a picture of the audience, and leap about other slides which I have stored in Doceri but not prepared for the current presentation. Should it be necessary, I can keep the current presentation going, and overlay a previous set of slide pictures should an unanticipated question or comment occur. I think we’ve all had those moments when there is that one really great slide which could illustrate a point an audience member has just raised, but it’s not in the current stack. And Doceri will also record what I’m doing for uploading to YouTube if that’s my desire.

A more primitive form of this is possible if you use your iPhone as your “clicker” such that it can also go into presenter display mode, and supply you with a laser pointer-like image you can move around the display screen by dragging on your iPhone screen. And some minimal annotation tools too, all hand drawn. Doceri lets you draw precise squares, circles and objects with its palette of tools. There is one caveat however: if you’re in single screen drawing mode, the slides won’t advance. You have to unlock and leave that mode, even when mirroring. Doceri has the option of placing a thin coloured rectangle around the slide to cue you in that it is still in drawing mode, something most viewers will not see because they’re not expecting to see it – a form of inattentional blindness.

I’ve seen presenters use their iPhone as a clicker/vanity screen but the small size of the screen, even in Plus versions, has never had much appeal. It feels ungainly to hold and manipulate.

Which is your cue to ask about holding a 9.7 inch iPad and its ungainliness. And this is where the Bakbone comes into play. Let’s show you the video so you get to see what it is:

Rather than having the Bakbone attached in the middle of the iPad’s back panel over the  logo, I have it set to one side so I can more easily reach the Home button.

Its use means I don’t have to put too much thought or energy into holding onto the iPad – it just sits on my finger. I have to tell you that after workshops nowadays, I get two questions asked more often than others: One is what software I used (especially in workshops where I am not referring to Keynote or Powerpoint), and the second is about the Bakbone, especially from teachers who are employing iPads in their classroom for whom the Bakbone is clearly going to solve some problems.

I was given a Bakbone a few years ago as part of the shwag for presenting at Macworld, and it has become an indispensable part of my presenting, freeing me up from the static use of the iPad as vanity monitor, and allowing me to be much more interactive with the slides I’ve created, facilitated by Doceri’s vast compliment of presenting tools. It is now distributed in Australia via this link

One of the Bakbone inventors, physician Paul Webber

One of the Bakbone inventors, physician Paul Webber

In the next month or so when the iPad Pro with its pencil ships, it will be interesting to see if Doceri updates to take advantage of all that extra real estate and if the Bakbone will be compatible given the iPad Pro’s extra size. I’m guessing the Bakbone crew are constructing mockups given we know dimensions and weight, to see if there are handling issues. With current tablets, the use of factory styli are said to be compromised so it will be of great interest to see if the iPad Pencil will work.

I want to conclude this entry with a fresh point I made in my workshop to psychologists last week. I took them through a visual history of presenting so as to inform them that the problem of getting information from one person into another is a very ancient human challenge. From lectures, through to drawing in the sand and on slate, through to overhead cells and now slideware, it’s a challenge to know what the evidence says is most effective and which is being held onto for reasons of social norms and tradition.

To which I offered: “If you could have done your presentation using overheads like we did in the 1960s and 1970s and even into the 1980s (the reason in fact that Powerpoint came into existence – to help the MacPlus construct cell transparencies using new LaserWriters), then did you do your audience any favours? Did you produce for your audience a modern means of learning compared to something whose origins began in WWII for military training?”

And there was one last thing I offered in this pre-conference workshop:

“You’re gonna hate me, because for the next three days of this conference, going to various symposia and keynotes from eminent scientists, you won’t be able to unsee all the presentation errors I’ve just shown you. You’ll giggle, or gasp while your colleagues are trying to concentrate on the message; but you’ll feel split because once seen, the errors can’t be unseen. Just think of it as my workshop going on for another few days!”