Tag Archives: Powerpoint

Why Academic conferences need to change, and why Powerpoint is a dead technology walking

I’ve been travelling around Australia giving workshops to teachers about presentation skills as well as technologies and mental health. Few teachers have ever heard of Apple’s Keynote presentation software, as I discovered when many came up to me after my presentations to ask how I did what I did – the why was pretty obvious!

I’ve also in the meantime been asked to become part of my professional society’s organising committee for its 50th anniversary conference in Queensland in 2015. I was part of the organising conference for its 25th anniversary where I was much involved in both the social program as well as the media coverage.

I think this time around my involvement will be concerned with social media, something that didn’t exist as we know it now all those years ago.

So with this in mind, I was delighted to see in my Zite feed today a blog post from a professor of Sociology, Steven Fuller, now at Warrick University in the UK.

Here is its title, and link:

Six principles for organising academic conferences in the 21st century

When I read the blog entry, I tweeted, “Halleluya, Brother”, so happy was I to see someone who also wished changes for academic conferences.

You can read the bulk of them at Fuller’s blog, but let me highlight (with the author’s permission) his first thee principles for presenters:

1. A conference is a distinct channel – perhaps even genre – of academic communication. It is not a watered-down or zombie version of the academic print culture. It requires its own ‘peer review’ standards that do not simply trade on the conventions of academic writing. Thus, instead of abstracts, prospective presenters should send video clips of 1-3 minutes that convey what will be said and how it will be said.

2. Presenters should be strongly discouraged from reading their presentations. More generally, presenters should be forced to make a special case for presenting material that is already available in print. The norm for conference presentations should be new material – unless a presenter hails from a field with which conference members are unlikely to be familiar.

3. Presentations heavily reliant on Powerpoint should be gathered thematically into what are essentially high-tech poster sessions rather than be given stand-alone speaker slots. This may mean that a larger percentage of the space in the conference facility is given over to such sessions. Indeed, organizers may wish to consider that the explicitness of many Powerpoint presentations render the human presenter redundant. Thus, interested conference goers may simply be directed to a computer terminal where all the Powerpoint-based presentations are loaded, perhaps with recorded voice-overs from the absent presenters.

I like these sentiments – a lot!

Fuller clearly understands that academic conferences need to change, and how presenters are selected and expected to present is different from that which pervades conferences now, based almost exclusively on the same principles as for paper publications.

He recognises that conferences are not the place for the regurgitation of printed articles, but are a meeting place of ideas, and where presentations to large groups need to be exceptional.

Along the same lines, today I also continued to read an eBook by Clive Thompson, called Smarter than you think: How Technology is changing our minds for the better.

It neatly follows my lectures to teachers this past month where I have described the history of moral panics down the centuries when new technologies have been introduced. Whether it be the loss of jobs or whole industries, our brains are changing, “knowledge is power” struggles, or issues of privacy, how we change technology and how technology changes us is an important ongoing discussion we need to be having.

Certainly, technologies like Powerpoint and Keynote and Prezi are changing how we distribute knowledge, and readers of this blog will be aware of my beliefs that it’s not all positive, especially in the case of Powerpoint. While many still follow the meme that Powerpoint is merely a tool badly used by too many, I fall into the camp that it is a very poor tool to begin with for knowledge distribution, especially in an age which is demanding far more audio-visual literacy, as Thompson points out.

A few choice quotes from the book:

thompson ppt

and

tompsonppt2

I don’t know that I need to place to much context around these quotes about Powerpoint – the astute reader will get the picture. It’s one of the things I have been banging on about consistently in my presentation magic workshops for those who attend: that the world of knowledge transfer, sharing and engagement is undergoing a radical shift and the usual means – i.e., traditional and socially normed – will no longer cut it as the 21st Century progresses.

Using software merely as an advanced overhead projector system – for which Powerpoint was originally developed for the Macintosh in the mid-1980s is a dead technology walking, no matter how you spruce it up, as we’re about to see when the next version for Windows is released soon.

The next generation of learners, employing their iPads in school, will be using Keynote or equivalents available on the iPad since 2010, with Powerpoint on the iPad mainly used by those currently in industry compelled to use the desktop version and needing some sort of tablet parity mobility.

But may I suggest, a whole generation of young people will never use Powerpoint. Kind of makes a mockery of all the educational administrators all those years ago who insisted their schools standardise on Microsoft products like Word and Powerpoint because “that’s what the kids will be using when they enter the workforce in ten years”.

Yeah, right!

 

 

 

 

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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.

Hoping to see new Apple products announced Monday? Well, there’s a legion of Apple’s Keynote presentation software users who’ll be hoping to see evidence of a major update

It’s that time of the year again.

The time of the year when expectations for new Apple products and services reaches a fever pitch. This year it’s especially intense because expectations seem to be so high following a very long time between drinks. The drinks in this case being Apple’s entry into a new product field where, as it has on memorable occasions in the last ten years, allegedly mature technology domains are ripe for disruption – only they don’t know it yet.

Recently, the “pundocracy” have been alleging that with Tim Cook at the helm, Apple’s streak of innovations have come to an end. The Samsung range of cellphones, especially the S4 has been cited as an exemplar of Apple being left in the innovation dustbin. Mooted devices such as an iWatch and AppleTV – not the current box, but a real screen device – have not realised, and this has only added to the frustration of Apple watchers and investors.

So this Monday (Tuesday in Australia), many will be observing Apple’s offerings, some superficially so, eager to get their hands on newly announced products and services. A heady proportion will be announced for release that day or week, others for later in the year, since this is after all a developers’ conference for the purpose of showing new software with plenty of lead time for a developers to release their wares in September or October.

But there will be a group who will look beyond the products on show, at those Apple crew and guests making their demos and announcements. They’ll be looking not at what Tim Cook, Phil Schiller and maybe Jony Ive announce, but at how they make their announcements.

Since 2003, Apple has used its keynotes to secretly demonstrate new software for those who looked closely enough. Starting that year, when Steve Jobs spoke of being a beta tester for Keynote, Apple’s presentation software which was designed to take on Microsoft’s Powerpoint, Apple has shown advanced editions of Keynote as the tool to show new official products. Powerpoint itself had been Microsoft’s first software purchase (apart from the initial Desk Operating System from Seattle Computer Products for use in IBM PCs), intended for the Mac Plus/SE to make black and white overhead slides – foils – using new Laserwriters. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 a five year deal was struck with Bill Gates to have MS Office for the Mac continue in production, with Internet Explorer becoming the de facto web browser for the Macintosh.

It’s not surprising then that the same year Keynote was released, Apple’s own browser was released too, in the form of Safari. And it was ten years ago, at the same Macworld at Moscone where Monday’s keynote will be held, that Apple introduced 17″ and 12″ Powerbooks. And it was there that Apple told all those who would listen that a post-PC world was on the horizon, with predictions that laptops would soon outsell desktops, much like tablets will soon outsell laptops, leaving desktops to do the truck-like heavy lifting, such as scientific number crunching, animation rendering and the like.

In the ten years since Keynote 1.0 was released, Apple has added new software to rival Office, such as Numbers (Excel) and Pages (Word), and brought those same OS X apps to the iPad in iOS form. The introduction of iCloud was meant to provide synchronisation between the platforms in the same way one can with Evernote, and it’s hoped that WWDC on Monday brings major improvements and developments in cloud computing from Apple.

There have also been incremental updates to Keynote along the way, bringing it from a functional but anaemic software which was hardly a match feature-wise for Powerpoint 2003, to an outstanding platform for helping transform a presenter’s implicit knowledge into a format to help transfer that knowledge to others.

Powerpoint 2010/11 has transformed itself too and on superficial inspection looks a lot like Keynote. Power users can make it do great things, but for a ten year veteran of Keynote like myself who coaches others in presentation skills across both platforms, Powerpoint for all its features remains clunky and Keynote easy on the eye and the hand.

That said, Apple has treated Keynote with seeming disdain, last updating it with any significant feature improvement in 2009. I have it on reasonable authority that in the time since that last official update, Apple was preparing to release a significant update, but pulled back at the last minute. Keen observers of Apple’s keynotes, such as WWDC, will occasionally report feeling as if there was a glitch or oversight in the narrative, as if there was a last moment change. Perhaps because a product didn’t meet quality standards or deals weren’t signed in time.

In the case of Keynote, Apple’s unexpected success with the iPad, and then the development of iBooks, has seen resources thrown at iWork for the iPad, much as we have heard stories of the OS X team being diluted to provide crew for iOS 7, which many commentators have asserted needs an “urgent” facelift.

Thus, keen eyes will be observing this week to see if Apple either hints at an iWork update via new features on display in Keynote (to tell Apple’s story of new services and products), or perhaps a section devoted directly to iWork updates, perhaps with the inclusion of a new software to the suite.

Why an update to Keynote feature set urgently needed

In the fours and a half years since Keynote’s last sprucing up, much has occurred in the world of presenting, leaving aside Powerpoint’s updates.

We have new platforms such as Prezi, an effort to move away from the linearity of the standard slide show paradigm.

We have online services such as Slideshare, and Presentate. And we also have iPad based iOS apps for specialist analysis, such as performed by Asymco’s Horace Dediu in the form of the free Perspective app.

But in the years after 2009, there has been another disruptive technology introduced which I fear Apple has neglected, worth billions, which it can now be a part of… and that is MOOCs, or Massive Online Open Courses which are seeing colleges and universities scrambling to adapt to, including developing their own. Apple provides a conduit for courses too, using its iTunes U app and services.

There is also a massive swing to online continuing education within industries, professions and vocations, where the old linearity and style of Powerpoint simply won’t cut it anymore.

That style, which I personally have always thought was incredibly overused and abusive of students in tertiary settings, much less business meetings (you know, all text and pixelated images), will simply not cut it for either MOOCs or Continuing Education.

Those online trainings, where individuals work through a series of modules at their own pace – but which need to be passed at a certain level of competence before moving to the next – require high levels of quality multimedia production to maintain viewer engagement. There is a great deal of competition for attention on both the screen and in their pockets via smartphone distractions.

I’ve already seen one business-oriented training course, for which I used Keynote to create the visuals, change midstream from a “stand and deliver” live course, to an online course, with minimal changes to the Keynote files, since they weren’t the usual Powerpoint in the first place.

You can see some demos at the site, http://workmindset.com, and the voiceover is my work as well (yeah, multi-talented, huh?).

Here’s where an opportunity exists for Apple to become disruptive in another game, one worth billions. To do what I did with the online learning program, I had to go outside Keynote’s limitations, something its users have learnt to do since version 1.0.

I had to use two screenshot apps, Voila for stills and Screenflow for movies, as well as third parties for images and movies requiring payment of royalties. I also incorporated animated backgrounds featuring professional looping Quicktime movies to bring some “energy” onto certain slides, as well as themes from third parties which better suited my purposes than Keynote’s default themes.

I had to be inventive with callouts, where certain areas of the slide were highlighted and other areas backgrounded since there is no laser pointer to show the way (ugh!). And I had to use Screenflow to record quite complex builds where I needed exquisite timing of visuals and sounds which Keynote could not provide with sufficient precision, showing in glaring spotlight its major deficiency with respect to a timeline. We see these in all manner of Apple software from Garageband, through iMovie, onto Motion and Final Cut X.

The last two also incorporate third party modules to enhance their capabilities and the reader is referred to Noise Industries‘ FxFactory for examples which could find their way into a Keynote Pro should it adopt such a modular system. While it’s nice to see a supporting ecosystem of themes, images and movies for Keynote, none so far add to the workflow the way FxFactory and its ilk bring extra competencies to Final Cut X or Motion. Indeed, some have remarked to me that a Keynote Pro would see a merging of the simplicity and ease of use of Keynote with the professional capabilities of Motion.

I want to make a reference to two more third party applications and resources which I am exploiting more often, especially to improve upon Keynote’s text and graphic effects. The first is an application from Synium, called Animationist which allows wonderful moving and changing text, exported as masked Quicktime movies. Only in version 1, the sooner Apple buys this and brings it into Keynote the better. When you download the demo, note its ease of use of a timeline. Here’s a YouTube video to tempt you with:

The second is a bespoke service from India which I discovered via a Google search when I was under time pressure and needed some ready-made visuals, rather than creating them from scratch. It’s an Indian company called Chillibreeze, and their Keynote service is called Muezart. I found them delightful people to do business with. I needed a way to show change over time, moving from low level abilities to high.

Here’s the “tachometer” effect I ended up with ($4.99), for the launch of the workmindset.com program last week (wait until the very end to see all the components in the tachometer I purchased):

In Conclusion:

So come Monday, there will be a legion of Keynote users who will once more look past the content of the keynote (although we will no doubt be very interested in what’s on show) to look at the process of Keynote.

Will we see at long last an update and will we hear of new products and services Apple will be releasing to disrupt yet another billion dollar marketplace ripe for the picking?

With the passing of Steve Jobs, its primary beta tester, has Apple now orphaned its presentation software, Keynote, which hasn’t received a major update for almost three years. Will dissatisfied users abandon it for Powerpoint (which Jobs despised)?

I’ve just finished reading on my iPad and iPhone Walter Isaacson’s superb biography of Steve Jobs. I knew much of the story he told from the various unauthorised biographies as well as individual blogs written about him, as well as movies such as “Triumph of the Nerds” and “Pirates of Silicon Valley”.

I saw Steve a few times up close when I visited the Apple campus in the last few years, but never had a chance to speak with him. I can certainly fantasise that he many have read some of my blog articles about Apple products such as the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone and of course his presentation software of choice, Keynote.

In more recent years, he spoke of hoping to keep Apple’s DNA alive after he was gone by dint of the new Apple building he has commissioned to be built on some previous Hewlett-Packard land. Perhaps he had read of the “Apple DNA” concept on my blog article in December, 2004, a screenshot of which is below. It is on this website that I first suggested Apple ought to make a tablet (I nicknamed it the iScribe) which would be brilliant for Keynote users to remote use:

(If you can find a description of Apple’s DNA earlier than 2004, please let me know!)

I’m sure many readers have fantasised what they would have said to Steve Jobs if they happened to meet him, and perhaps some of you have! My other fantasy includes him walking into my first Presentation Magic  presentation at Macworld 2008, saying  “This sucks!”, then taking over the show to share his presentation ideas. How I and attendees would have had special memories to take with us had that happened!

But before you think it merely fantasy, others in the health professions have indeed been on the receiving end of Jobs’ “advice” with regard to their presentations, especially when they used Powerpoint.

Walter Isaacson’s Jobs’ biography mentions his distaste for Powerpoint, and slideshow-based presentations in general (save for his own keynote presentations) on six occasions. You won’t find Powerpoint or Keynote listed in the book’s index, but in the iBooks’ version I have, you can of course do a global search for keywords. So, here you have them:

Global search of Powerpoint references in "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson

We’ll work our way through some of them because it’s quite illuminating to hear what someone who presentation bloggers and authors rate as one of the world’s best presenters (and the world’s best CEO presenter) has to say about Powerpoint, and presentations in general.

Let’s start with the final reference where Jobs is very ill, and his wife Laurene and others have organised various medical and genetics research staff to investigate where next in his treatment:

One could just imagine Jobs focussing on the expectedly lousy Powerpoint slides of medical researchers while they’re focussing on his genome sequence for which he’s paid $100,000!

But earlier on the book, when Jobs has returned to Apple and is setting about constructing his “A” team to resurrect Apple, we see how he eschews presentations with slideware when he believes it takes from, rather than adds to, the creative process:

“People who know what they’re talking about don’t need Powerpoint”

This might sound strange coming from someone who was the original beta tester for Apple’s Keynote, and who continued to employ it to show Apple’s wares right up to the release of the iPad 2.

But as I have written elsewhere, a Jobs’ keynote does not engage the audience in a dialogue. The audience is engaged with the story he tells of Apple’s products and services, where he employs Keynote like a storyboard, outlining a roadmap. It’s not used as a lecture technology, as an adult training tool, or as a brainstorming of ideas technology. Jobs never hid behind his slides as so many people do, preferring their slides to sell the story. No, Steve emulated for us how the slides were adjuncts to our spoken stories, never getting in the way of what the presenter was saying or doing, but ready to illustrate ideas when words were not enough.

With Steve’s passing who at Apple can carry the torch for Keynote? The obvious answer is Phil Schiller who, after Steve, is most associated with demonstrating iWork in action at Apple keynotes, and showing us updates.

But is Phil invested sufficiently in Keynote to see it continue to be updated with features for a contemporary presentation population, both givers and receivers who have become steadily sophisticated in their expectations.

I say that with some sense of caution however. I was sent a link to YouTube video of several start-ups competing for venture capital, each giving a recent 3 minute presentation.

You can watch it below. But let me remind you that since the release of Lion 10.7 and a point update for Keynote, many in various discussion groups have complained of considerable unhappiness regarding the auto-update feature, which for some means minutes of spinning beach balls for even the slightest of changes to a slide. It has meant on Apple discussion support boards that some have either reverted to Snow Leopard or an earlier edition of Keynote so as to bypass the auto-save feature, or have returned (shudder) to Powerpoint.

So when you watch the video below, bear in mind two things:

1. There is still plenty of room for presentation skills training to judge by the young group of entrepreneurs missing the central point of their presentations, viz.: their failure to appreciate the most important obstacle to overcome as soon as possible is the audience’s fundamental cognition: “Why should I give a $%# about your product?”

2. Feel some empathy for the first presenter, who uses the organiser’s Powerpoint (Mac-based) when it falls over (at 2min56sec):

Notice too what happens when you don’t provide speakers with a vanity monitor, which I have been discussing lately. You’ll see how often the presenters need to look over their shoulder to see what’s happening and lose contact with their audience. Not good when you’ve only got three minutes to persuade people.

You’ll also see many presentation errors with the slides (perhaps I’ll use this as an exercise at my Macworld presentation), which shows I hope that even young, hip entrepreneurs whose presentations really count can so easily be sucked into the Powerpoint vortex of lousy knowledge transfer.

So the mission Steve started in 2003 with Keynote 1.0 is way from over, I believe. Yet the last significant update to Keynote was in 2009 when it moved to version 5, as part of iWork 09, giving us MagicMove (which has become a default Apple transition for their keynotes), some new chart animations, and some remote apps for iDevices.

In two months, it will be three years while its users have patiently waited for Keynote’s multitude of shortcomings to be dealt with in the form of a brand new version, making a significant form and function leap as did Final Cut Pro X.

Yet without Steve there to champion it, as he did in the final period of his life, who within Apple will take it to Tim Cook, hardly renowned so far as a presenter par excellence, and the senior executive team, and offer up an improvement?

Apple keynotes themselves have settled into a very predictable pattern, with incredibly overused build styles, such as the “anvil” whenever amazing financial figures are displayed. In the last few keynotes we have not seen any hints of new effects or styles, although  of course there could be events happening outside of visual awareness, such as the much sought after timeline for more precise animation and build timings.

What’s worse, Apple’s own internal briefings using Keynote which I get to see when my MUG has an official presentation from an Apple rep., are merely Powerpoint converted to Keynote, and I recall conversations with my iWork contact who lamented the generally low level of presentation skills using Keynote performed within Apple’s various divisions. It’s probably why people like me and Larry Lessig were invited to present to the Keynote team, not just to discuss what we wanted in future Keynotes, but for the team to witness how to Present Different.

Prior to the current version 5, the longest time in Keynote’s history  when its users had to patiently wait for a new version was twenty four months, between versions 1 (released January 2003) and 2 (released January 2005).

There were some minor point updates in that time, more for stability than features. Version 2 was a huge improvement, almost like going from OS X 10.1 to its first really useable, put away System 9, version 10.2, Jaguar.

Three years is a very long time, although if one lives in the Windows Powerpoint world, where in the last decade you go from PPT 2003 to 2007 to 2011, it’s not so remarkable. And in the face of continuing updates of significance to the iPad version of Keynote, perhaps not all hope is lost.

But unless we see something new soon, and the current Lion auto-save issue is resolved, I fear issues of abandonment will continue in the face of Apple’s seeming orphaning of what appeared to be one of Steve Job’s favourite applications he loved using himself; one where we watched its use in amazement not just of the products he showed as emblems of Apple’s DNA, at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, but of the “how” he showed them, the likes if which in a CEO we won’t see for a long time.

Vale Steve.

Vale Keynote?

Presentation Magic at Macworld 2010 – using Penn and Teller to demonstrate some of Keynote’s magical effects

Because I’m not placing my Powertools file on the Macworld website for attendees to review (I used several Keynote files, the main one being more than 2GB in size), I thought I’d share some of the Presentation Magic workshop here on my blog.

One of the changes I made from last year’s workshop, was a more definitive “behind the scenes” look at how I created various effects and why I employed them.

In 2009, quite a few attendees wanted me to stop during the presentation and explain what I had done with Keynote to achieve the effects I displayed. It was a little offputting, with some people feeling it interrupted the narrative “flow”, while others felt they had missed out on something important for their professional development (the “how I did it” part.)

So this year, I made a more planned and strategic workflow which emphasised some of Keynote’s overlooked tools which don’t really get that much attention. Sure, the transitions, from the supersmooth “dissolve” which Powerpoint 2010 might get close to, to the “smart builds” like MagicMove get Keynote much of its attention from audiences who only know Powerpoint.

But early in my workshop I wanted to discuss basics like the layering in Keynote – the “bring forward, send to back” menu items. part of the Keynote “Arrange” menu, below:

This menu item is one of Keynote’s secret treasures, but so often gets overlooked in favour of more sexy, but too often employed effects for effects sake. Just think how tired you may have become of the “cube” transition which so excited us when Steve Jobs first showed it in 2003′s Macworld keynote, below:

During his introduction of Keynote, Jobs emphasised that each night, we sit in front of our television sets and watch production level transitions and effects, and it was these he wanted Keynote to emulate. You don’t want to know the transitions and effects Powerpoint 97 was using when Keynote was introduced! It was no surprise the Macworld keynote attendees applauded loudly when Jobs showed these transitions. It was a paradigm shift, because we didn’t know we could have production level graphics effects on a PC, much less using software costing $99.

I must say I now rarely use the cube transition, especially now that Powerpoint 2010 has included a version that seems to work reasonably well (prior attempts were lamentable). With Powerpoint upping its game, expect to see more people overusing these “new” inclusions in it, effects which Keynote users have taken for granted since 2003.

The way I introduced the Arrange menu was to briefly discuss very early in the day the basis for Presentation Magic’s name, something IDG Macworld Expo MD Paul Kent and I came up with in 2008. (He had wanted to call the User conference I delivered “The Zen of Presentations”, but out of respect for Garr Reynolds I rejected that and Presentation Magic was what we came up with). For 2009, my first two day Powertools workshop, Paul had asked me this in July 2008:

The path to success for the two day class is to clearly describe how you will BOTH take attendees inside the keynote features that will make their presentations stand out, AND, how you will provide valuable insights how to structure presentations to best use a software tool to communicate when public speaking. In other words – the class should be more than just whizzy transitions! I’d be happy to read any drafts you come up with and offer suggestions. You did such a great job last year – I’m sure you understand the essence of what I’m asking you: the attendees want to do magic with the software, but we also want to help them with the invaluable advice of crafting and delivering memorable presentations.

I took his use of the term “Magic” seriously, and began to research the psychology of magic, given it is one of the oldest performing arts. But also because in using Virtual Reality in my clinical psychology practice, I am attempting to use the age old principles of magic to misdirect and deceive to produce a clinical effect. In this case, to raise levels of anxiety so as to practice a variety of interventions. In professional magic, being deceived is perceived as delightful and engaging; in clinical psychology, it gives one an opportunity to help patients retrain their anxiety-generating mechanisms via exposure and arousal modulation practice.

There is also a code of practice for professional magic, much like there is for professional psychology. One of them is not to reveal your secrets to non-performers. So I was aware of “spoiling” the magic of presenting by showing how I conceive then construct my presentations. The task was to integrate the psychology of presenting (ie the stuff about being persuasive and memorable) with the little behind the scenes trickery Keynote can let us perform to get the Wow factor without it being “whizzy” to use Paul Kent’s term, above. And at the same time, I wanted to keep the workshop flow going so we didn’t get bogged down in the sort of “how to” detail better suited to a Macworld MacIT workshop.

The clue to do this came about when I stumbled across a Penn and Teller YouTube video. These are two of my favourite performers, not just for their magic acts, but also their television show, now in its seventh series on Showtime, called “Bullshit!”, below:

The video I discovered, and subsequently showed at Macworld, was a performance showing Teller, the silent one on the right, above, walking out on stage to a bass guitar accompaniment played by Penn Jillete (left) who narrates a story of magic’s sleight of hand’s seven basic elements which Teller demonstrates. But half way through the video, Penn has Teller turn 180 degrees, to show the audience the magical elements in action, revealing how Teller performed his sleight of hand. It was a perfect metaphor for what I wanted to do, giving me “permission” to reveal some of the secrets of Keynote presenting where effects are hidden from the audience, who don’t even know they’re being misdirected and persuaded at the same time.

Below, please watch the video in its entirety, then I’ll show you what I did with Keynote to demonstrate the magic of the “Arrange” menu. See if you can remember the seven elements of sleight of hand when the video finishes:

Did you remember the seven elements?

Here they are if you didn’t remember:

Here they are displayed on a Keynote slide using a font which conveys the art of performing (Academy Engraved LET)

I wanted to assert that very few of those attending would be able to remember all seven, even a few minutes after seeing them mentioned several times during the video. Seven is the upper limit for working memory (four elements or chunks more the norm), where we try and hold onto concepts or memory elements before they are encoded for later retrieval. They can easily be pushed out of memory when new concepts come along, unless we can find a “hook” to keep them in. Indeed, even with the offer a free Presentation Zen Design book as incentive, no one took up the opportunity to try and publicly recall all seven.

Simply relisting them, as I do above on a slide (naturally I left out bullet points or numbers as they would only distract not add to their recall), wouldn’t help much.

The task was to make this part memorable, entertaining, and a teachable moment with respect to Keynote’s abilities. So I decide to create some slides which listed each element, and show how Keynote could emulate each one using the “Arrange” menu elements. I’ve put the slides together using Keynote’s Quicktime export menu so you can watch them in YouTube. Note that I begin the video with a quotation you will be hearing a lot in the next month, given how Apple has described the imminent release of its iPad:

The author of the well known phrase is Arthur C. Clarke, shown in the video in his home in Sri Lanka sitting before his iMac. (I showed this slide to the Keynote group in Pittsburgh last year, with its smoky background theme from Jumsoft. The Keynote team aren’t happy with such animated backgrounds, despite their increasing frequency of use. They break quite easily and don’t allow for smooth transitions. Indeed, during my Powertools workshop, this slide froze my Macbook Pro for a minute, which perfectly illustrated my Keynote team story!)

Here’s my series of slides from YouTube (stop and replay the video as necessary to determine for yourself what I did):

After I showed each slide, I dragged the Keynote window to the main projector screen, and showed how I used the “bring forward, send back” menu items to create a series of layers so that the words could move between layers to emulate the effect it was describing. Not all could be illustrated this way, sometimes it being better merely to illustrate the concept using familiar, funny or exceptional items to enhance encoding and recall. There is empirical evidence that matching pictures with words enhances recall, so I asked the group to remember the seven elements by thinking of the pictures I used to illustrate the concepts.

So the question you might have is how did I perform some of these effects?

Here’s a clue:

Further hint: I use Global Delight’s Voila software to take, manipulate and export screenshots.

I’ll put more of my Powertool’s workshop slides up on the blog in the days to come.

Forget an Apple tablet’s form factor – yeah, it’ll be stunning – it’s the apps that will be its ultimate success. Especially the ones that let you self-publish: 70% for you, 30% for Apple

Three years ago, speculation was rife that Apple would release a mobile phone at Macworld 2007. Apple kept shtum, admitting nothing publicly but as history now show, a chosen few got their hands on the iPhone ahead of its release under NDAs.

I wrote about it then on my now-orphaned Cyberpsych blog, not ready to accept it was actually coming, but predicting if it did arrive, it would contain all the hallmarks of Apple product design we’ve become familiar with over the years, especially since Jobs returned in 1997.

During December especially, with Macworld 2007 being the first week of the new year, the rumours and “confirmations” mounted daily, and now in 2010, in feels like deja vu all over again.

Another landmark product, which as Jobs showed with the iPhone gives Apple a further opportunity to introduce the next interface (r)evolution to the masses, is my prediction, despite commentaries asking why we need another tablet (Joe Wilcox, don’t hold Apple to Microsoft’s product standards and marketing).

If you’ve been watching Apple for the last decade or so, or at least kept up your observation at a distance of how Jobs operates, you’ll know his design mantra centres on bringing complex engineering feats within the reach of ordinary users who don’r need degrees in rocket science to manage. This kind of exactness of execution and attention to detail can’t be achieved at the cut throat prices Apple’s apparent competitors sell their wares for. I say apparent because Apple and say Dell or HP sell computers with much the same internals. Where they differ is:

1. Design

2. Packaging

3. Marketing

4. Operating System software

5. Point of sale experience, Price and After purchase experience.

For some people, price is all that counts, which is how Microsoft’s most recent advertising using “real” buyers pitched its cause, even acknowledging the coolness of Apple’s products. The coolness factor is meaningless for many, perhaps even a turn off, and as long as the specs. appear much the same, the experience ought to be as well, no?

Er, no. It’s like saying because two presenters use slideware their presentations will be equally satisfying or effective. As if.

So when it comes to an Apple tablet don’t expect just another interface that we’ve already experienced. It’s not the Jobs’ way. Whether it brings with it a new tactile feedback device for both keyboard and object manipulation – such as application “windows” , flicking pinballs in various games, underlining or highlighting words on a page, and turning that page or chapter with the flick of a finger or two which feels like a flick – it will likely exceed what we’ve seen in the iPhone. It gave us visual and auditory feedback, rather than haptic as has been mooted for the tablet.

But if history is to repeat itself – yes, early adopters will pay a special Apple tax – it won’t be the design alone that will win hearts and minds, and have competitors scratching their heads dreaming of counterattacks (apart from suing Apple for alleged patent infringement). As we saw with the iPhone, it’ll be the software. Not just the operating system software, perhaps iPhone OS 4.0, but what the software will allow in terms of Apps. I fully expect a chosen few app. developers will demonstrate their special versions of existing iPhone apps. as well as new ones specifically designed for the tablet. And I further expect companies fully immersed in the enterprise setting in a very big way to show both hardware and software developments which could only be constructed for the tablet. I’m thinking here of medical applications, already utilising tablet configurations for data storage, but which will really come of age with the Apple tablet’s OS and feature set.

I have no insider information, but I will not be surprised if Apple released its own homebrew set of apps for the creative set, in particular versions of iLife and iWork which will enable users to create endproducts which will somehow be compatible with desktop versions of iLife/iWork.

Let’s think of Pages for a moment, with its dual functions as word processing and desktop publisher. What if Apple provided you with all the necessary tools to create your own book, upload it to the new version of iTunes which will be released the same day as the tablet, and be a saleable item – yep, Apple takes 30%, you get 70%.

Talk about cutting out the middle man, the publishers of expensive textbooks, magazines, and novels! There may be a new industry of for-hire editors to help shape it up, deals with sites like iStockphoto to enable you to fill your book with royalty-paid illustrations (or perhaps help you find specialist illustrators who can also show their wares on a new iTunes store), and even the opportunity to add music to your publication from the iTunes store. Apple will take of royalties for the music publisher in one easy and attractive arrangement.

With respect to Pages’ older brother, Keynote, I have some time back (May, 2007) written of what might happen if your Keynotes could be uploaded to the iTunes store.

Again, a place to show your wares, but it seems iTunes U has to some extent executed this vision by using Quicktime movies exported from Keynote rather than raw Keynote files to provide the educational material. Given the possibility that the next version of Keynote may well be Snow Leopard-only, it’s hard to see how a tablet could create Keynote files to be imported into the desktop version.

That’s not to say a tablet couldn’t be integrated with the management of regular Keynote files, much like the iPhone can in a rudimentary fashion. But rather than just control the slides forward and back, why not call up each slide at will while they’re laid out in order on the tablet, big enough to identify. Stacks of slides that go together, which can be organised in Keynote now, would take care of huge numbers of slides in a stack. And going beyond that, as I have suggested elsewhere on this blog, why not use the tablet to live annotate your Keynotes, even monitoring Twitter feedback during your presentation which is becoming a popular conference activity. This already occurs with tablet-based Powerpoint for Windows.

So, to all those focussed on the hardware aspects of the tablet, don’t forget how after the excitement of the iPhone form factor, it was the app store that provides for its clear lead over its competitors (who will ever catch up with 100,000+ apps?).

I have no doubt that while we swoon over a tablet’s form factor in late January, it will be its software, interface and ability to disintermediate the current publishing houses that will be its permanent “of course, why didn’t I see it coming” factors. It won’t happen first, because for the tablet to succeed it will provide for the same publication houses to sell their wares. But as the music recording industry discovered when they allowed iTunes for the Mac to come to market, in a few years, self-publishing via the tablet will have them asking if they made a deal with the devil, which is where the details will be.

Oh, and one more thing… just as with the iPod and the iPhone, watch the detractors leap on it, disappointed the tablet doesn’t also make toast. The usual suspects will also emerge without the wit or elan to actually commend Apple on shifting the digital world forward incrementally. Don’t worry, that’s their job… someone’s got to do it.

Learning from the bravery of others – the Ignite 20slides/15secs/5mins presentation style

An RSS feed pointed me to the latest IGNITE presentation gathering in Phoenix in late February, 2009. The purpose of an IGNITE gathering is simple – allow a community to gather and be an audience to a special kind of presentation. Speakers each have  20 slides which stay on screen for 15 seconds each and automatically move to the next.

There are no screen builds or transitions and no limits on the speakers’ subjects.

Commercial pitches are allowed but there are provisos, to wit:

“BIAS/PITCHES/SPAM

We want Ignite to be about promoting and sharing burning ideas. If those ideas happen to take the form of the company you work for, the startup you’re trying to get funded, or any other self-serving commercial interest, then so be it. We’re fine with it, really. But whatever you present had better be interesting, because that’s what it’s going to be judged on in people’s minds. if you’re going to market to people at Ignite Phoenix, you’d better be smart about it. Because if you’re not, it won’t be pretty…”

Think about this for a moment. You have 15 x 20 = 300 = 5 mins to present on a topic using slides you’ve created which will change on cue every twenty seconds. Your task is to keep the audience engaged, amused, entertained, informed, and most likely provoked while keeping in memory 20 slides.

To be frank, when I saw some of the presentations, they acted as a reminder of all the rules and guidelines I teach in my Presentation Magic workshops, mainly what not to do. First, let me show you how I went about viewing the presentations, using software I located at Macworld 2009 called Web2 Delight from an Indian software company, called Global Delight.

Web2 Delight allows you to search a number of popular video and picture aggregators sites such as YouTube and Flickr. It then allows you to either stream the videos in a separate window, or download them, choosing to convert them on the fly for import into your iPod, Apple TV, iPhone or burn them to CD or DVD – a great time saver.

Using the URL for the Phoenix Ignite BlipTV location here, this is what the screen looks like when Web2 Delight locates the videos:

Web2 Delight display of some of Ignite Phoenix's video collection

Web2 Delight display of some of Ignite Phoenix's video collection

By the way, Web2 Delight has a sister product called Voila, which is an advanced screen shot maker and library which I will blog about in another entry because it has some great features presenters who use slides will want to utilise. I used it to create the screenshot, above.

When you pass your mouse over each thumbnail, an icon appears allowing to either stream the video, or download it to a desired location on your hard drive. A red progress bar appears in the thumbnail window, and you can simultaneously search and view other videos.

The download is a one-pass operation, whereas other YouTube apps. have a two-pass operation, once to download the flv file and the other to convert into your preferred format, such as mp4.

Ok, enough of the technologies, I’m using… why my interest in Ignite? And why am I sharing it with you?

Because, despite the look and feel of some of the presentations which look suspiciously like the Cognitive Style of Powerpoint (you know what I mean,

• 7 x 7 rules for lines and words per slide,

• chintzy clip art,

• overexposed backgrounds,

• pixelated images, and

• basically a presentation that is presenter-centric, not audience-centric)

• oh, and lots of pointless bullet points ;-),

the emphasis with the Ignite community is to help people think more about their presentations, and break some rules.

An Ignite was held in Sydney in late January, 2009 (I didn’t know so I didn’t go – perhaps Melbourne is ready for one) and here is the guff from its website:

“Why Ignite?
You may have heard of Ignite. It’s a presentation style pioneered in the US by some guys who wanted to spice up their presentations – and it quickly became a worldwide phenomenon.

The idea is simple – make the presenters stick to a rigid format of 20 slides, each of which changes automatically after 15 seconds, giving a guaranteed 5 minute presentation.

Why is this a good idea?

It forces the presenters to think long and hard about every slide. How many times have you heard the presenter say “this slide isn’t important”? Well – get rid of it then!

Conversely, there are the presenters who talk to a single slide for 10 minutes, by which time you’ve lost interest, the plot, and probably the will to live.

Ignite is all about making the slides dynamic and exciting, and forcing the presenters to think about what they show.

If you’re sick of Death By Powerpoint, then come along to Ignite Sydney, where you’re guaranteed a fun night of entertaining and educational presentations.”

Now both Sydney and many other cities’ Ignites are online now, some using BlipTV and others YouTube.

What is clear when you watch some of these videos is how tough it is to organise one’s timing, such that one doesn’t break some of the Rules of Multimedia knowledge transfer which have been offered the presentation community by evidence-based researchers such as Richard Mayer and John Sweller.

The most prominent rule I’ve seen broken (and hey, I’m as guilty as the next person, perhaps more so since I do know better!) in the Ignite videos – and the format of a fixed 15 seconds doesn’t help – is the overload produced when audio and video channels collide. That is, our two main senses for retrieving data and beginning the process of making sense of it – every pun intended – are the auditory and visual-spatial organs. When the two offer the brain much the same message, albeit in two different forms, there is a better chance of not being overloaded and remembering the main message, than when the two channels are receiving dissimilar material.

With the 15 second rule in Ignite, presenters are faced with either having really rehearsed their timing and words, much like an actor hitting their marks, or an opera singer being one with the orchestra; or allowing the slides to cue them in to what to say. Each is not without its difficulties. The former requires hours of rehearsal and practice, most likely more than most presenters will want to spend for what’s really just a fun night out.

The latter, while much easier, runs the risk that the slide runs the show, and the presenter becomes an adjunct to the visuals, not a very satisfactory outcome. In other words, if the slide changes while the presenter is still talking, guess where the audience’s attention will go?

I spend a considerable amount of time both discussing this and demonstrating in my Presentation Magic workshops such that the audience experiences what I’m demonstrating, and hopefully will make an effort to change their ways.

I don’t want to select for you some of the IgnitePhoenix casualties – those who really had a hard time integrating what they were saying with what they were showing – because what they did deserves positive reinforcement, not public humiliation. You can go look for yourself and see if you can detect what I’m talking about…

But I did find one or two who not just gave engaging presentations, but seemed to hit their marks nicely, such that from the video alone I didn’t suffer overload or channel conflict.

The one I liked the most so far (and I haven’t see all) is Pamela Slim’s, whose newsletter and blog on being entrepreneurial I subscribe to.

You can see Pamela’s Ignite presentation, here. (You can scroll to the bottom of this blog entry for the entry)

(UPDATE: I’ve looked at a few more from Phoenix, and the one more that stands out is called “Toilet Training” by Dan Messer. He takes us through a history of effluence, from Roman times through to the modern electronic self-flushers. What makes his presentation stand out is his ability to weave seemingly unconnected historical events into a seamless storytelling for the entire five minutes he has to present. So many of the other presenters are telling the audience facts with little use of the slides to enhance their message delivery. Truly, see each of these presentations as mini-lessons in presentation giving. Most are what not to do, a few are gems, and they will be easily recognised, even if the subject matter holds no initial curiosity for you.)

Now there are some concerns I have with the Ignite idea, in that we might just be replacing one cognitive style of Powerpoint with another. But clearly, in its favour, Ignite will simply not sustain the way so many presentations continue to be conducted (all text and reading) and so it does represent a small advancement.

But I’m not sure it represents a necessarily brilliant advance which best matches how information can be shared. I mean, could you imagine a film as brilliantly edited as “Apocalypse Now” (Walter Murch) being held to 15 second scenes?

For now, the Ignite concept, which began in Seattle in 2006, represents another effort to help us question the social norms which have seen Powerpoint become the lingua franca of information exchange, and anything which helps us question its dominance in 2009 gets a conditional vote of approval from me.

Update: Trawling about the blogosphere, shows my hometown of Melbourne will have its own Ignite on April 1, 2009, and yes I have put my hand up via email to have a go, all my caveats above notwithstanding.

I’ve writtent to the local organiser, Stephen Lead, with some questions of clarification (e.g. is 20 secs a maximum or fixed amount, are movies allowed to be embedded, animations too? etc) and I’m having to assume that if it follows the Ignite guidelines it will be shown via ..ugh, Powerpoint. But at least it will restore Powerpoint to what it’s good for – as a picture show application.

The Melbourne information is here, so enrol and come along and have some fun!