Monthly Archives: December 2008

A Keynote 5 wishlist – because 2009 will be the year presenting well comes of age, and Apple will lead the charge with Keynote.

Season’s Greetings!

I’m preparing to head to the US where I’ll enjoy some R and R in Miami/Fort Lauderdale then head across to San Francisco to Macworld.

My two day Powertools conference is coming together, but folks, I have a dilemma…

You see, I’m strongly of the belief that Apple’s Keynote, which I’ll be using to discuss my Presentation Magic ideas – actually, more than discuss, I’ll be exploring Keynote’s capacities to render great persuasive presentations – is due for an update very soon.

We’ve seen over the past twelve months or so various Steve Jobs keynotes (remember them?) where he has shown new transitions and builds (animations for those of you switching from Powerpoint), which have eventually found their way into the next update to Keynote.

Would it not be ironic that at the 2009 Macworld keynote, to be delivered by Phil Schiller, that Keynote and iWork get a makeover, updated for 09?

There have been a number of point updates in the time Keynote has been in version 4, as the Wikipedia entry shows here. Going from version 3 in iWork 06 to version 4 in iWork 08 (does that mean perhaps that we have to wait for iWork 10 which sounds awful?) produced a massive overhaul including alpha masking, new transitions and “smart” builds, and most importantly motion effects, Keynote’s most glaring deficiency compared to Powerpoint.

My conference preparation has been centred on the current iWork 08 version of Keynote, as I’m not party to any beta testing of the next version. But my dilemma centres around what I might have to do in the two days I have to work with other Keynote afficionados: stay with what I have prepared or spend time exploring some of the new features of any new Keynote that might be released in a few weeks.

As it is, I’ve probably overprepared the syllabus for the two days. Including any coverage of a new version means leaving something out… looks like it could be a late night on Day 1 (Wednesday) if the crowd asks me to go over additional features in a potential update. Actually, to do so removes some pressure to be spot on with my choice of materials and ideas the attendees could be exposed to… I’m quite happy to “wing it” should it come to that, and I’m guessing an excited Keynote-oriented crowd would be quite forgiving if I slip off the prepared syllabus which they’ll receive in a workbook I’ve prepared.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Keynote 5 will be released at Macworld 09… spend a few moments with me fantasising how to improve upon a great presentation tool. It’s important to visualise this every so often, by the way, lest you settle for what Keynote allows you to do rather than stretch beyond it. To do this would be to create a “Cognitive Style of Keynote” and see it vilified in much the same way as Powerpoint.

No, we have to think outside the rather creative box Keynote has constructed for us, and push the limits as we currently understand the workings of message delivery systems to broad audiences.

But first, an aside.

Some people have suggested to me that I ought to focus more attention in these blog entries on presenting in general and not be so Keynote-specific. Their suggestions are warmly received and where possible I try to balance my general ideas and views on presentations with entries on Keynote alone, albeit tied in with better presenting skills.

I could I suppose write more positively about the elephant in the presentation room (Powerpoint) and possibly generate more work for myself from corporations and industries who see no alternative to it. But guess what? There are thousands of people writing, discussing, blogging and authoring about and with Powerpoint. Why would I want to, minnow-like, jump into a Pacific-ocean sized pond and try and get my message out there?

At some point, we each have to make decisions and follow them through as far as we can, and for me it’s advocating Keynote as the better knowledge-sharing tool, because of the means by which it seems to generate greater creativity and workflow styles than Powerpoint. It seems “truer” to the cause of memorable presenting, despite its shortcomings and fewer features than Powerpoint. If that means losing out on workshop and training opportunities because I won’t toe the corporate line, so be it. Been there, done that, no thanks ma’am. I much prefer to work with those who can see beyond the Marketing Department’s demand that each slide has the corporate logo taking up valuable real estate.

Was 2008 the year we changed how we thought about presenting?

That said, I want to share with you my belief that 2008 was a turning point for Keynote and presentations in general. Seriously. It came about through the massive increase of Mac sales, each with a full working demo of iWork installed. It came about through the publication and wonderful take-up of books like Presentation Zen and Slide:ology, and the creation and exposure of sites like Slideshare. It also came about because of the massive public awareness of YouTube and the expectation of higher quality multimedia now that the technology to do so is inexpensive and easy to use. Web 2.0, or social media seemed to reach a certain developmental stage where old-fashioned textual information exchange was inadequate to the task. It came about when Macworld allowed me to have some time with attendees and present about presentation skills, and then left the video of the session (or the slides with narration) up on the Web.

And like so many things, all technologies have a limited time span to make their mark before something new comes along. Last year (2007) marked 20 years of Powerpoint, and on that anniversary we had time to pause and ask if our communication skills are any better, despite the clear demand that abundant information from a huge reservoir of sources deserves better means of knowledge transfer.

And probably that hoary old chestnut that so often saw education-based IT department heads condemn Macs to the graphics department – “kids need to learn on the hardware and software they’ll use when they leave school” – was also finished off once and for all.

2009 – a presentation revolution on its way

So 2009 will be the year of a presentation revolution, in my humble opinion. It’s time has come. There have been many attempts to topple the cognitive style of Powerpoint (You don’t know what it is? OK – just come up with any esoteric subject, put it into Google search, add “ppt” to search for Powerpoint on the topic and sit back and be appalled 99% of the time. Increase it to 99.5% by only choosing those presentations from sites that have .gov or .mil in their domain name. Why? The greater the levels of bureaucracy, the more the levels of text on slides, with sub- and sub-sub-headers. And less degrees of imagination in case you don’t conform.)

If Keynote is to lead the charge to better presentations in 2009, I am fantasising it will include the following features. A number of these have been floating about the web and Keynote discussion groups for some time, but these are my personal preferences to suit my style:

1. Highest on my list of priorities will be some kind of timeline addition to the Inspector. This will allow for much more precise timings of builds, and much better matching between sounds, the delivery of text and images, as well as movies.

Apple introduced many users to the concept with the original iMovie, with its video and twin audio channel timelines for precise editing. This continued into the video Pro apps, and then returned in slightly different form when the iLife suite was introduced, including Garageband. It too allowed for precise matching of multiple tracks including in an updated version, graphics for podcasts.

It’s clear that Apple engineers understand the importance of precision editing. At the moment in Keynote, it feels pretty much hit and miss, requiring much manual tweaking.

I want to go one step further though, as so far the timeline pertains to a slide. I’d like to see a Master timeline so that audio can be faded in and out across slides, not just within. At the moment, in order to do that, you need to export the sequence of slides as a Quicktime movie into iMovie (for instance, or it could be Final Cut), add the desired sounds including any “ducking” using the provided timeline, then import into Keynote. I’ve found this produces less than sharp images and text. Better to do it within Keynote.

2. Greater control over the choice of slides to allow less linear operations.
At the moment if you hit the command key in Keynote it will bring up the current slide and one each side of it (i.e., before and after) when in Presenter Mode (current and next slide is visible to the speaker). But there are times when that choice is limiting. Currently, the work-around is to printout the slides (including all builds on the one slide) and clearly number them so you hit, say Command-42 to take you to that slide.

My preference would be a means to view all slides using a hot key selector then point and click on it to go straight there, leaving the audience unaware of this occurring. Perhaps some integration with the iPhone or iPod Touch in wi-fi mode will allow some measure of this to occur, with the handheld unit acting as both remote and Preview device.

While in Presenter mode I’d like to be able to see all the linked hot-spots I might have created on a slide, where clicking in the area would take me to that slide in the Keynote deck. At the moment, it’s doable, but requires fiddling and guesswork.

3. Free form line drawing. This is a real oversight, where I now have to use a third party drawing application to draw precise curved lines, then import it into Keynote. My preference would be to allow Keynote to do this, as long as we don’t end up with a top-heavy inspector, which starts to look like the Powerpoint ribbon. Once the free form line is drawn, I’d like to be able to make an object traverse it accurately and smoothly. It’s still fiddly in the current version of Keynote.

4. Better image manipulation tools including masking. Let me be able to distort, skew and change perspective, rather than having to open Photoshop and then import into Keynote. Powerpoint has moved a great distance down this path, allowing for a great deal of image manipulation which at a pinch can be an aid to Keynote. In my experience this is not a perfect solution producing artifacts, but it’s easier than using Photoshop for novices.

5. An improvement in motion builds. There are a variety of effects I’d like to achieve, but the four motion builds (scale, move, rotate, opaque) are too limiting for some of my ideas.

6. One of the the things I like to do when creating a slide is gather all the materials I’ll be using onto the slide, or more accurately around the slide, which I’ve placed in 25% size. This gives you a great deal of surrounding white space to “store” your slide components, and plan some motion builds. But Keynote puts the slide in the top left hand corner of the work space. This is OK if you are bringing elements onto the slide from the right or below, but requires imprecise guesswork for the other two sides. Better to be able to place the slide in the centre and thus use all four sides for any motion builds.

7. Some build refinements, such that I can make an object glow or pulse to draw attention to it. I can do it now, and will show how at Macworld, but it’s a lot of clicking and pasting and effort. Drawing attention to slide objects, such as cells in a data table, or parts of an object, is now a very important element of presenting, and will hopefully do away with silly laser pointers. There are third party tools for this currently on the market, like Mousepose, but as usual. I’d prefer to see it within Keynote.

To that extent, once I have constructed some builds, give me better preview options, rather than the miniscule Inspector to see how an effect will look.

Now this is not an exhaustive list, and late night tiredness prevents me from adding some illustrations (which I might add in an update once I’m settled in Florida with a high speed connection). And others will no doubt have their own wishlists, which you can see if you head to the comments section of a blog entry I wrote some time back here. That blog entry was written pre-Keynote 4, just as I am writing this one, but almost two years later! And while one or two of my requests have been fulfilled, the main ones are still outstanding.

It would be a pity of Keynote users spend another year or so feeling abandoned as happened between Keynote 1 and Keynote 2. Hopefully, at Macworld they’ll be an opportunity to chat with Keynote users and engineers (fingers crossed) and let them know how much Keynote is enjoyed for its ease of use and creativity-generating properties, and it shouldn’t be abandoned as Apple continues to build itself as a digital media powerhouse.

To that extent, while I’ll miss Steve Jobs give his keynote in two weeks, I’m hoping that he’ll give others during product launches in 2009, and the high level of presentation standards are maintained when Apple VPs stand and deliver. Fingers crossed on that one.

Steve is to Dean Martin as Phil is to Jerry Lewis: Can Phil Schiller do a Macworld keynote using Keynote in the shadow of Steve Jobs?

The clues were all there in recent months that big shifts were being put in place with respect to Apple and Macworld. Hindsight being the wonderful thing it is, one can see Hansel-and-Gretel like clues being dropped along the way leading to certain conclusions being made.

Apple has been going from strength to strength, continuing its domination in the digitial music and player domain, and continuing to challenge incumbents in the cellphone territory, much to the surprise of pundits and competitors like.

But in recent months there has been a deafening silence with respect to Steve Jobs’ keynote rumours. Maybe an “iPhone Nano”, maybe a netbook, maybe bringing Snow Leopard’s release forward, and so on. But compared to previous years, this has been a particularly quiet pre-Macworld lead up.

The pullout of Adobe and Belkin from the Expo floor was also a “tell” that things were changing with respect to well-known companies having to be attend Macworld. And the announcement we had all laughed at each year – “Apple announces Steve Jobs will deliver the keynote at this year’s Macworld” – never came in what seemed like a game of PR chicken.

Intead we got the old boxer’s one-two combo: No Stevenote, and the last Apple attendance at Macworld. I’m sure many observers felt like they’d been punched in the gut.

For myself, who in years past had attended Boston-based Expos and a few San Francisco-based shows, the news was very mixed. This year, IDG MD Paul Kent had invited me to attend for the User Conference US 915 called Presentation Magic. (In 2009, I’m scheduled to do a two day Powertool conference on the same subject focussing on Apple’s Keynote. US 914 will feature Nancy Duarte discussing Visual Thinking in slide presentation for 75″).

It was on this occasion as faculty I attended my first and what may be my only Stevenote. It was an OK experience, but nothing like it must have been to be in the audience in 2007 for the iPhone release, or in 2003 for the release of two new Powerbooks (as the one more things, would you believe), Final Cut Express, Airport Extreme, Keynote, and Safari.

What we have seen as further clues in recent times has been the increasing use of other venues and times for Apple to release new products and chart its future course. This year, in March, we saw a number of Apple senior management, Steve’s inner circle as it were, participate in the unveiling of Apple’s iPhone roadmap, performing as Steve himself put it, the “heavy lifting” needed to describe the technical aspects of the iPhone SDK properties.

I carefully watched this “Town Hall” unveiling, initially to gather any new intelligence on Keynote updates which might be around the corner, usually leaked by Steve showing new transitions, or textual effects. Later in October at the release of the new Macbooks we saw more Apple staffers in action.  I was intrigued overall to see the performances of the Four Horseman: Phil Schiller, Jonathan Ive,  Scot Forstall and Tim Cook, all of whom have been touted within the press and Apple blogosphere as potential Apple CEOs, upon the retirement of Steve Jobs.

Now few of us will ever know what each of these men bring to Apple on a day to day basis, perhaps happy to be delighted with the wares they bring to us. But in the recent past, Steve has given us the opportunity to review each of them in the role of keynote giver, one of the very public ways we have to come to understand Steve, apart from the books written about him.

Jobs’ keynotes are legendary, not just because they so often have been the means by which Apple announces new products, but also because of the style by which Steve presents, eschewing the cognitive style of Powerpoint, and preferring the heavily graphical style which better accords with how our brains function.

(I’ll speak more of this in my Powertools conference, but essentially the brain starts as an outcropping of the eye, and the visual system occupies about 30% of brain real estate. Language, particularly the visual expression of language in the written word, came much later in our evolution.)

But you would short-change yourself if you only thought of Jobs’ style as being centred on his slides. What I saw in the two Town Hall meetings, is that few of Apple’s senior management have the ease and comfort standing before an audience on their own, and using Steve’s technology to offer passionate and persuasive stories about the technologies they are demonstrating.

To this extent, Phil Schiller for all his cuddliness and good humour, plays a great Lou Costello to Steve’s Bud Abbott, or Steve is to Dean Martin as Phil is to Jerry Lewis. Each of the latter performers, after the breakup of the duo, went on to successful solo careers (Lewis was just here in Melbourne, and I had the good fortune to see him in London some years back in Damn Yankees). I single out Phil because of the undoubted comparisons he will receive when compared to Steve’s Macworld keynotes. It’s a tough gig he’s been asked to do.

That said, in reviewing the iPhone SDK demo, I have a problem with Phil alone on stage doing the heavy lifting. And that is that while his words contain elements of passion and exuberance, his body language and prosody are incongruent with what he’s saying. In other words, to my eyes and ears, there’s an emotional monotone to his delivery which sounds, well, inauthentic. As if he’s walking through the prepared speech but not truly letting us know how he really feels. Now that could be stage anxiety, or there’s perhaps other explanations.

What doesn’t help either is that when he’s up there on his own he hardly ever smiles – I mean a genuine smile. Even when he says he’s excited or a product is “incredible”. Too much smiling in a speaker is also inauthentic because it’s inappropriate, something we human beings develop an awareness of very early in our lives. But too little smiling especially when you say you’re excited, just says you’re nervous or too focussed on the words and afraid to really connect to your audience. So while Phil is fun, especially with Steve playing straight man, on his own Phil lacks warmth.

"I'm so excited!"

"I'm so excited!"

Back when I saw the iPhone roadmap keynote, and began like others to wonder of Steve was trialling the Horseman for their ability to stand and deliver, I looked closely at something I wanted to blog about. That is the use of remote slide switching equipment, and the use of presenter displays.

If you watch a Steve Jobs keynote, every so often you’ll see him glance down. This is where he’s looking at his presenter display to see the next slide or build to remind him of his story. I advocate the same, and never use written notes, preferring to walk the tightrope of live performing and the spontaneous telling of stories, albeit well-rehearsed stories.

(If you see me driving in my car and looking like I’m talking hands-free on the cellphone, it might really be the case that I’m on the way to give a presentation or a radio interview and I’m practising my lines. You must actually speak out what you want to say rather than simply read it on a sheet of paper or index card, or simply “think” the lines. If, for instance, you easily trip over the word “epidemiology”, don’t read it silently, but get your voice muscles (lips, tongue, face) to develop muscle memory.)

Using the presenter display, your remote, and your body to communicate with your audience (while remembering all your stories) is incredibly difficult to do well, consistently. Steve seems able to do it, never letting us see when he’s pressing the remote advance (look carefully next time), while looking down occasionally at the presenter display to keep on track. But also notice when you have the chance how Steve also looks at the screen behind him and uses it almost like a flip chart or white board, directing the audience’s attention to it, at will.

If there’s a lot of detail on the screen, especially words, he won’t walk in front of it; if it’s just one big uncomplicated photoimage, such as an application’s icon, he’ll let you see it, take it in, then superimpose himself upon it, making a connection in your mind. These are quite subtle stage performance techniques, and not at all easy to emulate without much study and practice.

Look at the picture below to see Scott Forstall pointing his wireless clicker (the same one Jobs uses) at the presenter display he’s looking at (from the March iPhone SDK event). The audience gets a mixed message here. Should we follow what Scott’s hand is doing (jabbing at the screen to bring up the next slide for our attention, cueing us in to look at the main screen not Scott) or should we be looking at what Scott’s looking at (which we can’t since that screen faces the stage, not us). This is only one element of stagecraft, but watching an hour of this kind of incongruity from different presenters will wear an audience down, and interfere with your message delivery. In other words, there is more to public presenting than just the design of slides or telling of stories. This is hard stuff!

"Don't look where I'm clicking"

"Don't look where I'm clicking"

UPDATE (December 20): Reader John in the comments section, below, adds some words of wisdom, and brings me to write that I omitted my remarks about Jonathan Ive in my haste to publish. He’s correct in my view in referring to Ive’s apparent passion, enthusiasm and specialist expert knowledge as it comes across in videod segments, as well as the October release of the Macbooks. Occasionally, his passion feels a little cloying, but there is no doubt he knows his stuff and lives and breathes industrial design. What’s curious is that while there has been much recent discussion about Jobs’ successor waiting in the wings, there has been little offered up if Ive was ever poached by the likes of Microsoft or RIM. Clearly, Ive feel on his feet when he first joined Apple pre-Jobs’ return, and he and Jobs fell into lockstep in terms of design philosophy. We’ve heard little about who’s in the wings should Ive suddenly leave his post, and one can speculate what effect this would have on Apple’s share price (throws salt over shoulder for possessing such thoughts!)

Let me return to Macworld thoughts to conclude this blog entry. I expect we’ll hear all kinds of new rumours about what Apple may or may not deliver this January at Macworld, and I’m guessing expectations are low at the moment. Only when Steve has been ill have others been allowed to be the first to show new Apple products (Think iMac G5 in Paris). So can we really expect Phil to do much more than orchestrate the Snow Leopard demo, and some minor hardware variation, perhaps calling on other Apple staff to do their fair share of heavy lifting once more?

Will Steve even attend any part of Macworld (given he was accosted on the Expo show floor after last year’s keynote may have left a bad taste in his mouth)? And will attendees really be all fuzzy and warm with each other (despite the bleak financial outlook) with the prospect that we are attending possibly the final campfire vacation together? (Cue violins).

I’m hoping Paul Kent and his team can pull a Macworld Expo together in 2010, and I’ll work hard to get an invite back in one form or other to be faculty then, based in my 2009 performance. But I can’t help but think one era has finished and another is about to start. A fresh broom is sweeping through many halls of power and influence, old and tired ideas about “how things should happen” are being forcefully challenged, and much change abounds.  Steve knows how to manage change better than most (head to my blog entry about his capacity here), and hopefully Apple’s ability to even more tightly control its message delivery, while leaving some unhappy, will lead to better product development and quality assurance.

All of Apple's VPs could take some lessons on how Steve smiles and interacts with his audience

All of Apple's VPs could take some lessons on how Steve smiles and interacts with his audience