Monthly Archives: August 2009

BBC “celebrates” 25 years since the inception of what became Powerpoint. Oh my, how far we’ve come – not!

While I sit at Sydney Airport waiting for my flight to San Francisco and New York, a friend has forwarded me this story from the BBC reviewing the progress the world has made since Powerpoint became one of the main knowledge transfer technologies (to give it very polite credit).

Written by Max Atkinson (who is on my blog roll to the right) he starts this way:

“In the past 25 years, I’ve asked hundreds of people how many PowerPoint presentations they’ve seen that came across as really inspiring and enthusiastic.

Most struggle to come up with a single example, and the most optimistic answer I’ve heard was “two”.

So what are the main problems?”

And from there he outlines many of the criticisms which have been levelled consistently at how Powerpoint (and Keynote to a lesser degree) have been used to abuse audience over the past two decades. Click on the slide show to see the criticisms in action. And if you can’t see what’s wrong with the slides, you have truly been assimilated by the Borg!

I’ve gathered the four topic headers below and you’ll notice they are the usual suspects when it comes to a critical analysis of presentation tools:

Voila_Capture240If you read the article (located here) you ought head to the comments section, where it’s if as readers are suddenly in receipt of a revelation! Voila_Capture241 A sample of a few (right).

Just goes to show there’s a long road still to travel to bring the magic of presenting to audiences as well as those who wish to bring their presentations to another level – one better matched to how humans actually learn and remember.

On this trip, I’ll be in Manhattan and surrounds so if you’re in the mood for a summer get together to discuss presentation skills or share your ideas (especially about how you use Keynote) or you’d like a quickie seminar/workshop at short notice, just email me: les at

I’ll be in San Francisco early September for meetings at Apple, then getting ready for a one day Presentation Magic workshop in Australia’s Northern Territory capital, Darwin.

Back in the US (New York and Boston) in mid-November, so there’s another possibility of a get together with like minded presenters.

An Apple tablet: Desirable for music and presentations, but oh so much more!

With rumours of an Apple touch tablet not abating, I want to elaborate further on my presentation-centric post below, where I suggested the new touch device could have multiple uses other than as a music device. It would of course be an ideal e-book reader, and one can image a user interface which simulates a page turn.

Using one finger flicking from right to left moves it one page, using two fingers (something Apple has already demonstrated on the iPhone/iPod Touch and Macbook Pro) would move it to the next chapter, while a double tap might take you back to the Table of Contents or Index, with another double tap taking you back to where you left off.

Hovering your finger over a word would bring up its dictionary meaning, complete with synonyms and antonyms, while publishers could include a hotlink to other works of the same author at various places within the pages. Reference books of course would hotlink to journals and PUBMED and Library of Congress listings, as well as the increasing library of reference works within YouTube.

One can imagine children no longer needing to lumber great quantities of books to school, and publishers could easily keep books updated as new studies emerge. I’m offering an educated guess that (pardon the pun) educators will be keeping a very close eye on what any Apple tablet with bring, and what may emerge in an App Store setting. Not to mention newspapers and magazines updating on a regular basis (upon a paid subscription of course): newspapers on the hour or with breaking news, and magazines on a daily basis. The tablet would offer an instant “Letters to the Editor” social commentary area, with the better letters chosen by an editor and highlighted, much like that found currently in the New York Times.

But what of commercial uses? I’ve already suggested its utility as a presenter’s tool, allowing annotation and creation of presentation slides on the fly. I want to go back some decades and see what can be learnt from the application of technologies to familiar situations.

In the sixties when I was but a teenager, one of the most popular restaurants in Melbourne – a trendsetter – was a place called McClure’s, just off the city’s main central boulevard called St. Kilda Road.

Patrons sat in booths and open tables with menus already provided prior to being seated. You looked through the menu then picked up the telephone at your table and rang in your order, much as you did if you ordered take out from home. There were still wait staff to bring you your order or to answer questions, but it was a cute idea at the time, no doubt modelled on an American experience.

Now just imagine you bring your iTablet to the restaurant and when you open your browser it automatically opens to the restaurant’s menu via a wifi auto setup. You can flip through pages with illustrations of the food or drinks, and read some history the chef and sommelier have provided of the restaurant’s food and wine. You can even check a list of ingredients if you wish and have an updated calorie count of your entire meal. Those with special food needs will find this a real boon, and we’re already seeing something similar happen with diabetic apps on the iPhone/iPod touch platform.

You could even pay for the bill and leave a tip, all online if you chose. But why wait until you got to the restaurant to check out the menu and prices? Why not do it before you leave, and place your order – and yes, pay for it – on your way. Now of course, for some restaurant experiences such automation would be anathema. You want the interaction with the staff, to question them about the food and wine, and enjoy a rich dining experience in a more traditional sense. I’m merely painting a picture of where things could go, and probably already are to a degree with the iPhone.

Let’s move to an art gallery now. You visit a new exhibition, and rather than picking up a booklet, you hook into the wifi once more and tour the exhibits, listening to the artist describe his or her works, and providing you with an online place to offer a bid.

What about Real Estate? Enter a property you’re considering purchasing and rather than taking back with you those expensive and wasteful multicoloured brochures, you download on the spot the property’s details and a copy of the sale contract to peruse with your lawyer. You also get a virtual tour to share or review and engage in a conversation with the realtor at some other time.

So, while it may be the case that music and entertainment appear to be the early targets for an enhanced fuller sized iPod Touch, other commercial realities will no doubt emerge. Think how hospitals, airlines, and even law enforcement might find uses for the device. The idea will be to stop thinking of it as a laptop computer or a netbook equivalent, and thus keeping yourself stuck in old ways of managing your knowledge.

Think of it more as an electronic valet, not quite what the original Knowledge Navigator was conceived to be, but not that far off either. Especially if Voice Activation and control is where the action goes. More like the electronic newspaper featured in Minority Report, for now at least. (See the music video clip of the film, below, especially @ 1m29s)

A device like this has been coming for twenty years or so. Not a PC, not a netbook, not a tablet computer as they currently exist, but a new way of interacting with data.

Are you ready for it?

Will a Keynote-capable Apple tablet cause a paradigm shift in how presentations are given?

Rumours of an Apple tablet-based form factor have been circulating for years now, ebbing and flowing like the tides. When Apple released the iPod Touch, the rumour mill wound up again, as users and pundits alike wondered how easy it might be to see a new platform develop, not with desktop-style applications, but apps. available on demand from the iTunes App Store.

The success of the iPhone/iPod Touch as a mobile platform, rather than as respectively, a cell phone and music player, means that many users will come to see these devices as multi-purpose, and set expectations for even more capability as the products further mature and gain wider acceptance.

The iPhone/iPod Touch family are becoming the Swiss Army knife of mobile technology: supremely capable devices for specific purposes which don’t try to be something they’re not. You can cut through many things with the Swiss Army knife scissors and knives, but you wouldn’t use them to cut down trees.

Apple will release a tablet to the market place not because it can produce one – heaven knows, if any company can make such a device, it’s Apple – but when it has  identified an unmet desire or it can create a new market which is embedded with consumer desire.

In other words, either the marketplace exists but is until now poorly serviced with brain-dead products leading to consumer unhappiness – such as the cellphone business which was deemed “mature” and “impenetrable” by so many pundits – or Apple creates something new. Not something left field new, which causes people to say “Where did that come from?”, but new, as in “Why didn’t I invent that” or “Of course! It’s so obvious!”

An Apple tablet, as expected as it is, and later to market than PC tablets which are really Windows-based warmed over laptops, will only come to market when it can do what PC tablets can do, but do it with panache, desirability, and end user delight. Like the iPhone/iPod Touch twins, it will have multiple purposes, including all the features bar the cellphone features of the iPhone. It will sport a decent size software based keyboard which will allow an external wireless touch-typing keyboard to be attached via USB or wireless. The onscreen keyboard will either disappear when not in use, or perhaps become translucent so the full screen can still be viewed when performing editing functions.

I think we can forget about handwriting recognition and thus pen-based tablet functionality. Like reading paper-based material, writing will also decrease in frequency (save for writing your signature on documents) and keyboard and gesture or touch screen operations will be the standard input method.

How else might an Apple tablet go beyond current tablet usage and delight endusers? (You know, speaking with my Windows/PC-using colleagues, I get the strangest looks when I mention “computing” and “delight” in the same sentence. My Apple using friends, especially recent switchers, just smile back at me, with the barest of winks or nods).

More rumours keep emerging that an Apple tablet will not be a computing platform as we know it, but will be a tool to further achieve Apple’s dual aims of furthering its chokehold on digital media and doing so in a magical, customer-delighting manner. Except for developers where I expect the same model of developer frustration will ensue, subject to FCC approval!

But what if a tablet could do double-time as a very fancy remote control and slide enhancer for Apple’s presentation software, Keynote?

bluetooth tabletFor some time, I have toyed with a Wacom Bluetooth tablet, now deleted from the current range of excellent tablets from this well-known manufacturer. I have used it to control slides, and use a mouse at long range in workshops. But as an annotation tool, to allow me to draw on the screen to provide live call outs, or underlines, or write in my own scrawl, it doesn’t succeed. While there’s third party software available, when in presenter mode, it’s just too difficult. Because you must look up at the screen to see what you’ve written or drawn, your attention moves from your audience to the screen – fine occasionally, but not something you want to make a habit of at the risk of losing audience connection.

keynote-remote1Already many people are using their iPhone/iPod Touches to control their slideshows, together with previews of upcoming slides, but that’s as far as their usefulness goes. What if the multi-talented tablet could also be used to contain the slideshow itself, to allow on-the-fly annotation of slides, to change them on the run (out of sight of the audience), to access the web or instant chat or Twitter/facebook, and perhaps raise presenting to another level professional presenters have yet to imagine? (Don’t worry about how the tablet connects to the data projector  – that will be the easiest part of the challenge).

As I have written elsewhere, and keep repeating, an increasing number of presentation attendees have tired of the tried, trusted yet ineffective method of presenting you’ll experience in 99% of presentations you can randomly download from the web, or see attending a workshop, conference, or inhouse seminar.

I’m not saying Keynote is the cure, and Powerpoint 2010’s developers have acknowledged this change themselves by emphasising their updated product’s “cinematic” qualities – albeit almost seven years after Steve Jobs used the same term when he introduced Keynote.

If the rumours are true we might only have to wait a month to find out if a tablet device truly is in Apple’s future. My hope is that with its possible release, Snow Leopard’s upping the ante with its new Quicktime and Core Video capacities, and possibly a Keynote updated to take advantage of these developments, those of us in the presentation marketplace will be thrown a challenge by Apple to upgrade our own skills. If I’m right, we’ll experience a paradigm shift in presentation giving. And it couldn’t come faster, thank you!

Learning from Skeptics to take your Keynote presentations to another level

I’m currently wrapping up a several month long project for my old college professor who first introduced me to the practice of psychotherapy using something called Rational Emotive Therapy (now called Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy or REBT). When I first learnt it, it was but about 20 years old, and still acquiring evidence for its efficacy. Now it is one of the mainstays of modern therapy, one of the cognitive behaviour therapies much in vogue.

He approached me with the view to creating a set of materials to take into industry to assist adult workers improve their emotional resilience in the face of workplace anxiety and stress. He had already developed a successful worldwide program for K-12 students, and wanted something that would appeal to both Gen X and Gen Y employees. One thing he understood, having seen my recent Keynote presentations, was that he could not continue with the cognitive style of Powerpoint for these corporate sessions (Check the Powerpoint-based image in the link above).

Over several months, I’ve educated him in the Presentation Magic way of message delivery, such that he has shifted how he now conceives his ideas, and fights his own “tradition” of lots of words on slides. He knows this will no longer cut the mustard, and indeed by shifting his conceptualisations, he has also shifted his theorising somewhat. At first, it took quite some convincing for him to swing around, but now he’s the one who sends me pictures, images and concepts which better illustrate his ideas.

So, as we enter the “wrap up, final tweak” stages, my storytelling friend, Shawn Callahan, has sent me a heads-up for a wonderful video from the Richard Dawkins Foundation (RDF – no, not the reality distortion field) where Skeptics President, Michael Shermer, offers ways to see through baloney non-scientific explanations for events in the world around us.

The video, which you can see below on YouTube (don’t go there quite yet),  displays some wonderful means to convey several messages, using live action video, stills, cartoons, and animations. One day, I’m hoping all this (well, perhaps not the cartoons) could be reproduced in Keynote.


1. In particular, when you look at the video, note the opening scene with the multitude of screens, which then, about 28s in, brings up Michael Shermer, below, to introduce the video’s purpose.


2. Then look at the scene at 40s where Shermer talks about visions in toast, and notice how his image has been alpha-masked so that the toast comes up behind his embedded video – can’t do that in Keynote at the moment, but fingers crosses that an updated Quicktime will allow some form of masking to occur.Voila_Capture219

3. At 1m 24s, you’ll see an animation featuring an old-fashioned typewriter and lettering effects. The latter can be achieved in Keynote now, but the vertical swivelling of the image (around the Y axis) is something that would add much to Keynote’s capacities. Given what we’ve seen achieved in Keynote’s current transitions using Core Video, this build effect ought to be achievable, including the subtle spotlight feature.


4. At 9m 11s, notice the document manipulation builds. This is one of the builds I’ve been trying to achieve in Keynote but it’s effortful. How nice it would be if this was a simple-to-effect build. It’s one of the areas of development I discussed with the Keynote team – to focus extra attention on document manipulation to add to the speaker’s authenticity – which I hope they follow through with.


Notice how effective the presentation video is, even if you may not agree with its premises. Look beyond that, and focus on the presentation’s production qualities and its effective use of visuals – not one bullet point in sight, and no chintzy clipart. The animations help add appeal otherwise the video might take a dour quality, leading to a turn-off factor.

Finally, here’s the video below. Enjoy!