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!

3 responses to “Learning from Skeptics to take your Keynote presentations to another level

  1. I’m hoping that QuickTime X will finally bring alpha channels to H.264 video. There’s a presentation (an old WWDC one I think) that shows H.264 video being layered with transparency just like you can do with Animation and PNG right now… but with a MUCH smaller file size of course. This was supposed to be a part of the next version of OS X, but it never materialized.

    It’s one of those things I hope to check with Snow Leopard as SOON as I get it 🙂

  2. Hi!

    I notice a lot of attention is being focused on the visual side of presentations in Keynote.

    I’m waiting for the ability to sync a piece of music or sound effect precisely where I want it to in my presentations. Haven’t been able to do it yet in a presentation with multi-effects or transitions on the same slide.

    Maybe you could talk to the Keynote team on this one too?


  3. Wonderful and Very nice. This could be very helpful for me. I especially found it interesting…

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