The unwitting mistakes science presenters make, unknowingly facilitated by their professional Associations (Or: it’s time to move science presentations into the 21st century)

Students in the Northern Hemisphere are by now half way through the college year. Freshman college students will have been exposed to a variety of presentation styles in their lectures, some better and some worse. Here in Australia, students are commencing their academic year, given we are coming to the end of our summer.

For myself, my professional association, the Australian Psychological Society has  completed its annual conference in Cairns, in far north Queensland in October 2013, and has called for papers for its next conference the same time this year. I didn’t attend in 2013, having recently returned from the American Psychological Association’s annual convention, held in Honolulu in August.

What each psychological association has in common is their expectation that presentations at their respective conferences will reflect an evidence-base of what works in professional psychology. Attendees expect to hear about current research findings, often derived from traditional experimental methods and statistical analyses.

However, what each also has in common, sadly, is the generally poor quality of presentation skills.

The irony is that while each emphasises the empirical base of the science, few presentations bother to use an evidence base for presenting science.

Psychology is not unique in this shortcoming, and the same criticism can be aimed at many of the sciences. Fortunately, the APS has recognised the growing importance of presenting to a diversity of audiences, and so this year I will be travelling Australia conducting presentation skills workshops under the APS auspices. (It’s open to non-psychologists too). The Australian Health regulator, AHPRA, which oversees all health practitioner national registrations, complaints and continuing education requirements has also recognised presenting as an important skill set.

When it comes to conferences, travelling away from home to exotic destinations is a great way to both holiday and refresh one’s batteries, as well as gain important new insights and networks.

There’s an opportunity to watch and hear the best in their business keynote their latest ideas and discoveries, or perhaps present themselves.

The younger academics might be presenting for their first time to peers and superiors in the hope of attracting interest in their work, and perhaps a job offer if the rest of their CV matches the presentation.

In the sciences and medicine, there’ll be two hour symposia composed of twenty minute formal presentations, then question time; half day and full day “master”  workshops, as well as poster sessions where those whose papers didn’t quite make the cut can nonetheless discuss their ideas in a 30 minute informal scenario where conference goers can move around the area dipping into conversations about a student’s Masters or Ph.D research, printed on large laminated sheets in the style of a science paper: abstract, introduction, subjects, method, results, discussion, etc. Stuff you learn to do in your first year undergraduate studies your teachers hope is the start of your professional career.

Getting a spot in a symposium or workshop is a major achievement where you’re either well known, or know someone who is well-known and can sponsor your work and vouch for your ability to do the profession proud when you present.

From experience, one often witnesses presentations demonstrating original research or ideas never before presented, or one sees a recently published paper presented “live” inclusive of new research not yet ready for academic publication (it may have been submitted, but not yet accepted) but which extends the already published research.

Presenting at such a conference can be a daunting task, even for senior members of  the profession, well-versed in its ways. Preparation and rehearsal go a long way of course, but new ideas or a criticique of existing paradigms or dogma requires more than just the voice of authority or prestige. At the very top of any profession, it’s not about the money or prestige but about a true sense of advancing the profession and leaving a legacy.

I’ve attended conference presentations by such people, downloaded their presentations when I couldn’t attend, and ventured far and wide in my presentation skills interests apart from science, including how the legal profession presents both academically, at conferences, and to employees and clients.

In this blog entry, I want to guide you past the most overt presentation errors scientists make, often without awareness of these errors. Sometimes they are committed because the profession demands they be committed in order to conform to some pre-conceived notion – or dogma – about presenting that the profession has carried within it for decades.

Other times, a university or research institute or government section’s Marketing or HR department defines how a presentation will look, complete with logo or brand or “team colours”, as well as fonts, size and all. See below (click to enlarge) to see how seriously some organisations take their “look and feel”, from presentations, to business cards, to newsletters to websites, etc:

The entire pdf “visual identity guidance” document from this cancer research group can be downloaded here.

Much of the advice is well founded if a little pedantic in a corporatese kind of way… but on the next page is an interesting guide to the use of visual images in publications. What’s even more interesting is their use of unedited iStockphoto images, complete with the word “iStockphoto” left on one… something I’ll discuss as one of the deadly sins of presenting a little later (click to enlarge):

Now, I could understand leaving on the iStockphoto watermark if this booklet was advising employees where to source their images (especially if a group purchasing arrangement is in place) and with the specific advice to purchase the desired image so as to remove the watermark before placement in a presentation. What I can’t understand is the tacit approval to go outside the research facility and use images anyone could use, rather than supplying their own inhouse images unique to the establishment. The worst case scenario is presenting at the same conference as a rival who just before used the same images!

This leads me to begin my list of unwitting errors scientists make.

Unwitting Mistake #1: Not changing your presentation to suite your current audience

1. Often, conferences and conventions take place over several days, feature more than a dozen concurrent tracks to choose from, and a variety of delivery styles, from short presentations of ten to twenty minutes, longer keynotes of 45 minutes, masterclasses of two hours, as well as full day workshops. Each requires a different appreciation of the audience’s knowledge, needs and aspirations.

Take a look at this diagram I created in Keynote to help begin the analysis:

Presentation format

No one expects an extensive review of the field in a 20 minute original presentation. Such presentations usually form part of a symposium either invited by the conference scientific committee, or submitted by a group, such as a university or hospital department. Here, it’s the desire to showcase current research via four or so short papers, each related to the others, whose main theme is pulled together by a senior faculty member with sufficient gravitas and authority to discuss why the research matters.

Those symposia are usually attended by others in the same field, whose knowledge can be considered profound. There is little time for each presenter to give much backgrounding or explanation of specific terms, and audience members are expected to be up to speed with the methods and prior research briefly discussed.

Where scientists make errors, possibly due to time considerations and lack of formal presentation training experience, is taking these same presentations, which may have received much applause and recognition when originally presented, and then offering them, unchanged, to a lay audience.

These lay audiences attend for a different purpose, usually to witness the application of basic research, and possess only rudimentary awareness of the field. They’re not interested so much in experimental method but more in the current status of the field as it relates to them, e.g., Is a cure far away or in the near future? Is climate change real and is it truly man-made? Their IQs may be on par with the presenter’s but their knowledge is much more superficial.

When scientists take their same convention presentations – those they give to their peers – to such a lay audience, they can find themselves working hard to help the audience fill in their gaps of knowledge. They sense it’s not going over well, so they exceed their time limits, and appear unrehearsed. No one doubts their authority, but not all will come away impressed by the scientist’s communication skills. These may be exemplary for his or her peers, but it’s a different skill set when it comes to less informed audiences.

Such audiences may include those in the same field but without the deep foundational knowledge those immersed in a specific research area possess.

Often, speakers offering a short presentation to their peers may also be invited to offer a keynote to the entire convention, with there being few or no competing tracks. The science committee has often invited them, at some expense, because conference goers want to hear leading researchers present, even if the field is not one of primary interest, but for which they have an appreciation none the less. In my experience, science committee choice is rarely based on presentation ability.

Once more, the same “deep” presentation needs to be modified for this professional audience. Language is altered, from the profound  “we extended Smith and Jones’ landmark 2003 research by…” to the lay or less knowledgable presentation’s “let me spend a few moments explaining how we setup the experiments”.

It’s my belief the best presenters science has to offer – for both the highly specific through to the lay audience – carefully prepare their data and literally mould it to suit the situation. But it’s not just the data they consider; it’s how their data and its meaning will be conveyed in the most informative and dare I say persuasive manner possible. After all, why present if not to persuade? Well, the answer can all too often be: to add another presentation attendance and paper to my CV.

Such is the demand on scientists to justify their livelihoods that sometimes we in the audience pay the price for poorly conceived delivery methods from presenters who clearly don’t care if we learn anything or not.

There is one more audience parameter that needs to be mentioned in this climate of polarised debates when it comes to certain topics which challenges the neutrality of science research. That is audience bias. As much as scientists may wish to offer a value neutral exposition of their research, its application may have strong emotional and monetary considerations for their audience. So, I can add a third dimension to our table which may influence how a presentation is to be constructed and delivered – ONSIDE, NEUTRAL and HOSTILE:

Voila_Capture807Now it’s not my idea to intimidate science presenters. It’s more about starting a conversation about the various parameters that can take an average but easily forgotten presentation to something stellar, career changing and memorable.

Unwitting Mistake #2: Not knowing or forgetting a presentation is not the regurgitation of a published paper, but is a medium of knowledge transfer unto itself

Them’s highfalutin words, I know, but this is one of most common and easily remediated mistakes those who undertake science communication instruction need to modify very early in their training.

Below are some photos of slides I took during a symposium at the APA convention in Honololu, 2013. These pictures are from a single 20 minute presentation:

abstractAPA

CBTAPA

AmygdalaAPA

IMG_2027 CtndAPAprocedureAPAConcAPA

What you are witnessing in this series of slide photos I took with my iPhone is not a presentation, but a paper intended for publication in a paper journal (or online as a PDF) placed onto Powerpoint slides: a cut and paste job from the original Word file, most likely.

How can this be in 2013? In the last few years, I’ve been railing against the dumbing down of presentations through the unwitting overuse of bullet points and half-sentences.

In this case, what we have is no effort at thinking about the presentation and its intended live audience. Perhaps it came about because the presenter was in an enormous hurry and had no time to prepare. Highly unlikely since the APA gives you months of acknowledgement that your presentation has been accepted.

Or more likely, it’s the way the presenter has always presented; has seen others in her university present, and worse still, seen others at international conferences present.

But I’m afraid I have worse news: The presenter actually read the slides to us, word for word. And as I looked around the seminar room, I noted one more very disturbing thing: no one in the audience I witnessed seemed to mind. It’s as if they all accepted this as par for the course.

This kind of presentation is not a one off – I’ve seen it too many times to think it’s out of the ordinary.

Now if you’ve come here to this blog entry after referral from a friend and wondering why I am making such as fuss about this, my message is this.

When you read an article in a publication, you have time to pursue the references, to decipher the tables, charts and graphs at your leisure, to look up the references over your morning coffee, and to read at your own pace, perhaps starting with the abstract, heading to the Discussion section, and then closely examining the Results section in more minute detail. Each scientist has their own style of reading journal articles.

In a live presentation, you don’t have this luxury. It is the presenter’s role to tell her story, and use her slides as her augmenting or support crew to illustrate convincingly the veracity and worth of her story.

In plain terms,

It is insulting to the audience to be read to

It utterly disconnects the audience from your presentation, and renders you an impassive narrator while the audience races ahead and reads for themselves the content of the slides.

Scientists are fortunate compared to business presenters because we have our story arcs laid out for us by historical convention, especially if we are reporting original experimental outcomes.

The APA publishes on its website a tutorial for those starting out where it clearly educates how scholarly publications should be constructed:

APAStyle

The story arc in its publications are expected to conform to this structure. At its live presentations at conferences, no such demands are made, but clearly there is an expectation that original research conforms to this story arc too.

But is it really the best way for live audiences to be kept engaged during a keynote or brief paper? Can one hope to achieve the same appreciation of one’s original research in a presentation as can occur in a paper publication?

It seems to me we must start to think about the delivery of scientific story arcs to a live audience in profoundly different ways, and even more so when our audience does not have deep subject knowledge and comes from a hostile base. Your scientific colleagues might approve, but the audience will not be shifted one iota. This is also why the mainstream media is so hungry for scientists who understand how media works, who its audience is, its deadlines, and its use of narrative.

Unwitting mistake #3: Unhelpful room layouts

Take a look at the picture below which I took at another seminar at APA Honolulu, August, 2013:

PresentationTennis

What do you notice immediately?

The presenter is in the corner, behind his miked podium, Stage right. Centre stage is the presentation discussant alone on a table for seven, and Stage left is the Powerpointed slide, in usual “filled with text” fashion.

The audience, occupying the middle of the room, is forced to play “Presentation Ping Pong” going back and forth between presenter and his slide.

I dread when I walk into such arenas as an audience member, and despise it as a presenter. This is why I scope out the room the day before if it’s at all possible. And why I never, as hard as it is, never stand behind a podium. It has all the appearance of authority at the commencement of your presentation, as you’re introduced and make your way behind the podium, only to lose it once you reach it and do one or more of several things:

  1. Tap the microphone several times, and ask “CAN YOU HEAR ME”? The several hundred dollar mike and the audio operator with headphones on will not appreciate it.
  2. You bring up your presentation by showing us the entire slide show contents of 200 text filled slides, with the occasional cheesy clipart.
  3. You immediately start to read your slides from the laptop, vanity monitor or the projected image as if you had no audience present.

Once more, it’s up to those in charge of scientific presentations and conventions to do what they can – even at the fundamental structural level of designing the room – to assist presenters in what is for many one of the more difficult but nowadays mandatory parts of their professional lives.

Unwitting mistake #4: Failure to understand the power of stories

I spend a lot of time discussing storytelling when I speak with scientist presenters. How do I do this?

In my Presentation Magic workshops, I often show brief clips of favourite movies; those clips which stop you in your tracks to watch over and over again. Such as when you visit a friend and the movie is on in the background… and you say, “Hey, have you seen this movie…?” And when your friend says, “Nup!” you say, “Quick, sit down… there’s this great scene coming up.”

Just like a favourite piece of music you can listen to over and over again because it has emotional hooks for you, there are some movie scenes that feel the same. I usually show a few of mine during my workshops, asking the audience if they can guess what movie they’re from, then asking them to form small groups and share with others their own favourite movie sequences, and why.

The choices discussed often form a kind of movie Rorschach test, telling us something about the viewer via his or her choice. Almost always, there is a personal meaning the viewer extracts from the scene, such as the comeuppance of a nasty character, a “hit it out” of the ball park by an unexpected baseball hero, a rescue by a very ordinary passerby, or a scene where you know how it ends but want to see the reactions of those who don’t know what will happen next… a favourite story arc of master story teller, Alfred Hitchcock.

Indeed, this sequence in my workshops is the commencement of an important discussion in presentation skills training, one that has now caught on fast:  the place of story telling in helping make complex ideas more readily understandable.

Some would say there are only a limited number of story “styles” traceable back to ancient times with their fables, biblical and metaphorical accounts, and so on.

The rise of psychoanalysis in the twentieth century with Freud and later Jung exploring the role of universal conflicts, dreams and fantasies, collective beliefs and archetypes is still a potent force in the twenty first century.

The power of storytelling is to convey complex and perhaps difficult messages to unbelieving or sceptical audiences, for which there is a body of neuroscience knowledge that likely underpins the uniquely human quality of both telling and witnessing others’ stories, to perhaps better understand and change our own.

So, back to the mistake of confusing live presentations with published papers, and why a presentation should not be a repurposed or reformatted paper: It’s because each tells a story in a different way.

Take a look at this diagram below which I’ve been using recently in workshops for psychologists on IT. I found it on Horace Dedieu’s blog and it refers to a New York Times’ article he cites, published several years ago (click to enlarge):

The graph was developed by famed data visualiser and self-chronicler, Nicholas Felton, who was a recent visitor to Australia for his own presentations to designers.

Essentially, Felton’s NYT graph shows the rate at which various technologies we now take for granted were taken up in the last hundred years. The dependent variable is percentage of US households, and we can see along the independent (X or Time axis) how newer technologies, when they penetrate customer resistance, penetrate much more quickly than the older ones, like the telephone, electricity, and refrigeration, all of which are near 100% penetration currently.

In my IT presentations, I often discuss what happens when a product reaches 50% home penetration, how there are often dips after the products reaches a certain acceptance (sometimes called The Valley of Disappointment), and what happens at 80% (it’s more about marketers trying for brand loyalty rather than convince potential customers to purchase for the first time).

But the graph, while offering the newspaper reader plentiful data to immerse oneself – tracking uptake for various products over 100 years – is time consuming, given its data density.

I would not ordinarily, even for a switched-on audience, show such as graph, or more pointedly, create one of my own for a stand and deliver audience. It’s much too dense and would take too much time for even hard core data visualisers to work out what’s going on.

It’s worse when you’re standing up speaking with this in the background because its complexity (and I think it is a terrifically informative graphic) will easily distract your audience from you and what you’re are saying as the audience tries to work out what’s going on. Those who are easily confused by such graphs will just turn off completely and go play Angry Birds or Candy Crush.

But there are ways and means for using this in a live presentation and still stay in control of your presentation. Left as it is with the speaker likely using a laser pointer to try and track a product’s time course, an audience will quickly turn off and disengage.

In my follow up blog entry, I’ll spend a little time and effort discussing the importance of using graphs and charts, and how there are better and worse ways to achieve your goals of being an influential, entertaining and persuasive presenter.

Unwitting Mistake #5: Applying the principles of Garr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte and me without forethought

What the heck am I saying, you might be asking?

It’s this: In some domains, you are better off staying with the status quo that elevating yourself above your peers and betters, lest you be seen as a smart-ass. For certain audiences, especially those with deep profound knowledge of the subject, perhaps greater than the presenter’s (think PhD examination committee), shifting away from traditional means of presenting and employing the new guidelines espoused by some of us (who are thoroughly over how most academics present), may set your audience against you.

They may perceive you to be obscuring statistically insignificant findings or poorly thought through outcomes with glitz and glamour (you know, when presenters go crazy with builds, animations, transitions when the presentation does not call for it). In other words, the deeper the knowledge level of the audience, and the more hostile or disbelieving they are, the better it is to leave aside flashy presentations, and get to the meat and potatoes swiftly – no nouvelle cuisine. 

This doesn’t means returning to the standard default Powerpoint of 6 x 6 slides filled with text. It means being cautious with the visual elements of your presentation, using charts and graphs judiciously, and adhering to the advice offered by your supervisors if you are a graduate student.

Later, as your career develops, you can introduce more 21st Century components, or you can take the risk as I do each time of challenging dogmatic “principles” of presenting, as long as you’re prepared to wear the consequences.

More to follow in another blog entry soon, and I will be discussing more of these ideas at Macworld in a few weeks time in San Francisco.

What I wrote two years ago about the next version of Keynote (File under: Psychologist displays fortune telling skills)

In a response to a comment on a previous blog entry on Presentationmagic.com written two years ago here, I agreed with the commenter about our shared hopes for the next version of Keynote. At this point Keynote was almost three years without an update. Here’s what I wrote:

<<<<<lesposen | October 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm | ReplyEdit

It’s a good question (about Apple’s interest in updating Keynote) I’ve pondered too, and not just about Keynote. It’s likely Steve (Jobs) approved a roadmap for Apple’s future products four years into the future, at the least. So his hand will still be present in the next update of Keynote. Given its long gestation and how PowerPoint has played copycat in its latest version, I’m guessing to prepare for Keynote Pro X, a major rewrite a la Final Cut Pro X. Lots of gnashing of teeth and tut-tutting about Apple’s choices, but ultimately a huge improvement. Fingers crossed.>>>>>

Powerpoint so far has Apple beat when it comes to working with object layers on a Keynote slide. But perhaps the solution is in your pocket (if you carry an iPhone there)

One of my much hoped for features for the next update to Keynote is a more user friendly, visually appealing means to organise objects on a slide.

Power users have often given their presentation some extra oomph – a Wow! factor – by having objects appear from behind other objects, move to the front and then perhaps disappear behind other objects. This gives a presentation something of a 3D feel, helping to move away from boring text displayed in a flat disengaging manner. You can try and get away with plentiful text by adding some shadows, animations and greying out sections of text to highlight others.

As humans we’re built to see the world in 3D to help us detect movement, distance and relationships between objects both to defend ourselves against potential danger, as well as to attract us to food sources. There is also the small aspect of sexual attraction and seeing the world or at least a potential sexual partner in (fully rounded) 3D has much to offer (ahem!).

For some time now, both Keynote and Powerpoint have allowed users to move and align objects on a slide, sending them forward to backward, or to the front of a stack of objects or to the back.

Unusually for Apple, there has never been a visual means for doing this on a Keynote slide. You couldn’t drag an object behind another – you had to use a primitive menu item (or its equivalent keyboard shortcut), as you can see below in Keynote 5:

Voila_Capture4This is hardly intuitive, easy or granular. There was a menu bar too to give a visual reference to layering –  Front Back – but it’s very primitive in Keynote 5:

Voila_Capture7

And because of Apple’s insistence on not allowing you to rename groups or objects in your build order inspector (this covers all versions of Keynote including 6), you get, below, these kinds of confusing build lists where you have to really be on task to know which object or line is selected.Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 9.06.37 pm

Voila_Capture6

Notice in the build list just above with all the line builds, it finishes on build 19. But if there were 25 builds you couldn’t extend the build window to see them all in one hit; you have to scroll down the list, which means the very top builds, perhaps where you’ll drag these last builds, scroll off the table. Not good.

Keynote 6 has improved this somewhat so you can enlarge your build list and see all your builds – no more scrolling.

Each time you click on a build, the object will highlight on the slide. If the object is hidden behind layers of other objects, you won’t see its outline or a transparent effect so you can see just which object you have grabbed, but merely its resize handles – again, not very useful. I’ve occasionally found myself trying to move such “highlighted” objects, but I’ve only succeeded in moving the top most object. Meaning I can get caught in a merry go round of undo and redo commands. Clearly, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Over on the iPad and the iPhone and Keynote for iOS6 and now 7, we got our first clue that an interface change was on its way for desktop Keynote. Because we move objects around iOS screens with our fingers – we actually “touch” the object – Keynote’s user interface on them needed a different paradigm.

Here’s what it looks like with respect to object layers on the iPhone:

IMG_2245

So having highlighted an object – its handles show up as blue dots – we can move it forward and backward with our fingers, not by touching the object but via a slider control. The iPad controls are much the same, and you see notches on the line corresponding to elements on the slide.

This interface design was not found on Keynote 5, and has not made its way into Keynote 6 at this point. The look and feel of an older Keynote for iOS has been reproduced in Keynote 6, suggesting its new interface is not yet fully baked, below:

Voila_Capture8

Notice how the iOS7 version slider controls have not made their way into desktop Keynote.

A potential solution to see the arrangement of the objects in a visual way has already been offered to Apple from Microsoft’s Powerpoint for Mac 2011.

Below is a video I made after firing up my Powerpoint and importing a slide with multiple objects lined up overlapping each other which I created in Keynote 6, and exported as a Powerpoint file. It has ten overlapping elements and in the video you can see how Powerpoint represents these objects and allows you to move them and change their order. Note, however, that in moving them, their location on the slide doesn’t swap with the object it’s replacing – that has to be done manually once you’ve satisfied with your new order.

Naturally, Apple doesn’t want to blindly copy what Microsoft has done here, and kudos to its design team. I don’t use Powerpoint sufficiently to know if this solution works out well, so let me know if you use it frequently and if it’s just a pretty face or is truly functional.

Apple needs to come up with a better solution than just a slider control. And I do believe that solution is in your pocket if you have an iPhone with iOS7 installed.

One of the new features of iOS7 is its new Safari browser with a new twist on something that’s been around for a long while: Coverflow. In the Safari browser, Coverflow has become tabbed browser such that we can see all the open tabs in an animated form, as seen  from my own iPhone 5 in landscape mode:

I think perhaps now you’re starting to get the picture. Let’s take the same 10 objects inserted onto a Keynote file I used for the Powerpoint movie, and play a little with how it might look in Keynote 6. When you watch the video, below, note that I have taken some liberties with the rather empty tool bar and filled it with the front and back tabs, and played the same iPhone movie, this time in portrait mode, with the objects (the websites) popping a little to make the connection between scrolling through the popup movie and the highlighting or calling out of the object on the Keynote slide as it become the front object in the movie. It’s not pretty or that accurate, but you’ll get the idea:

What do you think? Wouldn’t it be preferable to have a visual analogue of  object layering on a Keynote slide rather than rather primitive Forward and Back tabs?

If a dumb shmo like me can come up with this, let’s hope the geniuses at Apple can bring us something truly special and functional.

Finding inspiration for better presentations (in the light of Keynote 6): Virgin America’s cabin safety video

In a previous blog entry, I used the comments section in reply to a reader, suggesting he follow my lead and look to TV current affairs programs to seek inspiration, especially in the face of the denuding of Keynote’s feature set.

The invitation was really about looking far and wide for inspiration for persuasive message delivery, especially in the face of so many other distractions competing for your audience’s attention.

No one knows this better than commercial airlines. Remember all those videos as the flight is taxiing which ask you to pull down firmly to get the flow of oxygen going into your mask in the case of the loss of cabin pressure?

ASIDE: (This very infrequent event concerns commercial pilots more than the loss of an engine inflight. It means getting down from cruise altitude – which might be 40,000 feet to one where passengers and crews can breathe without assistance – about 16,000 feet: uncomfortable, but doable.

This is because those masks are attached to a collection of spherical cylinders distributed throughout the aircraft cabin which each contain about three minutes worth of oxygen. Which means a rapid descent about three times faster than the usual. Expect busted ear drums and much discomfort and panic in passengers.)

So when they say “pull down firmly” on the yellow masks which drop down from the ceiling, they mean give it a firm yank which breaks a seal which starts the oxygen flow. If you just pull it down gently, and stick it over your nose, nothing will happen. In this case, the placebo effect will only get you so far! In a recent Qantas incident, this is what  happened with many passengers complaining after landing that their oxygen masks didn’t operate. It’s more that they were oblivious to the cabin safety message denoting “firmly”. You’ve been notified!

In the video below, from Virgin America, its creators have decided to challenge the usual complacency of passengers, and make an attention-grabbing safety video. Perhaps even the flight attendants in the plane will be dancing along, although I’m guessing they will be instructed not to. Now, pay close attention to how the video designers included text in the cabin safety video. Not just is it included Karaoke-style but its animation also captures the word meanings and keeps you engaged.

It’s actually a great excuse to include it on my blog, a really fun and inspiring video in one of the most conservative domains – commercial aviation. I think only Air New Zealand comes close.

Air New Zealand’s recent in-flight safety briefing videos:

A (not so) Quick and Dirty workaround for the loss of builds and transitions in Keynote 6 – a temporary set of solutions while the engineers put the fixes in.

In a previous blog post, I sympathised with Keynote users who’ve upgraded from their tried and true 32-bit Keynote 5 to the latest 64-bit Keynote 6. For some the loss of much-relied upon features has proven a deal breaker.

Fortunately, upgraders have discovered that when when they performed their App Store free upgrades, Mavericks put aside their iWork 09 files (Keynote 5, Pages 4 and Numbers 3) in a separate folder. All can be used under Mavericks, taking advantage of its better screen spanning properties, with all their special features, builds and transitions intact.

But for those eager to try Keynote 6 (perhaps because so far it truly is faster and more stable, and it does contain some improved features such as a more elaborate Magic Move transition), let me offer some caveats and some ways around some of its limitations.

1. Certain builds and transitions have been deleted in their transition (ahem!) from KN5->KN6. Since there is no third party transition facility or modules to bring into Keynote 6, we can only hope that these obsolete transitions, which some say are still in the Keynote 6 package, may be liberated in a future update. In the past, Keynote’s preferences have allowed a tick-box to have obsolete transitions made available.

It’s a matter then of either proceeding ahead with a mission critical presentation using Keynote 5, or importing it into Keynote 6 and substituting new builds and transitions for the broken ones. That might be a lot of work for large files with complex build sequences, and a presenter on a limited schedule.

2. Until you can find the time to make this adjustment, let’s imagine for a moment you want to combine some of the improvements in Keynote 6 with a selection of some of your favourite slides which contain builds which no longer work.

I’ll use an example of my own which momentarily caused me to curse the Apple Keynote engineers until I developed a workaround.

The Setup

I frequently run workshops for psychologists on how IT can improve their practices. I especially focus on how IT can help both measure and offer interventions for anxiety. My suggestion to my colleagues is that rather than asking patients to rate their anxiety on a 1-100 scale (known from the 1960s as SUDS – Subjective Unit of Distress Scale), we could use inexpensive IT equipment to objectively measure a parameter of anxiety – heart rate variability or HRV – and help anchor the subjective to the objective.

I usually spend some time going through the biology of arousal and anxiety, its brain foundations and links to heart function – not all psychologists are well-versed in such matters.

One of the things I impress upon them in setting up the demoes which follow, is the history of using the human heart as a measure of emotion, when historically the brain was seen as merely a body part producing phlegm (as in phlegmatic, one of the ancient humours). The heart historically, according to Aristotle, was the residence of the soul, of emotion and intelligence.

And so to bring some entertaining weight to that, I show the audience a Keynote slide which visually demonstrates movies with the word “heart” in their title, while simultaneously, on the same slide, playing short snippets of well-known songs with the word “heart” in them.

To do this, I use the Smart Build “Turntable” effect to rotate movie covers – downloaded from IMDB – while play music snippets derived from an iTunes Music store search (I also own some of the tracks) and recorded using ScreenFlow, my screencast software of choice.

Here’s a section of it where I have exported the Keynote 5 file to a Quicktime format (then uploaded to YouTube. Let’s hope the short snippets do not attract a copyright notice, nor the cover art):

This gives you an idea of what the audience would see.

Now let’s take the same slide and import it into Keynote 6, and see what results:

Yuck! Unuseable.

So what to do? Well, as long as one is happy with the background theme as is (its Spotlight from keynotethemepark.com), simply export this one slide as a Quicktime movie of high resolution (might become a large file) and then import it into your Keynote 6 slide deck. As it turns out, you actually have even greater control of the Smart Build (a “Smarter Build”?) because you can control the resultant movie – stop it if you want to make a comment and advance it by scrubbing through with your mouse. No one will notice if it’s not a “true” build sequence, and no one will care it’s a movie. Only you will know that.

Here, I’ve used ScreenFlow to show you the QT movie in Keynote 6, then have it play full screen as it to an audience, below:

Now while I did this with Smart Builds you could do the same with lost transitions and other builds you’ve created for existing Keynote 5 presentations which you’d dearly like to have a place in a new Keynote 6 presentation. Just export the slides as a Quicktime movie, do some fine editing in Screenflow or a similar software – even iMovie – or Quicktime itself (I still like to use Quicktime 7 Pro), then import into Keynote 6.

This is a rather quick and dirty (actually, not so quick) effort to deal with the changeover period between the two Keynote versions.

Unfortunately, I have also been in touch with third party developers who confirm that the current Mavericks/Keynote 6 combo has destroyed the alpha channel masking of Quicktime movies. And for that I have no quick and dirty solution other than once more contracting the slide you wish to use in Keynote 5 and importing it as a QT movie of high resolution – no pixelation please!

Let me show you what I mean by the loss of alpha channel using another slide from the Heart Keynote deck referred to earlier, imported into Keynote 6:

Notice how the large red heart initially looks fine, but once it starts pulsing (its an alpha channel QT movie), a black box appears around it. In Keynote 5, you don’t see the black box, just the pulsing heart. By the way, I showed this slide with another 10 or so pulsing hearts to the Keynote team in Pittsburgh and it looks like one can now take a png file of the heart and use the “pulse” build to get a heartbeat going in Keynote 6.

Let’s hope that whatever has caused this loss of alpha channel – a real deal breaker for some presenters and developers – gets attended to quickly by the Keynote iWork team and in a show of good faith, lets unhappy Keynote campers know there is a bright future. A return to Powerpoint can wait another day (or decade).

Let me know in the Comments section if you have discovered some workarounds for the feature loss in Keynote – nothing too overwhelming, please!

Keynote 6 retains hyperlinks, but they’re buried treasure – further thoughts on Apple’s management of iWork (and a quote from Klaatu).

In my previous blog entry, my first about Keynote 6, I wrote that one of my liked features – hyperlinking slides, files, websites and emails – had gone MIA: Missing in Action.

But today I had cause to look at Keynote for iOS 7 and it has retained hyperlinks, here: Voila_Capture812

So, in Keynote on the iPad, you go the Spanner (Tools), select “Presentation Tools”, then select the first item in the drop down menu: Interactive Links.

The familiar hyperlink menu items will show themselves, in much the same layout as occurred in Keynote 5 for the Mac, along with their shortcut or alias blue arrows and associated functionality.

By now, the thought will have occurred to you: “If this feature exists within Keynote for iOS, and there is parity between iOS, Cloud, and Mac OS, where is it in Keynote 6?”

Well, here’s a screenshot of it in Keynote 6:

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As you may have noticed, there is no Inspector or obvious button, menu bar or “thingy” of any sort to guide you to this Keynote element. For reasons best known to themselves, the Keynote engineers and UI designers decided not to replicate the iOS layout, only the functionality it seems.

So, how do you create Hyperlinks as per Keynote 5?

1. Highlight (select) an object on your slide.

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As you can see, it’s the blue square, now with white “handles” on each side and corners to resize it.

2. Place your pointer over the object, still selected, and hold down the Control key, and click your mouse or trackpad to bring up a menu list. In this case, below, the “Add Link” option is highlighted.

Voila_Capture814If you click on this menu time, something familiar from Keynote 5 will make itself known to you:

Voila_Capture815An important question some of you may be asking, about now: How does Keynote 6 handle hyperlinked slides in Keynote 5 files? Do they get lost and messed up?

To answer that question, I imported a Keynote 5 “Family Feud” file I had created as a gift to the guys at Doceri, the iPad-based software I use to monitor and annotate my Keynote presentations. It’s very complex, containing 35 slides so all possibilities could be covered for a typical 5-item contest. (It’s based on a Keynote 3 deck I used from here, which you will need to convert to Keynote 5, before converting to Keynote 6!). Here’s what it looks like, complete with sound files – one for correct, one for – buzzzz – incorrect, and two others for the intro and outro music themes:

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Notice how each of the five answer boxes has the familiar hyperlink blue arrow. This is a very complex test for hyperlinks, and here are all the answers revealed when the game ends:

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I am pleased to say all the hyperlinks and related sounds remained intact, and useable. By the way, I use Doceri on my iPad when I play this game in my workshops on various subjects. Touching the bluish area outside the answer panel will produce the “wrong answer” buzz, while touching any of the black answer panels, initially with just the number on them in the first illustration, will cause the panel to “cube” down and reveal the answer, along with the pleasant “bing” sound to denote Correct!

Further thoughts on Keynote 6, and iWork’s future

These past few days of experimentation and curiosity-seeking with Keynote 6, complete with the discovery of hidden features, have helped confirm my previous thinking about Keynote’s path, going back in this blog more than a year or two.

I have previously written that all the wishing and hoping for a Keynote update might produce an Oscar Wilde epithet:

There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

Predicting and hoping as I had that one of the biggest improvements to Keynote would be the addition of a precision timeline to better manage builds, transitions, movies and sounds, I also suggested this would require a complete interface rebuild. There had been hints dropped by Apple that this might happen: One way was at Macworld presenting a Presentation Magic workshop where a new Keynote team hire had attended who specialised in User Interface design. The other was Apple more recently had advertised for additional designers to join the iWork team.

Knowing what had occurred with both iMovie 08-09 and Final Cut Pro/X, I was preparing myself for the same to happen to Keynote. I would get what I wanted but at considerable expected cost. This in fact is what has happened.

But the rebuilding of Keynote was not merely an interface or veneer issue: It’s clearly a rebuild from the ground up to make parity and thus compatibility with Keynote in the cloud (for Windows users if they can dare tear themselves away from Powerpoint), and Keynote on iOS devices with their 64-bit chips.

(Judging from the Apple discussion groups for Pages 5, we Keynote 6 users got a frolic in the warm Tahitian beaches!)

This is the all important Activity Monitor graphic that begins to tell the story:

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Keynote 6 (blue icon) is 64 bit, and Keynote 5 below it is 32 bit. And for good measure, the current Powerpoint for Mac (2011) is:

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There’s a roadmap happening here. 64 bit ought to offer faster, more robust management of Keynote files across all Apple platforms which are 64 bit.

But the speed of the Keynote app is only a small part of the story. At the moment, Mac presenters – and now with Keynote in the Cloud and iPads, we have Windows users too – have numerous presentation software choices. But the big two remain the FREE Keynote on whatever platform (with hardware purchase or iWork 09 upgrade), or the purchase of MS Office or Powerpoint alone for a couple of hundred dollars, or a much cheaper educational bundle or a freebie thrown in by a reseller. Whatever.

There is also cloud based Google presentation software, as well as a number of open source projects of varying capabilities and compatibilities.

Apple knows how many recent copies of Keynote 09 and Keynote iOS are out there via monitoring of its online App stores. It can see where its buyers are: desktop vs iOS. We know 170 million iPads have been sold, all of which can use Keynote for initially $9.99, and now free. Hmm… how many copies of Keynote for Mac OS do you think are out there, being used on Macs? To paraphrase Steve Jobs (2007): “Are you getting it yet?”

Power users of Keynote, like Final Cut Pro users who abandoned ship, have every reason to feel Apple has thrown them under the bus, including all those – like me – who “sold” the Mac platform to Windows users on the basis of Keynote 5’s attributes alone. Any Keynote power user who has followed the usual fare of Powerpoint demoes at a conference or convention has become adroit at discussing each software’s pros and cons when audience members shocked at what a computer can do on a big screen – shocked, I say! – come up and are crestfallen to discover you didn’t use Powerpoint (they kinda knew that) and Keynote is Mac only, at least “back then”.

Now many may feel that, just as Apple cannibalises its own products when it introduces a new iPod or iPhone, they too are being fed as human sacrifices (OK, calm down, their work is) to lesser mortals: non-power users, Johnny-come-latelies who have not paid their dues during Apple’s beleaguered days, and who have come to the Apple community via iOS devices, not Macs.

It’s as if Apple owes power users and pro presenters something for their patience, loyalty, proselytising, evangelising, cleverness and demoing. As a long time President of a Macintosh user group (iMUG), I’m very aware of our place in the Apple firmament: more of a pesky nuisance than anything else. Apple resellers too have discovered their place in the same universe, soon after Apple opened their own bricks and mortar  as well as online stores. We know how that worked out, and is still evolving.

It’s another way of saying: This Keynote is not for you, but the millions who will put it to good use with their first Mac and their first iPad, and perhaps even their first presentations. There: I’ve said it. Get used to a new reality.

So, stay with Keynote 5 and the years of building great, Powerpoint-busting Keynote files, which will still operate in Mavericks on laptops which will have better power usage. Buy an AppleTV and a Kanex VGA-HDMI adaptor so even with older VGA projectors you can be wirelessly roaming the lecture theatre with your Macbook Air or iPad (mirroring and controlling the Air via Doceri or similar).

But every so often, break out Keynote 6 and see what it has to offer. There ARE some improvements, and I and others will blog about them soon.

There’s clearly plenty of room for Keynote to improve. We’re at the bottom of an upgrade cycle, not the top. If you return to Powerpoint, where will it go next? More bloatware masquerading as new features because Microsoft has manoeuvred itself into a corner – its hardware is not setting the world on fire, competing with its own OEMs who are not happy. It needs to keep selling software because that’s its business.

So every two years or so, its Office suite gets a visual overhaul accompanied by much muttering – think Ribbon – and features which just bog it down. There are those who can do wonders with Powerpoint, and each year they meet and show off what their presentation software can achieve, here. (One day, its convenor Rick Altman, will work up the courage to invite a Keynote specialist to attend to give demoes and comparisons – Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte don’t count since they themselves would likely not self-describe as Keynote specialists or evangelists, but more presentation skills builders).

My advice is this: Learn from the Final Cut Pro/X users who stayed the distance, as well as taking a more long term view of where Apple is heading. It knows that in a few years time, laptops will become even less conspicuous and PCs will be relegated to “Big Iron” kind of duties in number crunching and rendering farms. Apple doesn’t just know, it’s working to make it happen.

The A7 chip, iPad, iOS and 64 bit computing is the beginning of the next cycle of personal computing, and Keynote is at the beginning of its next development cycle. It marks the end of presenting with Keynote as we used to do it. Those using Powerpoint simply don’t know it yet, but their usual way of presenting will not stand up to the task of 21st Century learning, creativity and knowledge management.

So, you have a few choices as I see Apple offering it. To paraphrase Klaatu,

Your choice is simple: join us and think and present differently, or pursue your present course and face disengagement.

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.

Apple’s iPhone 5C and S event: Did it reveal new features of a Keynote software update due very soon?

For presenters and especially Apple Keynote users, last week’s iPhone 5C and S keynote contained some hints as to Keynote’s roadmap.

While many Apple observers lamented the lack of surprises at this event, there were several unexpected signs that desktop Keynote hasn’t been forgotten, given its last significant update was January, 2009.

1. I’ve been saying for some time now that much of the iWork team’s resources has been spent on iOS versions, to the neglect of desktop iWork. Far from being almost an afterthought with the introduction of the iPad, Keynote on the iPhone and iPad has proven itself a very worthwhile addition to those presenting in schools, colleges, government agencies, and corporate settings. Apple has acknowledged Microsoft’s failure to compete in the Tablet sector, as well as its recalcitrance to port its cash cow Office to the iOS ecosystem. It has done this by releasing iWork apps to all newly sold iOS devices, free. With iWork for iCloud also having moved out of beta allowing those in the Windows ecosystem to see and create with Keynote, rather than using Powerpoint, it’s another potential nail in the Powerpoint coffin. (It will need lots of nails to seal that coffin!)

2. The employment of the A7 CPU in the iPhone (and one might expect in upcoming iPad refreshes), one of the main complaints I’ve had of Keynote on the iPad – it’s lack of desktop feature parity – may well be overcome. I’ve said for some time that once Keynote for iOS can match the features and power of desktop Keynote, then the latter will received its much anticipated update, making transferring files between the two UNIX-based platforms seamless.

3. While many Keynote users watch these product update keynotes for hints of what the next version might bring, our patience is often tested and unrewarded. But it’s just possible we did see last week a hint of what the next version of Keynote might include.

I’ve been thinking for some time that it’s taking a very long time for presentations to shift to a much more visual style. I’m working on a blog article about that, especially for those in the sciences and medicine, but I think it’s safe to say one of the most egregious mistakes presenters make is their inclusion of too much text on a slide. It’s as if all they do is write their paper in Word, then dump the text on a slide, denuding it of grammar, and adding the obligatory bullet points and sub-sub headers.

Clearly, helping presenters move away from such slides is a major challenge, so perhaps the task is to meet them half-way, especially for those where text is central to their presentations such as the law and regulatory agencies. So I’ve even been thinking that rather than adding new themes (backgrounds), transitions and builds, Apple’s next Keynote will feature some major text builds, including call outs, highlights, and other ways to acknowledge the importance of text, while still delivering animated, engaging presentations.

What follows below are screenshots from last week’s iPhone event, which you can download in iTunes or watch via AppleTV and its Apple events app. It’s possible that I will show was created outside of Keynote, but here’s hoping it’s evidence of a new upcoming text feature. You can also view the keynote via YouTube, which Apple has recently posted:

1.  We start where Apple CEO Tim Cook announces that Apple will release not one but two new iPhones, which we see as outlines.Image

and hands over the slide controller to Worldwide Marketing VP, Phil Schiller, below.

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Before he says a word, Schiller clicks the slide controller below,

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and we return to the outline of one iPhone.

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Them Schiller launches into his announcement about the iPhone 5C. What comes next is difficult to describe in static pictures and words, so a viewing of the Quicktime movie of the event is recommended. But let’s have a try, anyway.

As Schiller sets up the iPhone 5C announcements, the iPhone outline, together with the circular home button icon, begin a wipe build out. Not your usual one with Keynote 09’s limitations, but they seem to follow the lines themselves, rather than top to bottom, or left to right, etc., below:

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More progress showing the lines being wiped:

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Until there only remains the right side of the outline, and a small crescent of the Home Button. But the animation  then continues, and we see new shape forming in a continuous sequence:

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as the letters iPhone 5c begging to build in as a random letter wipe:

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and continues:

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until we almost see the whole word:

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Later, when Schiller introduces the 5S, he repeats the same build-in style:

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Now I’ve tried to replicate these builds using the current complement of Keynote elements which is my wont when I posit Apple has snuck in a new feature, but without success – perhaps you will find away to duplicate it. So it seems this is a new text build, which is likely extended to line, shapes and images such that outlines can be built in other than with wipe builds.

Later in the keynote, when the iPhones’ release dates per country are spelled out, there is another text effect, but this time it can be easily duplicated with the existing features, using scale and move builds. It occurs when Schiller highlights China in the list of the first tranche of countries to receive iPhones, September 20th.

Here’s the sequence:

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And we see China enlarge moving the other countries away:

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I tried to simulate this textual effect using Magic Move over two slides, but it turns out you can use one slide giving the first three countries atop China their own text box, then China in its own box, then the remaining countries in a third box. One simply moves the last group of countries down, scale and move China, and slightly elevate the top three countries with a move build, and you’re done. Here’s my version:

It’s certainly a good lesson in calling out specific words in a heavily text based slide, rather than using colour, movement or – please, no! – a laser pointer!

When might we see a new Keynote?

Apple has at least one major event to come this year, likely October with Macs, Mavericks, and iPads the feature artists. I expect that when new Macs and Mavericks (OS X 10.9) is officially released, which will finally allow AppleTV to utilise Keynote’s Presenter Display and allow complete untethering of your MacBook Pro, this will be a great time to show a brand new iWork. I expect, at least for Keynote a very significant upgrade with a bountiful supply of new features to take advantage of Mavericks and Keynote on 64-bit iOS devices. (I also expect some kind of mid-level database to be added to iWork, what with the demise of Filemaker’s Bento).

In the next week or two. I’ll publish on this blog a new post regarding scientific presenting at conferences, as well as seminars and in-house symposia to address several traditional presentation errors which have ossified for too long, and where change is vitally necessary.

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?

From “beleaguered” to “secretive”: how the tech media distorts how Apple operates. But substitute one other word, and you’ll “get” how Apple really operates

When I’m not giving workshops on presentation skills, or on IT for health professionals, I’m working one on one with patients who wish to better manage certain unwanted behaviours and feelings. The bread and butter work for clinical psychologists in private practice, as I am, are the anxiety and depression or mood disorders.

The methods for change most found to be evidence based are those which feature “doing things differently” based on “thinking differently“.
Apple, in one of its most successful advertising campaigns which commenced soon after Steve Jobs’ return to the company he founded, used the phrase “Think Different” in an effort to suggest the Macintosh was not a Windows PC. And that its user base thought – and behaved – differently when compared to those who use Windows.
Returning to the evidence of what works in therapy, there are two factors for how my reading of the scholarly literature informs the way I work:
1. Develop a therapeutic alliance so patients come to therapy hopeful change is possible, even when the going gets tough, because the therapist has trust in their abilities and theories of change, mixed with interpersonal qualities such as respect, genuineness, warmth, and empathy.
2. Giving time and effort to the centrality of helping patients shift their thinking from reflexively negative to a more “can do”  estimation of current and future activities, by a process of reappraising their beliefs and experiences. Changed thinking is consolidated by behaviours practised as if those thoughts were true, rather than waiting for enough evidence to become convinced of their veracity. In other words, it’s OK to think and act differently even when it doesn’t feel right. That comes later.
In effect, words are important!
There was a time before Apple’s resurgence, slowly starting with the release of the iPod in 2001, then building quickly with the release of the iPhone in 2007, when the word – an adjective – most often found expressed of Apple in the technology press was “beleaguered”. Apple had been against the wall, with many continuing to assert that without Microsoft’s financial input Apple was doomed. It remains a false assertion, but the tech world has moved on since that time and new words and sentiments have emerged.
The word “beleaguered” is now being applied to other tech companies, whom some pundits previously expected would put Apple out of business. It still gets occasionally trotted out but no longer about Apple’s survival, but its management of the contemporary challenges it faces, such as its manufacturing base in China or the competition from Samsung or the way the media writes about Apple and its “dire need” to bring to us the next big thing.
In fact, in more recent times, with Apple’s share price seemingly in freefall even while its profits are in ascendancy,  the word that now most often precedes the mention of Apple in the tech press is “secretive”.
A Google search of the phrase “secretive Apple” reveals at the time of writing more than two million results.
The notion that of all tech companies, Apple is the most secretive has been seen as praiseworthy by some, and an extension of its founders’ paranoia by others. The culture the latter leads to has been said to possess poor morale, loss of hunger to innovate, playing it safe, and disrupting Apple’s entry into the enterprise considered by those who see a lack of transparency and public roadmapping as suicidal.
Let’s have a look at some of the quotes from the Google results to place Apple’s “secrecy” into a variety of contexts:
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There are dozens upon dozens of Google result pages similar to these, often repeating the same stories but on different sites.
Just a few more:
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The essence is much the same: Apple’s secrecy is costly to the company and its employees.
Now, choose anyone of these results and when you see the word “secretive” used as an adjective, change it to this one word:
PATIENT.
Here’s how Apple’s built-in Dictionary app defines “patient” (click to enlarge):
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Now look to the Thesaurus offering which is even more pertinent, using words like “uncomplaining, tolerant, long-suffering, stoical….
Secretive might be the word that most describes Apple’s “personality” for those whose job is perceived to be the liberation of secrets – to be the first with a breaking news story or to share a trade secret with Apple’s competitors for commercial advantage.
But to those of us who have watched Apple over the years as it’s transformed from the late 1970s highly successful start-up through to mid-1990s beleaguered, through to now being pilloried for its “secrecy, we have adapted to reaping the rewards of Apple’s patience with great products and services. (albeit with the yet to be explained blind-spot of cloud and social media services)
Apple’s patience can best be summarised with this quote of Steve Jobs whose personality and preferences I believe still pervade how Apple operates, for better or for worse:
“And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” ~ Business Week, October 12, 2004
When you say NO rather than rush to manufacture with a collection of YESs or “why not – someone will find a use for it” you end up with a compromised product, whose codename might as well be BLUNDERBUSS.
I expect Apple followers who understand Apple the way I have described it here will be well-rewarded for their patience later in the year. It’s “wait and see” pie time. Or if that is not your preferred food of delayed gratification, try marshmallows.