Tag Archives: Keynote

While the 3 year old will yelp with delight when they discover the iPad’s games, the 80 year old will quietly say, “I get it. This is what computing’s about.”

I had dinner last Friday with colleagues with whom I had studied and graduated in Knowledge Management from the University of Melbourne. That course, which was a grand experiment to combine the talents of academic staff from the University’s Education, ICT, and Business/Economics schools lasted but a few years.

Its driving force, recently retired Professor Gabriele Lakomski attended the dinner, and asked when I first started the course with her. In fact, I was in the first intake of 2003, and I remember it clearly, I told her. It’s because in 2003, Apple’s Keynote was introduced (along with Safari and 12″ and 17″ Powerbooks), and I used it very early in our course, some time in March or April. (You need to know that the Australian university year runs from March through November.)

Seated next to us was another student from the same intake, Victoria, and when I said to Professor Lakomski I still remember my first use of Keynote in class, Vicky exclaimed, “Yes, I remember. It was the study on British Aerospace Industries!”

Now this was seven years ago almost to the day, and she still remembered the presentation I did! This was because for all in the class, it would have been the first time they saw Keynote (and me) in action anywhere (unless they had seen the 2003 Macworld Jobs-delivered keynote). I still remember the “oos and ahs” this rather mature student group spontaneously let out when I first showed Keynote’s cube transition, and some red call out boxes to highlight data.

Seated at the same dinner table last Friday were students who entered the course after I had completed my studies, and whom I’ve met at other functions organised by this very social graduate group. One, Winston, works for a very large car manufacturing company whose world headquarters are in Detroit, and was in receipt of bailout money in recent months. The company has been part of the Australian manufacturing sector since the 1940s, and their vehicles remain very popular with Australians.

Somehow, the discussion moved to the iPad, perhaps after I had excused myself from the table to answer my iPhone, and Winston suggested on my return he was interested in getting an iPhone too. I suggested he wait a little while, perhaps June or July, when a new model might become available, and from there a discussion took place about the iPhone’s place in business now that Microsoft Exchange could work with it. It was a quick skip to speculation about the iPad.

Winston put me on the spot to pronounce why the iPad was a better choice than a netbook, which in Australia would be half the price and pack more features, such as a camera, “real” keyboard, iPhone tethering, and the full Microsoft Office suite.

My response was to suggest that the iPad should better be considered not as a computer in the common use of the term, i.e. a notebook or desktop device, but as a knowledge management tool in its own right, and rattled off the sort of apps it would inherit from the iPhone as well as those likely be designed to take advantage of its speed and screen size.

I suggested to Winston that the iPad would have limited initial appeal to computer wonks who wanted merely a smaller form factor for Windows-based computing. It would fail their needs. But I then suggested that there would be huge numbers of ordinary people with very limited knowledge of computer innards and workings – that is, the vast bulk of the Australian population – for whom the iPad would elicit the spontaneous remark:

So this is what computing should be!

No menu bars, no operating system to fiddle with, instant on and ready to use at the simple touch of one button, yet also have powerful business applications such as iWork and Bento and Evernote should this group of users work its way up the skill and learning curve.

When Winston said he had elderly parents who had never touched a computer but had expressed interest in what their use might bring to their lives, I asked him in all honesty which he would buy them: A $400 netbook running Windows Xp (then add the cost of Microsoft Office 2007) or a $650 iPad plus the $50 for iWork + Bento?

The picture of 75 year old mum and dad sitting on their couch wrestling with a netbook with its tiny keyboard and poor resolution screen was enough to observe Winston momentarily pause in his tracks to reconsider his options. Yes, for him, with his background in engineering, a netbook was a no-brainer. A good match for the problems he wished to solve.

But he acknowledged that perhaps he had been too quick to judge the iPad from his own perspective of what he thought computing was about, and not see it from another’s perspective. Of course, being the empathic psychologist I am, this is how I work! It wasn’t to him I was suggesting the iPad made sense, but to the many people for whom, like Winston had learnt for himself, the iPhone had delivered mobile telephony bliss – this is how a phone should work.

Now the same group would discover that the same training they had voluntarily undergone to understand the iPhone and make it a valuable and enjoyable part of their daily living was transferable to the iPad.

In Knowledge Management, one of the key elements, perhaps a Holy Grail, is knowledge transfer: how those with vast experience in complex systems which may take decades to accrue, can transfer this unspoken knowledge to those new to the organisation, lest it be lost when they leave or are fired.

(To illustrate this concept, I often invoke the sad story of Ansett Airlines, to whom I consulted, being sold to Air New Zealand in a fish-swallows-whale story. Management of its Boeing 767 fleet, one of the world’s oldest at the time, was handled by staff in New Zealand while the aircraft were serviced in Australia. Knowledgeable staff who knew these aircraft like they were their own children with their own personalities were let go, as if the aircraft were just hunks of metal. Ultimately, because of oversights, essential Boeing-driven examination for potential cracks in vital engine areas were not performed, and the fleet was grounded not once, but twice. It spelt the ultimate demise of the airline after seven decades of operation, not helped by the entry of brash new airlines like VirginBlue, and a federal government prepared for the airline to fail.)

Whenever you hear someone dissing the iPad as an overgrown iPod Touch, congratulate them, not mock them, for getting what Apple’s on about. They have given us a very practical example of knowledge transfer, something we take for granted whenever we walk to a door and see the “push” or “pull” label to know what to do, without needing further knowledge in physics or mechanical engineering.

With the iPad, school’s out when it comes to having to learn how to operate a computer. The funny thing is, watch what happens when you give a three year old, and his or her great grandfather an iPhone without instruction what to do to make things happen. That same intuitive but unspoken “I think I can understand this device just by toying with it using my fingers” will occur.

While the 3 year old will yelp with delight when they discover the iPad’s games, the 80 year old will quietly say, “I get it. This is what computing’s about.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you remember the seven elements?

Here they are if you didn’t remember:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a clue:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Design

2. Packaging

3. Marketing

4. Operating System software

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Presentation Magic workshop in Melbourne, late March 2009.

While I’m still in post-Macworld 2009 contemplation mode (meaning I’m still to get around to blogging about Macworld and my Presentation Magic Powertools workshops – with example movies), here’s a heads-up for Australian locals that I’ll be doing a two-hour workshop in March in Elwood. Featuring an updated series of slides and ideas from previous workshops, I’ll focus very much on new developments in presenting, and look at a “slide makeover” section as well, so the audience can see directly how I apply my ideas to rather ordinary (yet oh-so-popular) styles of presenting complex information.

Contact me by email (les.at.lesposen.com – don’t forget to sub. @ for at) of by phone (0413 040 747) to find out more details.

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

Season’s Greetings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first, an aside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009 – a presentation revolution on its way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the designing of the Boeing 777 taught me about how to use Apple’s Keynote to give memorable presentations

My attention this week was partially taken up with the news that the Boeing Corporation had completed tests on a core component of its newest design, the 787 Dreamliner, below.

Boeing 787 roll out at Everett

Boeing 787 roll out at Everett

The Dreamliner is Boeing’s answer to rival Airbus’ giant A380, which recently commenced service from Melbourne to Los Angeles with QANTAS. Smaller, and with a longer range, Boeing believes it is a better match for what the flying public desires than the Airbus competitor.

Built of new lightweight but very strong materials, some of the parts being assembled here in Melbourne, the Dreamliner is undergoing many tests before taking its first ever flight. This week on its website Boeing showed video of a very important test outcome: the destruction of the wing box, the central part of the aircraft to which the wings will be joined as well as the fuselage. It needs to be able to withstand huge forces and strain. You can see the test here.

In my work with fearful patients, especially those who believe severe turbulence will rip the wings from the aircraft, I show a similar test performed by Boeing more than ten years ago when its 777 was being tested before entering service. In this case, Boeing built a plane just for the purpose of destroying it, to see what forces the wings could withstand before breaking. To do this very strong steel cables were attached to each wing tip and pulled up in increments, with the hope the plane’s wings could withstand 150% of the worst the weather and a pilot’s poor handling could throw at it, as well as test it in advance of heavier versions being built.

In regular flight, wing tips can flex above or below the centre line by six foot. In the test, the wings bent twenty four feet from the horizontal before an explosive compression took place. You can see the video I show below:

It’s a pretty impressive video, and can start the cognitive shift fearful flyers need in the quest to feel safe on board commercial aircraft. (Touch of irony: The guy in the frame above holding his neck is former Boeing Commercial VP Allan Mullaly who was initially in charge of the 777 program. Later, he was cherry-picked to become Ford’s CEO and it was he and the other Detroit CEOs who copped huge ridicule when each flew in their company’s corporate jets to Washington DC seeking automotive bail-outs this week.)

I first saw this video, narrated by actor Peter Coyote, after a visit to the Boeing plant in Everett, Seatte, WA, and purchased the five-VHS tape series, made by PBS.

The design and manufacture of the 777 set new principles of collaboration for Boeing, between various departments as well as launch customer, United Airlines. (In the wing destruction video, above, the guy who puts the binoculars to his eyes, at 1’27”, is United’s liaison staff member.)

But the design of the airliner was also a first for Boeing in that it used computer workstations to perform many of the designs previously performed by hand on paper. Different departments  designed various systems, such as air-conditioning, hydraulics, moving control surfaces, interior design, etc. At various times in the past, full-sized aircraft mockups were designed, often out of wood or clay (much like cars are designed) to see how the various systems “came together”.

Every so often, a hydraulic element would “interfere” with the positioning of say an air conditioning duct. Then it was back to the drawing board for each department to eliminate this “interference”. Call it stamping out the bugs, to use a coder’s lingo.

What they had to do was design “affordances”, room for piping and other elements like wiring to co-exist in the same space. The advent of large and powerful computers and CAD/CAM software allowed engineers to make redesigns easily achieved while calling up other departments’ system designs to make sure of their shared affordances. (If you go back to the Boeing website and look at the middle video describing the undercarriage, you’ll see how many systems are involved and the close tolerances needed to allow the gear to move into position.)

It is here that I learnt of this concept of affordance, and I now apply it in my presentation magic training.

If you got to Wikipedia, here, you will see a variety of definitions of affordance, some of which contradict each other.

But if you’re reading this while toying with your iPod, then you’re likely to experience the kind of affordance I have in mind for my presentations. It’s an aspect of industrial design that leads the eye and hand to act in a certain way. The iPod’s scroll wheel and menu system were designed such that no manual was needed to operate the device, and learn its nuances.

Indeed, just this week, I was showing a colleague an iPod for his first time. He wanted to borrow it to record some lectures, and I was happy to lend it to him together with attachable iTalk recorder hardware. Within a few minutes, with me guiding him with words, and he using his fingers and thumb, he caught the essentials and reproduced them on his own without my advice.

This is affordance at work, and it has perhaps reached a near-zenith with the iPhone where again one needs very little instruction as to its use, and the design implicitly guides you into action. Contrast that with how Steve Jobs described its so-called “smart phone” competitors at the iPhone’s release almost two years ago, and you will also understand the concept of “interference”, where the menu system seems to be conspiring to make your use of the competing phone difficult and thus stressful.

Users, and audiences for that matter, give up if the task they are being asked to perform is too stressful or interfering with how they usually do things. Sometimes they know what they should do, and other times they don’t understand how things operate but that doesn’t matter as long as they get the main message. This is how magic becomes entertaining, when we know we are being fooled, but don’t know how the trick is done.

In presentations, I use my knowledge of neuroscience, and the social psychology of persuasion, to create affordances leading the audience where I want them to go. This is why the use of colour, pleasing animations, movies, sounds, text which matches voice, and other affordances make for engaging and memorable presentations.

It’s why I choose to use Keynote rather than other software because it better matches my desire to create affordances, not just for the audience but for slide design, while say, Powerpoint seems more intent to my taste on creating interferences.

This is why I so often describe Keynote as eliciting creativity because it seems to reduce the likelihood of interferences, even though at times I wonder what the programmers were thinking about. For instance, in Keynote 4, the addition of Instant Alpha has changed the way I work with Keynote. Look at the video below to see what I’m talking about.

Using Art Text’s wonderful icons, I wanted to use a paper clip to create a special effect, which most in an audience wouldn’t notice (but a Keynote user would).

Here’s what it looks like when I try to place the paper clip onto the picture in a way that emulates the real thing:

All that happens is that the picture covers up the clip. Of course, if you send the Clip forward of the picture, you will simply see the clip sitting on top of the picture, not doing its job of being a paper clip.

But with some use of a new affordance introduced in Keynote 4, Instant Alpha, a photo retouching device previously only available in third party software such as Photoshop, and somes screen shot magic, I can fool the eye into believing the photo is being placed between the loops of the clip – a 3D illusion in 2D, seen below.

It’s a very simple illusion which many wouldn’t bother to notice because it’s something they do most days (using paperclips) and is hardly outstanding. But those who create presentations will momentarily wonder how I did it, knowing it’s doable, but which “magic” was elicited to do so.

If you got a hold of the original Keynote file I created, you could “reverse engineer” my actions by looking within Keynote’s Inspector at the actions I created and seeing each step. In my Powertools session at Macworld 2009, I’ll be creating features like this, some more complex, and showing how to use Keynote’s abilities to elicit illusory acts which take quite some time to plan and execute in the design phase, and which may only last a few seconds in the audience’s attention span. So be it.

The whole idea about knowing the secret of affordances is that you are abandoning the cognitive style of Powerpoint (which is about making life easy for the presenter with bullet points, copy and paste text, and chintzy clip art providing a dumbed down message), by making your slides tell a story to make life for the audience easy, allowing your central message to penetrate and stick.

You see, if your presentation contains interferences – jarring transitions, pixelated images, written text competing with what your saying, and smartass animations for the sake of it – your messages are compromised and won’t stick. What will stick is an idea that will spontaneously form within about three minutes (the length of a speaker’s “honeymoon” period after commencing their presentation) which is that the audience will first check their watches, then their iPhones or Blackberries, and then how covertly they can leave the auditorium.

Affordances, if you know how to create those that sync. with how the brain works, will engage your audience. The best affordances involve the audience. Some presenters choose to do this, depending on their personal style, by asking questions directly of the audience, or having them chat to the person next to them, or have them close their eyes and imagine a scene, or break people up into small groups and have them do tasks. All well and good, and I’ve used each of them and more in workshops.

But I take particular pride in involving audiences without their knowing I’m doing it by my cognitive style, supported by what I can do with my voice, my body, and my slides.

In my Powertools workshop, we’ll look at all these factors and how to (hopefully) seamlessly integrate them while always keeping a focus on the central story. Indeed, telling stories is a major affordance by my definition, tapping into the human hard-wiring for story telling.

While it’s great to become extremely competent with your presentation software, knowing its in’s and out’s and becoming technically proficient, the danger is that this same competency can become an interference if all you do with it is to show off your prowess and thus lose your message in the process.

I’ve seen this happen when some have seen my presentations, taken some of the effects and devices, and applied it without suffcient thought to why I did what I did. What’s left is a pastiche of clever animations, funny cartoons, and an audience that leaves amused but not persuaded.

And a presenter who thinks they’ve abandoned their old traditional means of presenting in exchange for something for the 21st Century, but they’re only part of the way there. As are we all!

Apple’s Keynote as an enabling technology for Generation We

There are times when I don’t give workshops on Presentation Magic, but use the magic to distill complex and confusing ideas in workshops on Technology. Note I use a capital T here, to speak of the concept underlying what a technology is.

I’m often invited to speak to groups who by dint of their age, or life experiences, didn’t jump on board the Internet Train but instead have been thrown on board by their employers, children or friends and expected to enjoy the ride. But it’s not fun when you’re just being jostled about in rattling carriages with windows half-open and you can’t enjoy much of a view. Oh, and those same “benefactors” give you their hand-me-down Windows 98 boxes, or conversely Windows Vista! But that is the subject of another blog!

So I see my task for this group is to be a travel advisor and commentator, a kind of Lonely Planet guide, helping them plan their itineraries, pack the necessary gear for the trip, and make the journey more comfortable. Believe it or not, in my other work where as a Clinical Psychologist working with fearful flyers, I actually do take on that role, but that is also the subject of another blog, here.

In workshops like these, my primary aim using Apple’s Keynote is to illustrate the journey we humans have taken to get to 2008 technologies, by noting that all the Ages of Man have been denoted by the tools humans used, or the outcome of using those tools.

Think about it: We have the Iron Age, not just because ferrous material was discovered but the use to which it was put; and thus we also have a Copper Age and a Bronze Age. Later, after the Middle Ages and the Dark Ages where the Church’s edicts ruled how knowledge about nature was to be understood, an Age of Enlightenment dawned, led by the likes of Sir Isaac Newton.

In living memory, following another technology-based age, the Industrial Revolution, we’ve had the Information Age, the Age of the Knowledge Worker, and now with Web 2.0 and beyond, the Age of Connectivity, following the advent of the Internet which some have suggested has caused a more profound global shift than the Age of Moveable Type, i.e., Gutenberg’s development of print technologies.

By heavily illustrating these concepts in Keynote, I’m allowed to convey to my workshop audience the concept I hold to: that while technologies about us mught shift very quickly (e.g, the adoption rate of the cellphone, with the major exemplar being the iPhone) we humans don’t change too quickly at all – we use technologies for the same purposes as our ancestors did thousands of years ago. And sometimes we must acknowledge how technologies live double lives: that for which its creator intended it to be used, to solve some identifiable problem better than the previous “mousetrap” (for better, read cheaper, faster, more reliably, etc); and a second purpose, when others seeking to solve other problems, co-opt the technology to serve them.

So while the Internet’s fathers in the US, particularly around Stanford and MIT, wanted a means to have academic departments communicate and share files, would they ever have conceived of Google or YouTube or the iPhone for that matter?

We’re talking here of the late 1960s… a time of major social change following Kennedy’s pledge to put a man on the moon, the spread of the integrated circuit, and the effects of the introduction of the contraceptive pill.

There were movies and books discussing the “generation gap”, where a motto sprang forward in the late 1960s: “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

But in recent times, analysts and social commentators have argued that this simple dichotomy based on year of birth is insufficient to explain the social changes currently being experienced. So we have descriptions of “Baby Boomers”, Gen X and Gen Y, and some say Gen M, where the M stands for Media or Me, reflecting a certain self-centredness perceived by Baby Boomers in their offspring.

But in a video below, made prior to the US elections urging young people to get out and vote for the first time, the young people portrayed describe themselves as Generation We.

The “We” is a collective noun, and reflects I think on new social media’s enabling one of technology’s main purposes: connectivity.

This is a generation of can-do’s, opting not to wait for their parents’ generation to fix the problems they created in their pursuit of happiness bought by consumerism. This is a generation who knows that technology must be harnessed if their future is not to be stricken with the excesses and ignorance of the previous generations.

And this is the generation who can decipher complex messages as long as they are delivered in an appropriate and appealing way. This generation, who have grown up with the expectation that information is available to them at the touch of a button, will not tolerate dumbed down, bullet-point driven message delivery methods (you knew I was getting there eventually, didn’t you?).

This is a group who will see thousands of messages in their lifetime, each competing for limited attention span. This group demands a much higher level of involvement in their own learning, who will not tolerate being lectured, and who will be far more self-sufficient than the current crop of recent college graduates.

If you are going to work with this group, either at college or by employing them, be aware that you will have to explore new ways of reaching out and holding their attention.

You will really have to understand learning styles, and accommodate the variations which hitherto have been ignored under a welter of poorly designed conventional slides or boring uninvolving presentations.

It’s presenting for the times we live in, with the available research on how knowledge is shared and shaped demanding technologies which can truly be called “enablers”.

When presenting I choose to use Apple’s Keynote as my enabling technology because it’s a better match to my cognitive style of conveying my ideas. It’s a personal thing, but I find Powerpoint even on the Mac, stifling and constraining. Mind you, when I speak to general audiences about styles of learning I’m platform-agnostic, and I rarely talk people out of using Powerpoint unless they expressly ask me what I used in my talks. That tells me they saw a difference and might be a little open to shifting their allegiances if they feel confident they can reproduce the kind of effects the have just witnessed.

Now take a little time to view the Generation We video, bearing in mind the pre-election period it was created in, and I thank my colleague Shawn Callahan of Anecdote.com for the heads-up.

Why Apple’s Keynote keeps raising the bar when it comes to presentations – it’s all to do with why it was created in the first place.

Is the Powerpoint style of presenting on the way down?

Is the style of Powerpoint on its way down?

There’s a long running comparison between Microsoft and Apple that suggests that while Apple can turn on a dime (or sixpence if you prefer) when it comes to dealing with the changing technology landscape, Microsoft is like the Titanic, unable to chart its way through troubled waters, and make the necessary rapid diversions to avoid obstacles, foreseeable or otherwise.

It had a chance to do so with mobile phone technologies, but CEO Steve Ballmer who saw the iPhone coming laughed it out of contention and continued on his predictable path. We’ll see where the SS Microsoft navigates to in a year or two with respect to cellphone software and market share.

It’s its sister ship, SS Powerpoint (above) that I’m considering in this post. Some time back, I wrote a blog entry entitled, “Just what is it about Keynote that is changing the way people present? where I trawled through the blogosphere looking for who was using Keynote and why. I was searching for others’ notions of Keynote’s ability to elicit creativity, non-conformity and and persuasiveness in its users so as to deliver impactful messages.

Since that time, I’ve noticed (because I look for such things) an increasing number of high profile presenters overtly using Keynote. I’ll update that blog entry soon, transferring over onto this Presentation Magic blog. Just this morning, on a discussion list I subscribe to, I saw the following message:

“My employer wants me to look into taking an advanced Apple Keynote course…. Our company is looking to migrate from PowerPoint to Keynote and I am the person who will be performing all of these tasks… I’m pretty versed in Keynote, but I think I’m just at the tip of the iceberg with the program. I know it can do more.

Well yes; it can.

In my travels where I’m just speaking about presentations, much like my friend Garr Reynolds with his Presentation Zen approach, I take a platform-agnostic stance. Audiences have not come to learn about software choices. But no matter whether the audience are teachers or CEOs, they know they haven’t seen Powerpoint in action.

They see razor sharp text (usually just a big word or two per slide), megasharp pictures (no pixelation), unfamiliar themes and backgrounds which don’t compete with what’s in the foreground (the message!), movies which play flawlessly within the slide without revealing the controls, spoiling the sense of a seamless presence, and they see intriguing, enhance-the-story transitions and builds (otherwise known as animations).

It’s not that Powerpoint, the application, can’t do these effects adequately – it can. Indeed, it goes one or two better than Keynote when it comes to picture manipulation abilities, for which one needs to leave Keynote 4 and seek third party assistance, such as Photoshop. And it has better timing controls, for sound and image “ins and outs”, something sorely lacking in Keynote 4, but which I expect to be addressed in an update, utilising the timing features we’ve seen in iLife apps. such as Garageband, iMovie and iDVD.

For me, in 2008, the historical differences in the products’ DNA is becoming glaringly obvious. Powerpoint, the app., can’t seem to shake off its corporate lineage, its graduation from being an ersatz overhead transparency producer for the Mac Plus and an adjunct for sales and marketing professionals, complete with bullet point templates for outlining a widget’s selling points.

Keynote’s origins, as a medium for Steve Jobs’ keynotes, where he would display his company’s wares, came as a cinematic, narrative device. Few will disagree that a Jobs’ keynote is a keenly anticipated event, often as not letting the non-techie world know where the techie world is heading. That’s not to say Jobs usually introduces unheard-of products. But he and Apple have displayed an uncanny knack since 1997 to reinvent the familiar, and turn it into something emotionally satisfying rather than a sterile object to be endured due to an impenetrable user interface or lack of reliability.

To help persuade us of Apple’s foresight and ability to provide emotionally satisfying products and future offerings, thus building up anticipation and desirability, as we witnessed with the iPhone introduction in 2007, Jobs uses Keynote to tell stories. Even when on rare occasions it fails, he tells stories such as when he and Woz would play pranks in their dorm using Woz’s gadgets, all the while no doubt hoping that the tech. gnomes in the support area are getting things working again. Pronto!

Keynote was designed from the ground up as a story telling device in the tradition of movie making, hardly surprising given Jobs’ involvement in Hollywood. It elicits in the user, scene construction, editing facilties, and high quality graphics and sound reproduction. A great deal of thought has been put into matching its themes with default fonts and photo cutouts. The reflection and shadowing effects, which Powerpoint has now added and in some ways exceeded, allows for lifting images and text off the page, playing into the audience’s depth perception capacities it takes for granted.

The capacity of Keynote to allow for exceptional vividness and presence is one of its secret herbs and spices, all too easy to neglect when all you’re doing is preparing the next bullet point series (must remember to keep to the 7 x 7 rule – as if!), and locating brain-wearying clip art. At least Powerpoint 2008 for the Mac has eschewed clip art for high quality photo objects.

One shouldn’t underestimate the story-telling, narrative-building capacities of Keynote. More than ever, the power to weave a story arc, with its beginning – middle – end, is essential for conveying complex ideas and concepts to naive audiences. By “naive” I don’t mean willfully ignorant, but an audience who is attending in order to learn and assimilate unfamiliar concepts into their own knowledge base. In order to do so, presenters would do well to make essential assumptions of the audiences prior knowledge, and build a story, using metaphors and similes and even biographical tales.

This is where Keynote’s advanced transitions and builds help the presenter weave his or her story, sometimes applying cinema quality dissolves Powerpoint is incapable of achieving, or advanced masking controls, much like matte artists at Industrial Light and Magic.

Indeed, it’s my guess that we will see in the next Keynote update even more acknowledgement of its cinematic heritage by the inclusion of the sort of effects we have come to see in such Apple products as Final Cut and Motion.

For the past five years since its introduction, Keynote has gently added new features, starting from a fairly low base compared to the bells and whistles Powerpoint users have come to expect. Long time users had to become quite innovative and clever in their use, making up for Keynote’s feature deficits, yet capitalising on its superior visual and text qualities. In Keynote 4, Apple unleashed some of the most desired and necessary features such as motion, alpha masking and scaling.

Keynote still lacks the diversity and multiplicity of features Powerpoint boasts. But if the feedback I receive is to be relied upon, audiences certainly don’t notice the disparity. Indeed, because they so often see the same unimaginative themes and unnecessary animations in Powerpoint, the simplicity of Keynote shines through.

It does mean that Keynote users work harder to achieve these effects, using the application’s precision features. This may come as a shock to those who expect Apple products to make life easier, but this is to misunderstand the desired effect: to make the audience’s task easier in understanding the presenter’s essential points.

I was once told that an expert makes a difficult task look so easy a beginner could contemplate undertaking the task, only to discover the task’s inherent difficulty.

Helping audiences understand difficult concepts, including ones they may intially resist, requires tools which help the presenter make the difficult seem possible. Keynote’s cinematic qualities taps into the dominant medium by which we learn and are entertained simultaneously.

Powerpoint will get there too, once its users shift from its cognitive style incorporating an overabundance of the written word, and it improves its graphics abilities. We are already seeing this shift with a number of books recently published acknowledging its deficits, and helping its users achieve more, focussing on essential presentation skills. Google the names “Cliff Atkinson“; “Stephen Kosslyn” and “Rick Altman“.

But by then, Keynote will have leapt ahead, improving its audio handling abilities, and incorporating sophisticated timeline features to assist presenters’ ability to have even more precise control over the slide and its elements. As Keynote’s strengths attract more third party developers, expect some thrilling breakthroughs in presentation capabilities.

That’s what I’m looking forward to including in my Powertools workshop – I won’t be surprised to receive news of such developments in the lead up to Macworld. Plus more rumours of a Keynote 5 on the way.

Powerpoint users may console themselves that it is still the dominant knowledge transfer tool on the planet. But today more than ever given financial circumstances, it’s time to stand out from the crowd and differentiate oneself. And with Macintosh market share growing, more and more switchers will peer inside their new Macs’ Application folder and wonder what this trial iWork bundle can achieve. Some will “get it” straight away, revelling in Keynote’s comparatively simple interface, while others will wonder how they will get by with such a “minimal” set of tools. But if they persevere, use facilities like Apple’s online seminars featuring Keynote or sign up for Lynda.com self-paced tutuorials, they will ultimately come to understand why Keynote generates so much enthusiasm by its long-term users, despite its shortcomings.

Please use the comments section to share your Keynote stories, especially if you’re a switcher. You can be assured Apple’s Keynote team will be listening!

Will Obama’s Victory speech change the way people present for the better? And does that mean more acceptance of Apple’s Keynote software as the tool of choice?

This week in Melbourne we’ve observed, neigh(!), participated in two races: a 22 horse race known as the Melbourne Cup, and a two horse race in the US, which will have a far greater impact on the world’s future than the horse race.

Nonetheless, in an ironic twist, so iconic has the Melbourne Cup become (it is the second richest race in the world after the Dubai Cup), that Victorians have a public holiday! Yes, we get a day off from work in celebration of a horse race, while the rest of Australia works. It’s not called “The race that stops a nation” for nothing!

This day off gave me time at home to further prepare some presentations, and try and get my Macworld 2009 workbook ready for publication. From it and my blogs, I hope I can publish a book (in print or pdf) which details some of my thoughts and actions when it comes to presentations.

You see, I believe being able to present well, whether it’s at a conference for scientists, or a small business proposal meeting to raise funds, be it a CEO delivering at an annual shareholders’ meeting, or yes, a Presidential candidate trying to get your vote, it is a fundamental 21st century skill. It’s also one of the most feared modern human activities! I count myself lucky to have had much exposure when I was young to presenting, whether it be in class at school or college, or on radio, in print, or on TV. I feel comfortable in all media, and indeed have taught media management skills previously.

When a tool like Keynote comes along, as it did in 2003, one grasps it fiercely, having recognised its qualities to elicit emotional responses to message delivery, quite at variance to the dominant message delivery platform for presentations, Powerpoint. Yes, I have seen bad Keynote and good Powerpoint, but each is rare!

With Obama winning on Tuesday, we were witnesses to two very important speeches: Obama’s victory speech, and McCain’s concession speech. Each was a emotional symbol of the man’s character, as I heard and felt them.

McCain revisited himself, without the weight of the Republican party hopes resting on his shoulders. Here in Australia, the power of the former conservative government was in keeping its factions in check, while pointing to the opposition’s “ownership” by powerful trade unions (sound familiar to my US colleagues?) in over-riding more moderate progressives within the party.

This year, the Republican factions became all too obvious and those more moderate Republicans and swinging independents refused to hear the same old FUD (see my previous blog entry, comments and all).

While Sarah Palin impressed many at the Republican Convention and held her own during the single Vice-Presidential debate, it was clear to me she had been well-rehearsed and coached, and had much presence and appeal.

But in her one-on-one interviews, her lack of depth, both intellectual and political, was on show for all to see. Like actors, she was only as good as her last performance, and while many will hold on to her initial presentation at the Convention, her later performances with the likes of Katie Couric and the merciless parodies by Tina Fey will likely see Gov. Palin reduced to a page on Wikipedia.

Obama left his best speech until last, following McCain’s concession speech, which you can see him watching below, courtesy of a Flikr link here.

Obama watches McCain's concession speech

Obama watches McCain

While those who had kept an eye and ear on Obama since 2004 knew he was going places through his oratory and passion, it’s only in these last two years and in particularly these last few months when many have really listened to the man speak.

His speech on Tuesday night in Grant Park, Chicago, will be listened to again and again, for all manner of reasons. It reminded me of one of my slides from my Macworld 2008 presentation, which I modelled on this book, below:

Peak Performance Presentations

Peak Performance Presentations

In my presentation, I wanted to remind the audience that we ought not rely on technology to help us be persuasive. That like lead actors, we need to use technology as support acts to help us get our message across, not be the message. Initially, I showed a humourous video of technology gone wrong, then referred to a blank slide where I reminded the audience that some of the most memorable and influential speeches in living (and recorded) memory came without technological assistance (albeit with microphones).

On a blank slide, I brought in a panel showing Winston Churchill behind a microphone, accompanied by a his voice: “We will fight them on the beaches….”

This slide occupied the left third of the screen, such that audience members were now expecting the other two thirds to be filled with more speeches. I then showed a picture of JFK behind the microphone on the slide’s right third, with his voice saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you…”.

This left the middle panel to be filled.

I chose to fill it with Martin Luther King behind the microphone, with his voice: “I have a dream…”

It was a powerful moment in the Macworld presentation, and I was taken back to that moment when I listened to Obama’s speech on Wednesday, my time. No doubt in a future presentation, I will likely include parts of it, perhaps leaving Churchill to one side, especially if I’m working with a youngish audience.

There are any number of phrases to select:

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.”

“And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.”

And while it’s long, these three paragraphs, with their story telling, and emotionality, will no doubt bring a tear to some:

“This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.”

And while I will show a picture of Obama when we hear his voice, as the audio concludes, I’ll transit to this picture of Jesse Jackson listening to the speech (I think a very slow dissolve will add to the emotionality), and no doubt many in the audience familiar with him will be empathising with his feelings, knowing his struggles and how his hopes have now been realised.

You see, even though I might be telegraphing what I will do in a future presentation, it won’t spoil the emotions of the moment nor the persuasiveness of slide and my commentary.

What this all means is that we now have a President who is an orator of the first order, unlike the incumbent President Bush, whom Dave Letterman pillories each night in his “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches” parody.

My prediction is that now more than ever is the time when expectations of giving great presentations, whether in scientific or academic conferences, in business or in ministries and schools, will peak. Lacklustre Powerpoint-based “shows” will no longer cut it.

This will be the case especially in schools and colleges. This election had a huge turn out of young people, some voting for the first time, impressed no doubt with the change desired by so many, together with Obama clear technological savvy  with his exemplary use of SMS,  Facebook, iApps for the iPhone and so on.

This is a cohort who are themselves media savvy, creating their own entertainment and news reporting, and it is this group who will reject long winded, passionless speeches and bullet point-riddled presentations with accompanying chintzy clip art and moronic “beanie” people. This is the group who take megapixel-sharp photos with their cellphones, and share them on Flickr and Facebook.

This group will expect their teachers and figures of authority to present well, and Obama has set a very high standard indeed. Expect an increase in enrolments in speech coaching groups like Toastmasters.

But just as importantly, this is a group very switched on to the Mac, which as you know comes bundled when purchased with a trial copy of iWork and thus Keynote.

I’m guessing in the next update of Keynote we will see even more movement to a merging of Keynote and elements of iMovie and Garageband. We have already seen how the current version of Keynote has numerous export options suitable for podcasting. But I also expect to see more tools to help Keynote help you create memorable presentations. Like most things Apple, it will guide its users to be more creative, then get out of their way when they need to be centre stage.

This is why Paul Kent, MD of Macworld, and who invited me to present at once more at Macworld 2009, is such a smart guy.  But he has made life tough for me. He knows he wants my Powertools workshop to evoke the same reaction as this year’s presentation, where I showed Keynote in action rather than talked directly about it (to the disappointment of about 10% of the audience, judging by the evaluations).

But he also asked me to show how I go about thinking and creating with Keynote, so you get to see how the magic happens. Unlike a magician who never gives away his or her secrets, I am in my element sharing my knowledge, receiving feedback, and showing how to do things differently. Not just to be oppositional, but because my way of doing things differently is a better match for what the science of persuasion and influence tells us.

Teaching presentation skills is so much more than teaching the mechanics of how software works, which seems to be how so many workshops on Powerpoint operate.

Over to you now… regardless of your political persuasion and whether you think Obama’s actions can match his rhetoric, what do you think about my central thesis, that he has raised expectations for anyone who wishes to speak to an audience?

What an Obama victory next week will mean for Apple and its users

I’m in the process of making final plans for my next trip to the US, where I’ll be visiting Florida (Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton), then off to Macworld in San Francisco for my Powertools workshop on Apple’s Keynote (details upcoming).

After, I’ll stay on to do some more training, hopefully picking up some workshops, but likely leaving California before the Presidential Inauguration in January. Certainly, I will be able to pick up some of the feeling of change by the time I arrive in Florida on Christmas Eve (look for my reindeer).

Here in Australia, we experienced our change from a tired, conservative, “let’s go to war with George W.” fear-mongering government almost a year ago, and the relief has been palpable. Many of those who took the time to write to newspapers and blog about the shift noted a sense of human dignity having been returned to the Australian landscape, when a more progressive government was elected in November, 2007.

Now, because of the way I think about presentations (and how to best use Keynote), I am very aware of the power of presentations to persuade, using engaging and involving methods based on cognitive neuroscience, adult learning principles, and knowledge management. I am picking up “gigs” from individuals and organisations who wish to learn how to use these methods with their particular audiences, whether they be colleagues, politicians and their advisors, or church attendees.

In many respects, the Democrat party has been lousy at delivering persuasive messages, ineffectual at dealings with Republican hubris. In my presentation at Macworld this year, I discussed the power of emotions to persuade, and referred to psychologist Drew Westen’s book, The Political Brain, as evidence of this.

Here is part of the slide I used, showing a quote from the book:

My slide from Macworld 2008, featuring Drew Western

Drew Westen and Macworld 2008

I wanted the Macworld audience to understand the pervasiveness of emotions, whether in presenting, in politics, or in teaching, and how this aspect of human behaviour could be harnessed to make message giving more persuasive.

Westen’s thesis is that the Democrats have been poorly informed in how to deliver messages, allowing the GOP and its fear-based messages to hold sway, none more so than what the world is observing with the McCain/Palin team. (Believe me when I say the world is watching the US elections intensely, and we can see how poor economic management in the US has global effects. Ask the Icelanders, whose state-based airline just went bankrupt).

In Australia, surveys have shown that about 75% of Australians want an Obama victory next week. And we’ve had a year of living through “You’ll be sorry” messages from the conservative elements within Australia. So far, despite the economic challenges, the current progressive Government is managing quite well, and we here have been afforded some protection from the worst of the impending global recession.

If you heard last week’s Apple Q4 earnings call (I played some of the audio from the iTunes podcast at this week’s iMUG AGM as part of my President’s report), you would have heard CEO Steve Jobs singing the praises of Apple customers, of how they cleverly choose Apple products despite their premium price, even if it means waiting a little longer to afford them. He spoke of the economy’s unpredictability while speaking of Apple’s being protected from the buffeting the PC world is experiencing with their razor-thin margins and lack of innovation. Great products and $25 Billion in cash and no debts is a great means by which to weather the current turbulence.

In an insightful column recently, Robin Bloor wrote of “the sound of crashing Windows” referring to his observations, backed by data, that the Mac is making incredible inroads into the public and corporate mind and market share, challenging Windows’ dominance.

About Microsoft he wrote,

“Microsoft has very little territory on which to fight. In fact it almost feels as though the game is already over. It has no direct retail footprint and it doesn’t do hardware. It even suffers from the indignity that while you can run Windows under OS X, you cannot run OS X under Windows. Because of virtualization, Windows has become a Mac app for running legacy PC applications in the Mac world – and the Mac world is currently expanding at 3 times the rate of the Windows world.”

In other words, at least with respect to IT, change is on its way and it’s inevitable.

I want to suggest to you that an Obama victory next week will hasten that change significantly.

It’s not just that Obama is a switched-on technophile (as compared to the near-technophobic MacCain), able to better use social media to get his message across, but he far more mirrors how Apple operates. He comes from a minority background and must overcome huge resistance to change by conservative elements who prefer a “the herd might stink, but at least it’s safe with them” mentality that has prevailed hitherto.

But pain in the hip-pocket, loss of jobs at home and children in a flawed war, and the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, appears to have Americans asking themselves if the Microsoft-style FUD the GOP is asserting about Obama remains tenable.

If Obama succeeds, then a shift in how FUD is experienced by the voting public (we here in Australia have compulsory voting) will be demonstrated. FUD can only be effective if the product you have to offer has “good enough” qualities compared to the “as good as it gets”, and thus price and conformity are preferred over innovation and difference. The failure of Vista to even make the “good enough” grade has proved a tipping point for Microsoftian FUD.

Obama winning next week will be like the horns at Jericho blowing, bringing down many walls of separation between sections of the American populace, in place for hundreds of years. It will have far reaching effects, locally and globally, and the world will definitely alter its attitude to the US and its citizens after eight years of President Bush and his administration.

My assertion is that an Obama victory will loosen up many prejudices, while others will harden in the first year when the vanquished sit around ready to pop out the inevitable “told you so”. But the overarching effect I expect many will feel, including nations other than the US, will be a sigh of relief together with the generation of hope.

Many of us who have been part of the Mac world, experiencing prejudice and being squeezed out from the mainstream despite preferring the better, more emotionally satisfying product, will perhaps also feel a sense of joy if Obama succeeds. That’s not to say all Mac users are Democrats – far from it. But even progressive Republicans will prefer change this election, having had enough of the present administration with its central message of “family values” and a “war on terror”, and not wishing its de facto continuation with McCain/Palin.

Just like the effects of Roger Bannister running the first sub-four minute mile in 1954 saw many others quickly follow with their own sub-four records, thus breaking through a shared psychological barrier, the breaking through the race barrier next week, should it happen, ought to see many other shared psychological barriers also fall over.

I believe one of those barriers will be that artificially imposed on the Mac in industry, schools, and personal use. If there is one negative here, it’s that despite the psychological shift that would occur with an Obama win, the economic recession America will experience (is currently experiencing?) may see excessive financial conservative belief reflected in a “stay the course” with Windows attitude, despite evidence of its failures, doubts about getting Windows 7 out on time, and of course total cost of Windows ownership. The continuing moves to Open Source, a further threat to Microsoft, will parallel the openness of an Obama led government I would hope, in strict comparison to the incumbent’s history of secrecy.

I can’t vote in the US election, even though my father served in the US military at Fort Bragg in WWII, but I have a real love for the nation and its original principles, and a dislike for the faux patriotism displayed by those who believe they represent “real Americans”. I’m hoping when I get to the US in December I will experience the winds of change blowing through.

We did it here in Australia, and we’re doing OK, all things considered. Perhaps we’ll chat about the election results at Macworld in January. See you there.

(Today’s New York Times has an interesting piece on how Drew Westen’s ideas are influencing the Democrat’s message delivery process here. If his process is show to be effective in an Obama win, it will also put another nail in the Powerpoint coffin, with its “just fill in the bullet point cognitive style”, in preference to a more visual and emotionally effective Keynote-style I will be teaching at Macworld 2009).