Tag Archives: Powerpoint

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.

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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.

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.

jackson
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?

Australia 2020 summit – an exercise in Powerpoint-poisoning or great use of dashboards?

In November 2007, Australia tossed out its conservative government of eleven years, rejecting the direction the government was taking the country. The prime minister of the day had strongly aligned himself with the US president, and taken the country to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many complained about the government’s attitudes to human rights both in Australia and abroad, and the then-opposition proved a most attractive alternative. This was despite Australia enjoying a particularly strong economy.

The now-opposition is in disarray with its new leader (the previous prime minister lost his own seat, something which has only happened once before in Australia’s history) having approval ratings of less than 10%, compared to more than 70% for the current prime minister, who is now in China and letting the Chinese government know his opinion of their human rights stance, particularly with respect to Tibet.

One of the election promises made by the now-prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was to have a summitt of Australia’s brightest thinkers, who would come to the nation’s capital in April 2008 for a multi-day talkfest, and set an agenda for future policies, constructing a snapshot of life in Australia in 2020.

Naturally, with numbers limited to about a thousand, many hoped they would be tapped on the shoulder, while others took advantage of application forms for the consideration of the talk-fest’s organising committees.

The talk-fest is divided into various categories designed to help plan Australia’s future, and the area of Health is one of these areas where “experts” have been invited to share their knowledge. The list of the those attending has been published, and it’s no surprise that the list is heavy on academics.

The Government has also published some orientation papers to help set the agenda. These have also been published online, on both Powerpoint and pdf format. The pdf file is a converted Powerpoint stack.

Now far be it from me to cast doubts on the process so soon, but it seems to me that if the talk-fest days are to be held under the auspices of the Powerpoint method of knowledge sharing, I have to wonder just how much can be achieved. I’m hoping no data projectors will be used, and handouts of the slides will be merely a starting point for discussion. I’m also hoping that some excellent scribes using techniques for recording and comparing ideas will be present. But given the stacking with academics who live and die by Powerpoint, my hopes aren’t high.

Let’s have a look at some of the slides so far made available. Here is the “cover slide” attendees will likely see projected somewhere in the meeting room:

Here\'s the first slide in the deck

Now my guess is that all the first slides in decks for all the summit meetings will look the same – you know, keep the brand. For me, since the talkfest is really about people, a crisp photo to get the attention would work better, but since this is a gabfest with lots of words being exchanged amongst academics (mostly), pictures have little place. That’s their loss, but my guess is that’s how most of those attending present anyway.

Let’s have a look at slide 3:

longevity

This is a very dense slide, stacked with data points. As it’s a handout as well, the very small print down the bottom won’t be an issue. It’s not the sort of slide I would include in a presentation, but given that the slide is really part of a briefing process to be consumed prior to the summit, it perhaps makes easier reading that a text-filled paper.

What I do like about it is that while the graph itself gets a header, the slide’s header tells the story: “Australians enjoy one of the longest life expectancies in the world.”

This is super-important when you use slides loaded up with either graphs or text (when you can’t do otherwise) which can overwhelm the reader when projected: i.e, cognitive overload. So label the slide right up top with what its take home message is. Later on, in private, audience members can delve into the details. But during the gabfest, treat each slide like a newspaper story: great headline to get the reader engaged, then show the supporting evidence in detail which you will talk to – either using the current slide or on a new slide drawing attention to detail.

Ok, let’s move further into the slide stack and see how things go:

Again, this is not the sort of style you want to include in a slide show presentation – it’s just overwhelming. But as a dashboard-style compilation of data and commentary, it has its merits. But let’s not kid ourselves that this is a good slide without an accompanying handout for people to read at their own pace. It’s an orientation slide, but I have real fears that the facilitator will use it as per a standard presentation, no doubt using a laser pointer to highlight various areas.

Personally, to highlight one of the areas, Mental Illness, I would have used different colour bars, as well as the text box over on the right. It’s interesting from a personal perspective to see how the slide mentions the rapid growth of mental illness, yet the new Health Minister is considering limitations to the population gaining access to psychologists as part of a new program initiated by the previous government.

Let’s leap into some slides which for me break some of my personal rules for presenting:

On this slide, we see two ideas set side by side, which could have better conveyed their message on two separate slides, somehow joined with an appropriate transition. The slides have no action, and make the audience work quite hard to make the causal connections. Now, the audience is very bright, and so they can more readily make the intended connections quickly. But when the summit releases its final decisions and recommendations, and begins a process of rolling it out to the general population who are not exposed to these dashboards on a regular basis, let’s hope that the slide design takes into account non-academic populations who would do better with a more dynamic presentation style.

One more slide for illustrative purposes:

Take a look at the left panel of the three above, and notice how close the dates are: 1999200020012002.

This is really making the audience work hard, as well as the density of the information on this one slide. If the author of the slide was trying to make cogent comparisons or lead us through a story of panels 1 through 3, it’s not easy to see. Again, as a dashboard, it’s OK, especially if as an academic you’re used to seeing such diagrams. But again, one hopes that in the final publication, such slides give way to more illustrative ones where the reader more easily grasps the ideas and their connections.

If you want to see the entire stack of slides, go the Summit’s homepage and download a selection just to see for yourself how the highest echelons of government doles out information. Ask yourself if you were presenting, how would you change the slides.

There’s a comment section, so please use it and provide some feedback.

It’s time for a change! Welcome to Presentation Magic…

After several years using Blogwavestudio as my blogging software, and housing my presentation thoughts on my Cyberpsych blog, it’s time for a change.

Actually the change was foistered on me, after my seemingly indestructible Powerbook G4 (c.2004) got a cracked screen courtesy of your’s truly, and Blogwavestudio couldn’t make the transition from a PPC to an Intel-based Mac. It didn’t help either that the software developers, from Korea, were nowhere to be found.

Blogwavestudio was hardware-bound: I had to have my Mac with me to blog and publish. Sure, I could write an entry then wait to get to the Powerbook and transfer it. But that was tedious, and with the iPhone due for launch in Australia sometime this year, the invitation to blog at will is likely to prove too strong. I can’t tell you how many blog entries I’ve developed on train trips, or while waiting for someone, and not had the opportunity to publish it almost immediately… in which case, it vanishes.

With WordPress, I’m hoping to blog more often, and enable a better comments system to run, as well as Web 2.0 features like tags, categories, and other social networking possibilities.

Why the title “Presentation Magic”?

Well, this was the name given to my presentation on using Apple’s Keynote at Macworld 2008 by Paul Kent, Macworld’s Director. This was my first time at Macworld at it came at Paul’s invitation, as he was a reader of my Cyberpsych blog which covered things Apple as well as presentations.

The actual presentation I gave went over well, and I’m hoping to return to the US this year to offer more presentations and training for those ready to change the way they present.

The “magic” in the title doesn’t refer to doing extraordinary things with Keynote or Powerpoint. It more refers to how magic is an important part of human life, something that both entertains, intrigues, confuses, and persuades us. All things that presentations are capable of performing.

As a psychologist, I have always been interested in illusions and how humans can be fooled. In my clinical work, patients are often “fooled” by the messages their bodies send them, and perceive danger where it doesn’t exist, thus narrowing their opportunities.

Good presentations are effective by understanding how the human mind works, and strive to use current knowledge of the cognitive sciences to help audiences understand complex messages.

More than ever, audiences are being bombarded with presentations which are presenter-focussed. Magicians are always audience-focussed, knowing how audiences function and surprising them when their misdirection leads to an “aha!” moment.

The audience doesn’t really care how you pulled off your magic, they just want to be entertained. Professional audiences who have come along to be educated, and wish to leave knowing more than what they knew beforehand, aren’t interested in how you performed your magic (ie., animations, transitions, etc). That might interest those in the audience who too are presenters. But the special effects are there as augmenters of the presenter’s knowledge base, to help him or her transfer knowledge in the simplest and easiest manner. Easy for the audience that is, often hard for the presenter, as they need to be creative, well-rehearsed, and of course, knowledgeable of the subject at hand.

That’s why good presenters are paid well, get invited back, and are sought for training: their talents are in short supply!

In the next few months, I’ll be elaborating on my presentation ideas, keeping this blog updated frequently as new ideas come to mind, and I give presentations and use the blog as a journal to debrief myself. I expect you’ll learn heaps as you read the articles.

But be aware that many of the ideas you’ll read are quite subversive, and you may not be able to present in your usual fashion once the ideas penetrate possibly years of traditional presentation giving. Certainly, that’s the feedback I get after people have seen me present about presenting: Doing the walk and the talk at the same time is profoundly interfering to how most people present currently.