How I Presented at VALA2012

I had a handful of people at VALA 2012 ask me not about the content of the talk (although I got a ton of those) but about how it was I put together and ran the presentation itself. My goal with the presentation was to make it look and run like no other presentation that people had seen…I don’t think I got 100% of what I wanted to achieve, but I got about 75% of the way there, and definitely got the idea across. I told a few people that what I wanted was for my presentation to look like something out of Harry Potter, something that was surprising and magical.

So how did I do it? I create all of my presentations in Keynote, the Apple presentation tool. It’s slide-based in the same way that Powerpoint is, but Keynote makes it very easy to produce awesome looking presentations. Honestly, the difference in the two couldn’t be more apparent as soon as you start using them. Keynote makes things like spacing, fonts, effects so smooth and easy that there’s no excuse for bad slides.

You may want to give these images a second to load…they’re pretty huge animated gifs. They were the easiest/fastest way I could think of to show off some of my animated slides.

Title Slide

One of Keynote’s strengths, especially in relation to Powerpoint, is that it handles media very, very smoothly. When I started thinking about my VALA 2012 presentation, I made the choice to include a ton of video content, including animated backgrounds for some of my slides. Some of these were animated gif files, and some of them were Quicktime videos (or other formats that I converted to Quicktime via IVI Video Converter). Keynote has controls available for Quicktime files built-in, allowing you to choose a start frame, end frame, poster frame, and whether or not the video (or gif!) loop, or loop back-and-forth. So I collected or created the videos and gifs and then used Keynote to set their start and stop times, and in the case of some of the gif backgrounds, whether they should loop directly, or loop back-and-forth. This gave the presentation a very distinct feel.

To drive the presentation, I use the Keynote Remote app for the iPad, which links to Keynote on your Mac via either Wifi or Bluetooth (but NOT BOTH…that can be really weird). This lets you use the iPad as a remote, moving from slide to slide and seeing your Presenter Notes as well (you do know that Keynote and Powerpoint both have a Presenter View…right?). So the iPad is my “cheat sheet” for the presentation, showing me where I am and my notes for that slide.

If it all works, it’s brilliant! If it doesn’t (and sometimes it doesn’t…wifi goes down, bluetooth is being flaky, tech gremlins act up) then we need to have a plan B…or C, or sometimes D. I always have a backup presentation remote with me, just in case, and I always know my presentation well enough that I don’t need my notes, mostly, to do the talk.

Between the ease with which Keynote makes beautiful slides, the iPad as a remote to make my life easier, and a bit of aesthetic judgement in the arrangement and choice of images (if it helps, I like to think of my slides as the set of of a play), I think that you can put on a pretty compelling presentation.

If you’d like to see the presentation in full, a full videocast of it is online. It’s not exactly as it was in person, as the slides didn’t always get captured as video, but it’s as close as you’ll come without being there. :-)

 

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