I spent most of yesterday working on cutting a 35-page paper down into the 15-20 minute talk I’ll be giving on Friday at a NITLE symposium on collaboration in the digital age, on a panel with Laura and Tim. Usually I find such cutting painful, but I was able to get through it fairly quickly. (That said, I am at the upper end of the time-frame, and if I were asked to whack out another two pages, I’d find it excruciating.)

Last night, I started building the slides to go along with the talk, and the irony was somewhat inescapable, as yesterday’s five years ago today post was in no small part about my skepticism at the announcement of Keynote. Did we really need “a happily Apple-y PowerPoint,” as I put it then, or should the goal really be less PowerPoint in the first place?

My answer today is yes, on both counts, in no small part because Keynote is less than PowerPoint: less bloated, less ugly, less of a pain. I’ve only really started using slides with my talks in the last year, and part of the change for me has been working through a non-sucky way to use them. My slides are simple: black text on a white background, no transitions and only the occasional very plain build. I never treat them as cue cards or, god forbid, a script; except for some quotations I want to call attention to, they never replicate long passages of what I’m saying; they aren’t endless bullet-pointed lists. And as such they’re pretty useless without the talk; they’re more for punctuation, and the occasional illustration, than they are for conveying ideas in any expository sense.

The slides, in effect, are utterly non-necessary, which makes me wonder whether I should bother spending the time on putting them together. I tend to find, though, that they help keep the audience focused on my ideas; the words “social interaction” on the screen can drive home the point of a sentence in a way that no amount of vocal emphasis can really manage.

So five years on: yay, Keynote! But less.

4 responses to “Keynote”

  1. Re: slides being “pretty useless without the talk,” mine are the same way. As appealing as services like Google Presentation and Slideshare are, they don’t work for me because whatever I might share would lack any meaningful context. And part of me likes it that way, because I’m anxious about developing a teaching or presentation style in which my own presence is the least significant part.

  2. Indeed. The most useful way for me to share slides, I think, is via something like ProfCast, which at least keeps my voice involved in the presentation. But then there’s that whole having to record my voice thing, which is another issue altogether.

  3. I don’t use PowerPoint, but I’ve been meaning to get Keynote, in order to streamline my presentation of all the fiddly-bit stuff in class. Right now I just use images, which I supplement by scribbling on the chalkboard.

    If only our school had a site license for Keynote…

  4. I was at your MLA talk and thought your slides effective. You use them in what I think of as Lessig-style (without copying Lessig’s trademark distressed courier white on black). That is, they’re there mainly to emphasize the words you want emphasized: “material”, “undead”, “zombie” . . .. If I have a criticism, it would be that you use too many: fewer emphases would result in greater emphasis. But it’s nice to see someone trying to think through how to use slideware to genuinely augment her talk.

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