Get people to talk

Clearly, I am a world expert on speaking to groups of people: I just did my 184th event since I started counting in late 2012. No question, I know everything. But I do know what it’s like getting to the end and saying “So, any questions?” before getting silence. And more silence. And a closing “well, um, er” from me.

I don’t get that so much now and I think it’s down to three things I’ve been trying.

1) Sometimes I’ve said very early on that we’ll be having a Q&A at the end but called it Question & Argument

2) When it’s a talk, when I’m specifically there to speak for an hour or whatever instead of working with people, I’ll say early on that there will be questions and answers – but that I’ll be asking them the questions. It does tend to get a laugh but then it also leaves you with a much better ending because instead of “So, any questions?” you can say “Right, my turn” and then you ask something. It has to be relevant to the group, has to be tied to what the talk is about, but you got there early and nattered with everyone you could find, you’ve got this.

3) Look foolish. So far this has only come up in workshops where I’ve been talking about quite specific technical things but each time it’s begun because an attendee has mentioned having a developer or someone else doing their technical stuff for them. I tell them that if their developer says something different to me, they should listen to him or her – but also do please tell me. I say this because I mean it – a developer will know more than I do – but also it tells the entire audience that you’re fine with being corrected, that you’re up for being told new things.

I said you look foolish but really it’s key that you look fine with being foolish – and that you actually are fine with it. Lecturing at someone about a point and then letting them change your mind about something isn’t just the right thing to do, it oddly demonstrates a command of your subject. You’re not defensive, you’re accepting and questioning, you’re deep into this topic and seeking new ideas that you are able to examine and build on.

I’ve also fallen over chairs a few times and that was deliberate, it was, it was.

Evernote claims people are ditching PowerPoint in favour of the note software

Well, actually, the headline writers at Evernote claim that: the article they head stays a little away from the topic. It’s also even more of an advert than this sounds but Evernote gets some wriggle room here because PowerPoint is rubbish. Treat this less as an ad campaign aimed at PowerPoint users and more at telling you how Evernote has this Presentation Mode.

Hand on heart, I’ve ignored it because I do all my talks with Keynote and like it a lot. But this could be handy.

Meetings are a major part of our daily routine. At their best, meetings foster collaboration and openness. At their worst, they leave us feeling drained and directionless. The frequent culprit: slide decks. The problem can be summed up with one word: preparedness.

In the world of slides, being prepared for a meeting refers not to productive time spent getting your thoughts together, but rather the hours devoted to fiddling with design templates, and turning good ideas into bullets. The result of this preparedness is a presentation that’s more pitch than discussion. It’s locked. Your team’s feedback will have to wait.

There’s a better way, and it overcomes all these shortcomings. It’s Presentation Mode. We use it everyday and it’s had a significant impact on the quality of our meetings. They’re faster, more focused, and more collaborative than they’ve ever been.

The New Presentation Mode will Change Your Meetings – Andrew Sinkov, Evernote Blog (3 December 2014)

Read the full piece.

The 319 news stories I won’t read

It’s 319 now, it’ll be 320 any second and by next Tuesday evening I reckon it’ll be over a thousand.

All about Apple.

And I won’t read any of them.

I like Apple, my work has been transformed by some of their products and I am very aware that next Tuesday’s company event looks pretty big. I’m aware of the rumours that it will feature a watch too.


Apple has a lot of events and while I enjoy them, I’ve grown very weary and also wary of the news coverage beforehand. Afterwards, fine: there can be some useful and interesting details. But beforehand, there isn’t news, there is a smash and grab attempt to get hits on news sites. One site has been posting stories most every day for months now with headlines, written in all caps, that begin with words like “BIGGEST APPLE LEAK EVER”. Sometimes the leak is around the level of an exclusive revelation that there are two Ps in Apple.

You can argue that I’m doing something similar here: I wanted you to click on this piece and it is ostensibly about Apple yet I’m not giving you any news. But it’s really about you and it’s really about news in general. I’m finding it surprisingly hard to ignore those Apple news stories in my RSS feed and I suppose that must mean I usually enjoy reading them.


I’m sick of the cycle. After an event, you get news stories saying how wonderful Apple is and you get news stories saying how crap Apple is. You get companies that make iPhone cases going giddy, you get Apple’s rivals rubbishing everything. No way anyone will ever buy an iPhone. I rather enjoyed last year’s outcry of mockery over how Apple’s iPhones have now got 64-bit processors instead of 32-bits. Now, one reason I like Apple is that they usually say nuts to specifications, they concentrate on what you can actually do with the stuff. Whereas PC manufacturers are all about who has one more Ghz or one more pixel. I’ve been in a store with a sales woman telling me that it didn’t matter what I wanted to use the computer for, this one was using an Intel Pentium 99 XX YY ZZ Top processor. QED.

Consequently this 64-bit processor bit was unusual and it was on turf that Apple’s competitors usually scrap on. Which meant kneejerk reactions, instant kneejerk reactions. This is purely and simply a marketing stunt, you see, nobody would ever need that extra performance. So said every company who has since announced they’ve got a 64-bit model come out soon anyway, so there. And so said the one company that has actually done it, a year after Apple. I can’t remember what company that is, I just remember that they’ve released a 64-bit Android phone before Android can handle 64-bits.

Fine, that was fun.

What wasn’t was the few times that journalists have slammed Apple for not doing something. That would be fine, that would be fair comment, except that Apple does not ever say in advance what it’s going to do. So this criticism was really a condemnation of Apple for not doing something it didn’t say it would. That irritates me as a reader, that obfuscates the times when Apple actually makes bad moves or poor products, and it cuts me as a journalist because it’s speculation built atop bollocks.

I thought I was immune to this but that’s like saying adverts don’t work. There was one Apple event where I was disappointed because it didn’t include a particular thing. Now, I would say that this particular thing was something I wanted and knew I would use – as opposed to the smartwatch which I’m just curious about – but I can’t.

I’m sure it’s true, I’m sure that’s why I was disappointed, but I can’t tell you because it was many Apple events ago. Each one supersedes the last so they don’t so much blur together as fade away. I have re-watched Steve Jobs introduce the iPhone for the first time back in 2007 because that is a rather finely done presentation. (Though Microsoft does tend to go for a quieter, more subtle approach to its presentations.)

So there is a lot of kerfuffle before an Apple event, there is a lot more after it, and in the middle there is this event which gets erased by the next one.

It’s still an event.

And I enjoy them. So I intend to watch next Tuesday (6pm UK, 10am California) and hopefully have a good time. But without any rumour-fuelled bollocks in my head. Also without any genuine facts, but.

By the way, it’s now 332 stories I’m ignoring.


The worthy and best way to present

What’s it called when a book as one title followed by “Or” and another one? As in Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus? This is The Worthy and Best Way to Present or A Longer Term Review of David Sparks’ Presentation Field Guide.

This iBook was released on 21 July and I started reading it immediately. I remember saying on the launch day that:

This book was released sometime overnight, I got it around 8am, I’m maybe a third of the way through the text – I’ve not looked at the many videos yet – and I have a complaint.

He’s so persuasive about preparing your presentation before you ever go near Keynote or PowerPoint that I resent the bejaysis out of him. I have one presentation to give tonight and three tomorrow. I wanted a quick fix! I wanted a magic sauce!

David Sparks’ Presentation book now out – William Gallagher, The Blank Screen (21 July 2014)

In the end, I actually gave five over those two days, 21 and 22 July. It’s complicated. But it was also true what I said about how good it made me feel that I was already doing some things Sparks recommends: that’s how persuasive and convincing he is, I read this book and feel that he’s right. Therefore whatever I do that is the same is also right, therefore I am right, therefore I feel good.

And then there’s the stuff he recommends that I don’t do. It was quite hard doing those five presentations with the book’s advice about planning in my head. The book’s very specific advice about how using Keynote is actually the last step, or at least toward the last step, as you should know what you’re going to say through planning and thinking first. The fact that I thought I had three and it became five rather tells you that I didn’t plan or, in my defence, couldn’t plan ahead.

I have not given a single presentation since then. But I have some coming up and I am using Sparks’ advice from this book. That may be the best review I can give it except that I think this leaves you only with the idea that the book is useful. It doesn’t tell you that it’s also fun.

Those five presentations went well but they were hard and they were part of a bigger project I enjoyed yet I’d got at the last moment. Even so, even with trying to plan in the gaps during the first day and then learning I really had to rework everything overnight, I was still going back to this book to read it at points because I was enjoying it.

Actually, as I write this to you, I still haven’t watched the videos or listened to the audio interviews. The book works without them but I’m expecting to find that they’re a good watch and listen too.

The therefore hugely recommended Presentations: a MacSparky Field Guide by David Sparks is available now in the iBooks Store for £5.99 UK, $9.99 US.

David Sparks’ Presentation book now out

This book was released sometime overnight, I got it around 8am, I’m maybe a third of the way through the text – I’ve not looked at the many videos yet – and I have a complaint.

He’s so persuasive about preparing your presentation before you ever go near Keynote or PowerPoint that I resent the bejaysis out of him. I have one presentation to give tonight and three tomorrow. I wanted a quick fix! I wanted a magic sauce!

I do have the very smugly gratifying fact that a few of the things he says I do already swear by. So it’s not as if my talks this week will be bad, exactly. God, I was nervous enough already, thanks a bunch for this. But I do also recognise and am persuaded of how they could be better. So you just wait for next week’s talks.

Presentations: A MacSparky Field Guide is now out in the iBooks Store (and only the iBooks Store) for a truly ridiculously cheap £5.99 UK or $9.99 US.

This week’s MacPowerUsers podcast is all about the book and the topic of presentations so you can get a good idea of whether you’ll like the book from that. But, spoiler alert, you will.


Bugger. Got to buy this.

I bought an iBook called Paperless by David Sparks some time last year – wait, this is iBooks, this is the 21st Century, I can tell you in a flash… I bought it on 10 January 2013. It’s a very good read, it changed how I do a lot of things in my work, all’s good.

Then the same fella released a book about Email and I thought nah, I know from email. Then caught some of his MacPowerUsers podcast about the topic and thought, well, okay, possibly I don’t know quite as much as I thought. So on 15 November 2013 I bought the MacSparky Field Guide to Email

But that’s it. No more. What can this fella cover that I’d need?

Cue this morning and this announcement:

I’m pleased to announce the newest MacSparky Field Guide, Presentations. Most presentations are terrible. That, however, does not need to be the case for your presentations. This book explains how to create your own exceptional presentation. This Presentations Field Guide explains how to plan a presentation that will connect with your audience, the technical wizardry to create a stunning presentation, and walks you through presentation day to make sure it goes off without a hitch.

New MacSparky Field Guide: Presentations – David Sparks, MacSparky (30 June 2014)

I do a lot of presentations now. I have no choice. I’ve got to buy this. I would’ve bought it immediately and now be telling you what I think of it, but it’s not out yet. You can pre-order it for £5.99 UK or $9.99 US and it will ship on 21 July 2014. While we wait, here’s a short video trailer for it: