Pecha Kucha Preparation on the iPad

So, I had to turn a 40-slide twenty minute presentation on our electronic book approach into a 20-slide Pecha Kucha to last 6 minutes 40 seconds. Having never done one of these things before I was pretty uncertain about how to tackle it, so I turned to local design history sleuth, and Pecha Kucha veteran, Ben Waddington for advice. Ben's recommendation was to write two sentences per slide, and knowing my own tendency to use 100 words where 20 would suffice, I decided to double up on his advice: I figured that if I limited myself to a single sentence for each slide then I could afford to expand (or drift off the point) where necessary.

I'd built the original presentation in Keynote on the Mac, but had already tweaked it for iPad so I could reliably deliver the original presentation in a PC-centric department, and I wanted to stay on the iPad for the whole of the process, though I'd have to deliver the slides to the event organisers for conversion to the auto-running PowerPoint show they were using for the Pecha Kucha.

Getting the 40 sides down to 20 was relatively straightforward. Eliminating partial builds took 4 or 5 slides out right away, and a similar number of slides had information that was either unnecessary in the context of the event or impossible to explain in 20 seconds. Duplication and 'reinforcement' slides took care of another 5. In the end, only 5 or 6 slides were actually painful to cut, but I reckoned I could fill any interested audience members in on the relevant points after presenting, either in person or by email. Mailing the presentation from Keynote on iPad was straightforward, though the organiser's email server initially choked on the size of the file and I had to use Dropbox to get it across to them.

I'd allowed myself about two hours to write a single sentence per slide, and I wanted to do it right in the iPad. I'd sketched out some ideas in the Notes app the night before the presentation, and then sat down over breakfast on the day of the (lunchtime) presentation with wifi and coffee to whip it into shape.

There are still reasons to complain about multitasking on iOS, but it's mostly because of habits built up through desktop use. In practice moving between Keynote and Notes is pretty smooth (I use the four-finger swipe to go back and forth) and I had the basic numbered points down in about an hour, with most of the time spent working on the right way to précis some pretty involved stuff into 30 words or so.

I hadn't really decided in advance how to handle my presenter notes. I decided pretty much on the spur of the moment to build a separate Keynote presentation on the iPad with my notes on individual slides. Keynote on iPad was perfect for this, though I'd love an app that could take numbered notes from the clipboard and send them to Keynote for automatic conversion to slides. iCloud comes in for a fair amount of criticism too, but it's perfect for things like this: My notes presentation was on my iPhone pretty much instantly, and I could hold it in my hand as a reminder during my presentation.

Years ago, before PowerPoint (and then Keynote) handled proper dual screen presentations with presenter notes, I used to jot down my slide topics on a sheet of paper as a reminder of what was coming up and of what I wanted to say. Moving to iPad for presentation (where presenter notes are handled less well at the moment) requires kind of switching back to some of those approaches. I'm convinced that I can refine this kind of workflow, but I'm also looking to see how Apple's increasingly twin-platform approach itself develops over the next few months. Soon we'll have a good idea of how the next version of OS X is shaping up, and with it some possible clues to how a newly-unified development effort might play out on iOS too.