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Tips for presenting with Apple Keynote

One of the factors that played into me purchasing a new notebook are some speaking engagements that I have coming up this year. When I purchased the MacBook Pro I made sure to include iWork in the pre-installed software package so I could use Apple Keynote for my presentations.
As a primer to introduce myself to Keynote I whipped up a small slideshow for a 15 minute code presentation I did at my local Adobe ColdFusion Developer's Group. Keynote itself is pretty easy to use and I was able to get a decent preso put together in a relatively short amount of time.
One thing I forgot to do was practice my presentation on an external monitor/projector. I mistakenly assumed that presenting my slideshow would be as brain dead simple as making the presentation. However, I was wrong. A couple of things went wrong when I tried to do my presentation:
  1. I didn't bring my DVI to VGA adapter to hook-up to the non-DVI display, luckily another Mac user was there and had his adapter with him (thanks Justin).
  2. When I entered into the slideshow the slides played on my notebook screen and the "presenter's view" played on the external screen the group was looking at.
  3. I entered into "mirrored" display mode on my Mac so both screens would show the slideshow, this did work, but the slides didn't fill the screen like I wanted (instead had a thick black border).
Problem number 1 is my fault and hopefully one I wont repeat as I may not always be so lucky to have someone there with the correct adapter for me. The other two problems I knew had to be fixable with some settings adjustments. However, I was live in front of a crowd and didn't have time to explore the preferences to see if I could remedy these problems on the spot. Thankfully my Group is forgiving and the presentation was short, so I was able to fudge my way through in light of the non-optimal conditions.
Since then I have explored the preferences and want to share my findings. First, there are two preferences screen that you will need to adjust settings on. Lets take a look:

Screenshot 1: Presenter Display Preferences

Screenshot 2: Slideshow Preferences
On the "Presenter Display Preferences" panel seen in Screenshot 1, I originally thought that un-checking the first checkbox "Use alternate display to view presenter information" would switch the presenter view to the main notebook screen (since the opposite of using the alternate (external) display is to use the primary display), but it did not. Instead this made nothing show up on the external screen. I knew that this was a step in the wrong direction so I re-checked this option.
On the "Slideshow Preferences" panel we find the solutions to both my problems. Enabling the first checkbox "Scale slides up to fit display" will force the slideshow to display the slides full screen (with no black border to fill the space) fixing problem number 3 I encountered above. The last setting is a pair of radio buttons for changing which screen to "Present" on, the primary or secondary display. Bingo! Switching this to secondary arranged the slideshow on the external display, and the presenter view on my MacBook's display. Perfect. I would think that this would be the default since I would assume most presentation are given from notebooks vs. desktops - but maybe I am wrong. Maybe intelligent software that flips the setting based on quick hardware analysis?
Some other options you might want to tweak:
"Presenter Display Preferences" - Change the "Timer" setting to count down your remaining time (if you have been given a pre-determined time frame you must adhere to).
"Presenter Display Preferences" - Enable "Notes" and use them with your slides to leave yourself additional pointers of what you plan to say during this slide, or maybe a URL you want to launch, or a path and filename of the source code you want to show (I have been in several sessions where the speaker had to thumb through a couple files to find the correct one).
"Slideshow Preferences" - Enable "Allow Expose, Dashboard and others to use the screen". I run VirtueDesktops on my MacBook with three virtual desktops. Each desktop have have separate applications running on them, and you can transition between them. Well a really cool thing I learned during my testing is that when you have an external display connected, you double your virtual desktops because each the external display also has three distinct spaces as well. So I had the idea, put the Keynote slideshow on Desktop One, CFEclipse showing my source code on Desktop Two, and web app running in Mozilla Firefox on Desktop Three. However, if this last setting is not enabled the default hot-keys for virtual desktop switching (CTRL+Shift+Left/Right Arrow) does not change my desktops, but instead advances/reverses my slideshow. If I were to jump out of my slideshow, and then switch desktops, when I came back to my slideshow the presenter countdown clock would have reset itself - making it completely useless. However, enabling this setting allowed the CTRL+SHIFT+Arrow hot-keys to work properly, and when I switch back to my slideshow desktop, it is in the correct place, running full screen, and my timer is running in the correct spot.
So, hopefully there is some info there that is useful to someone.

User Comments

Friday, February 16th 2007
this is very helpful. thanks much!
Wednesday, April 4th 2007
I'm giving my first Keynote-based presentation next week after just switching from Powerpoint. These tips are very much appreciated since it will be in front of a crowd of ~100 people and I don't want to have to explore the preferences 5 minutes before show time. Thanks a lot for the benefit of your experiences and for taking the time to make this post.
Thursday, April 5th 2007
@Steve - If you can at all hook up your MacBook to an external monitor before the preso and get some 1st hand experience it is well worth it. Just days after this entry I gave another public presentation and the way I was switching Virtual Desktop was totally wacky for me, and my slide show kept returning to the first slide every time I returned to Keynote after going to a code editor to show some code. Definitely spend some time before in front of the crowd. And best of luck.
Wednesday, May 9th 2007
Erik, this was a lifesaver post, thanks. I couldn't get Keynote to give me what I wanted on my screen and what I wanted presenters to see on the LCD-connected display...found your post via a Google search and it gave me exactly the settings I needed to change. I found one of the settings a bit counter-intuitive like you did. Thanks a bunch!
Wednesday, May 9th 2007
@Tammy - Glad I could help. Good luck with your presentation!

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