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powerpointing 2g

PowerPoint is ubiquitous, and much like the rest of Microsoft Office is, in one format or another, inescapable in the business world.  However, I have bruises on my forehead from banging my head against the wall because yet another person is reading their slide verbatim during a meeting.  There are probably dozens of things wrong with that scenario, but the two most important:

  1. I can read.
  2. If I’m reading, I’m not listening to you.

In other words, you just lost WAY more than half your audience.  Even more so if you have shoehorned every possible piece of text and visual information that you can into that single slide.  As Stephanie Krieger puts it in this very nice but too long piece on Microsoft’s site, it’s “not about fitting as much as you can on the screen.”

Part of that particular puzzle is that everyone thinks they multitask, but nobody actually does.  It’s a myth.  And it’s particularly a myth if we are using two different senses.  As soon as we begin to read, we stop listening.  Two sensory inputs means that one must be moved to the back burner.  And if you’re reading out loud the same words that I’m seeing, I’m way ahead of you, and if it’s a virtual meeting, have probably started checking my e-mail by the time you get to your second bullet point.

A lot of this is old news.  We all know it, but we can’t resist putting that next piece of information in.  The second generation of the way that PowerPoint slide decks are used is now in full swing.  These are no longer just presentations, built only to be put in front an audience.  They have morphed into something that actually has much more power (bad pun) to influence, persuade and share information. 

There are three categories to slide decks now, and while each one actually requires that you not simply read the dang slides out loud, there are some violations of the “fit as much as you can” rule into a single slide that you may now violate as necessary.

There is also, necessarily, an element of inform and persuade in the two slightly newer uses of PowerPoint – to train and to report.

We’ll start, though, with the most familiar usage:

Presentations:  If you are presenting, whether virtually, over a webcast form, on video, or in person in front of a roomful of people, and your intent is to influence or persuade, then the basic rules apply.  Your slide should contain short, bulleted points that are visually interesting which pick out the meaty bits of information.

These slides should not be read out loud, but simply an anchor point for your spoken words that allows you to give the heart of the presentation verbally, with a simple influencing or persuasive statement at the end.

Sparing use of media that drives the listener/viewer away from your voice is appropriate, but people cannot seem to stop using it once they start.  Don’t put more than one video piece in a presentation unless the presentation is about pieces of video.  Seriously.

Training on Programs/Systems: When using PowerPoint for training, particularly on programs or systems, you need to tell the whole story on one slide for one instruction set, if humanly possible.  If you’re constructing a video, the slide should be subsidiary to watching the action, as you move through screenshots of the selections you’re making in the program you’re training. Your voice should guide the viewer/trainee through these screenshots.

The slide itself should capture selected snips to show exactly which button you’re pushing in the program, or which box you’re filling in, and the instruction text should point the trainee geographically to what they are selecting and why.

After the training is over, the deck should become a clear reference set of how to use the program.  During the training, if possible, the trainees should be following and repeating your actions.  If not possible, the slide set should be able to assist them, post-training, in walking through the exact steps they need to accomplish, including any “gotchas.”

Statistics/ Reporting:  Statistics are overwhelming at the best of times, and complex datasets require complex slides.  However, your verbal exposition of the slide should, at a very minimum, give the “so what” of the data.  The analysis of the answer to the “so what” should be added to the visual set of the slide.  Every slide should, again, tell a single story:

  • Beginning – the “so what,” why the data that you’re reporting on matters to your audience (note:  your audience, not you).
  • Middle – the assumptions the data rests on, not in clinical detail, but the high points.
  • End – the bottom line–what the data actually tells you that actually answers the “so what” question.

Do not, under pain of attention loss, read the numbers themselves to your audience.  Make sure, like the training slides, that the entire deck is available to your audience after the presentation, so that they can look at the separate data pieces at their leisure.

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file sharing is the linchpin for org comm’s second generation

Businesses have been a little slow on the uptake on file sharing, but with Web 2.0 in full swing, and the shift it’s bringing into business communication, file sharing must now move into its rightful place–as Inc. so rightly called it, it’s the mack daddy of collaboration.  It’s also the linchpin of social media as business communication.

This differentiates organizational communication sharply from the Facebook-style social media, while utilizing the same tools.  In online social media, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc., the links people share, and the “likes” they add to their profiles, lead to other sites, other pages on the web.  In organizational communication, the links lead to files, or to metaposts that aggregate files.

Most businesses are still struggling to get people not to send the monster 10mb, 20mb files through e-mail, and indeed most limit the size of the file you can send.  If you haven’t already figured it out, even Excel files that are used over and over and never cleaned up get bigger and bigger. You end up with a two- or three-tab file that’s taking five to ten minutes to upload because every time someone copies and pastes, all the styles that Excel uses in the background simply aggregate without ever going away.  We’ll leave the discussion of Bill Gates’ buggy programming for another discussion–it simply has to be dealt with.  As files get bigger, the restrictions on sending files (and the implicit restriction in the fact that it takes too long and bogs down your system) are beginning to impact communication.

While server space is also getting larger, and you can get home computers with terabytes of storage now, the programs that are sending the files cannot cope with the load, and attaching the files to e-mail (especially when you send it to 45 separate people–“reply all” is a very mixed blessing) is hogging bandwidth like mad.  When multiplied by thousands of employees, an entire company system sloooowwwws down due to the load. Thus the restrictions that IT departments have hedged around attaching large files to e-mail.  Those restrictions are beginning to interfere with companies’ ability to share documents, especially when working in the virtual world, where you cannot print the document and walk it down the hall.  This is where hyperlinked file sharing steps in to save the day.

If you as a business leader haven’t already taken steps to make file sharing easy through linking directly to documents, then you are behind the curve.  Unfortunately, back to dissing Mr. Gates, hyperlinking directly to a server file has never been easy.  We have to acknowledge that Windows is inescapable, and as they get even further down the road to intuitive crumbtrails (that series of names for the folders at the top of your window that gets longer as you descend down the folder structure), it gets even harder to link to folders directly on the server.  It’s geek-friendly, but the rest of the world is left out in the cold.

So, to save the day, the cloud comes along… web-server-based storage, served up in a way that makes it easy-peasy to link to a specific document or a folder as necessary.  Electronic document management (EDM) has been around for a long time, companies like Documentum have been around for more than 20 years.  Not advertising Documentum, in particular, it just happens to be the one I’ve used most recently.  Businesses on a well-developed EDM background are now able to interface with it in ways that make it easy for the less-geeky to share a 5-byte email link over e-mail, instead of a 10mb PowerPoint file.  This frees up bandwidth, diminishes printing costs, and will end up paying for itself in the long run.

Time to step on this bandwagon if you haven’t already.  And step on it now, before you implement a social media interaction at your organization.  Social media without file sharing isn’t a work network, it’s just a time-wasting ghost of Facebook with your business frame around it.  Social media with file sharing, and people who have a modicum of training in how to use it, can break down the silos within your business and stop recreating the wheel in every department because they don’t talk to each other.  This frees up the creative souls who are building yet another PowerPoint deck to actually get creative and push your business into the boom that’s coming.

First 555: collaboration

This is the first of many sets to come of five short paragraphs on a topic of interest, and five links you can explore in five minutes, thus the 555.

There are times when you have to say, “no, that’s not what I’m talking about.”    A lot of the current flap around social media is about businesses being on Twitter, Facebook, etc., in order to market themselves. That’s not necessarily what I’m talking about on bizcom2g. The heart of bizcom2g is about how businesses communicate internally.

I believe businesses are just really beginning to explore the benefits of using social networking tools to communicate internally.  This is a huge step away from businesses where I’ve worked that weren’t even necessarily happy about the chat function that was built into Windows NT some years back.

Even as fast as the world moves these days, it’s going to take time to prove that social media that encourage collaboration are worth the money it takes to establish them in a business.  Below are some links about what it takes, and whether it’s worth it to businesses to not just allow social media interaction but encourage it and even fund it.

The links for today talk a lot out about some of the tools that are out there–and everyone seems to focus on one.  The most interesting concept, though is Inc.’s comment that file-sharing is the mack daddy of collaboration.  If your IT group keeps your from attaching anything over 10mb to your e-mail, and people hate getting them anyway, the answer is social media that allows you to move to a link instead of an attachment…

5 links in 5 minutes:

How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues: a research report from Melcrum – Australia.

Short explanation of five media tools in business settings: Yammer, Digsby, Skype, wikis and podcasts.

Inc.’s version of five media tools in business settings:  File-sharing, blogs, wikis, microblogging (in-company Twitter, basically) and forums.

Equation:  Engagement = share growth, non-engagement = lost billions Firms with engaged workforces have more than two and a half times the earnings per share growth rate of their industry counterparts. Companies using Web 2.0 achieve 18% boost in employee engagement.  Companies not engaging their employees have $300 billion in wasted productivity.

Promoting social media internally If you’ve decided it should be done, how do you get the employees to do it?

Does collaboration pay off?:  The Harvard Business Review blogs about the difference between good and outstanding, and how we quantify it.