Many training programs and books are divided into two varieties – Basic and Advanced. This classification gets ingrained in the mind of users who have neither attended any training nor read any book. From what I have observed and analyzed over the last decade, this thought process is a key deterrent to effective and efficient usage of Microsoft Office. At least I have not come across any source which discusses this issue. Therefore, I am addressing it in this article.
As you know, I have conducted hundreds of sessions demonstrating how to increase work efficiency using Microsoft Office tools, for over 210,000 people so far. The audience is different every time. But do they come with great excitement to learn from the celebrity efficiency guru called Dr. Nitin?
Absolutely not. Over these years, I have learnt to understand what goes on in the minds of the people sitting in the audience. I have cross checked my understanding with customers – either by conducting a poll during the session or by asking specific confirmation after the session.
In any case, if you use Office you will relate to what I am about to reveal. If you are an Office trainer (or any kind of trainer), you may also benefit from the psychology behind the technology.
There is drilling noise coming from your neighbor’s flat. But if you are watching an interesting movie, you will stop noticing that disturbance. Technically, the sound of drilling is falling onto your ear drums. The ear is sending those signals to your brain. But the brain is busy with something far more interesting. So the audio noise is just not noticed. This is called Inattentional Blindness.
This “blindness” or automatic masking is not limited to vision. Any input can be masked if you are not interested in it.
Every day we see Office tools. Each one of them has hundreds of buttons and options. Do we see all of them? Yes – the light reflected from them is reaching your retina.
But do we notice and understand them? Absolutely not. Because of Inattentional Blindness.
Everyone suffers from it. Nothing wrong with it if the items you ignored were irrelevant and useless.
Unfortunately, what you are ignoring is immensely useful to you.
There are three things which we don’t notice even if we are using the button associated with it.
Dropdowns and Split buttons
Here is the button to create a New Slide. All of us use it. But we miss the dropdown below it. This is a dual function button. If you want a slide with the previously used layout, click on the New button directly (upper part).
If you want to choose the type of layout for the next slide, then open the dropdown (click on the lower portion) and choose.
These small little buttons at the corner of a group invoke related dialogs which provide more options. We never notice them.
Buttons near to the ones you are using are obviously related to the task at hand. So it is a good idea to notice them and ponder about what they do. Stay on them for just one second to view the tooltip which shows what they do.
Cure for inattentional blindness
Little bit of curiosity and exploration is all that is required to widen your sensory horizon and become more efficient!
Test your efficiency. Try any of these simple tests. Each test asks you how to do a particular activity. In ALL these cases, you will already know the answer. But is that the most efficient way? Check the most optimal method and learn from it.
In the last post, we saw how to use PowerPoint Actions to open a linked or embedded file during the presentation.
Although this method works with inserted objects as well, there is a practical problem there. In fact there is a psychological problem.
Insert Object is used in two situations.
To package a collateral file with the presentation
This is usually done when you are going to send or upload the presentation for others to view it offline. You insert the related files as objects on relevant slides. In this case, others are supposed to see the icon so that they can double click on it to open the file (in edit mode) or add an Action for opening it during presentation mode. There is no problem in this scenario.
To be prepared to answer queries
Inserted Object is shown as an icon. You use it when you DON’T want to show any data from your Excel file upfront. You just want to describe the situation. And in case someone asks for details, you want to be prepared. That is why you have done Insert Object and add the Open Action.
In this case, you know that you have access to the detailed data. But the problem is that, the audience can also see the file icon. If they see it, they will naturally ask you what it is. This is not desirable. Why not? Because opening the file may lead the presentation on an unwanted tangent.
Therefore, you want to have the ability to open the file on demand (if you are in trouble) but you don’t want others to view the icon to arouse their unwanted curiosity.
These are paradoxical requirements. How do you manage this?
NO problem. Little bit of ingenuity will help you here.
When you add the object, don’t show it on the slide. Just take it beyond any of the corners of the slide.
What is the benefit?
Nobody can now see that you have a file inserted. But you know that it is there. Anytime you want to open the file, you just have to go to that corner blindly… make sure the cursor has changed to the hand icon and click…. voila …. the file opens!
That is best of both worlds!
The psychology part
Although Office is a technology, its usage is driven by psychology. When you are presenting, you want to be in control. You should think like the audience would and then take corrective action.
If people see something, they can ask you questions about it. If they cannot see it, you are better off.
In fact, the art of presenting effectively is all about understand how audience will react and then tweak your presentation to get the desired response and influence the audience.
I always say “PowerPoint is all about manipulating the minds of the audience rather than animations and transition!”
Of course, I am not suggesting that you use it in an unethical or illegal way. But all said and done for every presentation there is an objective. Selling, Teaching, Convincing and so on. It is your job to align the audience with your objective. That is psychology!
Next article – How about 24 clipboards?
We always had ONE clipboard. You copy something, it does into the clipboard. The original clipboard is overwritten every time you copy. But that is not the case.
You can get 24 clipboards to play with… sadly, this great feature has been there for 24 years I think
We will explore it in the next article.