Fail safe presentation – Best practices

The Need

The more important the presentation, more things will go wrong. If you want to prevent that, you must be proactive. Here are the best practices I have learnt after delivering more than 2000 live sessions!

Here I am assuming that your presentation content is already finalized and that you are using PowerPoint 2010 or 2013.

First step is to make a copy of the presentation. Whatever is mentioned below should be done on the copy of the presentation. This way, your original presentation is not disturbed in any way, in case something goes wrong.

If you are delivering the presentation from your own laptop…

This makes the content and delivery a little safer. But still you need to do the following.

  1. Run the entire presentation without any network.
    1. Check all embedded file links. These files should open without network connectivity.
    2. Check all videos. These are embedded and therefore should run without network.
  2. Keep a copy of the entire presentation on USB drive. DO NOT just copy the presentation. See below for instructions.
  3. upload it to OneDrive, DropBox or any other storage on internet.
  4. OneDrive (or SharePoint if you have corporate network) is the best because the presentation can be shown reliably on a browser in case everything else fails.

If you are going to carry the presentation and deliver on some other PC / Laptop / Tablet

This is a dangerous situation. We must assume that you will get only a PC with some Windows version running. PowerPoint version is not guaranteed. Here are the best practices.

If you have videos, make sure you use Office 2010 and Insert Video feature

Till Office 2007, videos were never inserted – the files were linked. So if you carried the presentation file only, the video was always missing!

If you have inserted videos, use the Optimize Compatibility button

Carrying or embedding a video does not guarantee that it will run on any PC. It needs the right kind of codec to run. Of course you have no interest in learning what is a codec. Therefore, PowerPoint makes it simpler for you by converting your videos automatically to a format which will run on any Windows PC.

Choose File menu – Info – check if you see an Optimize Compatibility button.

Presentation tip - Optimize Media Compatibility

If you don’t see it, very good. One thing less to worry about.

If you see it, open it and choose Presentation Quality. It will do something. Let it finish.

Technical Note: For those who are interested, PowerPoint checks if the format requires a codec which other PCs may not have. Most common is QuickTime. Then it converts the videos which are already in your presentation to WMV format by re-rendering them. All the special effects, animation, trims etc will be preserved. It asks you to choose the quality. Choose High quality for important presentations, Medium for most presentations. Low quality is only for mobile device delivery. You may not realize it, but this is a very complex activity which is completely simplified for us by PowerPoint.

Check Hyperlinks to web sites

Connect to internet from a mobile phone or some other connection and check all links to external web sites. Do NOT use corporate network. Sometimes you link to web pages / images which are inside the corporate network and these don’t work outside your office.

If there are linked files and pictures, Package the presentation

DO NOT just copy the presentation file.

Choose File – Save and Send (2010) or Export (2013)

Presentation tip: Package Presentation for CD

In the dialog, click Options button

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Make sure you put a password and Inspect the presentation for notes, comments etc. (See this article for details)

Embedding fonts and linked files is a very good feature. It ensures that your presentation will run on any PC containing PowerPoint.

Carry PowerPoint viewer

This may sound like an overkill but it is an absolute necessity. Many conferences and seminars use laptops provided by the AV agency which is running the show. These people often have very old operating system and PowerPoint versions.

If you have used new features in your presentation, most of it will either not run at all or will be horribly disfigured.

Download PowerPoint Viewer. This is the latest version as of today. It works with presentations created in all versions of PowerPoint.

Check this on internet before downloading to ensure that you are downloading the latest version.

Other things which make a difference

If your job depends upon delivering presentations – mine does – then you need some extra precautions to ensure that your presentation runs EVERY TIME without a flaw.

In this case you have to do some simple and some extreme things:

  1. Bandwidth at the venue.
    This is a tricky item. You cannot control it till you reach the venue. But at least then you should check this one out thoroughly. If your presentation depends upon live bandwidth, you must test everything as soon as you arrive at the venue. Perform a full rehearsal and repeat just before the beginning of the session if possible.
    Hotels usually provide insufficient bandwidth. I find it easier to buy a local SIM card with large Internet Top Up. Unfortunately, due to thick walls of ball rooms and conference venues, the 3G / 4G may not work. You must test it before the presentation.
  2. Carry a projector. I carry my own. Epson EB1775W. 3000 Lumen and very good for upto 100 participants. This supports WiFi so you can put it anywhere and not worry about cable length. Unfortunately, I am not able to use the WIFI on Windows 8.Presentation tip: Carry your own projector
  3. Carry an plug which can connect two VGA cables. Very often the length of the VGA cable is short. It forces you to sit at the wrong spot. So carry a spare cable (10 USD approx) and a male-to-male VGA connector (costs approx 1 USD)imageThis Gender Changer is an invaluable piece to have. Many customers have two VGA cables but don’t have this adapter. With it you can extend the cable length.
  4. Batteries. Carry at least two AA, two AAA and one 9 volt battery.
    Why? Because the microphone batteries die in couple of hours. If you conduct long sessions, the batteries are a lifesaver. If you don’t carry them, it becomes a chaotic situation. You are mid way into your presentation. Everything stops. Someone scrambles to find the AV guy / gal who is invariably missing from the scene by now. They don’t get new cells, someone rushes out to buy them or request from admin… it is hilarious and sad. Just buy the cells and carry them.presentation tip - extra battery
  5. A laser pointer and clicker is useful. I use a special mouse which has all of these so I don’t need to carry it.
  6. Power Adapter is necessary if you travel internationally. The composite ones are good but usually don’t fit into artistically restrictive crevices even in the most sophisticated conference rooms. It is best to buy the dedicated adapters (2 pieces at least) as soon as you land in a country. Convenience store on the airport is the best bet as stores within the city usually do not keep such adapters.
  7. Finally, a printout of your presentation may be all that you have in case of power failure or some technical glitch.
  8. If you are using a tablet, make sure that you are carrying the VGA / HDMI adapterimage

What if everything fails?

No worries. Just go on stage and express yourself from your heart.

No amount of technology, tools and accessories can substitute for depth of knowledge, experience and passion to add value to the audience.

Doctor’s Toolkit – sneak preview

Here are my favorite tools and techniques.
This is a commonly asked question. This article is long overdue. So here it is.

Disclaimer: I have chosen these tools based upon my research.
However, it may not represent the best or latest products in that category at the time of writing this article.

Tool Details
Screen recording doctor's toolkit
Camtasia
 Recorder from Techsmith for high resolution work.
SnagIt recording for short, high-resolution recording.
Windows Media Encoder 9 for regular recording of session. This is lower resolution but yields very compact videos. One hour recording is 100 mb.
Video editing Camtasia Studio for screencasts. The product has matured over time and has amazing facilities for creating learning content.
Audio editing SoundForge Pro 10
SoundForge Pro 10
 and Adobe Soundbooth (now superceded by Adobe Audition)
Ideation / Visualization Pen and paper – large paper with colored sketch pens is the best option.
OneNote with stylus for on-screen ideation and sketching.
Screen zoom Zooming the screen to highlight specific areas and show actions is very important. This enhances learning and increases the retention.
Windows key and plus / minus sign zooms in out
For more control I use ZoomIT from SysInternals. This provides annotation while zooming. Amazing tool.
HDD size management Tree size Pro for HDD size management
However large the Hard Disk is, we always run out of it. And then you want to know which folders to cleanup. This tool solves the problem elegantly: TreeSize Pro
Defragmentation Diskeeper
Diskeeper to avoid Defragmentation
Very useful to proactively eliminate disk fragmentation. Improves performance dynamically. It is better than trying to defrag manually AFTER fragmentation has already happened.
Screen Capture Snagit for screen capture
SnagIt
– nothing beats it. The best. Buy it if you capture screen images regularly. Ingenious and extremely powerful. Works with DirectX (Games) as well. Records MP4 video as well without a rendering pass.
Graphic design PowerPoint, Word, Publisher, Adobe Illustrator and of course … paper and pencil
Stopwatch XNote Stopwatch Shareware. I purchased it 9 years back! Very good stopwatch and timer. Fully flexible. I use it to show how fast things can be done using Office. A demo with a timer running is much more exciting for the audience.
I also use it to time myself when I start a particular activity. It keeps you conscious of the time you are spending and helps you improve your time estimation accuracy.
Photo Editing Fairly good functionality available in PowerPoint. Technical screenshot editing is best done in SnagIt editor.
Otherwise PhotoShop is the final authority on this. After Effects can be used for creating some amazing effects on static images as well.
Sketching Autodesk sketchbook Pro for sketching
Nothing beats pen and paper. But if you have a tablet with good stylus nothing beats Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. I have Surface Pro – with its amazing stylus and built-in Wacom tablet is the ultimate combination for sketching and calligraphy.
Blogging WordPress. Windows Live Writer is very good for creating and editing posts.
Windows live writer 2012 for blogging
Backup I have tried many backup tools. If you know what you want to backup, then I find a simple file copy with encryption to be the best option.
I use Vice Versa Pro for this purpose. Very comprehensive and very fast in spite of its arcane UI.
File transfer Cute FTP pro for file transfer
Cute FTP Pro
. This is the final word in FTP transfer. Yes you have to pay. But it is absolutely worth it.
Bandwidth monitoring Bandwidth Meter Pro. Now Windows 8 does give better bandwidth monitoring in Task Manager. But this tool is valuable if you want to see details and monitor paid/costly connections.
Grammar check Grammarly Add-in for Word. Very comprehensive and professional grammar checker. Of course I use it for important documents and scripts. For regular documents, Word is more than enough.
Thesaurus Word thesaurus is very handy and comprehensive. But if you want a creative way of finding the right word, nothing beats Visual Thesaurus. The dynamically moving, 3D visualization motivates you to be creative.
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Special effects PowerPoint is quite powerful for many things. For screenshots, SnagIt editor is very good. It has some fade and emphasize effects which are quick and effective.
For videos I use Adobe After Effects. Ming-boggling and extremely complex to learn and use to the fullest extent. But high impact output can be created in a very short period of time. Make sure you know the rendering options well.
Adobe After Effects for video effects
Camera Sony Xperia Z for routine work. Canon PowerShot SX240 HS for detailed work. This was the only handheld, small camera with full manual controls. I cant carry a full DSLR because my bag is already full with all sorts of stuff and very heavy (14 kg)
Tablet Surface Pro. Highly usable as a tablet and a very fast laptop. Gives 5 hours of battery life. Excellent touch and stylus functionality.
Phone Xperia Z. I like Sony workmanship and reliability.
Mouse I use the greatest mouse MS ever created. Now it is out of production but I have two more pieces with me. Presenter Mouse 8000.
Contains Screen Zoom button, Laser Pointer, Presenter for PowerPoint, media player control (Volume and Play/Pause). Works in Bluetooth radius of 60 ft.
I love it. It is like a part of my body now. I feel lost if I don’t have it while presenting on stage or working at my desk. If you see this in any store, please let me know. I want more.
Presenter Mouse 8000
Mouse pad Well, what is special about a mouse pad? There is. I use this sturdy and hard mouse pad which is washable and “almost indestructible”. Why is is important? I conduct sessions in all sorts of places. Nowadays, Mouse can work on all surfaces without a pad. But there are surfaces which are uneven or have joints with gaps. That is when a hard mouse pad is very useful.
I buy it in Singapore. It is made by BriteMat from UK
Remote Control TeamViewer for Remote control
I often provide support to some VIPs. I use TeamViewer. This product never stops amazing me. It just works and works perfectly. I have provided support on mobile phone based remote control!

Mini Charts Part 2: Sparklines Usage scenarios

In the previous article , we have explored a new kind of mini chart called Sparklines.  In this article, we will explore when and where to use Sparklines to quickly identify trends,  compare data visually and much more…

Quick Recap: Sparklines are mini charts drawn in a single cell based upon data from multiple cells. It is an easy yet effective way of comparing data.

Financial statements

Typical financial statements show data in reverse order. Current year first followed by past years.

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You have to read each number from right to left and then compare them mentally to form a pattern. Then we read each row and try to correlate it with other rows.

Now see the same data with Sparklines.

Financial statement with Sparklines

Problem: Chart is visually in reverse order

Look at the Operating Income. At the first glance it looks as though it is decreasing over time. But in reality, it is increasing over time – data is in reverse order.

To avoid this visual confusion, choose the Sparkline Tools –
Axis options – Plot from right to left. Problem solved.

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Comparing Quotations, Specifications, Scores

Any kind of comparison can be performed visually using Sparklines as long as the data is numeric.

Visual comparison with Sparklines

Notice how it helps you see a clear difference across the models without reading the numbers. It highlights the winner clearly and without ambiguity.

How does it happen? Because it takes the minimum value across the row as the beginning of the axis. Usually all bar charts start with zero. However in this case, the Power bar chart is starting at 177. Therefore the smaller value becomes visually insignificant.

Due to this visual contrast, it is easier to interpret the information. Of course, remember that this may lead you to underestimate actual values. If you want true to life representation of proportions, traditional charts are better.

Mini Charts: New method of visualizing data

The need

Visual data analysis usually means charts.  There are some limitations of using charts.

  • In some cases, traditional charts don’t work well. Primary and secondary Y axis allows two different scales of data to be shown visually. But more than three scales are impossible to plot.
  • Chart is a separate layer and needs to handled separately.
  • Charts occupy lot of space because there are so many elements to be shown like gridlines, axes, labels and so on.
  • If you try to reduce the chart size, the pattern gets flattened and difficult to interpret.

Visualize data with Mini Charts (Excel 2010 or above)

Fortunately, there is a new way of data visualization available in Excel (since Version 2010) – Mini charts.  Sparkline is a type of mini chart that is drawn in a single cell based upon data from multiple cells. Select one or more blank cells. Choose Insert Sparklines – Line. Select the input data. Click OK.

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You can apply this to multiple rows or columns. Make sure you select the data correctly.

If you use this in a table, when more data is added to the table, new Sparkline will be automatically added. You can also increase the Sparkline by dragging it from the corner – just like formulas.

Powerful customization possible

When you Click inside the Sparkline, the Sparkline Tools tab appears. Make sure you go through EVERY option of this menu. You can then customize the visualization for your data quickly.

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To show fluctuation across time? Use Line Sparkline

To show relative size of the data, use Bar Sparkline

Mini charts - Bar Sparkline

This diagram uses Line for monthly fluctuation and Bar for country specific values.

To show positive vs negative use Win/Loss

Mini charts - Win Loss

The last column is Win/Loss type of chart. It only depicts positive or negative outcome (Profit / Loss or Pass / Fail or Select / Reject). The line chart shows the fluctuation. In order to visually understand negative values, the Show Axis option puts a reference line at the zero position.

Mark the max or min values for easier interpretation

Mini charts - Mark Min or Max value

In case of bar style, the minimum value is always shown as a thin line. Negative minimum values look better in bars.

In the next article, we will explore some interesting practical scenarios for using Sparklines.

Are you leaking sensitive information via email without realizing it?

Problem

  • We create documents and send them to people outside the organization
  • Nobody wants to leak sensitive information intentionally. If you are caught, you will be in trouble
  • But without realizing it, inadvertently, we often leak such information all the time.
  • Don’t believe me? Read on…

Continue reading Are you leaking sensitive information via email without realizing it?

10 reasons to use OneNote

OneNote

  • OneNote allows you to create many organizer diaries. Each diary can have many sections (topics) and any number of pages.
  • You can type anywhere, draw anywhere. No saving required.
  • Record audio or video while taking notes. Notes are auto-linked to the audio/video.
  • Amazing, multi-lingual OCR (optical character recognition) even for scanned documents
  • Works in shared mode with SharePoint (or SkyDrive)
  • Live, automatic updated on a single shared page while taking notes in a meeting
  • Links automatically to web pages, Word paragraphs or PowerPoint slides while taking notes
  • Synchronizes across devices
  • Available for free on Android, iOS and Windows platform
  • Tags allow notes to have more meaning

Usage scenarios

Many scenarios listed here. Just scroll. Look at the titles.
If you like it, then read it. Else, skip it.

How many notebooks to make?

  1. Analyze your work. Divide it into broad areas. Each area needs a separate notebook
    1. HR example: You handle Recruitments and Reviews. So make two notebooks to start with. Recruitments and Reviews. Recruitment notebook will have one Section for each department you work with. Each page will contain one position to be filled.
      Reviews notebook will also contain sections for each department. For each employee, create a new page in the respective department.
    2. Sales example: You handle sales for 5 large customers and 15 small customers.
      Create one notebook for each large customer. Create one notebook for small customers. Each customer gets a section. Every activity you do with them becomes a page
    3. CEO example: Create separate notebook for key strategic initiatives. Another one for research. One for competitor information. One for Shareholders. One for key partners (distributors, suppliers)

How to manage meeting notes?

  1. If you have the meeting in Outlook calendar, right click on the meeting and choose Meeting Notes. OneNote will show you all your notebooks. Choose which notebooks the meeting should go into. Now a new page will be created. That page contains all the meeting details and link to the meeting item.
  2. If it is an important meeting, take permission from all attendees and start recording – Insert – Record Audio.
  3. Type few, important notes. These will be linked to the audio automatically.
  4. If the meeting contains visual information, like brainstorming, whiteboard usage, physical objects, artwork, etc., then use Insert Video and adjust the webcam to capture the visual activity (and audio).
  5. If something confidential is being discussed, you can pause the recording.
  6. Audio recording is very lightweight. 10 min audio is usually just 1 mb in size.

Managing To Do items and Tasks

  1. While taking notes, mark action items as TO DO from Home – Tags
  2. If it has a deadline, then choose Outlook Task – and select the deadline. If you want more details – then choose Custom Task
  3. Delegate work while taking notes by choosing Outlook Task – Custom and Assign Task – specify name of the person
  4. This way, before you leave the meeting the work is already created and is easy to monitor as well as execute!

Easy way to manage visiting cards

  1. Create a new notebook called Contacts
  2. Whenever you get cards, take a photo using a simple mobile camera and put all images in that notebook
  3. You can use sections for customers, events, occasions, etc.
  4. You can now search for any name automatically
  5. You can right click on a card and choose Copy Text From Picture and paste it anywhere.

Checklists and Standard Operating Procedures

  1. Create a list of things. Add the To Do tag to all the items. Now it is a checklist.
  2. Now choose Insert – Page Templates – Separate window will open on right side showing all existing templates. At the bottom, choose the option Save current page as a template, give it a name
  3. Next time you want the same checklist, go to Insert – Page Templates – My templates – choose the template

Working with a team on a common project

  1. Create a new notebook on SharePoint. It will automatically create a local copy of the notebook as well.
  2. Send a link to that notebook to your team
  3. Ask them to go to the web page and choose Connect to OneNote
  4. Now let everyone keep typing everything related to the project in that notebook
  5. This works even when you are offline
  6. When there is internet connectivity, OneNote automatically synchronizes all changes with each other
  7. This way, you eliminate the need for sending hundreds of mails with CCs to each other!

Annotating artwork received in PDF files

  1. Usually we use Print Screen to capture the image, annotate in Paintbrush (or similar editor) and send the changes back
  2. Now, open the PDF, choose File – Print – choose the printer Send to OneNote
  3. It will ask you which notebook to print to
  4. The document will become images in the new OneNote page
  5. Open the Drawing tab in OneNote and use pen, highlighter, text to annotate the artwork
  6. When you finish, choose File – Export (or Save As) choose PDF format and send the file to the agency

Take photo notes while reading a book

  1. Take photo of important paragraphs using mobile camera
  2. Same thing works with magazines, newspaper articles, any printed matter
  3. Put photos in OneNote. Add additional notes if required.
  4. Very good idea to capture PR coverage, Competitor advertisements, useful snippets, ideas for writing… anything.

Different style of writing used here

In this article, I tried a different approach. Only Text, quick and easy steps, no graphics.

Do you like the style? Take few seconds to answer this poll. This will help me write more effective articles. Thank You!

What is OneNote? Spend 4 min to find out!

LifeLog

Writing this video from rooftop restaurant in HCMC, Vietnam… amazing view of the bustling city. What is OneNote? Do you know the answer?

panorama rooftop - writing what is onenote article

What is OneNote?

It is part of Office since 2003 . Till version 2007 it was a part of Office Professional edition. So many users never noticed it. But since Office 2010 it is part of standard Office.
Unfortunately, even today (Jan 2017) people don’t know What is OneNote.

OneNote joke

In every session I conduct, I always take an instant poll – how many of you use OneNote.

Usually only ONE hand goes up. Then I say “that is why Microsoft chose the brand name ONEnote!”

But trust me, after a short demo, everyone wants to use it immediately.  Amazing product – when you know it!

View this popular video

This video, created by me, was posted by MS New Zealand some time back. Now it has 150,000+ views. It is not a large number for YouTube popularity. But considering that OneNote is a fairly unknown product, it is a very encouraging sign.

Have a look and you will understand What is OneNote.
More importantly, you will think “why did I not know this earlier!”

The amazingly ad-hoc yet powerful tool : OneNote

This video was created for MS New Zealand in 2011. During those days, I was just learning the art of video creation. Therefore, the video is not as refined as I would want it to be. However, the content is very popular. 123,000+ views as on Jan 2017. It covers OneNote 2010. However all the features are still available.

Video Recap

  1. OneNote is used for storing anything which is not yet a formal document
  2. Use it for taking notes while studying, researching or during meetings
  3. It integrates very well with Outlook. Action points noted in OneNote should be converted to Outlook Tasks.
  4. Use OneNote tags to categorize your notes. Finding tags across notebooks is a great feature.
  5. Do NOT create a single new notebook and stuff everything into it. Create as many empty notebooks as you need, based upon your work.

In the next article, I will discuss How to start using OneNote