Tuesday, July 31, 2012

10 Keys To Brilliant Presentations

Let's face it – many business presentations are as stimulating as a freshman accounting class lecture without the incentive of seeing the material on a test. Or it sounds like a late-night infomercial.

I've spent lots of time in the audience, in front of the room, and behind the scenes prepping presenters for events; I find these 10 key elements are common to outstanding bright-star presentations. They are:

  1. 4Ps – Plan what you want to accomplish; Prep based on that goal; Practice content, flow, and timing; Present Brilliantly – be there and fully engaged
  2. Integrity – Descriptions and teasers about the program and what you present must match; promoting one thing and presenting something different lacks integrity
  3. Me – Your bio, profile, Google+ Page, and the MC's introduction tells all about you – only talk about you IF the point makes you more memorable
  4. Visuals – If you have to say “you probably can't read this...” you are in the weeds! Less is better; cartoons & caricatures create more impact than facts – numbers – charts. Anything complex or useful as a resource is best given as a reference or URL in an handout – with only a concise abstract of pertinent items shown on the screen
  5. Talk – Presenting is a form of conversation – talk with the audience; try not to read to them or from the screen; after all, if you read them your book from the stage, they won't buy it
  6. Interactive – If possible, make the session interactive to get thoughts and experiences from the audience – have them be an active part of the program instead of just observers
  7. Lily Pads – Robin Williams used an analogy about frogs jumping between lily pads to describe comic delivery – same applies presentations: don't spoon feed the audience; give the audience the concepts that require a mental leap to follow, but don't have the gap so wide they miss the next lily pad
  8. Stories – Reference your experts sparingly – people came to hear your thoughts; share them through your stories of experiences and results
  9. End Promptly - End on time – not when your material runs out – an hour session is about 40 minutes of presenter time; the balance is for questions and the unexpected
  10. Continue the Conversation – Give your audience a place to offer comments about the presentation - “the best thing they learned.” Sharing extends the reach of the program and your visibility (also adds to legend of the event – Meet-up, an event managing social media tool, uses a comment board system to let attendees rate the event and give highlights & comments – which helps validate the better programs).

A live event is always unique and often a bit unpredictable. These elements help manage the unexpected and are a key to giving a shining-star, memorable performance.

Any others you want to add?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When Efficiency Is NOT the Chosen Path

The mixed messages commenting on the state of the economy are confusing at best, and offer little of use for planning and forecasting in the business or government sectors. Conflicting variables affecting budget, scope, and demand add to the complexity. The uncertainty and inertia leads to delays in new initiatives by the decision-makers in organizations.

I find that an individual example on a small scale gives clear focus on the larger situation that decision-makers face in their organizations.

A service tech told my friend that his A/C was working below standard levels and some components could fail without warning (meanwhile it was keeping the house temperature cool). A new heat-A/C system costing $6,000 would eliminate the risk and save about $1800/yr on heating oil and $500 on summer electricity. Back-of-the-envelope savings would pay for the new system in under 3 years, whereas repair costs for the existing system would be about $2,000 when it broke down.

The friend said he decided to keep the old system and reserve the cost of repair instead of buying the new system. His reasoning – cost of operating the existing system is a known and the repair does not diminish resources as greatly in the short-term – during this period of uncertainty – even though investing in the new system offers greater savings for the long-term. The decision came down to the comfort of having the $4,000 cost difference in hand versus reducing operating expense over future years.

On a much greater scale, the decisions for organizations are a choice, in the face of uncertainty, between resources at hand now versus investment in improvements benefiting future years. Deja vu of the business temperament following the Great Depression of the 1930's.

And yet, it adds to the uncertainty that some organizations and segments of the economy that are in growth mode. Why the disparity. One explanation - William Gibson says “The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.”

Is this a glimpse of coming change or just isolated system anomalies? 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Start a Relationship – Leave Something of Value

When I meet someone, I give them a large two-sided card with information about topics, my blog posts, and items of interest that the person will find useful, in addition to my contact details for Sales Lab. We call it a Hot Sheet.

During our conversation, I will circle an item on the Hot Sheet if pertinent, or can write a URL or other reference in the margin for use later by the recipient.

It is easy to update or change and I can print as many as needed for upcoming meetings. Usually, each time I see a person at a meeting or event, the Hot Sheet is newly revised.

I was at a meeting of YPLG (The Young Professional’s Leadership Group) this week and was talking with a person who knew me but was trying to place where we had met. When I gave him a Hot Sheet, he immediately remembered where and when we met – and he said he still uses his original Hot Sheet as a technical reference.

In addition to its unique size and content, the Hot Sheet is memorable to the recipient. How memorable is another business card for your pile? Which has the best chance to begin a relationship?

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Questions Open Source Answers

When you buy technology, do you expect it to be the latest version, up-to-date and complete, or do you expect to have access to changes and improvements? Which expectation is most realistic? When buying a software package or a GPS unit, a first step of installation is to check for updates – this suggests that there are changes since the item was boxed up for sale – and an update is needed to get current. After that first update, there is often a string of fees for updates and maintenance contracts. The open approach invalidates the static state – you can seek the latest version or fix anytime. The choice is open or complete.

Dick Davies did an excellent post this in Through The Browser - the evolution of open source software culminating with recent developments. From the discussion, here's some key points that are clear to me:
  • Software is complex – errors and wanted additional features are discovered by users
  • Enterprise software is developed by a team under corporate supervision and they control the source code – minor bugs and new features are held till the next Revision (fixes are released in between for major bugs and security issues)
  • Open source software code is available to all – errors and features can be addressed by any developer and the new version is available to everyone with attribution to the original author
  • Revisions to open source are quite agile – can be published within days or weeks by other developers
  • The open source approach encourages an abundance of experienced developers and coders are available to troubleshoot problems or make changes – when needed.

In this open source environment, there are enablers like Google – which create a platform or system software and release SDKs (software developer kits) with specifics about the software to aid independent developers to expand the applications available.

The enablers also create applications with flexible instruction sets that the user can manipulate for additional functionality. A new illustration is Google Events – a powerful meeting tool designed for the user; or Google's Cloud Drive, which works just like an additional local drive (with a great sync feature).

I can recall the early days as open source was gaining popularity – I was skeptical about reliability, and concerned that my organization would not get the support it may need – so I rejected adopting anything open source.

I now rely on open source to run several organizations. Problems = 0; downtime = 0; development and modification is by us users, so wait time = 0!

Read Dick's post at: http://throughthebrowser.blogspot.com/2012/07/open-or-complete.html for more detail and additional material from the 25 imbedded links.

Open source software is certainly worth including in the mix when evaluating a solution – it continues to evolve and, in my view, is a strong viable choice for organizations large and small in the New Normal.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Google's New Technology – More Power and Simplicity

Google took the internet by storm years ago with a super-fast search solution and has continued to be a leader in creating innovative tools allowing non-programmers to create sophisticated solutions to get results.

Dick and I have been attending the DC simulcast of Google's I/O three-day event underway in San Francisco – and they are unveiling some truly advanced Android devices and applications.

Here's some highlights of new software, applications, and hardware:

Google Plus Hangouts (video conferencing of up to 10 people), has been enhanced with a business meeting app – Symphonicaland two social apps Event – to schedule meetings and social events complete with invitations - and Party Mode – which permits sharing of pictures/video before, after and real-time during the event by any of the attendees. These are all free and can be accessed at Google Play. Easy to use video is a powerful tool for business – for meetings, demonstrations, training and other show & tell sessions, in addition to a 'live stream' of events to a public audience.

The next generation of the Android operating system – Android v4.1, Jellybean, and a new Android phone – the Galaxy Nexus – combine for a new level of productivity and simplicity. Google Search learns from your keyboard strokes and accessibility for users is upgraded. Voice Search is included in the function and will return results by audio as well as screen text and video. The phone has a simple new gesture – the flick – just like you'd flick a bug off your shirt, will delete what's on the screen (deleted items can be easily recalled).

You can also use Voice to dictate text, chat, and emails when in that function. Since all smartphone voice apps suffer when not connected to servers, Google brought their voice engine down to the phone. Keeping track of appointments and other interests is done automatically through Google Alerts , by popping up note cards with all the relevant details – it can be an appointment, airline flights, or current score for your team.

The Nexus 7 Tablet using the new Android 4.1 OS (built by ASUS with delivery expected in mid-July) was introduced with a 7-inch HD screen, 9-hour battery life, and a $199 price tag – what a treat! The Nexus 7 has a fast 3-core processor and 13 other background processors – for a total of 16 CPUs speeding through the material for quick display and smooth transition.

For entertainment, you can read ebooks and documents; read magazines – uniquely formatted to have the look and feel of the paper publication, with context links throughout, thumbnails of articles for the reader to 'leaf through' to find articles of interest; view pictures and albums; and videos, movies, TV shows, and YouTube; listen to music from personal collections and internet providers.

For business and other tasks, you can read and write email, browse the web, read and update your blogs, access your Google Plus and hangouts (forward facing camera for the video), do detailed search by text and voice, and get pop-up notification cards automatically for upcoming appointments and other items of interest.

Carrying forward the social aspects of the phone and tablet, Google has developed the Nexus Q which is an in-home collaborative media streamer device and amplifier connected to your best speakers and TV. You can pull pictures, videos, music, art, and other entertainment items from anywhere in your extended network – by swiping your Android phone or other NFC-function device across the Nexus Q. In addition guests can share their entertainment libraries with a simple swipe across the Q as well.

The Chrome browser now can sync the browser settings, bookmarks, and recent search results across multiple platforms – computer, tablet, phone – and automatically optimize the format for the device. So, you can access a search result done on your home computer from your Android phone while you are mobile instead of making a paper copy of the screen as you go out.

A key to all these advances is direct access to the Google Cloud – material is stored or held in the cloud for access by any of the Google-based devices. This aids to flexibility of access of your content and documents, as well as facilitating collaboration among team members or others by giving focused access to specific files.

A preview of what's in the works shown at the conference is Google Glass – a wearable computer. This is a device, is a pair of eyeglasses that has a computer, camera, audio receiver, and heads up display, so you can access the internet, a hangout, or snap pictures or videos of what you are seeing. To introduce this prototype device, Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google) staged a parachute jump to the roof of the convention center with an elaborate 'pony express' style delivery of a pair of these glasses to him on stage. All the while, the screens showed live video of what the delivery participants were actually seeing (using Hangout technology). An exciting event.

There were three quotes that nicely sum up the philosophy of these developments in computer tools:

Larry Page (co-founder of Google): “Have a healthy disrespect for the impossible.”

Vic Gundotra (Google SR VP Engineering): “The best thing is for the computer to have your back – then you don't have to worry about it.”

Clay Bauer (Google Director Chrome Development): “What we want is that it works without you even noticing.”

As these advances roll out, we will find business applications for them – to get better results, or to do something that was not practical (or possible) before.

What do you find most relevant for your operations from the new features offered by Google?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hull Speed – Limits of Change

Over the last 25+ years in all sectors of the economy, we've been changing management/leadership structures, the tools and technologies to do the work, and the headcount of workers at all levels.

Initially the changes had impact very quickly – on production or operations and on the bottom line or budget.

As we continued to make incremental changes, the effect was progressively less. In many cases we are at the point (or rapidly approaching it) where the next change will have no positive effect. Let me say it again: change now has little to no desired effect.


Picture a boat – when under way it creates a bow wave as the hull displaces the water and a stern wave (wake) following the boat as the water fills in where the hull was.

Each hull has a maximum speed that it can travel through the water – and no amount of additional power or sail can make that boat move faster. There is a physics formula to calculate the maximum hull speed, but simply put, when the bow wave and stern wake meet the boat has reached top speed.

A similar effect has been happening as we make continuous incremental changes. The initial modifications and work-arounds eliminate inefficiencies and create productive gains. With successive changes we run out of modifications and work-arounds and are limited to swapping one task for another (analogous to the bow and stern waves converging). The current change is possible ONLY at the cost of forgoing an existing task or process.

Just like modifying the design of the hull can change its maximum speed, making dramatic changes to the organization can have a major and lasting effect. Possibilities include:
  • engaging the Doers in the process of change – tell them the goal and get their help to reach it
  • Apply the principles of disruptive innovation (remove features, sell cheap, exponentially increase market reach) to reinvent the organization
  • shift from a service-based entity to a platform-based entity – make heavy use of technology and automation to provide information, routine answers, intake and output of documents, filings, and reports, and use staff to address the small percent of complex situations which arise.

Do you see situations where hull speed, disruptive innovation of government as a platform would make a positive impact?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Open Source – It's Not Just Software, Baby!

Initially, open source was an approach to developing software among coders, which was like Spanky, Darla, and the Our Gang kids “puttin' on a show.” Everyone contributed what they had (sharing resources) and did what they knew (collaborate) – and the show was always a success.

The open source approach is a philosophy, a culture, a means of tapping the doer's knowledge and experience without the complication of burdensome overhead.

It can be as simple as taking the path of helping a chronically tardy employee discover the effect of his lateness on coworkers, then giving him an alarm clock to acknowledge the commitment of being there on time.

In this environment, an audiophile can develop a hobby of finding old high-end equipment into a viable business by working with a warehouser and an eBay seller – a 3-person collaboration which is a poster child for the Makers Economy.

As agencies move further into government as a platform (GAAP) with information and answers easily available on-line, and reliable channels for filing required documents, the experienced 'live person' is available to work with the smaller percentage of unusual cases instead of reading to the general caller from the regs and procedures.

Open source leadership is recognizing the value of the knowledge and experience which resides throughout the organization and finding ways of applying it to get results.

The New Normal is the resulting change from traditional methods to address issues brought about by open source thinking. It's like having the doers and managers smiling at a problem and saying in unison “We've got an app for that!”

Business as usual is unusual – are you evolving or just waiting for it to return to normal?

Innovation – Big and Small

When in 6th grade, on the walk home with friends, we would stop at a local store and buy a soda (for 5¢) - I'd often think how nice it would be to have an ice cold bottle of water instead of the sweet soda.

With the popularity of bottled water today, was mine an innovative idea? No – it was just a thought, because there was no action to bring it to reality.

When Alexander Bell (and others) perfected the telephone – that was innovative because the idea was developed and something new was introduced. When the rotary dial gave way to push buttons it was a feature change – just a now 'tool' to do the same job of dialing the phone – but when the wireless phone was developed, it dramatically changed how (and where) we used the telephone.

Likewise, making a mobile phone smaller or introducing the flip phone were simply changes in features, but the smartphone was a creative development that added something new – pocket-size access to email, text messages, and internet. - Innovative.

Sticky notes, non-stick frying pans, digital recordings and personal players, and Google search are all innovative. Each was a creative idea that was developed, introduced as something new, and permitted us to do something differently. Innovation 2.0 (further updates and changes) is often just adding features, not renewing or altering the original.

The formula for innovation is: Idea + Development + Introduction = Something New and Useful. Although successful market penetration is not specifically part of the formula (e.g., the Ford Edsel was quite innovative but was a dud in the market); innovation does offer the possibility for rewards ($$) to the innovator.

Today there is an additional – radical – kind of innovation which also has three elements:
  • Take something now existing and eliminate all but the core functionality
  • Chop the price dramatically
  • Expand the market reach by 100X, or 1000X or more.

Currently, we see this happening in cellular communications – new entrants into the crowded market are offering unlimited calls, text messaging, and data/internet, you buy your own phone, and no contract for $20-$30 per month. These carriers are selling via the internet, at Wal-Mart and similar places – not at free standing storefronts in malls and urban centers. The trade-off for giving up some 'cool' features and putting up with some limitation of coverage areas is deemed worth the user saving up to $1,000 per year in mobile phone bills.

Disruptive innovation has the potential to completely alter established markets and create new leaders at high volumes, lower prices, and profitable margins. The former leaders are forced to 'change or perish' – once begun, disruptive innovation eliminates “business as usual”. Later, as innovation 2.0 feature creep sets in for the new leaders, another opportunity may develop to do it all over again by another disruptive innovator.

Although I have used product illustrations, the concept applies whether product-based or service-based, for profit, non-profit, or government entities that can remove features to get to important core elements, reduce cost/barriers to access, and expand the user base.

As we are struggling with flagging sales, disappearing budgets, pressure from customers, users, and the public, and lack of desired results with past tactical changes, perhaps a disruptive innovation approach is a valid path to take. Get less frills, pay less for the result, and more will benefit through increased access.

Welcome to the New Normal!

What innovative approach could offer a solution for that vexing problem?