Category Archives: Social

The Big Data Challenge of Activity Trackers

The activity tracker revolution

Activity trackers such as the ubiquitous Fitbit, Jawbone and the Garmin Vivofit are extremely popular these days. You can frequently spot them on colleagues, friends and customers. Their popularity raises a question: Does the collected data add value to your personal life? As a data hungry endurance athlete who relies on various technologies such as heart rate monitors, accelerometers & powermeters to improve my training I could not resist finding the answer. For the past three months I have worn a Garmin Vivofit to collect and analyze data. Here are my experiences and a simple process for getting value out of your activity tracker.

The Data

What do activity trackers actually do? The devices count the number of steps that you take each day (they also estimate the distance you have covered). In addition, they also track data about your sleep. The Garmin Vivofit and the Polar Loop also allow you to measure your heart rate and the associated calories burned during workouts. Pretty basic stuff really, nothing too fancy. Once the data has been collected you can review it in an app. The reports are very easy to understand, but it’s easy to brush over them. As a matter of fact, many people I know don’t use the dashboards. Instead, they simply look at their total step number. I believe that you can do more. Last year I wrote a very popular post called “Data is only useful if you use it!“. The activity tracker is a prime example. Here is the process that I leverage.

The Garmin Vivofit Dashboard

The Garmin Vivofit Dashboard

Five easy steps

1. Collect a bunch of data.

Start using your activity tracker for a few weeks. Make sure to wear it every single day. Wear it all the time. Synchronize frequently to avoid losing data. Also, make sure to familiarize yourself with the reports that are available for your device.

2. Analyze your lifestyle.

Once you have collected data, spend some time to look at the reports. I discovered a few surprises:

  • Reaching the typical goal of 10k steps per days is not that hard for me. A typical morning run can easily get me above to 10000 steps before 8am.
  • A typical workday is a bit of a shocker: Conference calls, admin work and email create long periods of complete inactivity except for the occasional walk to the coffee machine or the bathroom. As a matter of fact, the morning runs often account for 80% of the activity for the entire day.
  • Weekends and vacation days usually show a high activity level. I typically move around a lot and it is spread evenly throughout the day.
  • No wonder that conferences and trade-shows are so exhausting: the five most active days (as measured in steps) are linked to conferences. You constantly move, hardly ever sit around and often walk long distances.

Check out the charts below. Pretty interesting stuff.

Vivofit Report

A typical workday: Run in the morning and then a lot of nothing. Not good!

Vivofit Report

Vacation day – constant movement

3. Identify weak spots.

Now that you have found some interesting patterns, identify your weak spots. I found three specific areas:

  • Not enough sleep
  • Too many periods of complete inactivity during working hours
  • Hardly any activity on workdays when I don’t work out (steps below 5000)

It’s fairly easy to get this information out of the reports.

4. Make changes to your lifestyle

It’s time to make some changes. In general, scientists recommend to stay active throughout the day to keep your metabolism engaged. And some of the activity trackers can help you with that. My Garmin Vivofit, for example, features a red bar on top of the display which displays inactivity. To clear this bar you basically have to move and do something.

Sitting on a plane...

Sitting on a plane…

In general, here are some of the things that I have changed:

  • Instead of taking mental breaks at my desk (surfing, reading the news, personal email), I now get up every 45-60 minutes and spend a few minutes doing an activity (walking, push-ups, stretching).
  • 3-4 short walks on rest days. It’s good to get out!
  • Focus on sleep

5. Use the activity tracker for daily motivation

Once you have some goals and objectives, you can also use the activity tracker to get motivated. First of all, there is the daily goal that all of these devices provide you with. Then some of them also have badges for certain achievements. It’d kind of fun to work on getting them. Last but not least, you can also participate in step challenges with friends and families.

Garmin Vivofit Badges

Collecting badges can be fun

Summary

Activity trackers can definitely provide you with some interesting insights. However, you do have to make an effort to analyze the data. Simply looking at the total number of steps is probably a waste of money. To do that you can purchase a cheap step tracker. It’s the analysis where you get the bang for the buck. Will I continue wearing the Garmin Vivofit? I certainly will. I am currently in the process of assessing how activity levels between really hard workouts affect my recovery. What are your experiences?

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Updates and greetings

Hello again!

Wow. I cannot believe it. It’s been two months since the last post on this blog. Thanks to all of you who reached out to find out why it’s been so quiet here. There is a simple reason. Sometime around New Year, I realised that I was due for a creative break from writing. It’s a ton of fun to run a blog with so many awesome readers. Still, writing got a bit harder in the last quarter of 2012. I decided to take an inventory: 196 posts over 1.5 years. That’s a lot of ink on paper! Blogging should be fun and the decision to take a step back and focus on other things for a while was surprisingly easy. I have used the time to start a few different projects including a new photography blog along with a new posterbook publication.

Christoph Papenfuss

A creative break

Next steps

Is the Performance Ideas blog done? Nope. I will be back in a while. The focus will probably shift a little bit. In my new role at OSIsoft, I focus on real-time data and the according analytics. There are a ton of interesting stories and best practices.

Guest posts

In the meantime, I’d like to invite you to submit guest posts, ideas, inspirations and stories. Stay tuned for updates!

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Three simple ideas for better software demos

Better software demos

The other day I wrote about lessons for delivering a better software demo. This article ended up being one of the most popular ones in recent times. I have therefore decided to add a few more tips as a solid demo can really make a difference. Likewise a bad software demo can really hurt you and your project. Remember – the first impression is usually the most important one. You therefore have to make sure that you do a great job.

1. Keep it clean

A few weeks ago, I watched a demo. It wasn’t that bad. However, the guy ran it of his own desktop. And what a messy desktop it was. Icons cluttered a photo of him floating in a swimming pool. Oh well. Various apps were open and the person delivering the demo often had a hard time finding the right window. Also, his email program was open. The little Outlook bubbles kept popping up and we could read some of the email subjects (Viagra for sale!). Too bad! This could have been a good demo but the overall impression was anything but positive. You wouldn’t want to sell a dirty car, would you? Before you head out to deliver your next demo make sure to do the following:

    • messy desktop

      Does this look good enough for a customer?

      Close all apps that you don’t need

    • Kill all incoming emails, instant messages or Skype calls
    • Clean up your desktop
    • Choose a professional desktop background (the group photo from your bachelor party is probably not the right choice…)
    • Even easier: run the demo from a clean virtual machine

2. Keep it relevant

Demos need to be short and sweet. Don’t waste time explaining useless stuff. Imagine the car sales person talking about the spare wheel. Not all that exciting, is it? Spending time on irrelevant features can seriously harm you and your message. People might leave thinking your solution is not capable. You won’t believe it – but it’s true. I recently witnessed a person spending 2 minutes showing the audience how to change a password. It was irrelevant and painful to watch (message received: we have basic security). You have to make sure that what you show resonates with your audience and that it has impact. When you prepare for your demo, ask yourself the following questions:

    • What is the business pain of my audience?
    • Which features solve that pain?
    • Does that feature look great on screen?
    • Is it easy to understand?
    • Is this something interesting?

3. Fast forward

Have I mentioned that demos ought to be short and sweet? There are times, though, when it’s hard to stick to that idea. There are processes that may have to run, we might have to complete various ‘boring steps’ etc.. Don’t torture your audience with running through the entire process. It is so easy to loose people’s attention today. A good demo is like a river: It keeps flowing. Consider one of the following alternatives:

better software demo

  • Record the entire demo or parts of it. Recording the entire script allows you to edit out irrelevant steps. You can also enhance a live demo with some video to show those steps in a quick manner (kind of like a timelapse effect).
  • Prepare the irrelevant and lengthy steps before the actual demo. This is possible in many case.
  • Only show the relevant fragments. We don’t always have to show it all. A simple before and after often speaks louder than hundreds of demo minutes
  • Team up with a colleague. Show some slides during the ‘boring’ parts while your colleague advances the demo

Better software demos

Delivering better software demos does not have to be difficult. Follow some of these ideas to improve. It’s worth it. The greatest dashboard will have a hard time getting accepted if the demos really suck.

Good luck!

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Analytics professionals need to be communicators

Are we communicators?

Analyics are an extremely hot topic. While there is a lot of talk about it, too many companies are still failing to reap the true benefits from “bread and butter” tools such as dashboards. It’s safe to say that there is a disconnect: lot’s of talk and excitement, yet little true engagement on the business side. What’s causing the problem? It’s tempting to blame the technology.

The Disconnect

Having worked with many organizations over the past decade, I have come to the conclusion that a majority of the problems are caused by needless complexity and by a maddening drive towards technical excellence. Let’s face it – an analytics solution is only as good as the adoption by the user community. Brilliant technology fails when people don’t know what to do with it. How can we fix this? I think we – the analytics professionals – need to look at ourselves and make some changes to the way we work and engage with the business community. It’s easy and comfortable to stay in a comfortable cocoon of technical talk and optimization. Our objective needs to be to step out of that cocoon and start communicating with the business.

The Communicator

Last weekend, I started reading an excellent book by Tim Elmore. The book is about communication. Tim makes the case that our society requires a different communication approach. In the past, we adored the great orators that would read a carefully scripted speech. Today, we relate to people who deliver messages that connect with us. The author drafts up a comparison between the past and today: public speakers (aka technical experts) vs communicators. When I studied this, it struck me: The content applies to our business analytics profession as well. I have taken the liberty to modify it a bit. Take a few minutes to study the table and to reflect how this might apply to your and your team:

Analytics Professional

Are you a technical professional or a communicator?

Need to change

Let me tell you, this comparison really spoke to me. As analytics professionals, we need to make a serious effort to connect with our audience – the business. That requires us to leave the comfortable cocoon of technical talk. Here is an example: the classic requirements gathering. We interview, we document, we ask for sign-offs. The whole process is technical and it usually doesn’t help the business. It’s a process that was designed to help and protect the IT professional. A communicator on the other hand goes further than just creating a thick document. The communicator goes out of his way to really understand the business. That might require a simple prototype. It might require us to take a personal risk and ask more questions.The end result is a better analytics solution.

Here is a suggestion: Print out this table and take a look at it before you head into that next meeting or before you hand over that new dashboard. Think about your team. Are you a an analytics professional or an analytics communicator?

P.S.: I highly recommend reading Tim Elmore’s book. It’s an excellent read. There are  a ton of exercises and self-assessments that help you improve your personal presentation and communication style. I have read many books about presenting and this is belongs in the category of books that can really have an impact.

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The art of the technical presentation – 5 lessons from Gary Fong

The Technical presentation

As an analytics professional, you often have to show your work to select audiences. This could be a demonstration of a new corporate dashboard at the monthly townhall meeting. It might also be a training class for the operations team or a 1:1 session with the CEO. Regardless of the occasion, you have to make sure that your technical presentation gets the audience excited about your analytics solution. Unfortunately, too many technical presentations go bad. It’s really easy to loose the attention of your audience, if you don’t prepare carefully. The other day I watched a superb technical demo by the famous entrepreneur and photographer Gary Fong. It exhibits a lot of characteristics that you and I should incorporate in our next technical presentation.

The Gary Fong Factor

Take a look at the short video. Gary Fong demonstrates one of his new photo products. Even if you don’t know anything about photography, you will immediately get the idea of his product. Just watch 1-2 minutes.

5 lessons

What’s so special about Gary’s demo. It exhibits a lot of qualities you and I need to incorporate in every technical presentation:

  1. Be enthusiastic: Gary is extremely enthusiastic about his products and it shows. Enthusiasm is contagious. Most photographers want to buy his products after watching one of his demos. However, too many technical presentations are just plain boring. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience: why should you use that analytics solution if your technical leader isn’t excited about it? Show your passion!
  2. Avoid technical language: Notice how simple this short demo is. There are no buzzwords, there is hardly any jargon. Even non-photographers understand his product. Jargon and buzzwords are an excellent way to confuse people. It probably scares the CFO to hear about the configuration of the ODBC connection. Neither does he care about the latest in-memory technology. Make it easy for people to follow you!
  3. Explain the problem: When you deliver a technical presentation, it is critical to explain your audience why they need to change. People don’t like to change. Don’t just jump in and show your shiny technology. Set the background and explain what the problem is that you are trying to combat. Gary does that marvelously. He clearly shows that the current state (i.e. without his products) is problematic. Try to do the same in your next technical presentation.
  4. Show the benefits: Gary doesn’t stop right there. He goes further and stops at certain points to show the benefits of the new approach. He compares the old with the new. He leaves no doubt that the change is worth the effort. This helps the audience make up their mind. Too many demos leave it to the audience to identify the benefits. That’s a risky strategy.
  5. Be quick: Demos are often long and boring. Gary Fong, on the other hand, is quick. He jumps right in and he uses engaging language. There are no slow or boring parts. This is actually one of his longer demos. Most of his video demos run less than 2-3 minutes. This pays off tremendously – you won’t loose your audience.

Practice your technical presentation

Delivering an awesome technical presentation can be extremely rewarding – not only for yourself but also for your audience. Technical excellence of a solution does not automatically translate into enthusiasm by the end users. You have to help them with accepting the new solution. Spend some time to learn and practice these lessons.

If you are interested in this topic, check out one of my earlier posts.

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How to improve your presentations – a simple lesson

Presentation advice

A friend recently challenged me to provide him with my number one tip for improving his presentations. He was looking for that famous ‘low-hanging fruit’ that wouldn’t require too much effort and energy. I didn’t have to think long and hard about that question. In my past job role, I attended many conferences and sat through hundreds of presentations. Unfortunately, a majority of the presentations did not reach their full potential. It wasn’t the content. The speakers were ok in many cases. It was the slides that lowered the impact of those speeches.

Death to Bullets

Around 75% of all the slides you and I get to absorb everyday contain tons of text. Take a look at the example below. And trust me, this is a gentle case.

 

Ugly Powerpoint

The classic Powerpoint slide. Lot’s of bullets and lot’s of reading material

There is a huge problem with this type of slide design: The minute you bring it up on the screen, people will start reading. You immediately loose the attention of your audience. The more words on the screen, the longer the attention gap. It’s a natural human reaction to be drawn to the text. There is nothing you can do. I have seen really good and charismatic speakers struggle to hold the attention of their audience with these type of Powerpoints. And it get’s worse. Once you have read the text, you tend to drift off. Hey….you know the content anyway. Let’s face it – listening is for longer periods of time is hard. Your brain is constantly searching for an easy escape. Don’t believe me? Observe yourself next time you attend a presentation.

The alternative

There is the famous saying: A picture says more than a thousand words. It’s true. Instead of sticking lot’s of text on your slides, try to simplify. Reduce the text. You can try something really simple like this:

Better Powerpoint

It takes less than a minute to create a slide like this.

Or even better – use a simple picture. I am talking about tasteful photographs or graphics. But stay away from cheap cliparts.

eBook Reader

Granted this is nothing fancy. But this slide allows you to grab and hold people’s attention.

Why is this a better approach? There are several reasons why you should consider this:

  • People tend to remember pictures much better than words. You can do a test….see if you can remember the last slide.
  • Your audience doesn’t loose focus. You are the star. They need to listen to you to understand what the presentation is all about.
  • If you use beautiful and meaningful slides, people often look forward to the next set of slides. It literally keeps them engage.
  • You cannot read your slides. Reading a slide is the best way to loose the attention of your audience. Simple Powerpoints on the other hand force you to have a conversation with your audience. You sound natural and you can easily inject stories.

Easier said than done? You can purchase awesome looking stockphotos for less than a dollar today. Services like iStockphoto or Fotolia have amazing collections and their prices are very decent. Even better: Few people know that Microsoft actually offers a huge collection of awesome pictures on their Powerpoint website – for free. Check it out.

Drop those bullets

Want to improve your presentations? Drop your bullets then and develop simple slides. It’s not that difficult.

If you want some advice about how build beautiful slides that have an impact, I highly recommend the following two books:

slide:ology by Nancy Duarte – This book is probably the best one about presentation design. It’s gorgeous and there are lot’s of amazing ideas for designing awesome presentations. This is not necessarily a book that you read from the first page to the last. It’s rather an amazing compendium. I use it when I’m stuck and I need some creative ideas.

Presentation Zen Design by Garr Reynolds – Excellent advice about designing slides. This book is concise and provides the basics for proper and elegant presentation design.

 

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Why blog? 13 reasons to love blogging

Why blog?

Blogging is fun! Yes, it is. I started the Performance Ideas Blog almost two years ago and I would not want to miss that. There were certainly some stretches where I thought about just dropping the project. Blogging regularly requires a lot of discipline and focus. This is especially true when you write the majority of the posts planes, trains, airline lounges and random hotel rooms. Some friend recently asked why I still went ahead and kept on growing this blog. Here are some of my top reasons. If you have asked yourself the question ‘Why blog?’, you might find some inspiration here in this post. Blogging

Why blog? 13 reasons

  1. You need to stay fresh & agile. Blogging frequently requires you to constantly search for topics. This keeps you fresh and agile. Also, you tend to know more than others who don’t put in that effort.
  2. You get to learn many new things. Writing about something requires you to have a deeper understanding about a topic. A successful post looks at various different angles. I therefore often invest time researching ideas. That includes following other blogs, reading more books, attending more conferences. That allows me to learn.
  3. You conquer some fears. Writing about certain topics can be scary. There are some posts where you are not quite sure how people will react. Sometimes there is criticism. But at the end of the day, you just post the stuff and you feel good about not letting your fear stop you.
  4. You get rewarded. Certain posts often generate tons of feedback. It feels awesome to see people sharing your content. It feels even better to receive emails, tweets or comments.
  5. You create new relationships. The Performance Ideas blog has dramatically increased my network. I have met a bunch of fantastic analytics professionals and other bloggers. And these relationships pay off.
  6. You actively build your own brand. Blogging allows you to share your ideas and to actively shape your own brand. Your brand is no longer just determined by who you really are but also by what Google says about you. Blog posts feed and shape your online persona.
  7. You let your creativity flow. Blogging allows me to combine my passion for business, photography and design. I love taking photos for the different posts. Developing posts is definitely a great way to get creative.
  8. You develop (potentially) valuable skills. Running your own blog requires you to learn new and unexpected skills. I use the self-hosted version of WordPress and have taught myself a ton about that platform and social media. While I don’t have any use for those skills in my job, I was able to build my wife a new website for her recent business launch. We developed her presence within half a day. It was fun and Jen was able to save a ton of money (hmmm…she does owe me a dinner!)
  9. You get to do something geeky. Running your blog in a self-hosted environment allows to get really geeky sometimes. You get to configure plug-ins, tune databases and test new functionality. Well, I sometimes enjoy that type of thing.
  10. You stay current with social media and web x.0. Running a successful blog without being involved in social media is almost not possible. This has forced me to dig a lot deeper than I ever thought.
  11. You get market insights. Performance Ideas is a business blog. As such it is an interesting measure of what people are interested in. Some posts receive virtually no traffic whereas others go viral. And that is an excellent indicator of what people care about. I have often used these insights to develop new presentations or to prepare for customer meetings.
  12. You get to feel like a rockstar…sort of. On more than several occasions, people have approached me at conferences and wanted to know if I was ‘the guy from the Performance Ideas blog’….oh man….those moments make you feel like a rockstar….and then reality sets back in….
  13. You develop an valuable repository. In the past, I often lost good ideas. But having a blog allows you to capture everything. You build up a repository of your own thoughts. And that is extremely valuable.

Why blog?

Well, those are just thirteen reasons. I could go on and easily find another twenty or thirty. If you are considering to write your own blog, just get started. Give it a try. Some of my former colleagues and friends also recently started their own blogs and I think they really enjoy it, too.

What are your experiences?

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Guest Post: Become the topic of conversation with content marketing

PR and Social Media Expert Bernhard Lermann

Content Marketing

If Dr. Johann August Unzer would have had a company website, it would have been a very lively place. The practicing physician from Altona, Germany, was the publisher of the well-known medical weekly journal “Der Arzt” („The Physician”) as well as the author of numerous medical, philosophical and early psychological essays. His home was a central point for society in Altona. On the painting of Johann Jacob Tischbein, which caught my attention during a visit at the  German Museum of Medical History in Ingolstadt, he portrayed himself as a well-connected, scholarly medical scientist and author. He is surrounded by letters from colleagues and his hand rests on his best-seller: “Der Arzt” (“The Physician”), published 1759 to 1764 also as a set of 12 books.

Dr. Johann August Unzer, physician and networker

Unzer dedicated himself to topics that were discussed intensively in the medical world of the 18th century. He wrote for example “De sternutatione”, a discussion about sneezing. And he wrote down his “Gedancken vom Einfluß der Seele in ihren Körper” (“Thoughts on the influence of the soul on its body”). Burning questions that wanted to be answered.

Since the invention of a search engine, however, one must no longer consult experts nor call nor mail a letter in order to find answers; the answer appears on the computer screen within milliseconds – delivery free of charge.

Google prefers high-quality content

Sophisticated content marketing for companies utilizes the new possibilities of searching for answers. A company website is no longer optimized towards products but rather towards topics. One of the reasons for this is that Google prefers “high-quality” content that supplies answers and currently neglects outdated methods like keyword frequency.

But the one-time creation of content is not enough. The up-to-datedness of content is important; users and search engines prefer fresh content, whether that’s text, images, informative graphics, or video clips. An interaction with a graphically pleasing interface will, for example, offer easy entry into a topic, which is particularly recommended for complex matters and generates a long user session.

Know-how generates topics

If one focuses on the customer‘s needs, the customer’s trust in that brand increases immensely, which will automatically result in higher sales volumes. Schwarzkopf’s story of success is often told: the internal website was completely revamped, and since early 2011 presents itself like a thematic portal in the style of Vogue or Madame. Complete with topics regarding hair – and since then with fantastic hit-rates.

The engineering blogs of Indium, a developer and producer of special alloys for component production show how to create high-quality content in the B2B segment. Indium recognized that company’s content capital is made up of the Know-How of its staff and its network.

In order to create high-quality content it is necessary for marketing, PR, and distribution to work together on a daily basis. Distribution staffs are familiar with their customer’s needs, the PR department develops topics in alignment with these needs, and marketing prepares the content according to the various formats and knows the best distribution channels.

Once content is placed, it works “round the clock“, on the web

Many companies balk at the high expenditure of time for the production of content. It’s not for impatient people: such measures don’t have immediate effects but they improve the reputation of the company bit by bit. However, since content works round the clock for the company once its placed, success can be seen faster and is effective for a much longer time than in printed customer magazines, for example.

For as long as he was alive, Dr. Johann August Unzer refused offers to teach as a professor in Copenhagen or Goettingen. His publications were highly recognized and solidified his reputation as an expert in his field. He surely had enough well-paying patients.

In this context, content marketing is nothing new. For a company it is today much easier to connect with its target group. Once upon a time one placed its message exclusively into commercial breaks, which interrupted customer discussions, but today it’s possible to participate in the discussion. Once this is understood, one can use content marketing to provide suggestions regarding the direction into which the discussion may go.

Bernhard Lermann supports customers from the semiconductor, industrial electronics, logistics and IT industries and small to medium size businesses for Lermann Public Relations. He designs story lines for content marketing strategies and for company videos and regularly writes specialized contributions for companies from his core segments.

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Memorize a presentation? Forget about it!

Memorize a presentation?

Presenting is a highly rewarding exercise. Yet many people struggle with it. Nervousness and also the required preparation induce uncomfortable feelings in many people. The first one is a necessary evil and it can be dealt with. But how about the second one? People often ask me how I manage to memorize a presentation. Well, here is the secret: I do not memorize anything. And now hold your breath: I never practice either.

Natural conversations

The way we present has fundamentally changed. Ten years ago, many of us would have probably endured a boring and scripted presentation. Today, we expect presentations to be conversational. In his excellent book The Naked Presenter, presentation guru Garr Reynolds says:

”Most communication experts today agree that a good talk or a good presentation should feel more like a conversation.”

Memorizing a speech or a presentation goes against that objective, from my point of view. Such presentations can only sound stiff unless we are trained actors. The same is true for spending too much time practicing. Think about it: how often do you memorize a conversation before you have it?

An alternative approach

What would you rather do in front of an audience (customers, friends, colleagues)?:

  1. Memorize a long poem and recite it
  2. Read a 50 page story and then tell that story

Chances are you would prefer option 2. I certainly do. And that’s why I have developed a process that feels like preparing to tell a story. It really works for me. Give it a try.

The steps

Step 1: Create your content. I don’t want to go into any details here. Much has been written about how to develop a great presentation. So, let’s just assume we already have a somewhat solid slide deck in front of us.

Step 2: 30,000 ft view. Take your presentation and review it in the slide sorter view. Do a high-level walk-through. Check your general structure and story. A presentation needs to have a logical flow. Look for inconsistencies and harsh transitions. Rearrange slides where you see the need. This step usually takes a few minutes (assuming you already have a somewhat decent story….).

Slide Sorter View

Step 3: Build a map. Now it’s time to drill down further. Stay in the slide sorter view and zoom out so that you can see all slides on one screen. Take a screenshot and paste it into a new slide. Now, think about the logical sections of your presentation. I put a bar over slides that belong together (think chapters or sections). Once I have done that, I then write a short “mission statement” into that bar. If you struggle with your mission statement, you might want to revisit the entire section or maybe delete it after all. Less is more when it comes to presenting.

Presentation Map

Step 4: Review the map. This map is incredibly powerful as it helps you refine and visualize your presentation structure. Use the map to review your content and structure again. Look at each slide and check whether it supports the mission statement of the section. It is often helpful to show this structure to another person.

At this point, you should know your presentation quite well. All that without memorizing anything. Also, you have the ability to really refine and further develop your content. In the example above, I can clearly see that slide 5 is useless and that section 3 is weak and incomplete.

So far so good. Let’s work on the details. You can now switch back to the slide view. It might also help to print out your map. The following steps should be repeated for all the slides. Walk through them sequentially.

Step 5: Purpose: Write down the purpose of the slide. This should be a simple sentence. This is the key message you want to bring across with this particular slide. This message needs to be crystal clear. And it needs to support the mission statement of section that it belongs to. This step not only helps you “memorize” the presentation but it will also help you get rid of useless materials. Once again, less is more.

Step 6: Messages and stories. Now that you know the purpose, start thinking about how to best bring the purpose and message for the slide across to your audience. This could be a story. Or this could be data points. Stories usually work best. People love them. Also, it is easy to remember them. They sound conversational. If you present numbers, think about an interesting way to do that. Try not to limit yourself. I often end up with 2-3 different ways to talk about a slide. That gives you a lot of options when you actually present.

Presentation notes

Congrats. You have made it that far. You should know your presentation pretty well by now. And your content should be really clean and well structured by now. But what about memorizing a presentation?

The last but important step

The final step is quite simple but it is the most important one. It comes closest to memorizing the presentation. I usually repeat this step a few times.

Step 7: Walk-through. In the days/ hours leading up to a presentation, I typically take a piece of paper and mentally walk through the presentation slide by slide. Depending on how comfortable I am, I write down the key message of each slide. In most cases, I won’t have the presentation open for that. That helps me focus on the general story and the messages. Also, I usually print the map and review it. However, I do not stand up and practice the whole thing in real time. You might want to do that if it makes you comfortable. It does not work for me.

An effective process

This process might look quite complicated. But it’s not. It accomplishes three things:

– It cleans up your presentation flow
– Helps you memorize your flow and talking points
– Gives you confidence

Is this time-consuming? Not really. It’s a whole lot faster than writing a script and memorizing it. Scripting pulls you too far down and you run the risk of loosing the bird eye’s view. You get stuck in details.

Knowing your stories and messages for each slide will then allow you to deliver your presentation in a conversational style. Why is that? You know your content inside and out and that is a real confidence booster. Running through a memorized script on the other hand has the potential to make you nervous.

That’s it for today. I will walk you through an example sometime later this year. Make sure to check back.

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8 reasons why you should love presenting

Do YOU love presenting?

Too many people hate presenting. A few weeks ago, I wrote about some strategies to combat nervousness when presenting to a larger group of people. This post turned out to be extremely popular. However, I just realized that I had omitted an important point: Why would I want to present in the first place? Dealing with nervousness is a nerve-racking business after all. It would be easy to just avoid this all together. In my current role I have had the unique opportunity to present over 100 times per year and have learned that we should jump on the opportunity to present to smaller or larger groups. I honestly have to say that I love presenting. And I think you should love it, too. Here is why.

8 reasons YOU should present

  • Ability to share your ideas: Think about it – it is damn hard to get people’s attention these days. There is too much information floating around and there is also a lot of distraction. If you have a great idea, you really need to fight to the attention of the right people. Presenting, however, allows you to get the undivided attention of a lot of people at the same time. I consider this to be a serious luxury. It is a rare opportunity.
  • Ability to stand-out:It is quite difficult to stand-out these days. Presenting more than anything else provides you with the opportunity to show your capabilities and to toot your own horn.  An engaging and insightful presentation is the ideal platform to shine and to create a lasting impact. Don’t waste it. It’s no surprise that many experts consider presentation skills a key career skill.
  • Ability to influence: It’s not only about standing out but also about influencing lives and decisions. Delivering a great presentation allows you to influence more than just one person. Once again – you should consider this as a luxury.
presenting

Undivided attention is a luxury. Don’t waste it! Shine, instead.

  • Opportunity to learn: One of the best ways to learn is to teach. Creating a great presentation requires you to know your materials insight out. You will have to prepare carefully. And that is an excellent opportunity to acquire new knowledge. I have had a lot of situations where a speaking engagement turned out to be a tremendous learning experience.
  • Ability to test: It’s great to have ideas. But do they actually work? Presenting is an amazing platform to test your ideas and to see if your positioning works. Why is that? Your audience will provide you with immediate and honest feedback. Just look at their faces. Are they engaged or bored? If they are bored, you need to work on your pitch and your idea.
  • Improved networking: Whenever I present at conferences and meetings, I tend to meet a bunch of great new people. As the presenter you enjoy more exposure as I mentioned earlier. If people like your content they will connect with you. And the great thing is that you don’t have to do the work. People come to you.
  • Intellectual challenge: Listen up – presenting is an awesome intellectual challenge. To deliver a great speech you need to be 100% focused. Staying focused for more than 30 minutes is not easy. After delivering a 60 minute presentation, I am often drained. But that’s a great feeling!
  • Fun: Last but not least, presenting can be extremely rewarding and fun. A great job done presenting will give you many reasons to celebrate and smile.

8 reasons to love presenting

Those are my 8 reasons why you should love presenting. Of course, non of this is easy and it requires preparation and practice. That’s the way life is. What do you like about presenting?

“Presenting is an every day activity for everyone. Those that do it well are likely to get to the top of their chosen profession.”, Graham Davies, The Presentation Coach: Bare Knuckle Brilliance For Every Presenter

“The potential of your speech or presentation to change things – maybe even change the world – goes far beyond just the words spoken.”, Garr Reynold, The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides (Voices That Matter)

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