Know Your Nouns!

If you’re not using The Noun Project, I beg you to remedy that in your next presentation. It is single handedly the most useful tool for creating deck content.

Here’s eight reasons why The Noun Project rocks:

  1. Most likely, you think you are not very good at drawing and probably even worse when using a computer.
  2. The images are very simplistic, reducing the Signal to Noise Ratio (more about this in a later post).
  3. There’s a huge repository of icon images that can really help bring a consistent look and feel to your presentations.
  4. They are vector images. Meaning they can scale up to the size of a 3 story banner hanging on the Mascone Conference Center in San Francisco for the 1st #KillingCorporateDecks convention!
  5. You can choose the color for the image. This feature is no longer available with the latest update from The Noun Project as the PNG Project Plugin is no longer available. The good news you can have PNG files now direct from The Noun Project.
  6. You only have to purchase the images once you’re happy with them in your deck.
  7. It’s cheap! A lot of images are free, require an acknowledgement or can be used with no restrictions for only $1.99.
  8. The UI is gorgeous and inspires.

If you still need convincing, here’s an example of a slide I built using a few icon images found on www.thenounproject.com. It took about 25 minutes to build the slide. @dscofield uses this as her slide now. After all it was her mantra of “Experiment, Learn, Apply and Iterate.”

Total cost $5.97. #Priceless

Some additional tips when using The Noun Project:

  1. Use The PNG Project browser plugin which provides PNG files instead of SVG. No longer required. The Noun Project allows you to download PNG files directly.
  2. Be legal with your images. Give credit where credit is due. Pay $ when $ is due.
  3. Put links to the original images in your speaker notes. You’ll thank yourself later, trust me.
  4. Experiment using the different image color options.
  5. Favorite images that you like or use, it will be easier to find them later. This feature will be coming back soon!

Go ahead and start experimenting, learning, applying and iterating with your new found repository of icons.

#KillingCorporateDecks in Action

A couple of weeks ago I spent two days sharing Oracle’s E-Business Suite Extensions for Endeca (EEE) with some of our Oracle Partners (#e3Partner). As a side note, count how many Macs you see in this picture. Very close to 50/50! When I first used my Mac I would be the only one. Times are changing!

e3partner Training

During the course of the training session, I provided guidance on how to explain the benefit and value of the Endeca solution. My goal was to help our partners become better evangelists and advocates for the transforming power of EEE. My slide deck utilized the techniques I cover in this blog along with a few more that will be featured in upcoming posts. Stay tuned as some you will not want to miss.

Conversing with your data

I received quite a few many compliments from members of the audience after seeing my #KillingCorporateDecks approach, validating that this approach really makes a difference to the most important person in the presentation: the audience.

Can I have the slides?!! That presentation was really awesome. Refreshing. Loved it! 

I am invariably asked “What tools are you using?” Partly because most people cannot believe I am using PowerPoint. Using a Mac plays to their impression that Apple computers are made for cool artsy material. PCs are associated with bullets. It doesn’t have to be that way, but certainly I prefer to work on my Mac. #RantAvoidance.

Probably one of the favorite compliments was:

After seeing 4 hours of heavy dense decks, it was a much needed break to have visually lighter approach. 

Don’t confuse visually light with light on content. Most people when they present don’t speak to a lot of what’s on their slides. They have more information than they can share. This confuses the message but gives the presenter a sense of security. “Look at the level of detail I have. I really most know my stuff. I’m an expert.” Don’t kid yourself! I think Albert Einstein summed it up best.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. 

Are You The Best Leading Role, Supporting Role, An Extra or Left Out In the Cold?

The presentation is not about you. The audience should be the focus of the presentation, unless you are some egotistical maniac.

It’s really their story – you need to figure out how you fit in as a member of the cast. You are not the leading role; you’re purely a potential supporting role. The sooner you come to terms with that the more successful you will be in connecting with your customer. Yes, yes,  you’re special. Of course you are a snowflake. One of a kind. Very special. You know cause your mom told you right? Well I’m sorry to burst that bubble.

U2, The Black Keys & The Civil Wars

Realize that approaching your audience to talk all about yourself is obnoxious. It quite frankly doesn’t work. Let’s face it. No one is coming to listen to you because you are U2, The Black Keys or The Civil Wars. They come to listen to you because you have something that might benefit their story. Simply put, your story is of no interest to them. Get over yourself. Face the truth and change. The only other option is to be irrelevant and left behind.

When you present to an audience, your audience is actually assessing whether you are a key supporting role, an extra or just getting in the way of a good story. This is an audition. The future advocate (old term prospect) wants to see if you play a role in their story. They are not interested in being an extra in your story. They don’t care how amazing your product, your slides, your jokes are. Start with your customer. Start with understanding them. Know their story, how else can you show how you fit into their story.

So now while you are coming to terms with the cold reality that you’re not that important, go and listen to one of my favorite bands of all time. The Civil Wars. #ToughLove.

The Power of Words

In my previous post I shared that you need to “Be Ruthless Choosing your Words.” The following video I feel captures that in a very poignant way. Far better than I could. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

Be Ruthless Choosing Your Words!

A picture is worth a 1,000 words. 10 words is worth 10 words. Choose them wisely.

Here’s an example of a slide I was given as part of our Oracle E-Business Suite Extensions for Endeca (affectionately known as EEE or E^3 by myself) product collateral.

Endeca Example

There’s a lot of good things about this particular slide. This is certainly not the worst slide I’ve seen. That being said, I think we can do better. Let’s take even this seemingly compelling slide and propel it to the next level. Ok, so let’s roll!

There are a lot of words on that slide. 23 to be exact, including the irrelevant title. Naturally, the meaningless title was the first to go. Now onto the meat of the slide. Copywriting should force you to be concise. Be a ruthless editor of your material. Practice with Twitter. Sentences need emotion, passion, feeling and fire! So let’s take this slide and go through the process of putting it through the fire and get the gold of the message to be unmissable!

“I spend a quarter of my day gathering the pieces of information that I need to do my work.”

When I approach this task of distilling the message into a short attention grabbing sentence I begin with simply re-writing the sentence. I don’t necessarily focus on reducing the words. Just phrasing it differently. Sometimes the way a message is original phrased can inhibit your ability to distill the message.

“I spend a quarter of my day searching for information in order to do my work.”

I did here manage to cut down some of the words. We are now down to 16 words. 3 words cut out. We still have a way to go. My next version:

“Half my morning searching for information to do my job!”

10 words. Progress. With this particular version I felt that not only was the sentence shorter it actually had much more impact. The message at this point is still highly factual. Apart from the exclamation mark there is little to indicate whether this is bad or good. It might be a huge success. Maybe previously it was 1 week searching for information to do my job. It’s still vague. It lacks guts. We can still reduce the number of words father. There is too much information in this sentence.

“Half my morning wasted!… Again!”

Rather than being purely factual it now was more emotional. You can feel the pain in the words. Not only does the word waster bring in a sense of fruitlessness in the search, but also the frustration that this is an on-going pain. Again! It invokes feelings of being a mouse stuck on a mouse wheel. Here I am again doing busy work. Not adding value. Just fighting the constant uphill battle, draining my energy, and my enthusiasm to amplify the business.

Here’s the final slide I came up with. It probably could still be improved upon. In my view this is a journey. All my slides in all my decks are drafts. They are never done. There are consistently chances for improvement.

Endeca Example 2

Can you distill this message even further? How would you capture the pain and frustration experienced by this user?

Killing Oracle’s Corporate Decks!

If there’s one thing I am more passionate about than Oracle software, it is being clear in how I convey why Oracle is the best choice. Let me be VERY clear. I only will position Oracle when I truly believe it is the best choice. To do otherwise is suicide. Sadly what I see in most presentations is that we are clearly unclear in how we convey value from Oracle software. Most presentations I’ve seen in the corporate world have me reaching for the barf bag that I strategically grab from all my United flights. I’ve been tempted to get a bunch made with an Oracle logo on it to hand out before some of our presentations.

To not change is to say I don’t care about legacy. I don’t care about the future. Oracle can die the death of a thousand papercuts.

This is most obviously shown in the difference between Apple and Microsoft.

The Obvious Comparison

Don’t get me wrong. The content is often amazing. It’s life changing (for the better) in most cases for our advocates (customers) and future advocates (prospects). We put a lot of effort into the material. Every solution consultant is passionate about bringing value to help amplify the business. I find it heart wrenching where we take that material and then make it clear as mud. How is this the case? Bullets, bullets, and more bullets, and yes the occasional #meaninglessphoto that is an attempt at something limbic and engaging for the right side of your brain. The effect is after 10-15 minutes everyone (myself included) is struggling to pay attention and learn this life altering information that I really do need to know.

Quite frankly it’s a massive disservice to everyone involved. A good idea is fragile. Whether it will grow, blossom and gain momentum really depends on those early stages. How you get people on board with your idea is critical. Too much too soon and you will kill it. People need to understand the why and frantically pursue that idea with tenacity and passion.

So why is this so hard? Why do we resort to self-destruct mode putting out the same material we have seen for the past 30 years? Why?! Sweat and tears. It’s nothing short of hard work. At times it’s frustrating, difficult, and is a constant battle up hill. Change very seldom comes easily. The greatest ideas have always met a fair degree of opposition. People focus on the immediate pain, and not the long term view, the why behind what we do.

This is where I find myself, meeting the friction of seeing we need to change. It’s not an option. To not change is to say I don’t care about legacy. I don’t care about the future. Oracle can die a death of a thousand paper cuts. Remember, guns don’t kill people. Bullets do.