Free Web-Based Version of MS Office?
Linux Insider reports that Microsoft is "considering" an ad-supported version
of some of its productivity tools.
This reminds me of an old grade school story problem:
- Two frogs are sitting on a log.
- One is thinking about jumping off.
- How many frogs are on the log?
When is Microsoft going to make the jump?
Considering that MS Office competition (Google, Open Office, etc.) offers some mighty free and fabulous online productivity tools -- why is MS still sitting on an old, sinking log?
The beta version of MS Office 2007 -- with lots of ribbons and bloat -- is sort of like jumping from a log to a shiny new boat loaded with tons of junk.
Passengers like me are nervously looking for life rafts.
And free online productivity tools like Google Spreadsheets
and the amazing word processing program Writely
run more like speedboats than life rafts. These free programs will get me where I need to go quickly, cheaply, and easily.
And isn't that the very definition of productivity?
Press Conferences and the Passive Voice
I have a new, favorite pet phrase to use around the home. I learned it by listening to some politicians and business leaders speak at press conferences. The phrase is this:
“Mistakes were made”.
I’ve been using it a lot lately. Jokingly, of course, because this passive phrase abdicates responsibility to a preposterous degree.
For example, I individually foil-wrapped a whole herd of Vidalia onions and put them in my freshly-cleaned oven to bake. However, I put the onions on the rack instead of on a pan, and the juices leaked and made a hideous mess.
When my mate Oud discovered the caked-on goo, I didn’t need to fess up.
“Mistakes were made,” I said.
The passive voice. Dismissive. Arrogant. Oud backed out of the kitchen, wordless.
But Oud knows me well enough to recognize the joke. He did not to ask follow-up questions. He knows I made the mess. He intuited how and when, and he knows that I’ll clean it up. Oud also saw the look of embarrassment and frustration on my face, and knew enough to back off and let me have some dignity while I cleaned the mess.
Sensible journalists, however, need to have a trained ear for the trivializing tone of the passive voice in the press conference. They need to immediately jump on the passive “mistakes were made” with an onslaught of follow-up questions:
“What exactly were the mistakes? Who made them? What are you doing to prevent future errors?” And so on….
However, many journalists are like my Oud: they feel like insiders, so they don’t ask the necessary follow-up questions. They intuit and assume, leaving their audience uninformed.
We all need to work harder to make our audiences – and not the presenters -- feel more like insiders. And insisting on a clear, active voice helps us all communicate more clearly.
Coffee and the Office Kitty
Last week, Starbucks announced that it is raising prices. Panic ensues across North America.
Coffee is an important part of office life. And offices across the globe handle "office coffee" in one of four basic ways:
: Employees bring in /buy their own coffee from outside the office.
: Employees pitch in to help maintain a community refreshment area.
3. THE MAN:
The company maintains a community refreshment area.
: No one drinks at their desks.
I have worked at all four different types of companies. My take?The BYO approach
-- is dismal, as it fails to promote a sense of community among employees. When everyone brings in their own Starbucks or Thermos, you lose the opportunity to create a common bond among teammates. BYO companies have trouble with getting employees to function as a team.Contrast that with the KITTY
-- where you foster a water-cooler, gossipy buzz among coworkers by creating a place for folks to bump into each other. An inviting aroma is welcoming not only to employees, but to customers.THE MAN
-- When THE MAN buys coffee, it also demonstrates a company that cares about the well-being of both customers and employees. It's not just the caffeine -- it's the aroma and ambience that makes everyone feel good about working.NOTHING
-- Company leaders worry that a coffee spill could wipe out a computer, that drinking and cleaning up is a productivity drain, and that coffee-drinking leads to frivolous conversation and fraternization. This is all ridiculous, fear-based stuff. No one wants to work with company leadership that openly states its fears without recognizing the big business benefits that coffee brings.
Coffee is a part of business life. It fuels inspiration and conversation. It makes customers feel welcome. And done well, the coffee area gives employees an opportunity to bond.
What's your preferred method of handling the office coffee situation?
Power Point Games: Multiple Choice
Back to School PowerPoint Fun! Class-led Power Point games can be terrific for keeping class attention and inspiring educational excitement.
Many class-led games use PowerPoint's interactive settings to replicate a game's more exciting features. Let's take a look at the action settings a creative teacher or training pro might use when designing multiple-choice Power Point games.
Here's a basic, 7 step approach to creating a Multiple Choice PowerPoint Game with 4 answers per question:
1. Create 5 "Q&A" PowerPoint slides + 6 action buttons for each question set:
- Slide 1 - the "Q" Slide. This slide contains your question, 4 possible answers and 4 corresponding action buttons (let's say, "A, B, C, and D".)
- Slides 2-5 - the "A Slides". One "correct answer" slide contains a reinforcement (i.e., Correct!) and one encouragement action button (i.e. Next question>>). The three remaining "incorrect answer" slides each have a "try again" encouragement action button. Put slides 2-5 in any random order after slide one.
2. On the "Q" Slide, select the action button that matches the correct answer. Next, click on Slide Show >Action Settings...and you'll see your action settings menu.
3. In the Hyperlink to... drop down box, click on Slide... Then, select the slide that contains the correct answer and click OK.
4. Next, select the action button on your "Q" slide that matches an incorrect answer. In the action settings menu, select the Hyperlink to... box, and this time, select the slide that contains the matching incorrect answer and click OK. Repeat this process for every incorrect answer on the "Q" slide.
5. On each incorrect "A" slide, select the "Try Again" action button. In the action settings menu, select the Hyperlink to... drop down box, and select the "Q" slide.
6. On the one correct "A" slide, select the "Next Question" action button. In the action settings menu, select the Hyperlink to... drop down box, and select the "Next Question" slide...(or the end slide, if you haven't created any more questions!)
7. Repeat this process, adding as many questions (and answers!) as you like.
Too much design work? Try the -.com trick! Many popular TV quiz shows like Jeopardy, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or Weakest Link are available as free PowerPoint downloads. The interactive PowerPoint features are already built in -- just waiting for you to add your own material. Try doing an internet search for "PowerPoint Games" -.com .... and you will find a wealth of free PowerPoint game templates designed by teachers, for teachers. Many of these downloads can provide a fast and easy way to build an exciting game-based PowerPoint presentation. (The -.com part of your search will eliminate any sites that end in .com -- these are commercial sites.)
What is your best tip for a professional head shot...
The professional head shot photo.
I have had many throughout my business career. And I have arranged many for client marketing collateral.
What other "marketing must" creates as much foot-dragging and hand-wringing?
Why does the executive head shot cause so much angst?
Possibly because the results catch you in an unnatural habitat. Seldom am I framed with a clean-looking, simple blue or gray screen as my background. I rather rely on wires, speakers, paperwork, bookshelves, and general chaos in the background to steer my viewer's eyes away from my wrinkles and other facial flaws.
Or could it be because I am seldom as elegantly coifed as I am in a professional photo? In real life, my hair usually sticks out in random little bunches, as a result of my habit of frequently running my hands through it as I write or drive.
And there is usually more lipstick on my coffee cups than on my mouth at any given moment. (Unless you count my teeth....)
And it's not just me. Other people have their issues.
Two very handsome male executives pointed out to me last month that they loathe having their pictures taken. Their reasons?
"I just don't look as good in a headshot as I do in real life."
(Indeed, the results proved their statements to be horribly true. I was alarmed to learn that 90% of their dreamy handsome-ness must be derived from their personalities.)
On the flip side, a rather plain-looking executive hated to have his head shot taken, as well.
"Nobody wants to look at my ugly mug in real life," he moaned dramatically. "Why make a permanent record of it?"
(He looks great in his professional photo, all warm and what-the-heck.)
Another exec kept putting off her photographer's appointment.
"Too busy," she kept saying. "I have too much to do. I don't have time..."
Yeah, right. Excuses, excuses!
(She ended up looking like a stiff. A tight, angry corpse.)
So for all you hang-wringers out there, here is what you can do to get a better shot:
The best professional photographs take place when you are relaxed and happy. When you decide to enjoy your photo shoot with a positive attitude. When you work with a photographer and a crew you trust.
When your boss doesn't threaten you with termination if you don't get your butt into the studio, pronto. (That was my worst head shot, ever.)
At the moment you get your picture taken, everything else is out of your hands. Trust the photographer do his or her job. Let the hair and make-up people fuss over you a little.
For an hour or so, you can relax and enjoy being the center of attention.
You can't always blame a bad professional photo on the photographer. It's not just your looks. Your attitude is a big part of the equation.
For me, a great executive head shot includes a genuine smile -- not one that is pasted on for the occasion. That's why having good rapport with the photography team is a must.
Phony smiles are the worst. (I should know. I have a dozen headshots with me grimacing falsely at the camera.)
What are your best tips for a great professional head shot?
Other than showing up drunk?
The executive photo: a marketing must?
One company I worked for insisted that I get a new professional head shot every year, for marketing purposes. The company used my executive photo in PowerPoint presentations and other marketing collateral.
I thought the annual professional photograph was a good policy, since a person's look will change from year to year. After all, in school we had an annual photo event. Why not get into the same practice for professional reasons?
Now that I am an independent business consultant, I think the yearly photo is still a good marketing practice. It demonstrates honesty to my prospects. A photo says, "This is the face of the business. This is who I am. This is who you will be dealing with."
You will see many independent business owners use their executive headshot on business cards and web sites. Realtors, insurance agents, financial consultants...
I often meet new prospects for the first time in public places --- coffee shops, airports, restaurants -- and they can pick me out of a crowd because they have seen a picture of me on my website.
What about you? How often do you get a professional photograph taken of yourself for business purposes?
Audience Polling and the Live Presentation
"Show of hands?"
That has always been one of my favorite "live presentation" polling techniques. (Applause is also nice...)
A show of hands or applause is the ultimate in low-tech, interactive audience polling.
And yes, it can be wildly inaccurate when you consider the group dynamic -- uncertain audience members will often eyeball how other people are voting, and raise or lower their hands based on popularity instead of their own beliefs or convictions.
But consider the high tech polling approach --
Everyone in the audience has a remote polling device, like the audience in the "Love Connection" or "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". They punch in their answer to a multiple choice selection, and in a few moments, a graph pops up on screen showing the spread. No one in the audience knows who is entering what, so furtive glances to see how the rest of the audience is voting can be futile. You will get a less group-biased result with a high-tech audience polling system.
Audience polling vendors tell us that their products let presenters gauge in real-time how the audience feels or what they know. And that facilitators get to collect and analyze more objective data, more quickly and more efficiently.
So why haven't live audience polling devices haven't caught on in a major way?
The answer -- besides being much cheaper and easier to use, the low-tech polling methods are much better at generating live audience excitement and enthusiasm.
Think about a comedian presenting to a live audience. He tells a joke. Which option yields a quicker and more accurate audience reaction?
- High Tech Option:
For "Very Funny" press 5.
For "Somewhat Funny" press 3.
For "Not funny at all", press 1.
Survey says, "Mean Audience Reaction is 4.371."
- Low Tech Option:
Loud, instantaneous, bust-a-gut laughter.
The answer is obvious.
It's a little remote.
And let's consider the phrase "it's a little remote". You give your audience a little remote, and they become-- well -- a little remote. All nerdy and focused on the little electro gizmo and the spiffy graphic display.
Now compare/contrast "button pushing" with the action of throwing your hands wildly in the air or clapping your hands.
Which system lets you more accurately gauge, in real-time, emotions and enthusiasm? How does each approach make you FEEL?
So before you invest a penny in a high tech remote audience polling system for your live presentations, consider your presentation goals and the needs of your audience. Generating audience excitement and enthusiasm are often key presentation goals.
And like the comedian, a salesperson or trainer can often live quite nicely with the statistical error of a group dynamic. If the goal is to get people motivated and excited about performing a desired action (say, buying or trying) -- the salesperson or trainer won't want to take the focus off that intended action! A good presenter can use the group dynamic to help win the hearts of people who are more impressed by the way the rest of the audience reacts than by their own internal reasoning.
After all, people buy or try based on emotions, not on an objective, intellectual process. Use the bias of the group dynamic to help spread excitement and enthusiasm. This can trump the dispassionate act of punching a remote device, every time.
PowerPoint, Parody, and Viral Videos
When I see the new series of Geico TV commercials
that feature celebrities dramatically re-interpreting the emotions of ordinary incidents (Charo, Little Richard, Peter Graves, etc.), I am reminded of a presentation incident four years ago...
A client sent me a CD with a huge .wav file on it. The sound file was the voice of a professional actor -- the company hired him to dramatically read their product sales pitch.
At the time, I grinned when I heard the voice. So smooth. So polished. So dramatic. So recognizable.
And yet, he was talking so seriously....about software.
It made me laugh.
My client realized that the audio pitch sounded ridiculous, but here was this expensive bit of narration. Could I do anything with it?
Regrettably, the answer was "no".
The signed release for "the voice" noted that the recording was to be used for one specific purpose only. And my client had scrapped his original intention.
Sigh...I had dreamed about repurposing the file as a parody of a negative example. I would create a sales training video short around "the voice". The narrator would dramatically pitch the company's product via PowerPoint slides in a darkened room. I would use humor to demonstrate that artificially induced drama is not necessary to land a sale.
Alas, my client did not want to go back and re-negotiate the release. Too bad.
Today, I might have dreamed differently. With the actor's signed release, I might suggest to my client that we convert the audio to .mp3, post it online, and invite our web audience to participate in a contest where they create their own videos using the audio narration. People could post their video efforts for free at YouTube, and the videos that have been "favorited" the most after a certain amout of time would win the contest.
Stephen Colbert is currently trying out this viral video approach with his Green Screen challenge, and is receiving vociferous viral love for his efforts. But what about you or your company?
How can you use your audio / video assets to gain more online attention?
1) Review your signed release forms. Look for words like re-use, re-publish, and unrestricted rights -- they could be helpful if you want to use your media assets for multiple purposes.
2) Save the drama. Artificially induced drama is not necessary to tell a compelling story. My client took drama seriously, and got a humorous result that he could not use. Geico took the opposite approach to show that calm conversations can make a serious marketing impact.
3) Get viral. Use free services like YouTube and Google Video to help spread your marketing story in new ways.
Now, what audio narration do you have on-hand that your audience might enjoy re-purposing into a PowerPoint parody?