Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Create a Mind-Changing Presentation

Reading this blog article will take you only 12 minutes — 12 minutes to find out how to draft great presentations and to become a more effective and convincing presenter. Twelve minutes which can change your professional – and most likely – also your personal life.
So, what´s the reason for this article? Last week I attended (another) of those meetings where most of the speakers stared 80% of the time at the screen just to read every single bullet point on each of their cluttered slides. I believe that after three minutes tops the audience fell in a deep trance and was neither able nor willing to follow many of the presentations any longer.
I am not the most talented speaker nor presenter. Over the years, however, I have continuously worked on improving both the quality of my slides and my presentation skills. With focus and vigor I thoroughly prepared and rehearsed each presentation. After each meeting I would have asked – and I'm still doing it today — colleagues and team members for their honest feedback to improve again for the next one.
Besides that, there are two experts who have strongly influenced my way of delivering speeches and presentations. I have not visited any of their — nor any other related — seminars. Instead I read their books, and practiced, practiced, practiced.
One of them is communication expert Nancy Duarte who wrote two excellent books on the subject: "Slide:ology" and "Resonate." I strongly suggest you read at least "Slide:ology." To get a taste of her approach watch the following short video clip.
The second person who strongly encouraged me to think differently and more creatively about the preparation, design, and delivery of presentations is designer and communication expert Garr Reynolds. His beautiful book "Presentation Zen" combines solid principles of design with the tenets of Zen simplicity. It is very clear, direct, takes just a few hours to read and can help you to save days of work by developing straightforward and very effective presentations.

Some of Garr's key points:

Use multimedia wisely. Presentations must be both verbal and visual. Don´t overwhelm your audience with too much information, animations and pictures. Question: Can your visual be understood in 3 seconds? If not, don't use it!

Include short stories to explain your main points. The best presenters illustrate their points with the use of stories, especially personal ones. Stories are easy to remember for your audience.

Respect your audience. There are three components involved in a presentation: the audience, you, and the medium (e.g. PowerPoint). The goal is to create a kind of harmony among the three. But above all, the most important thing is that you get your audience involved and engaged.

Limit your ideas to one main idea per slide. If you have a complicated slide with lots of different data, it may be better to break it up into 2-3 different slides.

Move away from the podium. Connect with your audience. If at all possible get closer to your audience by moving away from or in front of the podium.

Take it slowly. When we are nervous we tend to talk too fast. Get a videotape of one of your presentations to see how you did — you may be surprised at the pace of your talk.

Keep the lights on. If you are speaking in a meeting room, etc. the temptation is to turn the lights off so that the slides look better. Turning the lights off — besides inducing sleep — puts all the focus on the screen. The audience should be looking at you more than the screen.

In addition I have two final pieces of advice:

Keep it simple. Avoid cluttered slides. Be brave and use lots of "white space" or, how the pros call it, "negative space." The less "chunk“ you have on your slide, the more powerful your message will become. Already Leonardo da Vinci knew: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Talk "to" the audience. Never turn your back towards the audience. You do not want to conduct a monologue with the screen. Look at your audience instead and make good eye contact. Try looking at individuals rather than scanning the group.

Well, how have you experienced the last 12 minutes? Have you enjoyed it? Are you now ready to embark on the exciting journey to draft and deliver really mind-changing presentations?

I bet that you are! I bet that you can do it! And I bet that you will do it!

Best regards,

Andreas von der Heydt | Consumer Goods Club

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Top 7 Delivery problems in IT Projects

Top 7 Delivery problems in IT Projects

1. Not Enough time

Whether it’s a misunderstanding of the complexity of computer system designs or some other reason, many times little time is devoted to gathering the necessary data. Because this is one of the first steps in the process, when adequate time isn’t given to data collection, everything else suffers.
Likewise, enough time is rarely allotted to creating a good design. While the planning stage may not offer the excitement that development does, it is equally, if not more, important. Lack of planning in the design phase almost always leads to ongoing changes during the development phase. When this happens, budget dollars and man-hours are eaten away.

2. Open the lines of Communication

It sounds like a cliché, but communication is absolutely vital to the success of any project. The communication between the development team and the users, and also the communication inside the development team must be crystal clear. Does everyone understand you? Do they know exactly what’s expected of them or have you assumed they know? Do they communicate well with each other? With users? With other departments?

3. Testing a new program in Production Server

Testing in the production server leads to a breach of security, which can lead to “immediate” release without testing which can ultimately disrupt the production environment.

4. Inadequate Testing

Experience and studies show that testing is almost always pushed to the end of the development cycle. Since the development is usually bad, the testers run out of time. The result? Running over schedule and over budget. Not to mention the release of an inadequate product.

5. Pressing the button too tight

When you have unrealistic goals for a project’s budget to start with, chaos is bound to set in. Departments fall behind, resources are slow to arrive, and – because of budget constraints – the project, once again, runs off the road.

6. Never/Rarely checking the progress of the project

As the project goes along, the unexpected happens. Various people implement their ideas as to how to fix these challenges and – when launch day comes – you’re surprised with an entire list of challenges that need your immediate attention.

7. Not reviewing existing standards

Do most or all of your projects run late and over budget? Do you keep the same standards in place time after time? How’s that working for you? If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you get. Let’s face it, things change, and if you want to keep pace, you have to change, too.