Category Archives: MYTECHGENIE

Three Presentation Mistakes

Last weekend I attended the Southern Alberta Library Conference. I really enjoy this conference, the speakers are great and the topics really relevant to my volunteer work with the Redcliff Public Library. So what does this have to do with presentation mistakes? It was interesting to see the kind of presentation mistakes that speakers who are good at presenting make.

Mistake Number 1

Our old friend – too much text on the slide. Even good speakers do this, even though they shouldn’t. I suspect because they worry about leaving something out of their presentation.

All the sentences, all the text
All the text, nothing missing. (Dummy text courtesy the Bacon Ipsum generator)

Once again, I’d like to join my voice to all the presentation experts telling you NOT to put all your text on the slide. But, I know it will happen anyway, so what can we do to improve a slide like this?

Remove Bullets

Bullet points add nothing
Same slide – fewer bullets

If you are going to write full sentences with punctuation, then bullets are completely unnecessary. They take the viewer’s eye away from the content of the sentence. Save bullet points for sentence fragments, which is what they are designed for.

One Sentence Per Slide

One sentence per slide
Give each Sentence its’ own slide

Help the audience focus its’ attention by restricting yourself to one sentence per slide at a time.

Position Sentence Text

Control Text Wrapping
Control text wrapping to effectively position your message

There is no rule in PowerPoint (or any presentation software) that requires you to use the default text wrapping. Add line breaks to force text to wrap for greater readability and easier recall. Notice how the ham jumps out from the rest of the text, when it is forced onto its’ own line. Think about the part of the sentence you wish to emphasize and add line breaks accordingly. Also, if the sentence is on its’ own slide, there will be room to do this.

Mistake Number 2

Smart Art can cause problems of its’ own. In particular, the seductive way it shrinks text to fit into the graphic makes people forget to edit. (See mistake number 1)

Smart Art can be a problem
Smart Art isn’t as smart as you think

Also, the default colour schemes means a lovely rainbow of colours. How is this a bad thing you ask? Well, inevitably you get a colour combination like point three in the graphic above. White text on a yellow background. That’s readable on a computer monitor, but when projected onto a screen it doesn’t have enough contrast.
The rainbow effect above, does something else as well. It wastes the potential usefulness of those colours. Colour is a great way of adding organization and hierarchy to a presentation. In the slide above, perhaps green refers to free-range meat, blue to fish, yellow to poultry, red to spicy foods, and I have no idea what pink would refer to. Because there is no organization being used here, just the random default applied by Smart Art.
Ignoring the organizational impact of colour, is like leaving money on the table.

Mistake Number 3

This last mistake is a little bit of mistake 1 AND mistake 2 combined, and it comes from using Smart Art process graphics like the one below:

Smart Art Process graphic
Here is a process with multiple steps and a lot of text.
Every time, a process graphic like this leads to the speaker saying “I know this is hard to read, but”.
Hmmm, yes it IS hard to read, but I can understand the desire to help people understand the flow of a process. So why not introduce your process in a series of slides like this:
Showing a step in a process
Introduce your process in a series of slides.

In this sample slide I’ve taken the process and reduced to a smaller graphic in the top left corner. Here it will act as a map to show people where we are. I’ve toned down the colours of the steps that are not being talked about on this slide. I’ve left the bright blue alone, because we are talking about the blue step on this slide. I’ve cut out the blue step and enlarged it, so the text will be easier to read. It is easy to imagine each step in turn being featured on a separate slide and highlighted on the map.

Once again, thanks to everyone who spoke at the Southern Alberta Library Conference. I learn a lot about how to be a better library board member every time I attend. And, if you are a resident of Alberta; consider volunteering in your local library. It really is the best volunteer gig around. Such a positive environment that really makes a difference in the community!

I offer presentation design services and coaching. Feel free to send me an email.

Flash Fill

Flash Fill is a new tool introduced in Excel 2013. Its a simple tool to handle a frequent problem. You have a small set of data and you need to break it apart into separate columns or join separate columns of data together.

Previously, I would have handled it with a series of text functions in Excel (LEFT, RIGHT, MID) combined with FIND and LEN if the data was complex enough. But if the data set is small, writing a formula sometimes seems like an overly complicated answer to a simple problem (why not just retype?).

Now Flash Fill is stepping in to help you handle this problem. If you give it a series of data (column orientation only) and an example of the pattern you want to extract, it will extract the data for you.

Flash Fill in action
Flash Fill captures the first names only from the adjacent column

You can see once the second name is typed in the column adjacent to the list of full names, Flash Fill is able to see the pattern and offer all the first names in the list. Pressing enter autocompletes the action and the names are filled in. To do this, there can not be more than two blank columns between the source data and the resulting column. You can use the Ctrl + e shortcut to start flash fill.

Flash Fill Icon
Note the Flash Fill Icon displaying after the Ctrl + e shortcut was used.

You can click the Flash Fill icon to display the menu, accepting the suggestions will have all the names autocomplete.

The Flash Fill menu will display if the icon is clicked
The Flash Fill Menu

Here is an even trickier scenario, in the list above some names have two middle initials. Using the “default” flash fill means only the second initial will display in those names. However if I return to any of the names on the list (with two initials) and correct the example to two initials, all of the two initials examples will be extracted.

Two initials with Flash fill
Flash Fill double initial example

I find that seriously impressive.

I can split data in a cell into multiple columns and I can also use Flash Fill to join multiple columns of data together.

Flash Fill concatenation
Joining separate columns using Flash Fill

The same technique used above. Note that I’ve been able to add commas and periods to the text as well.

Formatting via Flash Fill
Using Flash Fill to apply formatting

In the same way, I can use Flash Fill to apply formatting, in this case putting a space between the first and second part of a postal code. You can also use it to format telephone numbers and date information.

PowerPoint: Save a Slide as a JPG

Do you like those inspiring combinations of words and pictures you see on many social media sites?

Photo courtesy of National Archives of Canada. Children Reading Art books 1931-1959. Superimposed quote "There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love oa books is hte best of all. - Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis"
Photo courtesy of National Archives of Canada. Children Reading Art books 1931-1959. Quote courtesy of ebookfriendly.com

You can use PowerPoint to combine pictures and words and then use the Save As command. Select the JPG type.  Perfect for  uploading to your social media feeds. Here’s a  link to the PowerPoint template  sized for Twitter pictures I used to create the above  sized for Twitter pictures I used to create the picture above. You are welcome to download and use it.

Also, here’s a link to the image search page at the Library and Archives Canada.  And for my fellow book nerds – quotes about reading.

 

Excel: Frozen

Freezing panes is a basic tool to make a large spreadsheet easier to work with. In my social media spreadsheet I like to freeze the header row into position. Then no matter how far I scroll down the sheet, the columns are labelled.

To turn on frozen panes, select the cell below the row & column you wish to freeze into position. Since I don’t want to freeze any columns, I select cell A2.

Freezing Panes using the Active Cell position
Freezing Panes using the Active Cell position

Select the View Ribbon, Click on the Freeze Panes button, and choose Freeze Panes (or Freeze Top Row in this scenario).

Freezing Panes Results
Freezing Panes Results

Now you can scroll for hundreds of rows, and each column is nicely labelled – no guessing!

Excel: Select Visible (2)

The Select Visible Cells Only button on the Quick Access Toolbar
The Select Visible Cells Only button on the Quick Access Toolbar

The Select Visible Cells Only function is so useful, I like to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) in Excel. These instructions are based on Excel 2010, but will be similar in all current versions of Excel.

Quick Access Toolbar Customization
Quick Access Toolbar Customization

The Quick Access Toolbar starts in the top right corner of the Excel window.  The customize button is circled in red. Clicking on that button displays the menu shown below.

Move the QAT under the ribbon
Move the QAT under the ribbon

The first change I like to make is to its’ position. I like to move it under the Ribbon, since there will be more room for buttons there. Over time I tend to fill the QAT up with frequently used tools.

After I move the QAT below the ribbon, I go hunting for useful commands to add.  Click the More Commands… option and the Customize the Quick Access Toolbar dialog opens up.

Customize the Quick Access Toolbar - Popular Commands
Customize the Quick Access Toolbar – Popular Commands

The dialog box defaults to Popular Commands.  Try scrolling through this list and find the Format Painter. Press the Add button, to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar. This is a useful tool to have at hand!

By clicking on the Choose commands from drop-down list, a selection will be displayed.

Drop-down list of source commands.
Drop-down list of source commands.

Select All Commands from this list. Hundreds of Excel commands will display, and this is where it is useful to know the name of the command you are looking for. Scroll until you find Select Visible Cells.

Finding the Select Visible Cells command
Finding the Select Visible Cells command

Select it, Click on the Add button, and click OK.

Simply select the cells you wish to copy and press the Select Visible Cells button. Paste your information and only what you see will be pasted.

Excel: Select Visible (1)

I built my Social Media spreadsheet in an Excel spreadsheet with all the tools I want built in (formulas, conditional formatting and data validation). Ultimately, I will transfer my information into a stripped down spreadsheet in csv (comma separated) format. This is the format that Google Calendars will accept.

When I transfer my posts to this spreadsheet, I don’t want to include any blank rows AND I only want to copy and paste once. How do I perform this little piece of magic? I use the Excel command for selecting visible cells only.

Go To Special Dialog, select Visible cells only
Go To Special Dialog, select Visible cells only

Tucked away in the Go To Special dialog is the option for selecting only the visible cells in a region. This takes what could be multiple copy/paste operations and condenses them into one step.

First filter your data so that blanks do not appear, then press the F5 function key to bring up the Go To dialog box.

GoTo Dialog - Special Button
GoTo Dialog – Special Button

Press the Special button to open the Go To Special dialog box, choose Visible cells only and press OK. Now when you copy the selected cells, only the cells you can see are copied.

In my next post I’ll show the method to put this useful button on your Quick Access Toolbar.

 

Excel: Filtering in action

SortandFilter
Finding the Filtering button

Since Excel 2007, the Filter tool has been on the Home ribbon, under the Sort and Filter drop-down. The Filter tool can be applied to any spreadsheet where every row is a new record. Excels’ guesses about what and how to filter will be more accurate if the data has a header row. Your (human) life will be easier if you give that row a little formatting to make it stand out from the data.

If your data has gaps, select all the data (including the header row) and apply the filter. Once the filter has been applied, little triangles will appear beside each header label.

Filtering Drop-Down panel
Filtering Drop-Down panel

Now you can use each header to filter the data.  Click on the filter drop-down and the panel will open as you can see in the picture above. Clear the check boxes beside the entries you don’t want to see. Then click the OK button. You can spot filtered data, because the row headers will be bright blue (and row numbers will be missing as data is filtered out). The columns where filtering is applied will have a filter icon (circled in red in the picture).

Filtering Applied
Filtering Applied

Once the filters are in place, I can filter out blanks or filter blanks in to find openings in our social media schedule. I can quickly look for Posts and Tweets with images, to ensure the image information is present. I can filter down to a single subject. All of these filters make managing my posting schedule MUCH easier.

Excel: Validate!

Data Validation dropdown
Data Validation drop-down

When building my Social Media spreadsheet, I want to enter my subject keywords and trigger keywords consistently. Minor typos can make it difficult to find all the relevant posts and worse; prevent scheduled posts, tweets and pins from being published on time. This is why I find the Data Validation feature in Excel so useful. As you can see in the picture above, once Data Validation is in action, my data entry is restricted to a preset list of options.

DataValidationRibbon
Find the Data Validation tool on the Data ribbon

Since Excel 2007, the Data Validation tool has been on the Data Ribbon. Simply select the cells you want to apply Data Validation to and press the Data Validation button and select Data Validation. Then the Data Validation Settings dialogue box will appear.

Data Validation Settings
Data Validation Settings

To keep the active sheet “clean”, I use a named range on another sheet as my data source (I’ve talked about that previously). Here you can see it’s called PostTypes. But you can enter short lists directly into the Source box:

DataValidationSettings2
The list entered into the source box, each item separated by a comma.

However, I find in the long run (especially for long lists) keeping the list source on another sheet makes maintenance easier.

Excel: Concatenation for the Social Nation

Concatenation results
Concatenation results

As I’ve worked more with scheduling posts, tweets and pins, I’m trying to make the most of the Subject line used by Google Calendar.

Google Calendar Subject line
Google Calendar Subject line

I’ve found that if I combine a meaningful keyword describing the post(or tweet, or pin) plus the phrase that triggers the IFTTT action, then managing the scheduled posts once they are uploaded into Google Calendar is a bit easier. It also makes it easier when I’m filtering and managing the spreadsheet too.

In my spreadsheet I use a separate column each for subject keyword and for subject trigger phrases (actually I’m paring those down to keywords too). But I want them joined together to create the actual subjects. To do this, I use the Excel CONCATENATION function. Which is most simply represented by the & symbol. In the example at the beginning of the post you can see the formula:

=B103& ” ” &C103

In this case I’m using the & symbol to join the values of cells B103 and C103 together with the string ” ” in the middle to create a nice space between words. This allows the subject phrase to be created automatically once I’ve selected the subject and trigger keywords.