Thursday, April 29, 2010

Exactly My (Power) Point!

I enjoyed Dona Wong's response to the NY Times article about PowerPoint.

Bulletpoints may lead to the demise of society, but probably not.

Does the format/tool you use make it easy for your audience to understand (and act on) your message? If the answer is "Yes", then you're using the right tool, whether it's PowerPoint, Word, email, just you on a podium with Arcade Fire playing in the background...

It's not the tool, it's the story you tell and the way you tell it. Even my kid knows that!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SocialMediaPlus Business Summit- See you there!

I'll be attending the SocialMediaPlus Business Summit in Philadelphia on May 25th. If you see me there, let me know you read my blog. I would love to talk with you about making information easier to find and use via social media, the internet, and other technological "advances".

If you're interested in attending too, you can register here:
SocialMediaPlus Business Summit - RegOnline

There is still an early bird registration special of $395 (through Friday). I used the coupon code PBJ15 to get an additional 15% off the registration fee- they're giving that discount to the first 20 registrants- so hurry!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jobs and Blogs, Blogs and Jobs

I'm in transition. I'm looking for new opportunities. I'm insert euphemism here. Anything but unemployed. I'm trying to connect my next role to the theme of this blog, to my personal passion- I want to make information easy to find and use.

The problem I've run into on several interviews is the standard response I hear: "It sounds like you haven't figured out what you want to do". The interviewer leaves one minor point unsaid: "because it doesn't sound like you should be doing this job".

There are many jobs where I can apply my skills and passion to make it easier (for employees, for customers) to find and use information. I don't have a job title in mind; I'm happy to let a company figure that out and I'll explain how I can help them. But it's a hard sell when the skill set and philosophy don't clearly meet the job requirements.

Maybe the interviewers have a point- I should focus on finding (or creating) a role where the primary goals fit what I do and believe, rather than take a job and figure out how to apply my philosophy. As a job seeking objective, that will get my next company a great new employee and make me a happy member of the team.

Still, making information easy to find and (especially) use can be applied to many roles, processes, and tools- even yours. That's what my blog is about.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What's Cooking?

How about Pan-roasted Halibut from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook?

Let's see halibut, salt, oil, more oil, more salt. Simple, elegant, delicious...if the halibut is great. (and mine will be- here's a shoutout to my friends at Floyd Alderfer's at our local Farmer's Market)

The halibut is your message, your content, your information. If it's great and you don't overpower it in sauce, then people will want to eat at your home every night. If it's not, don't serve it!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kid Stuff

My 10-year-old is working on his 4th grade project- a presentation on the Battle of Antietam. He visited this Civil War battle site, learned about it, took pictures, and did research on the Internet and at the Library.

Last night he practiced his draft presentation. He created a PowerPoint presentation with words sweeping in from all angles (kids love that!), a lot of random facts, and no context or story. I've actually seen similar presentations in business settings, minus the flying text!

We talked about it. What is the main thing you want your class to know? (Answer: it was America's bloodiest day). Are there things the class would know about that you could compare the number of casualties to? (Answer: D-Day, 9/11). Can you incorporate your visit to the battlefield to make your presentation more like an interesting and relevant story? (Answer: we dipped our feet in Antietam Creek, which ran red with blood the day of the battle)

I hope he learned something about delivering information and public speaking. The presentation is a little bit better and I think it will be more fun for him and his classmates.

You're never too young to learn to get your message across to the audience.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Great Minds...Post Alike!

I was going to talk about writing effective emails today, but since Oliver Fontana just did, I'll point to his Less is More Email post at Power Presentations.

Purpose, Actions, Supporting Info: Sounds right to me and, since Less is More, I'll leave it at that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Only Place

I love it when information is easy to find and use. When I'm shopping, if I can quickly compare prices and features of relevant products, I'm happy. When buying airline tickets, I like to go to Kayak to compare airlines, prices, and schedules to find the best fit for my needs.

So why is Southwest bragging that their web site is The Only Place to find and buy a ticket on their airline? The Only Place. The Only Place, repeated about 10 times in their 30-second commercial. Maybe they think if they say it enough, I'll assume it's a good thing.

If I know I want to use Southwest, that's fine; I'll go to their site and buy my ticket. But as a consumer, I want to compare my options and choose the best one for me. Southwest is making me go to at least 2 sites by being The Only Place- that's more time spent searching, writing data down, figuring things out, and making a decision.

Southwest acts like they're doing me a favor by being The Only Place. How are they helping me by excluding their flight information from the travel aggregator sites?

Finding the best travel arrangements is complicated. I want to go to One Place, but that place is unlikely to be Southwest's web site.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tools of the Trade: Project Charter

When I manage projects, I like to keep my team focused on project business goals and timeframes, while minimizing the amount of information they need to deal with to deliver. In a project, you have a Business Problem and Solution and I keep them front and center in every meeting and discussion. Most importantly I create a simple Project Charter and get agreement from the team and project sponsors to use it as the guide for what we do and how we do it.

The Project Charter consists of :
  • a simply stated Project Background and Business Problem (3-4 sentences)
  • the proposed Solution (2-3 sentences)
  • major milestones, with timelines
  • key expected Issues and Risks (5 bulletpoints or less)
  • Project team members, roles, and contact information
  • Project oversight committee members, roles and contact information
  • Communication Plan (communication types, methods, roles in a simple table)
One page is the ideal, but the Charter usually rolls into a second page.

I use the Charter to initiate the project and I point to it when we need to figure out how to handle problems, whether to change the Project Plan or Design, and how to know if we're on track to provide a real Business Solution.

To me, projects are about solving real business problems, rather than simply implementing technology or process because it's on our annual objectives. The Project Charter helps the team and the oversight group make sure we deliver something valuable.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Speakers Speaking in Code

Just got back from my one-day Digital Fast and I'm starving! It wasn't that hard to stay away from the computer and keep my cell phone off the whole day. Maybe it was because I was sick and stayed in bed most of the day reading? Regardless, it's a nice exercise to try and limit your bit consumption and to recognize how much time is spent (wasted?) on your digital equipment.

In other exciting news, I saw an amazing Wilco concert this weekend in Philly- 3+ hours, nearly 40 songs on a Saturday night. Talk about just the right amount of information...(okay, that was a reach, even for me).

I'll be back soon with a tool I use for making sure I don't overload my project teams with information and keep them focused on our project goals.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How not to keep your customers

In my last post, I wrote about providing the right amount of information, which is subjective when reviewing content, but becomes much clearer when using the content, i.e. in context.

For the past 2 days I've been trying to renew my Norton Internet Security subscription, with no luck. The Express Renewal option didn't make it clear when my credit card would (or would not) be charged. Since I wanted to apply a discount code, this was problematic. Say what you want about Ticketmaster, at least they make it clear whether your credit card will be charged as you proceed through their ticket purchase workflow. Norton's Express Renewal workflow provided too little information.

I went directly to the Norton web site so that I could renew my subscription and apply the discount code. I ended up on a purchase page that let me apply the code, but didn't let me complete the purchase. Maybe there was a problem with their site, maybe there was a problem with my purchase- regardless, I was not given any indication or error message that would help me give my money to Norton (Symantec)- again, too little information.

I then tried the Contact Us page and was faced with a lengthy form to complete in order to chat or even send an email (assuming I wouldn't mind waiting 48 hours for their response). Suddenly Norton decided I needed to provide them with too much information, to figure out what the problem was.

So what's the cost of not have the right amount of information? In my case, it's $50-60 that Norton lost because I couldn't complete the simplest transaction on their site.

After close to a (frustrating) hour trying to renew my Norton subscription, I went to the McAfee site and completed my purchase (including discount) in under 10 minutes.

Sorry Norton- now I'm a McAfee customer.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Less that is More

I had a job interview this morning for a project manager position at a local IT consulting firm. During our conversation I heard myself become overly animated when talking about my Less is More philosophy and how I apply it to managing projects- meetings, presentations, project documents. I babbled so much that the interviewer probably thought I was the poster child for More is Less! 

I think the interviewer got it, and maybe even appreciated my enthusiasm, but he also asked how my approach to creating project plans fits with my "KISS" philosophy (his term, not mine). My project plans start at the highest level of project components and work their way down to the gory details, as much as is needed to capture a clear task, even one that has multiple simple parts.

The goal of Less is More is to provide the minimal amount of information to help people understand the message and act on it appropriately. In other words, Less can still be A Lot in some cases.

The Less that is More is relative to the typical quantity of information that people provide, which obfuscates more than it clarifies. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Less is More- Extreme Edition

The folks at Stepcase Lifehack are challenging us to go on a digital fast, and I'm going to take them up on their offer.

If Less is More, is Nothing the Most?

I don't know but I'm sure my family has an opinion when it comes to digital matters. And the truth might set me free!

Your message is not only competing with everything else you're presenting, but also against everything else out there in the virtual swamp. Maybe taking a day off will clarify just how much of your attention is spent down in the bayou.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

YouTube Redesign

Another vote for Less is More from the folks at Tendo, this one on the recent YouTube redesign. Siobhan Nash points out that the clean new look with less unnecessary information is more engaging and easier to understand and navigate. It will be interesting to see if the redesign really pulls more people into the site (because YouTube doesn't have enough users!), engages them, and helps them find the things they're looking for.

Monday, April 5, 2010

"The less-is-more world is here. Get used to it."

Mike Elgan writes about the iPad paradox and argues that customers want great features, not just more features

Whether we're talking about the content or the technology that delivers it, making a simple, great product will solve your customers' problems rather than giving them new headaches.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Alan Siegel's credit card agreement redesign

This is what I'm talking about- make the information easy to read, to understand, and to use!

TED Blog: Alan Siegel's credit card agreement redesign

Here's Alan Siegel's TED talk. I love the simple comparison of the length of the Constitution vs. the Health Care bill- a simple attention-getter.