Lost in the Cloud

As you all know there hasn’t been too much activity here in the last year. As some of you may also know I have created a dozen screencasts or so and posted them here. I used an online service called ScreenToaster. I had created a screencast a long time ago that I never published and today I was going to post it. I had created the draft blog post a long time ago, basically all I needed to do was hit publish. As usual I previewed it before to make sure everything looked good…And it didn’t. Strange, I thought and tried going to www.screentoaster.com but there was nothing. Was the site down? I googled to see what I could find and there it was, ScreenToaster shut down last year.

Woot!! I don’t remember ever having gotten an email about this. It might have ended up in my spam. But what about all my screencasts I had stored on ScreenToaster. Where are they now?

Luckily for me when I created all the screencasts, ScreenToaster provided me with the option to download the .mov file, which I did. My screencasts were not lost, they are safe and sound on my personal hard drive.

Cloud services are great, but what happens to your content if the service shuts down.

The question is: Do you trust the cloud?

Scrum and Presentation Design – Part 4: Summary

Here is the fourth and last part of this multi-part series on Scrum and Presentation Design.

Part 1: Introduction to Scrum
Part 2: Vision, Constraints and User Stories
Part 3: Sprint Planning, Sprint and Sprint Review

In Part 4 we will summarize what we have learned in the previous three parts and show how the elements from Scrum can come together and help in a presentation design project.

Summary

The benefit of using scrum in software development is the reduction in risk. By using short iterations and frequent customer feedback it is possible to reduce the risk of building something no one wants. Short iterations and customer feedback provides for frequent opportunities for course correction and significantly improves the chances for success.

By applying this agile thinking to presentation design and using some of the elements or ideas from scrum when developing presentations it is possible to increase the chances that our presentation is well received. That is, it is appropriate for the audience, it is effective in conveying its purpose and provides a great experience for the audience.

Below is a summary of the different steps.

Step 1: Vision and Constraint

The first thing we need to do when designing a presentation is define our vision. Why are we giving this presentation. What is going to be the main takeaway, the one-liner. Without a clear vision we will most likely not achieve anything meaningful or important with our presentation.

We should also be aware of our constraints. How much time do we have? Do we have a budget? How much money can we spend? Are there any constraints on length, number of slides etc. (scope)?

Step 2: User Stories

User stories are basically about knowing your audience. It is about putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and say what would I like to get out of this presentation. They are written in the form: As a <user> I would like to <action>, so that <value>.

We must identify or specify who our <user> is or rather what characteristics are common for our audience. Are we speaking to high school students or retired people. We must identify what motivates them, <action> and what they value  to appeal to their emotions and create a stronger connection with them.

Step 3: Sprint Planning

In the sprint planning step we take the user stories and break them down into tasks or a to-do list. We also decide how many user stores we think we can complete in our sprint. As mentioned in part 3, in a presentation design project a sprint might be 3 days instead of the typical 2-4 weeks. Tasks might be to research high school dropout rates or popular retirement destinations. It might be picking a color scheme or fonts.

Step 4: Sprint

In the sprint we basically do the work we decided to do in Step 3.

Step 5: Sprint Review

Step 5 is really the key to adding agility to the presentation design process. We present the work we have done to potential customers or audience members. For example in our sprint we may have decided on a color scheme. We can then show this color scheme to potential audience members to get their feedback. Does it work? Is it appropriate? What do they feel when they see it? Is that what we want them to feel?

Depending on the feedback, we then either keep the color scheme or we make adjustments to find something that works. We would do this for all the things we have completed at the end of each sprint.

In the Sprint Review we should also take some time to evaluate our process. What works well and what could be improved. It could be our communication with team members or clients. It could be our file organization. It could be our schedule. All things that relate to our process, the goal being a continued optimization of the process to become ever more efficient.

Once we are done with all the steps we go back to Step 3 and iterate through Steps 3-5 until we have completed our presentation.

Scrum and Presentation Design Overview

Conclusion

I hope you have found some interesting takeaways in this 4 part series on Scrum and Presentation Design. The bottom line is to create presentations that are appropriate for the audience and are designed in the best way possible to have maximum impact to create positive change in the world and people’s lives. By applying agile thinking and some of the ideas presented in this 4 part series we will be one step closer to achieving that goal.

Let me know how your adventures in agile presentation design goes and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me :)

Scrum and Presentation Design – Part 3: Sprint Planning, Sprint and Sprint Review

Here is part three of the multi-part series on Scrum and Presentation Design.

Check out Part 1: Intro to Scrum here.

And Part 2: Vision, Constraints and User Stories here.

Step 3: Sprint Planning

When we get to Step 3 we have figured out what our vision is, what our constraints are and we have created prioritized user stories. In Step 3 in Scrum we will look at our list of user stories (project backlog) and determine how many of the items in the backlog we have capacity to complete in the next cycle or sprint. We must estimate the amount of work needed for the various items. In a software project the team is doing this. Once the team has determined what items to work on in the next sprint they take those user stories and break them down into tasks.

If we do have a team working on the presentation the  team would look at the list of user stories and decide how much they could do in the next sprint and create tasks from those user stories, just like in regular Scrum.

If you are working alone you do the same thing, you decide what user stories you think you can complete in the next sprint. It is basically like saying, I am going to work on this in the next x weeks (or whatever time period you decide for your sprint). You wold then break those user stories into tasks which is basically the same as a to do list. For example creating a color scheme is a task or researching fonts is another task.

Step 4: Sprint

In a software development project a sprint is typically 2 to 4 weeks long. In the Sprint Planning the team decides what user stories they think they can finish in the sprint.

In our presentation design world a sprint of 2 to 4 weeks might be too long. If we think of writing a speech then we have to have an opening, a body and a conclusion. Maybe we need three days to come up with an opening. The point is that it probably doesn’t take 4 weeks so you must decide on a sprint length that makes sense for your situation.

Now is a good time to remind you about the purpose of Scrum; To reduce risk. Since a software development project might go on for a long time before version 1 is ready there are many things that might change such as user preferences and technological advances. By breaking the work into sprints it is possible to get parts of the product in front of users for their feedback and quickly change direction if necessary. If we completed the whole project with no feedback then we will have spend months developing something people might not want and it will be very difficult to change direction or get a do-over.

Back to our presentation design world. By breaking down our work into sprints we also have the ability to get feedback from potential users, audience members. Let us say that we are writing a speech and in one sprint we create the opening. We can then in Step 5 test that opening on different people to get their feedback. If it doesn’t work then we can change it. If we didn’t do this we wouldn’t know until we were in front of our actual audience, which would be too late.

Another example could be if we are developing slides and we create our color scheme in one sprint. We can then test those colors on potential audience members to get their feedback. If needed we can change. If not, great.

Step 5: Sprint Review

The Sprint Review consists of two parts; one is presenting the implemented features to potential users and the other is a retrospective to evaluate the effectiveness of the team.

We have already touched on what the first part means in the previous section. We would get the parts we have completed in front of potential audience members to get their feedback and response. Maybe you have a particular story you have written that you want to include in your presentation. In your Sprint Review you could tell the story to potential audience members to get their feedback and gauge their response to the story.

In terms of the second part of a Sprint Review, the retrospective, in a presentation design project if you are working alone you can use this to evaluate your workflow, your sources, your procedures etc. If you are working with someone else, maybe a graphic designer then you would also discuss such things as communication within the team. Or maybe the sharing of documents and resources. Is it working well.

The point is to figure out what things are working really well and what can be done differently to be more efficient.

Summary

Once you have completed your sprint review you implement any changes to your process and start a new sprint working down the project backlog. That is, choosing a new set of user stories from the project backlog and working on those. You will then iterate like this until you have completed your presentation design. At this point you will be ready to deliver your presentation.

Stay tuned for the fourth and last part of this blog post series.

Scrum and Presentation Design – Part 2: Vision, Constraints and User Stories

Welcome to the second post in a multi-part series discussing the application of Scrum to Presentation Design. 

Read the first part here.

Step 1

Vision

The first step when starting a software development project using Scrum is the project vision. Why are we developing this product or service.

When designing a presentation the first step is exactly the same. Why are we designing this presentation. What is the purpose. If you don’t know the answer to this, you probably shouldn’t do it. You must have a vision. Some examples could be:

  • Changing people’s risk perception about investing in real estate.
  • Change people’s recycling habits.
  • Convince people to stop buying bottled water.
  • Inform people about the dire situation of the company’s financials.

These are all examples of why. Why are you doing this presentation.

Constraints

Another part of step one of the Scrum framework as described in part 1 is project constraints. There are three types of constraints; time, money and scope.

A presentation design project has those exact same constraints.

  • Time – we have a firm deadline we need to meet because that is when we are scheduled to present or that is when our client is scheduled to present.
  • Money – we only have a certain amount of money to spend on the design. Maybe we can’t buy all the stock photos we want. Maybe we can’t hire that graphic designer to help us out.
  • Scope – We only have 5 minutes for our presentation. We can only use 10 slides.

These three are in balance. You can’t research everything (scope) if you only have 1 week to prepare the presentation (time). If you have a limited budget you may have to reduce the scope of your project to afford high quality stock photos for the points you want to make. Or if you have a limited budget you may need more time to prepare because you have to create your own illustrations instead of buying them.

The point here is that it is important to know what constraints your project faces so you can plan correctly.

Step 2

User Stories

The second step in the Scrum framework is creating something called user stories. This is a way for us to put ourselves in our user’s shoes and view the product or service from their angle. A user story goes something like this: As a <user> I would like to <action>, so that <value>. Of course, we must swap out <user>, <action> and <value>. To be able to do this we must know who our user is, what they like to do and what they value. For example, as a working mom I would like to turn on the washing machine remotely, so that it is done when I get home and I don’t have to worry about it having more time to spend with the kids.

Applying this to presentation design is basically the same as know your audience. We must know who our <user> is, our audience members, what they like to do and what they value. This will help us tailor our presentation to our audience. It will determine what images to use, what colors to use, what words to chose, what to wear etc. Depending on who you are presenting to this might all be different. Since we are presenting for the audience we must put ourselves in their shoes to be able to see things from their point of view so we can provide them the most value.

In a presentation with the vision “Convince people to stop buying bottled water” we may be speaking to a group of high-school students in an environmental class. We could have a user story or audience story like this: As a high-school student I would like to make my parents stop buying bottled water, so that I can help protect the environment.

Now, what does that mean for your presentation. First, remember that you may have many different user stories and you must prioritize them. The story that fits the largest number of your audience would probably be on top. Back to our story, if a large group of the audience felt the same then you might want to make sure you talk about how to convince other people to stop buying/drinking bottled water, some easy and good arguments they can remember and how to address objections.

Summary

By applying parts of the Scrum framework to presentation design we have seen how important it is to start out with a vision. Knowing why you are giving/designing the presentation. We have also seen how important it is to know the project constraints to plan the work correctly and finally how important it is to know who your audience is and how you can best connect with them.

Stay tuned for part 3…

Scrum and Presentation Design – Part 1: Introduction to Scrum

Welcome to the first post in a multi-part series discussing the application of Scrum to Presentation Design. Now, most of you probably don’t know what Scrum is so this first post will provide a brief overview of Scrum. Then in subsequent posts we will see how we can use elements from Scrum when designing presentations.

What is Scrum?
Scrum is an agile software development framework.

Agile –adjective

  1. quick and well-coordinated in movement; lithe: an agile leap.
  2. active; lively: an agile person.
  3. marked by an ability to think quickly; mentally acute or aware: She’s 95 and still very agile.

Definition from – dictionary.com

Basically agile means the ability to change direction quickly, to be flexible. So when we talk about agile framework we mean a framework that enables a project the flexibility to change direction.

You see when we embark on a software project we do not know what the end result will look like. There is great uncertainty in the outcome and many external factors might change during the course of development, the most important one is the user’s needs. Others include new technologies might arise and different market conditions might exist.

Scrum is a tool that can be applied to software development to reduce those risks by applying an iterative process to the development that allows the project to change direction, receive input, learn from the past, review and improve. Iterations are called sprints.

Scrum ProcessImage Source: Wikipedia

Why use Scrum?
We touched on some of the reasons for using Scrum above. The main reason is to reduce the risk of the project. How do we reduce the risk? Basically we build products or services that users want. By incorporating continuous user feedback and short iterations we can easily change direction if the user changes his preferences/requirements.

How does it work?
Let us look at how Scrum works in more detail, the technical aspect of Scrum.
Scrum consists of three roles, three artifacts and three ceremonies
The three roles are:

  • Product Owner – responsible for the profitability of the product as well as defining the features and prioritizing them according to market value.
  • ScrumMaster – ensures that the team is fully functional and productive, responsible for removing barriers and makes sure the process is followed.
  • Team – a cross-functional (5-7 member) self-organized team.

The three artifacts are:

  • Project Backlog – a prioritized list of features required for the product or service.
  • Burndown Chart – shows the cumulative work remaining in a sprint, day-by-day.
  • Sprint Backlog – a subset of features to be worked on/implemented in the next sprint.

The three ceremonies are:

  • Spring planning – a meeting to determine how many of the features from the product backlog to implement in the coming sprint and translate those features into specific tasks.
  • Daily Scrum – a daily 15-minuted stand-up meeting where each member of the team answers 3 questions; what did you do yesterday, what will you do today and are there any obstacles. Thus everyone on the team is on the same page, knows what is going on and problems/obstacles can be surfaced early.
  • Sprint review – two part meeting where the first part is a demonstration of the shippable product/code developed in the last sprint and second part is a retrospective where the team works with the ScrumMaster to assess the way they worked together and identifies positive ways they worked together and strategies for improvement.

Any project consist of several steps.

Step 1. Project Vision, Business Goals, Project Constraints and Definition of Done.
Project Vision:
Why are we doing this project. Why are we developing this service. What is the purpose. This is the one-liner describing the purpose of the project – the why.

Business Goals:
What is it going to do. A prioritized list of what business goals we have for the project, measurable. For example increase sales of product x.

Project Constraints:
What are the constraints in this project. It could be time, we have a firm deadline to meet. It could be cost, we have a firm budget to adhere to. We can only spend so much. Or it could be scope, we can only do this many features.

Definition of Done:
When do we know when we are done with a sprint. It is important to have a clear definition of done before the project starts so we can measure our progress against it to know if we have accomplished what we said we would.

Step 2. User Stories/Project Backlog
What should our product or service be able to do. Basically what features do we need in our product or service. This should be driven by user needs so we make sure we build products and services that customers/users actually want to use. To do this we can create user stories. They take the form of:

As a <user> I would like to <action>, so that <value>

For example if we are building/developing a tablet computer we might have a user story like this:

As a hobby photographer I would like to easily transfer my photos to the tablet so that I can edit, organize and share them on the fly.

It will then be up to the team to figure out how to implement this feature.

As you can see we replaced the <user> with hobby photographer. When creating user stories we must be specific about who the user is, not just call them users. To figure out who our users are we can create personas.

Step 3. Sprint Planning
In the sprint planning the team decides how many of the features/items from the product backlog they have capacity to complete in the next sprint and add those to the sprint backlog. The team then goes on to break the sprint backlog into tasks.

Step 4. Sprint
The team works on the tasks defined in the sprint planning. There is a the daily scrum meeting where any obstacles are raised and everyone communicates about their work to ensure the team is on the same page.

Step 5. Sprint Review
As mentioned above this is where features that are done (according to the definition of done) is previewed to stakeholders, users, and others. And where the team does a retrospective to see what worked, what isn’t working and what adjustments should be made to improve performance for the next sprint.

After this celebrate the success. Then go back to Step 3 and start over with a new sprint. Figure out what features to work on, break them into tasks, implement any process improvements, go through the sprint, do another sprint review. Iterate through until the product (version) is complete.

Hopefully this brief overview gave you a better understanding of Scrum and how it is applied to software development. In the next parts of this blog-post series we will see how we can take elements from this Scrum framework and apply those same principles and steps to presentation design.  Stay tuned for Part 2.

This was a very simple overview of Scrum and if you would like to learn more about Scrum here a few good starting points.
Scrum Allicance
Scrum on Wikipedia

PowerPoint – A Document Creation Tool?

We frequently hear about how you should never use PowerPoint to create a document; many times referred to as a Slideument. Slideument was a phrase coined by presentation expert/guru Garr Reynolds. It is used to describe a PowerPoint or slideshow that is overloaded with information and looks more like a document than a slideshow that is then presented to an audience.

I fully support this view and belief that PowerPoint should never be used to present slideuments/documents. What we often forget is the key difference between presenting a document and creating a document. We should never present a document, that is we should never create a slideument. However, that doesn’t mean we can;t use PowerPoint to create documents. They could be saved as a PDF and used as a handout, brochure, report or whatever.

You might say, well PowerPoint is a presentation tool and not a document creation tool. We shouldn’t use it for something it wasn’t meant for. Instead we should use a tool made for document creation.

That is all nice and well but let’s take a moment to look at what tools we have for creating documents. Most people have only one; Microsoft Word. Some other people might have Adobe InDesign.

Adobe InDesign
Adobe InDesign is an awesome tool for creating documents. It is a true page layout tool. However, it is a feature packed software that is not intuitive to use without fairly significant training of the user. It is not really a tool that you can just open up and start using. At least most people can’t. Because of this and because most people don’t have Adobe InDesign this is not a real alternative. If you do create a large amount of documents then maybe buying InDesign and signing up for a class is the right thing to do, but for most presenters it is not worth the time and effort to learn this tool.

Microsoft Word
Most people that use PowerPoint have Microsoft Office installed and thus Microsoft Word available on their computer. In my opinion Word is great for writing page after page of text but as soon as you try to add any kind of graphical elements to the document Word gets a mind of its own. Typically Word thinks it knows best where graphical elements should be places as opposed to where you are trying to place them. I do not consider Word a page layout tool it is more like a text capture tool. So this is not a great alternative for people either.

Basically people have tools they know how to use that are very poor tools for document creation or they don’t have time, energy or desire to learn a new great tool for document creation.  Therefore people have created a new path, using a tool that they are familiar with that has many elements similar to a page layout tool; PowerPoint.

PowerPoint basically gives you a blank page (after you apply the blank slide template) where you can add elements like charts, tables, text boxes, images etc. anywhere you like just like in InDesign. InDesign obviously has many more features and is much more robust and suited for document creation than PowerPoint, but PowerPoint is a good substitute for most people.

Now if there were only a way to lock down the ability show those documents as slideshows it would be perfect :)

Blogging Break

Dear Readers,

I have not been blogging much lately and for that I do apologize. There are a lot of personal things going on in my life right now with myself and my family. Therefore I will be taking a blogging break for a while, probably for the next month or so. I hope to come back stronger and better after my break and look forward to connecting with you all again then. Feel free to contact me at anytime with any questions or comments you may have.

See you soon!!

Kristian

Before-After: Asymetry

When arranging elements on a slide it is very common to go with a symmetrical design where all elements are placed in a symmetrical fashion such as center aligned on the slide. This is seen in the “Before” slide below. This is okay but very common and lacks impact and excitement.

Another way to arrange the elements is in an asymmetrical fashion or with asymmetrical balance. This happens when contrasting elements are arranged in such a way that the weight of the whole visual still appears balanced. This can be seen in the “After” slide below.

Assymetrical balance among elements can be an effective way to guide viewers through the design.

Before:

Before - Symmetrical Balance

After:

After - Asymmetrical Balance

Source: Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen Design

Image Sources: Gastonmag & krits

Slides Reuse Feature PowerPoint 2010

It has been too long since I have posted and for that I apologize. I didn’t take the time to post while on vacation in Norway. Anyway, I am back and today’s blog post is about the “Slides Reuse” feature of PowerPoint 2010.

Sometimes you may want to reuse a particular slide from another presentation you made before. Instead of having to open this presentation and copy/paste the slide from one presentation to the other, you can use the built in “Slide Reuse” feature of PowerPoint.

1. While working on a presentation in Normal view, be sure that you are looking at the “Slides” tab in the left hand side and click between the slides where you want to insert a slide from another presentation.

PowerPoint Presentation

2. On the “Home” tab, click on the little arrow (the bottom part) of the “New Slides” button in the “Slides” group. In the drop-down choose “Reuse Slides” at the bottom.

Insert New Slide

3. The Slide Reuse pane will open on the right side of the window. You will have the option to insert a slide from another presentation or from a slide library. Here we will use another PowerPoint file.

Reuse Slides Pane

4. Browse to the presentation that contains the slide you want to reuse. Click “Open”.

Browse for Presentation

5. All the slides from this presentation shows up in the Slide Reuse pane on the right side.

Slide Reuse Pane with Open Presentation

6. Click on the slide you want to insert. The slide is inserted in between the slides you chose in 1.

Presentation with Inserted Slide

You can click on another slide if you want use more slides from this presentation or browse to a different presentation or just close the Slide Reuse pane to continue working on your presentation.