Author: chrisbell

Starters for Ten are our gift to you. Thought provoking, moderately controversial opening slides to set your presentation off on the right foot. At least, a different foot to the other guy. And the guy before him.

What you see here is available to download as an annotated PowerPoint slide. You can subscribe to updates or send us ideas for more.

jeans slideLevi Strauss is one of the world’s most recognizable brands. After over 200 years in business, their jeans are marketed globally as ‘Originals’. But how ‘original’ are they?

The strong indigo cotton fabric from which they are made was originally produced in the southern French city of Nimes from the mid 1600’s. Denim is a contraction of ‘serge de Nimes’. The first denim trousers were made in Genoa some hundred years or so before Levi Strauss set up their business in San Francisco. The word ‘jean’ is an Anglicization of ‘Genoa’ or ‘Genovese’.

In fact, pretty much the only original things about Levi’s jeans are the rivets, for which the firm was awarded US patent number 139121 in 1873. So it seems that to be ‘Original’ you need not do all the work yourself.

To be original you need to understand how to blend ideas, how to take the Italian trouser made from French cloth and finish it with a rivet taken from manufacturing industries.

Picture courtesy of M62 Steal the slide!

Starters for Ten are our gift to you. Thought provoking, moderately controversial opening slides to set your presentation off on the right foot. At least, a different foot to the other guy. And the guy before him.

What you see here is available to download as an annotated PowerPoint slide. You can subscribe to updates or send us ideas for more.

go froward

In many South Pacific nations the word for ‘flip-flop’ translates literally as ‘go forward’, because you can’t walk backwards in a flip flop.

As millions of people emerge from abject poverty each year, the sales of ‘go forwards’ increases. In fact, for many, producing ‘go forwards’ to meet this demand is their first taste of working in manufacturing industries – the first move away from living solely off the land. ‘Go forwards’ represent a move away from going barefoot and a step (pun intended) towards wearing shoes, but also a move from reliance on primary industry to a growing industrial base. The ‘go forward’ is a global economic marker.

There is an old story about two shoe salesmen sent to Africa in the 1920’s. One sends an urgent telegram back to HQ saying ‘Disaster! No one here wears shoes!”. The second sends an equally urgent telegram saying “Great News! No one here wears shoes!” Well, the fact is that only now, 80 years on from those intrepid shoe salesmen entering the continent are people actually starting to wear shoes. Progress, it seems, is not made by arrogant statements of intent designed to please the bosses, but by a lot of hard yakka that may take years longer than you think.

Picture courtesy of static. Steal the slide!

Apiculture (n):

  1. Bee keeping
  2. Collaborating to build applications on top of other services

Start by hearing (in your mind) a warm round of applause and the congratulations of the attendees at the conference, then figure out how to get there. Your talk is about them, not you. Boil down what you want to say to three key ideas. There will be a hundred and three things you could talk about. Only cover the three that will be important to your audience.

When you are giving your talk, assume that your mother is in the room. Talk at her level. If your content is even slightly technical, make sure you have explained the basics in a way your mother would understand before you dive into the detail. Your mother is, I’m sure, an intelligent woman who can pick things up quickly. You wouldn’t patronise your mother, so don’t patronise your audience. Of course, if you are talking to the Society of Advanced Cosmetic Dentistry, you won’t need to explain what a tooth is. But as most conferences have a fairly general appeal, so tweak your content accordingly.

A picture paints a thousand words, so use pictures rather than text. If you have Firefox, use the Creative Commons search for images to use. Don’t rely on clip art. Ever. And avoid long and laborious slide-builds and animation. A good rule of thumb is 5 words per slide.

Tell stories and anecdotes to show your experience and command of your subject.

Your default body position is shoulders back, arms slightly bent, palms facing the audience, fingers pointing downwards. Practice this. You won’t need to worry about what to do with your hands.

Allow time for questions, but make sure you are able to answer the questions. The only way to do this is to learn as much as possible about your subject. This takes time. Be prepared to deal politely with people who clearly haven’t got what you are saying. Again, pretend it’s your mother asking the inevitable left-field question.

Good luck.

A while ago we said that we give presentations to make money. Today I want to make another sweeping and controversial statement.

Each presentation we give is an exercise in leadership.

Leaders have one aim. Make other leaders. To make other leaders, you need:

  • A vision
  • The ability to share the vision
  • A definite direction to follow in order to realise the vision

Put away all the books about what makes a leader. Instead, get out in front of people, give great presentations and test your leadership muscles.

Start each presentation with a vision. By this, I mean before you have even put pen to paper or opened up your laptop, get a clear idea of what you want your presentation to acheive. A big part of this should be that you want your audience to spread the messages and stories you tell them. In other words, you want to create other leaders. Therefore, keep your vision simple, clear and concise.

When it comes to sharing the vision, be original. Take people out of their comfort/slumber zones. Give them analogies. Tell them interesting stories. For instance, Fred Perry played in his first Wimbledon final with a badly injured knee, but before he took to the court he had already decided what his victory celebration would be. As soon as his winning shot hit the turf he performed a cartwheel and jumped the net, just as he planned in the dressing room. Link that to your current situation at work – how to play through the pain barrier, how to stick to a vision against the odds, how to execute against a plan. Give a prize to anyone wearing a Fred Perry shirt. Whatever you do, give people a reason to follow your vision and share your ideas.

Every presentation you give from now on should be a workout for your leadership qualities. You have them already. Go and use them.

Here is a simple rule for those that have to deal with the press:

A journalist is just a customer with no money and no intention of buying what you sell.

In other words, if you are trusted to talk to customers and you have the time, it is well worth devoting a little time getting to know some people that write about your industry.  Talk to them in just the same way that you would talk to a customer, but enjoy the fact that the pressure is off in terms of converting a sale.  Pitch your ideas.  Tell your stories.  Discuss the issues that come up, but do it honestly.  I guarantee that you will get some great ideas back.  In the past, I have used discussions with journalists to road-test new ideas for pitches.  Use the fact that they are jaded old hacks to your advantage – if you can tell them a story that sparks some interesting conversations then you can guarantee that the same stories will be equally compelling for real customers with real money and a real interest in what you have to sell.

A word of warning, though.  PR people will try to sell you expensive courses to teach you how to talk to the press.  They will retain a savage attack-dog Paxman-on-steroids type to scare you into buying even more of their supervision and guidance.  My advice – don’t bother.  Be honest.  Say something original.  Enjoy it.

Simple answer: Each and every presentation we give makes us a little bit more successful. Even the bad ones.

So if you measure success in terms of money, then every presentation makes us richer. Or if you prefer happiness to be your gauge of success, you will become happier each time you present.

If you’re looking for a little motivation before the next time you stand up to speak to an audience of colleagues, customers or prospects, take a moment to chew over that statement.

While you’re chewing, maybe have a look at a few job advertisments. Notice that for every job with a salary worth getting out of bed for, the candidate will need to have ‘excellent written and verbal communication skills’. Look closer and you’ll see that this is always in the top three requirements. If you’re still chewing, dig out your own job description. If you can’t find it, call HR. Go on, give them something to do. They’ll think that you are either thinking of leaving or asking for a pay rise and will fall into a flat tail-spin. But I’m digressing.

The point is this. The ‘communication skills’ bar is set pretty high. ‘Excellent’ is the requirement and nothing less will do. But interestingly, the bar never moves. ‘Excellent written and verbal communication skills’ are required for everyone from the most junior technician to the Chief Executive. This tells us two things. Firstly, the people that write job descriptions are inherently lazy, which is why asking your HR team to find your job description is such a fun thing to do. And secondly, it says that in order to progress in your career you need to be more excellent than the other excellent communicators around you.

So the next time you prepare a talk, think about how you are going to make it more than ‘excellent’. Then go out and do it. To get the next job on your career path, to get involved in the next exciting project at work, and to spread a little happiness to the world, give yourself permission to be excellent.

A new trend is emerging that is threatening the very existence of email, and could threaten the way many of us shop, vote and learn.

To be completely clear from the outset, email is shrinking in importance. There are now so many ways to communicate and collaborate that messages that could once only have been sent via email are moving onto other mediums. And while POP3 and IMAP still make up a huge proportion of the application traffic on a company’s network, the term ’email’ is slipping from popular usage. People now use protocols developed for email to send each other ‘notes’.

The ‘e’ prefix, once so ubiquitious, has had its day. This is a trend that we believe will continue. After all, it is no longer interesting that things are electronic. To a 45 year old, perhaps it is still a marvel, but to a 25 year old it is taken as read. So farewell e-mail, e-commerce, e-government and e-learning. And watch your backs VoIP and IPTV. Where being electronic is now taken as read, so the Internet Protocol is no longer so amazing. And no body ever really understood it anyway.

Nothing spoils the pleasure of making a purchase more than cellophane. Not even receiving the credit card bill.

Producers will tell you that cellophane ensures consistency, provides freshness, reduces damage, and improves security. But cellophane tells a whole panoply of unpleasant stories about the product inside. Where you see consitency, cellophane tells of mediocrity, of being literally run-of-the-mill. Freshness? Hmmm. Cellophane says ‘this has hung around in storage almost all its life’. Improved security? Like the unstealable coat hangers in hotel bedrooms, cellophane treats customers like theives.

Which brings us on to trying to de-cellophane a product, a feat requiring the combined patience of every saint and the digital strength and dexterity of a concert pianist. And once removed, of course, the cellophane itself is simply discarded, with all the incumbent ecological issues.

In truth, the only industry to use cellophane in a way that didn’t detract from the product is Big Tobacco. Consider that in your next product design meeting.

Yesterday’s celebration of Earth Day saw a certain amount of bandwagon jumping. Google created a new logo for the day on its homepage, and many dozens of articles and press releases, such as this one saying that users would happily pay more for ‘green’ phones, presciently appeared. Listening to Costing the Earth on Radio4 yesterday afternoon made me consider whether such Eco-friendly mobile telephony is anything other than a distant pipe dream.

The industry seems to be caught in a dilemma.

Network operators need to squeeze every ounce of value out of their customers and so need to make the mobile internet an attractive place to be.

To acheive this, handset manufacturers have to develop and build devices can deliver a satisfying internet experience. So phones need bright colour displays, good quality cameras, GPS, loads of memory, ultra-fast processors, great graphics rendering – the list is almost endless.

Of course, all of the new but now essential parts of a phone require power. Lots of power. So batteries drain more quickly, and hence require charging more often. And frequent charging means more people leaving their chargers plugged in and switched on for convenience’ sake. Hardly a recipe for planet friendly phone use.

One option is for the operators and manufacturers to educate customers about the need to switch chargers off when they’re not in use, but that’s hardly palettable for two reasons. Firstly a device with a flat battery cannot earn revenue for the network, and fewer chargers plugged in will surely result in more flat batteries. Secondly, there is a risk of demonising heavy users, and it is heavy use that the networks are trying to inspire in us all.

The second option, however, is even less likely. Ripping out functionality to reduce battery drain. But would anyone really want to pay more for a device that does less?

Unfortunately, as with all ‘green’ issues, less is more. Probably the greenest phone ever was the Nokia 6210i, which only seemed to need charging once a week no matter how heavily it was used. The downside (if it can be seen as such) is that beyond voice and SMS, the phone was completely useless.

My question then is this. What functionality could you easily do without? For the planet’s sake.