Propose, Prepare, Present – How be a successful industry-conference speaker – #business #bookreview

Propose, Prepare, Present

How to become a successful, effective, and popular speaker at industry conferences
Alistair Croll
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

Entrepreneur, author, and analyst Alistair Croll has packed a lot of helpful how-to information into his well-focused new guidebook.

Croll speaks at industry conferences,  runs at least four conferences each year, and often selects the lucky few who will get to present, after he has sifted through and read hundreds of proposals.

If you think you are much too busy to read short, five-chapter text, Croll recommends you at least examine Chapter 3, “What Organizers Are Looking For.” There, he presents 11 things that can help get you chosen to speak at an industry conference and 11 hings that can get your conference proposal rejected.

“Nothing will get you refused as fast as a sales pitch,” he warns. “This is the single biggest reason for rejection in every conference I’ve run, across dozens of topics and hundreds of reviewers.”

Indeed, some conference organizers say, you should not mention your company’s product or service at all in your conference speech proposal. Instead, show that you can speak on big topics such as where your industry is going or major events or controversial trends currently affecting your industry and what can be done about them.

“Event organizers are in business, too,” Croll emphasizes. “They need to balance informative content that justifies the ticket price with provocation and entertainment that keeps people coming back.”

Si Dunn

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Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business – #business #bookreview

Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business
Kit Seeborg and Andrea Meyer
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

“Huh? Sorry. What did you just say?

Welcome to our “always on” culture, where almost nobody pays full attention to anything anymore. Instead, we have  “continuous partial attention.” For example, people habitually, nervously, or irritatingly mess with handheld devices, social media, and other electronic distractions while you try to speak to them, teach them, sell them something, or promote a cause.

Welcome, as well, to a time when “[v]isual thinking has become more important in business, because we’re processing much more information [particularly nonlinear information] than ever before,” writers Kit Seeborg and Andrea Meyer point out in their new book.

“As a result, slide presentations have become the language of business,” they contend.

Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business is an engaging, nicely illustrated, comprehensive guide that shows you how to promote your business, organization, or cause using the popular online presentation site and social sharing network, SlideShare.

(You can set up a free SlideShare account at its website or sign in using your LinkedIn or Facebook account.).

Seeborg’s and Meyer’s new book also examines some of the key problems business presenters now face and how to overcome them.

“The challenge of an ‘always on’ culture is that by not wanting to miss anything, people are ignoring some part of everything they tune into at once,” they write. “ For the public speaker, this means you have some of  your audience’s attention, but not all of it. Your talk is competing with the outside activities of the networks of every person in your audience who has a smartphone or Internet-connected device.”

They add: “Because today’s audience is engaged in continuous partial attention, presenters must put in extra effort to compete for the mindshare of a distracted audience. One way to win more audience attention is to include engaging visual slides with your presentation and show them intermittently instead of in parallel with your talk.

“Think of your slideshow as adding percussive punctuation to a talk instead of performing a continuous accompaniment. A speaker might talk for several minutes or more without showing a visual image on the screen. Then, in order to reinforce a point or introduce a new point, the presenter shows a slide or video. In this case, the presenter uses the visual media to punctuate the talk, breaking it up, adding interest and variety. This is a very different style from the traditional use of a slideshow–running in parallel to the spoken presentation.”

The book’s eight chapters focus on how to create and deliver presentations using SlideShare. And many of the tips can be adapted to other types of presentations, as well.

The chapters are:

  • Chapter 1: Visual Thinking – Focuses on visual communications in business.
  • Chapter 2: Getting Started – How to set up a free or Pro SlideShare account, upload presentations, and share with others.
  • Chapter 3: Events and Public Speaking – How to get more comfortable speaking before an audience (start small), how to be well prepared, and how to publicize your presentation.
  • Chapter 4: Content Marketing – You have many options, and SlideShare supports documents, PDFs, videos, and audio files, as well as slide presentations.
  • Chapter 5: Sell, Sell, Sell – How to make the most of encounters with buyers “short on time,” which now includes just about everybody.
  • Chapter 6: Research and Collaboration – Researching what’s available on SlideShare and using the site to collaborate with others.
  • Chapter 7: Recruiting, Hiring, and Getting Hired – How a visual résumé and portfolio can supplement a traditional résumé or curriculum vitae to produce a “full professional presence.”
  • Chapter 8: Organizational Outreach and Communication – Offers case studies and presentation how-to tips for startups, nonprofits, journalists, and government agencies.

One thing not covered in detail is “presentation design guidance.” The authors leave that area to other specialists. But you can get some good design ideas from many of the slides they present to illustrate their text.

If you are ready to try SlideShare or improve your skills at using it, Present Yourself can be a handy, helpful go-to guide for getting things done.

Si Dunn

Lean Analytics and Lean UX – Two new guides to better business and user experiences – #bookreview

Okay, how are we leaning today? Leaning in? Leaning back? Leaning to the left or right? Leaning over? Or just leaning toward chucking all “hot new” postures that supposedly help us pose ourselves for career success?

Here’s some good news. None of the above leanings are topics in two new books from O’Reilly’s popular “Lean” series, edited by Eric Ries.

Lean Analytics deals with using data to help you determine if there is a profitable need for the product or service you hope to offer with a startup business. Lean UX, meanwhile, deals with the process of designing a better user experience (UX) for a company’s apps, website or other products.  Here are short reviews of each book:

Lean Analytics
Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster
Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz
(O’Reilly – hardback, Kindle)

“Entrepreneurs,” the authors state, “are particularly good at lying to themselves. Lying may even be a prerequisite for succeeding as an entrepreneur–after all, you need to convince others that something is true in the absence of good, hard evidence. You need believers to take a leap of faith with you. As an entrepreneur, you need to live in a semi-delusional state just to survive the inevitable rollercoaster ride of running your startup.”

But…you also need cold, hard data. And what you learn from that data may not mesh well with the lie you are living as you try to start a new business from scratch. Yet, it may save you from failing and wasting a lot of money.

“Your delusions,” the authors argue, “no matter how convincing, will wither under the harsh light of data. Analytics is the necessary counterweight to lying, the yin to the yang of hyperbole. Moreover, data-driven learning is the cornerstone of success in startups. It’s how you learn what’s working and iterate toward the right product and market before the money runs out.”

Lean Analytics builds on the Lean Startup process developed by Eric Ries. In today’s digital world, the authors explain, “[w]e’re in the midst of a fundamental shift in how companies are built. It’s vanishingly cheap to create the first version of something. Clouds are free. Social media is free. Competitive research is free. Even billing and transactions are free.”

Taken together, these facilities mean “you can build something, measure its effect, and learn from it to build something better next time. You can iterate quickly, deciding early on if you should double down on your idea or fold and move on to the next one.”

Their 409-page book is not quick reading. But it deserves attention and study, whether you want to start a business, already have started a business, or hope to revamp and improve a business that has been in operation for some time. Lean Analytics presents many examples and case studies that illustrate how you can gather and analyze existing data, then test products or services to determine if they are something that customers actually need, want and will use.

With new data from the tests and the ability to continue testing, you can modify your product or service and focus more resources, energy, and time on improving and refining what will work best for your customers–and your bottom line.

***

Lean UX
Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
Jeff Gothelf with Josh Seiden
(O’Reilly – hardback, Kindle)

“Lean UX is a collaborative process,” the two authors of this book emphasize. “It brings designers and non-designers together in co-creation. It yields ideas that are bigger than those of the individual contributors. But it’s not design-by-committee. Instead, Lean UX increases a team’s ownership over the work by providing an opportunity for all opinions to be heard much earlier in the process.”

For example, forget the notion of a web designer hiding in an office for a week or so and then emerging with what he or she insists will be a “masterpiece” as the company’s new home page.

Particularly in software development, a key aspect of Lean and Agile development theories is the notion of creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). “Lean UX makes heavy use of the notion of MVP,” the two authors explain. “MVPs help test our assumptions–will this tactic achieve the desired outcome?–while minimizing the work we put into unproven ideas. The sooner we can find which features are worth investing in, the sooner we can focus our limited resources on the best solutions to our business problems. This concept is an important part of how Lean UX minimizes waste.”

The web designer’s “masterpiece” might work okay, but it also might offer costly confusions for customers and others visiting the website. Instead, Lean UX emphasizes collaboration, teamwork, testing prototypes, analyzing the results, gathering feedback from outsiders, revamping the project, testing it again–and continuing the process.

According to the writers, the most powerful tool in Lean UX is one that is basic to human beings: conversation. Indeed, conversation should be “the primary means of communication among team members.” Some of the other tools for collaboration also are basic: pencils, pens, notepads, whiteboards, blackboards, and simple paper templates that can spur discussions, opinions, and basic designs for the Minimum Viable Product and its successors, before moving the work to computers.

Lean UX is just 130 pages long. But it is rich with how-to examples, process descriptions, short case studies, clear steps, useful illustrations, and good examples that you can adapt and employ to create cheaper, faster, and better user experiences.


Si Dunn

Big presentation due? There’s a book for that – slide:ology #bookreview

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations
By Nancy Duarte
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price $27.99)

Bet you were hoping I was about to say: “Big presentation due? There’s an app for that!”

There probably is, or will be soon.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just phone in your PowerPoint slides and audio and stay comfortably ensconced at a Starbucks in Waterloo, Iowa, while 50 managers and executives in Boston huddled in a poorly ventilated conference room and sweated while they marveled at your presentation?

Some of you already have developed and honed an iPhone-it-in or iPad-it-in capability. But most of the world’s drafted or “volunteered” presenters still have not. They show up at work one day and are told they will have to prepare a presentation by next Tuesday that could make or break their job – or a whole department’s jobs.

No pressure. You know how to do this, right? Everyone else is tied up with projects and deadlines. So we’re counting on you. Have fun with it. Get creative! And have it ready for review and comments by 4 p.m. tomorrow.”

Published in 2008 and still attracting readers, slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations has gathered an array of pleased fans and good reviews, as well as some scathing reviews from a few detractors.

It is not a 1-2-3 how-to book that can help you throw together a slide show by tomorrow morning. Instead, it lives up, colorfully, to its subtitle: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. It delves carefully into a wide array of topics related to the process of preparing slides that can connect with their intended audience. And it is heavily illustrated with examples.

If you are starting a new job or a new position where you will be expected to make presentations, you should consider spending some quality learning time with this book and keeping it handy. Get a jump now on developing the skills and knowledge you will need when crunch time suddenly hits.

This also applies if you are under increasing obligation to wow the bosses with charts and graphs and bullet points – or if you are thinking of becoming a presentations teacher or consultant. 

Developed by Nancy Duarte, a “widely recognized…leader in presentation development and design,” slide:ology is divided into 12 chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Creating a New Slide Ideology
  • Chapter 2: Creating Ideas, Not Slides
  • Chapter 3: Creating Diagrams
  • Chapter 4: Displaying Data
  • Chapter 5: Thinking Like a Designer
  • Chapter 6: Arranging Elements
  • Chapter 7: Using Visual Elements: Background, Color, and Text
  • Chapter 8: Using Visual Elements: Images
  • Chapter 9: Creating Movement
  • Chapter 10: Governing with Templates
  • Chapter 11: Interacting with Slides
  • Chapter 12: Manifesto: The Five Theses of the Power of a Presentation

The author cautions that “presentations all too often reflect the agenda of the presenter rather than build a connection with the audience.”

And, if your job includes meeting with customers: “In many instances, presentations are the last impression a customer has of a company before closing a business deal.”

Indeed, elaborate hundred-million-dollar advertising and branding campaigns can be neutralized by a single lame presentation on a laptop computer right at the critical moment, she warns.

You will not want to be the one who created that dud slide show.

#

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a screenwriter, a freelance book reviewer and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.