Breaking Free of Powerpoint

I finally did it. We’ve had irreconcilable differences, Powerpoint and I. So, last Friday, I moved out.

I wanted to present in a way that reflected my style. I wanted to tell a story, not create a “deck” of slides. But for so many years, I felt bound to the information exchange methodology enforced by that tyrant of business presentation, Powerpoint. Even when I knew this relationship wasn’t working out, I found myself with one foot outside the door, and the other foot inside, not quite sure how to leave.

Finally, I found a way to start over. It was really quite simple.

Instead of beginning to create the presentation in Powerpoint, I put it to the side. Instead, on one screen, using Word, I started crafting the outline of the story. Scribbling, moving things around, totally unconcerned with format – just writing a script. Imagining myself in front, saying what I wanted to say irrespective of any slides as delivery vehicle.

I’m the delivery vehicle. The story is the presentation. That’s primary.

Then, on the other screen, a series of blank Powerpoint slides. On them, finding and pasting pictures that go with the story. Background. Presentation decoration. No text, because that’s in the script.

Powerpoint as illustration/analogy vehicle. Eye candy. It’s secondary.

Crossing this important mental barrier: If someone is going to ask, “Can I get a copy of your slide deck?”, I’ll just smile inside and say, “Nope.” Because the slide deck is not the presentation or the story. It’s a series of storytelling props.

I’ve seen this done effectively by others, and finally, I decided I’d break free last week (at Social Media Masters 2011). I think the picture above by Bob Knorpp (@thebeancast) wonderfully captures how much fun it was to present, free of PPT Tyranny (that’s me awarding Sam Fiorella his favorite social reinforcement, Klout points!)

There are magicians of public speaking/storytelling/presentation – Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Steve Jobs. They all seem to break free of the information-dump style and tell stories wonderfully. Watch videos of these masters (or see them live if you can). Their examples have fueled my desire to “think different” about presenting!

So, are you breaking free from Powerpoint tyranny? If so, what are your methods? Let’s figure out ways to turn presentations into engaging stories instead of public data dumps!

Kudos to the Social Media Masters team (Kristie Wells, Chris Heuer, Sam Fiorella, Brandie McCallum, and others) for putting on an educational conference focusing on advanced themes – there’s still time to sign up for the Toronto and Kansas City events in October!

P.S. Bob Knorpp also captured this brief video beancast interview touching on some of the themes of my presentation, which focused on the future of digital networks/social media.


Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Facebook’s Secret Weapon Unveiled: Ann Handley!

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Leading Virtually Really

This week on #LeadershipChat, we are honored to welcome Ann Handley, who is the Queen Of All Content over at MarketingProfs (OK, I made that title up, but really – doesn’t it fit?)

MarketingProfs is a virtual organization, and Ann has been involved for years in helping lead this widely-distributed group as it puts out a steady flow of solid content, organizes and runs conferences, services member needs, etc. It’s quite a challenge.

My co-host and co-founder of LeadershipChat Lisa Petrilli has a wonderful interview of Ann (Ann Handley’s Secrets to Successfully Leading Virtual Teams) where you can gain more particular insights.

In talking with Ann about this topic, what strikes me is this thought: Leading People Virtually is Leading People Really.

Whether you’re contained in an office, fully virtual, or in a hybrid environment, you’re leading people. The basic, foundational principles remain the same – communication, accountability, shared goals and purpose, clear lines of responsibility. And, with our maturing technology tools (on-line project management, video Skype, social media) it is more likely that we will increasingly grow comfortable with leading virtual teams – because we’ll have to.

Let’s face it – the old template of geographically-defined work places is going away for many areas of industry, especially the knowledge industry. Leading virtually is going to become, in many respects, the new normal. And it’s good to know that the core things that have always mattered in leadership carry right over – because people are people.

Ann has a lot more experience than most at this, and yet it boils down some very sensible themes. Although one aspect – leadership styles – should make for a very interesting part of the chat. Do you think introverts make better virtual leaders?

Join us Tuesday night at 8 pm ET as we explore this fascinating topic. You’ll find a smart, engaged group of growing leaders who want to share ideas and learn from others (including you!).


Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Facebook’s Secret Weapon Unveiled: Ann Handley!

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Facebook’s Secret Weapon Unveiled – Ann Handley!

As the excitement is building today about Facebook’s promise to (once again…) transform social networking with a slew of new and sparkly features, the Connection Agent has gone under the interface layer to discover the real secret lurking beneath the impending drama.

It’s Ann Handley.

Facebook has secretly acquired Marketing Profs figurehead and Content Rules co-author Ann Handley, and embedded her within the FB platform. It is the first time a human being has been coded into a social network, though there have been persistent rumors that Twitter’s middleware may contain DNA fragments from Peter Shankman.

Starting on Friday, the status update box on Facebook will now be the iconic question, WWAHD? (What Would Ann Handley Do?). Users are expected to consider carefully how Ann might update, and then type their status accordingly, leading to a uniformly higher-quality of on-line content.

Facebook will also incorporate a context-aware ANNvatar, which will pop up and give advice about what you are reading and writing, delivering critiques as to style, grammar, and re-purposable content. The ANNvatar will speak in Ann’s voice, pulling words and phrases from the Content Rules book, which will now be the official Facebook Help Menu. Users will be able to choose AH levels, from mild snark all the way up to to ultra-Boston-style-insulting.

It is rumored that there will be a C.C. Chapman FB upgrade in the future “for the guys” but this is not yet confirmed. There is also speculation that each FB status will be auto-converted into a QR-code for people who prefer to use a smartphone for each and every form of communication.

The new Ann Handley FB version will be Prodigy and MS-DOS compatible because, after all, that’s what Ann Handley would do.


Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Clearing Clouds: Recovering from Depression (free e-book)

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Taylor Swift and Bracelets. Two Good Causes.

I interrupt the normal flow of my ramblings about marketing to introduce you to two good causes. Both have to do with my son David (the Marine).

Cause Number 1

Yep, he’s crazy like his Dad! Dave is heading back to the States this fall after months of deployment in Spain, and he wants to attend the Marine Ball in November (Virginia Beach) with – well, Taylor Swift! So I said I’d help.

Here’s his invite via Twitter. I figure if he gets about 459 bajillion retweets then Taylor won’t be able to resist saying yes (November 4 does appear to be an open tour date, after all…). And who wouldn’t spend an evening with a handsome and talented Marine??

So, let’s have a little fun and help him out! If you’d like, just cut-and-paste the message below (the link is to the tweet shown above):

A U.S. Marine asks:  May we dance, @TaylorSwift13?? @DaveWoodruff1

Cause Number 2

While in Spain, Dave and some of his pals have had the good fortune of working with a visionary Navy guy named Nick Mendoza III, who started a very special company/cause called Bands for Arms (B4A). In short, B4A was created to show support for those in the armed services, and provide tokens of remembrance, by creating custom bracelets made out of actual uniforms (all donated). Since creating the the first one in 2009 in remembrance of a comrade who died, B4A has taken off like a rocket, with much of its growth and grassroots organization being accomplished long-distance via Facebook.

David and some of his pals have not only kept busy creating bracelets, but in some cases are actually modeling as well for the photo shoots (which makes the old man feel a very strange mixture of immense pride and intense jealousy – I mean, what country music star wouldn’t want THAT hunk on her arm at a dance…..ooops, sorry, mixing up our causes here).

My wife and I had the chance to meet Nick in NYC during his recent tour promoting B4A and we’re quite impressed with this young man, his energy and vision. B4A supports many charitable organizations (see below), so if you wish to purchase one of the many hand-made designs it’s all for a good cause. There’s even one design called the Woodruff – yes, it’s my favorite! :>}

You can follow the B4A folks on Twitter at @BandsForArms.

Thanks for any role you can play in today’s “cause marketing” post!


Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Clearing Clouds: Recovering from Depression (free e-book)

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Join the Club

I don’t have my act together. How about you?

Your kids aren’t turning out the way you expected, and you (as a parent) feel woefully inadequate. Things probably aren’t quite as gloomy as you think they are, but nonetheless…

Join the club.

Work-life balance? You’ve chased that elusive goal for years, and like the end of a rainbow, it remains a tantalizing illusion just out of reach. You wonder if your priorities are ever straight, and you never can quite adjust them to where it all feels right.

Yeah – join the club.

At your age, you’re supposed to be a big success with a secure future and a pot of gold in your retirement accounts. Instead, you’re wondering what you’re going to do when you grow up, and hoping nobody knows just how hand-to-mouth your financial life is.

Uh-huh – join the club.

You’ve got a shiny avatar and a slick website, and people praise you for your stage presence as you dispense your pearls of wisdom to the crowd. But you still feel like a failure, and deep inside, you wonder why you’re so lonely and depressed.

Lots of people in that club.

I’d REALLY like to get my act completely together. But the more I get into real life discussions with people, the more I realize that’s a pot of non-existent gold at the end of an invisible rainbow. It’s not happening.

It’s tempting to try to project the “act-together” aura anyway. But I seem to be a permanent member of the reality club. There’s actually a lot of good company there.

If you’re looking, that’s where you’ll find me.


Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Clearing Clouds: Recovering from Depression (free e-book)

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Trend Currents in Social Media

No, that’s not a typo. Trend Currents, not current trends.

Trend Currents are the large-scale cultural, economic, and technological shifts that drive our ongoing communications revolution. And I’ll be speaking on this topic September 23, at the Social Media Masters one-day intensive in NYC.

What are these Trend Currents that shape social media now, and will shape the future of networked communications? Not to to give the whole talk away, here are three main things that every marketer and business person needs to keep his/her eye on:

  • Ubiquitous Connectivity
  • Disrupted Intermediation
  • Global Individualism

Current trends are the outgrowths we see today. MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, Google+ – those are all (temporary?) outworkings of much bigger Trend Currents.

Wayne Gretzky put it this way: Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is now (paraphrase). By looking at the larger Trend Currents, we’re able to cut through the fog of current trends and see where the marketplace will be heading in the future.

Intrigued? There are still a few available seats at Social Media Masters – make your reservation now, and join Chris Heuer, Sam Fiorella, Kat Mandelstein, Matt Hicks, Sean Moffitt, myself and others as we explore what is – and what is to come – in social media.

The event is produced by Social Media Club and Sensei Marketing.

Post-event update: Bob Knorpp captured this brief video beancast interview touching on some of the themes of my presentation, which focused on the future of digital networks/social media.


Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Are You Suffering from JAVA?

>> When Your Branding Zings

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

“Hey, Boss, You Need Some Help…”

One thing is certain – you work with someone who could become a better boss (even if self-employed, like me!).

But what if your boss is really lacking in leadership skills, to the point where it’s becoming a serious detriment to the business, and negatively impacting those whom he/she is leading?

If you’ve worked at a few different companies, you’ve probably run into this situation. And it will be our topic of discussion tonight (Sept. 13) on LeadershipChat (please join us on Twitter at 8 pm ET – use the hashtag #LeadershipChat).

I’ve been there, and it can be a real conundrum. You want to see the company be healthy, and you want the best for your co-workers – including your boss – but it can be risky to go out on a limb and try to address issues with someone else. Here are a few words of advice:

1. Recognize that, by and large, people do not fundamentally change all that much. Are you dealing with a small habit here (a tendency to sneer when talking to people), or a major character flaw (an explosive temper)? Realizing that someone in a subordinate relationship will typically have the least sway, is it realistic to think that your words can make a difference? If you’ve seen a willingness to listen and think in your boss, some level of humility, then you stand a much better chance of success than if the person is arrogant and dismissive.

2. Do you have a pre-existing relationship of trust and transparency with your boss? If so, there’s a far better chance that you can privately and convincingly address the issue(s) at hand.

3. Speak in private, in a non-volatile setting. Lunch at a restaurant may be a good suggestion, because it is away from the office, and it gives time to digest and discuss the issue before facing the next work task. Also, you’re less likely to be screamed at in a public setting!

4. Affirm what is good, and demonstrate how flaws typically are an over-extension of a particular strength. For instance, an anger problem may be framed as an undesirable outgrowth of genuine business passion. It’s easier for your boss to save face before you, and before the mirror, when the flaw is positioned this way (note: this principle carries in many areas of life, does it not??)

5. Bring up very concrete situations – preferably quite recent – and explain the effect that occurred. To say to a boss, “you’re too indecisive,” isn’t going to be received as well as saying, “I have noted a tendency toward indecisiveness and here is how it impacted this sales situation last week – we may well lose that sale because I could not give the client a definitive answer on Wednesday when they asked for it.”

6. Explain how a certain characteristic or behavior makes you/other people feel. Often people are oblivious to the downstream effects. However, if you can show that your boss’ tendency to deliver cutting remarks when someone makes a mistake “freezes” employees from giving valuable input, it may help you boss connect the dots (“Hmmm…I’ve been wondering why no-one volunteers ideas in our brainstorming sessions…”)

7. Affirm your own commitment to the company’s good, and that of your boss. It’s easy for someone on the receiving end of correction to feel like they’ve lost face, and destroyed their influence. Let him/her know that you’re out on a limb bringing this up because you’re committed.

8. Continuously build an opportunity network as your contingency plan. It’s a lot easier to do the right thing when you know you have dozens of great people who have your back. Should you need to start looking for a new position, because the situation with a boss is intolerable, that is not the time to start networking – that’s the time to activate the network you’ve been building for years to help you find your next opportunity.

Be sure to read Lisa Petrilli‘s take in her post, Five Suggestion for When Your Boss Needs Leadership Help. Add Lisa’s five to my eight, and you’ll have 13, before we even begin getting more suggestions during the chat from all the great people who attend!

So, please join us at 8 pm ET Tuesday nights for LeadershipChat on Twitter. You’ll find a very smart and highly-motivated group of professionals who want to bring humanity and reality to leadership!


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Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff