Friday, July 21, 2006

Honestly, I can't tell you how tired of the typical, average, mundane, same-old PowerPoint presentation I have become. 99 percent of the time, as soon as any given PowerPoint presentation starts, I can feel the bile and boredom start to slosh and boil in my gut - in part because I sit through so darn many presentations, but even more so because most presentations - well - they just suck.

There's nothing quite like a slide deck with all the bulleted words the presenter that will be coming right out of the speakers mouth, if your intent is to say to your audience, "Hey, you're an idiot, so let me read this to you." Who's the idiot, really? There's nothing more redundant than reading and listening to the same thing. Or even worse, a zillion words on the screen and the speaker is talking about something else entirely. You lost me at "Hello."

So more and more I feel like I'm wasting my time. "Read to me, speak at me, bore me with bullets ad nauseum." Please, don't.

Don't get me wrong - I know people don't do this on purpose, they're trying hard and - well - it's the way everyone else does it, right? I also know I'm being a bit harsh (in order to make a point, really). It's just that for most every presentation anymore it doesn't matter all that much what it's actually about, because it's so much like everyone else's. PowerPoint is PowerPoint is PowerPoint, and it's tiring.

If you sell a product, or an idea, or some thing, you don't want it to be just like everyone else's do you? Apply that rule to your presentation style - How do you differentiate yourself from the crowd?

We actually love the crowd, of course, because it's easy to stand out when everyone else is doing the same thing. But it's worth risking having to work harder at it if a few people will revisit their presentations and get out of the common PowerPoint traps.

Anyhow, I got to a point where I was also hating giving presentations with PowerPoint (which I do quite often), not because of the PowerPoint application itself, but because of the fact that all my presentations seemed to be basically the same, and all the templates out there seem to encourage it: Long bulleted lists, points to read aloud, graphs and charts and nasty nasty nasty clip-art. Seriously, using clip-art should be a felony. No, really. Seriously. Like as in prison.

So, a couple weeks ago I took a chance on a presentation I gave at a conference, and went all Lessig-ish with it. A couple words on each screen to punctuate the salient points, a plain white background with big, readable black letters centered on the screen, and the rest was all talk. No handouts (and believe me that was a real surprise for the attendees - but it's not like they walked out or rioted or anything). It took some concentrated effort to create the new presentation. Not rocket-science level effort, mind you - but extra work it was. Time well spent.

And - get this - it worked. The audience was engaged and the conversation (which is what it's all about - exchanging thoughts and ideas, as opposed to making a speech, right?) was interesting, for everyone including me. You could tell the format and style was something new for the audience, for sure, but the looks on people's faces were certainly fun to watch. And the thing is, they actually had looks on their faces. Gone was the blank gaze. Everyone in the room was looking at me as I spoke, and that means making a connection. They'd glance at the screen momentarily and then look back to me for the information, not the other way around. We actually looked in each others' eyes. Now, it's not that I have some kind of problem where I desperately need that kind of attention - it's just that it's clear as day that direct, personal communication is much noticeably more effective and meaningful.

The questions from the crowd at the session were good - They were thoughtful, and the audience was obviously tuned in. Not that my audiences aren't tuned in in general - quite the opposite. But in this presentation you could sense the difference - One could feel the connection and involvement noticeably more.

After the conference, we sent my spartan slides, along with the relatively detailed speaker notes printed on the page below each slide, in PDF form to anyone who attended and wanted it. Gotta provide those handouts at some point, you know... Unless it's caught on video or something.

One of the best and most effective presenters I know personally, Scott Hanselman (it's my week to link to Scott, heh), called it "Existential Presentation." I assume by that he means free, individual, unique, possibly even rebellious. I can see that. 

Personally, being the practical and somewhat-less-eloquent guy I am, I see it as a kind of resurrection of some form of miraculous goodness from the hell of a bloated and obese PowerPoint existence. Ah, existence. I get it, Scott!

Anyhow -- What do you think?

P.S.  Great resources for presenters and presentation authors (hey - you do write your own presentations, right???):

  • Presentation Zen Blog (which has been subscribed in my aggregator for quite some time)
  • Garr Reynolds presentation tips
  • Scott Hanselman's Tips for a Successful Microsoft Presentation (great stuff)

From the comments, Jim Holmes points out a couple more great ones:

and Shane Perran also has some excellent suggestions:

  • Steve Jobs - Simply brilliant when it comes to presentation. That goes for most of the Apple design/marketing team
  • www.guykawasaki.com - Guy Kawasaki - A one time Apple guy turned VC and absolute master of presentation
  • sethgodin.typepad.com - Seth Godin - Author of the ever popular Purple Cow and another master presenter and storyteller
  • www.alertbox.com - Jakob Neilson - While wildly hard-nosed about design, he knows content usability like no other - mostly web oriented, there is a lot of carry over

Those are all good ones, and most all those blogs I subscribe to (and the rest I just did, heh). Presentation is about content, style, design, personality, conversation... All important components.



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Random Stuff | Tech | Things that Suck
Friday, July 21, 2006 2:51:58 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Last week it was Toronto, and this week I am headed to Atlanta. I'll leave Portland in the early morning Wednesday and fly across the country and then back, once again. This time I decided to use a couple of those 500-mile class upgrade vouchers I've been earning and hoarding, since this is the last flight I have scheduled for at least the next few weeks (I have over 100,000 total miles accrued on my frequent flier account, including about 70,000 real, actual miles flown since February and 45 flight segments flown since the beginning of the year - sheez). I've been flying my body into a deep, dark pit of cramps and generalized pain. So, I figure I might as well try to make this trip a nice one, eh? Then when I get home and spend a couple or few weeks in my own bed maybe I'll eventually get back to "normal." Whatever that is, heh.

So... I'll be in the Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia areas Wednesday night plus all day Thursday and Friday. Then it's back home again. If I am lucky, my travel calendar will remain fairly close to what it looks like today and I won't have to fly again til sometime in August. Fingers crossed!

The travel can get in the way of fun. My friend Norm called me tonight to see if I could help shoot a big fireworks show (on a river barge) this Saturday but I had to say I'd better not unless he gets in a bad bind for crew members, since I don't get back home til late on Friday night. All this travel really takes a lot out of me, and I'd hate to only be partially effective while everyone else on the crew was out there working their butts off. At any rate, I do wish I could work this fireworks show - it will be a fun one, and with a good crew of people. Oh well - next time!

I think maybe United Airlines owes me something more than a few upgrade coupons and some miles that can only cash in on a limited set of flights/seats. What do you think airlines should do for their customers that travel a zillion miles a year on their flights?

At least they aren't charging to use pillows and blankets like Canada Air was on my last trip. Wow, talk about penny-pinching. It's not very attractive.



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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Tuesday, July 18, 2006 8:59:46 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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A colleague from Australia IMed me tonight asking for help with a pesky error he was running into when trying to use SMIGRATE for Windows SharePoint Services 2003 to back up a SharePoint site.

The error was "ERROR: 6553609 You are not authorized to perform the current operation."

There's a KB article that addressed that error, but even after following the instructions in the KB article, the problem persisted. So we kept trying to figure it out. Permissions on the machine were fine, IE settings were fine, everything else checked out...

Greg Hughes says:
send me exactly what you typed on the command line pls

Greg Hughes says:
for your smigrate command?

< Jason /> says:
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\60\BIN>smigrate -u domain\Administrator -pw **** -w http://siteserver/clients/ -f c:\backup.fwp

< Jason /> says:
yea even with that tool still says im not authorised to do it

Greg Hughes says:
just for grins try this...

Greg Hughes says:
smigrate -w http://siteserver/clients -f c:\backup.fwp -u domain\Administrator -pw ****

< Jason /> says:
o ur good ur really good

< Jason /> says:
lol its working

Greg Hughes says:
yup

Greg Hughes says:
heh

Greg Hughes says:
two differences - not sure which mattered but I have a guess

Greg Hughes says:
so try it this way next:

Greg Hughes says:
smigrate -w http://point/clients/ -f c:\backup.fwp -u sydney\Administrator -pw *

< Jason /> says:
rofl yea that breaks it

Greg Hughes says:
you see the difference?

< Jason /> says:
yea

< Jason /> says:
the slash interesting

Greg Hughes says:
non fault-tolerant tool

< Jason /> says:
lol yea

Greg Hughes says:
yep it doesnt like that

So apparently it's important to remove the trailing slash from the site URL you specify with SMIGRATE on the command line if you want it to behave correctly. Also note that the error you get when running the tools is the same one covered under the KB article I mentioned above (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=828210) for a different problem that's also related to backing up or restoring a SharePoint web:

"ERROR: 6553609 You are not authorized to perform the current operation."

The same error occurs when the trailing slash is applied in the site URL, at least in our case. So if you do everything in the KB article and still get the same persistent error, look for evil slashes...

For reference...

The syntax for the SMIGRATE is:

smigrate -r -w <website URL> -f <backup file> [-e] [-y][-x]

-r is the restore (optional)

-w signifies the start of the Web site URL for a site (no trailing slashes!)

-f is the backup filename with an FWP extension

-e is an option to exclude subsites during backup

-y confirms that any existing backup files will be overwritten

-x is an option to exclude security during restore

-u specifies an administrator username

-pw specifies an administrator password

Also, when it's time to restore, it's important to know that you have to restore to an empty subsite that you create in the SharePoint admin web tool - no template, no nothing - just an empty SharePoint enabled subweb site.

You can do this with the STSADM.exe tool, leaving out the extra syntax for specifying templates, titles, etc - all the stuff that makes it not blank...

stsadm.exe -o createweb -url http://server_name/sites/site1/subsite1

or, if you're creating a top-level site on the server that you want to restore to, you create it like this:

stsadm.exe -o createsite -url http://server_name/sites/site1 -ownerlogin <DOMAIN\user> -owneremail someone@example.com -ownername <display name>

Also - remember that especially when it comes time to back up and restore sites, the patch levels and versions of the WSS servers you're dealing with might make or break your ability to get done what you want - so make sure the versions of your servers match if you keep running up against errors when you go to do your restore. Not a silver bullet, but it can be an elusive problem to troubleshoot.



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SharePoint | Tech
Monday, July 17, 2006 11:31:58 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, July 17, 2006

There I was going to go and write up a big ol' post comparing the new IE7 beta 3 and Firefox 2.0 beta 1 releases, and it turns out Scott Hanselman already did a great job of it.

For lots of detail and good review, see Scott's post. He covers RSS capabilities, the anti-phishing/anti-fraud capabilities (yay Scott! heh), usability, download functionality, and more. Well worth the read.



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Tech
Monday, July 17, 2006 9:53:15 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Amanda Murphy's got a whole slew of great blog posts and screen shots from Office 2007 and SharePoint 2007, which is looking more and more to be a great collaboration platform. Lots and lots of new features and significant improvements over the 2003 versions.

Check out the list of posts here. Keep on posting more, Amada!



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SharePoint
Monday, July 17, 2006 8:52:17 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Yeah, it's cliche and random, but truth is Oregon's a great place to live. Heck, the whole Pacific Northwest is terrific. Here's just three among many reasons I say this...

Sunrise Mount Hood

MultnomahFallsMay2006

Wild Iris



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Photography | Random Stuff
Monday, July 17, 2006 8:16:08 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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