This is a simple, useful but unknown feature available in Office.
With the launch of Office for iPad, we have yet another method of viewing and editing Office documents. You may not have realized, but over time many different ways of viewing and editing Office documents.
There are two problems. Firstly, you may not be aware of ALL these options. Secondly, you may not have a clear cut understanding of which is suitable in which scenario.
In this article, I will address both these aspects.
Don’t let that happen. Stop using Desktop.
It is easy to say that. But EXACTLY how to stop using it?
This article assumes that you are using Outlook (and Exchange server) for managing mails. However, the concepts explained here are applicable to any mail / messaging system. However, the remedies mentioned are specific to Outlook-Exchange only and may not work with other products.
Here are some (obvious) facts
- We spend a lot of time handling mails (replying to mails)
- We also spend a lot of time attending meetings
- Most of us are running against time – there is always significant backlog of pending work
- Even though we are capable of doing all the pending work, we simply do not seem to have enough time to execute it
- Due to this, our capability is not fully actualized – it hinders your growth
Here are some – not so obvious – facts
- Everything in Outlook requires at least two parties (sender and recipient)
- It is an interaction between YOU and OTHERS (everyone else who can interact with you including all your staff as well as external people like customers, vendors, etc.)
- You send mails and others send mails to you. Naturally, the number of mails you mails you RECEIVE are going to be more than mails you SEND.
When you send a mail you are trying to do YOUR WORK. When you reply to someone else’s mail, you are helping OTHERS do their work.
- Similarly, the number of meeting requests you SEND are bound to be much lesser than the number of meeting requests you RECEIVE.When you arrange a meeting, you are trying to get YOUR WORK done. When you attend a meeting called by someone else, you are helping OTHERS get their work done!
- When you say I spend so much time cleaning inbox, do you realize that you are spending that time helping helping OTHERS ?
Question: When do you do your work?
Very important question. The answer is surprisingly depressing.. the answer is…
Whenever I get time!
And whatever time you have you are literally WASTING in helping others!
Of course, I am not against you helping others. Everything we do is teamwork. But this is a highly skewed version of teamwork.
You are helping others at the cost of your own work!
This is what I call Outlook Paradox
Now let us try to pin down the root cause.
Root cause: false sense of “free” time
When you or others look at your calendar, the time which is not blocked for formal meetings is considered as FREE.
Others are free to request a meeting with you during the FREE time!
The question is – are you really FREE during that time? Is it not the time you get to do your own work?
But somehow, your actual work is never visible in the calendar. That is the root cause of Outlook paradox.
It is surprising that this simple and obvious fact is ignored by billions of people every day.
What is the solution?
The solution is simple. Stop using Outlook the way you currently are.
Turn the tables. Be focused.
Do your work first and then help others!
That is the concept. In reality we have to follow more specific steps. We will cover these steps in detail in upcoming articles. Here are the steps:
- Realize that TASK folder is the most important one!
- Focus on your work
- List down all the work (personal as well as professional)
- Specify the estimated time you will need for each work item
- Even if others ask you to do some work, monitor it in Task folder (not in Inbox)
- Find time to do your work
- Allocate time for your work in the calendar
- Delegate work in an efficient and effective manner
- Use Task delegation features of Outlook
- Use SharePoint Task list
- Use Microsoft Project for complex projects
- Use OneNote to capture and delegate tasks DURING meetings rather than AFTER meetings
- Prioritize mails which you respond to – don’t read and respond to every mail which arrives
- Learn to manage mails and tasks across multiple devices
In the next few articles, we will learn these steps in detail.
For now, just go to your task folder, create a new task and see all the options! Get ready for action…
The more important the presentation, more things will go wrong. If you want to prevent that, you must be proactive. Here are the best practices I have learnt after delivering more than 2000 live sessions!
Here I am assuming that your presentation content is already finalized and that you are using PowerPoint 2010 or 2013.
First step is to make a copy of the presentation. Whatever is mentioned below should be done on the copy of the presentation. This way, your original presentation is not disturbed in any way, in case something goes wrong.
If you are delivering the presentation from your own laptop…
This makes the content and delivery a little safer. But still you need to do the following.
- Run the entire presentation without any network.
- Check all embedded file links. These files should open without network connectivity.
- Check all videos. These are embedded and therefore should run without network.
- Keep a copy of the entire presentation on USB drive. DO NOT just copy the presentation. See below for instructions.
- upload it to SkyDrive, DropBox or any other storage on internet.
- SkyDrive (or SharePoint if you have corporate network) is the best because the presentation can be shown reliably on a browser in case everything else fails.
If you are going to carry the presentation and deliver on some other PC / Laptop / Tablet
This is a dangerous situation. We must assume that you will get only a PC with some Windows version running. PowerPoint version is not guaranteed. Here are the best practices.
If you have videos, make sure you use Office 2010 and Insert Video feature
Till Office 2007, videos were never inserted – the files were linked. So if you carried the presentation file only, the video was always missing!
If you have inserted videos, use the Optimize Compatibility button
Carrying or embedding a video does not guarantee that it will run on any PC. It needs the right kind of codec to run. Of course you have no interest in learning what is a codec. Therefore, PowerPoint makes it simpler for you by converting your videos automatically to a format which will run on any Windows PC.
Choose File menu – Info – check if you see an Optimize Compatibility button.
If you don’t see it, very good. One thing less to worry about.
If you see it, open it and choose Presentation Quality. It will do something. Let it finish.
Technical Note: For those who are interested, PowerPoint checks if the format requires a codec which other PCs may not have. Most common is QuickTime. Then it converts the videos which are already in your presentation to WMV format by re-rendering them. All the special effects, animation, trims etc will be preserved. It asks you to choose the quality. Choose High quality for important presentations, Medium for most presentations. Low quality is only for mobile device delivery. You may not realize it, but this is a very complex activity which is completely simplified for us by PowerPoint.
Check Hyperlinks to web sites
Connect to internet from a mobile phone or some other connection and check all links to external web sites. Do NOT use corporate network. Sometimes you link to web pages / images which are inside the corporate network and these don’t work outside your office.
If there are linked files and pictures, Package the presentation
DO NOT just copy the presentation file.
Choose File – Save and Send (2010) or Export (2013)
In the dialog, click Options button
Make sure you put a password and Inspect the presentation for notes, comments etc. (See this article for details)
Embedding fonts and linked files is a very good feature. It ensures that your presentation will run on any PC containing PowerPoint.
Carry PowerPoint viewer
This may sound like an overkill but it is an absolute necessity. Many conferences and seminars use laptops provided by the AV agency which is running the show. These people often have very old operating system and PowerPoint versions.
If you have used new features in your presentation, most of it will either not run at all or will be horribly disfigured.
Download PowerPoint Viewer. This is the latest version as of today. It works with presentations created in all versions of PowerPoint.
Check this on internet before downloading to ensure that you are downloading the latest version.
Other things which make a difference
If your job depends upon delivering presentations – mine does – then you need some extra precautions to ensure that your presentation runs EVERY TIME without a flaw.
In this case you have to do some simple and some extreme things:
- Bandwidth at the venue.
This is a tricky item. You cannot control it till you reach the venue. But at least then you should check this one out thoroughly. If your presentation depends upon live bandwidth, you must test everything as soon as you arrive at the venue. Perform a full rehearsal and repeat just before the beginning of the session if possible.
Hotels usually provide insufficient bandwidth. I find it easier to buy a local SIM card with large Internet Top Up. Unfortunately, due to thick walls of ball rooms and conference venues, the 3G / 4G may not work. You must test it before the presentation.
- Carry a projector. I carry my own. Epson EB1775W. 3000 Lumen and very good for upto 100 participants. This supports WiFi so you can put it anywhere and not worry about cable length. Unfortunately, I am not able to use the WIFI on Windows 8.
- Carry an plug which can connect two VGA cables. Very often the length of the VGA cable is short. It forces you to sit at the wrong spot. So carry a spare cable (10 USD approx) and a male-to-male VGA connector (costs approx 1 USD)This Gender Changer is an invaluable piece to have. Many customers have two VGA cables but don’t have this adapter. With it you can extend the cable length.
- Batteries. Carry at least two AA, two AAA and one 9 volt battery.
Why? Because the microphone batteries die in couple of hours. If you conduct long sessions, the batteries are a lifesaver. If you don’t carry them, it becomes a chaotic situation. You are mid way into your presentation. Everything stops. Someone scrambles to find the AV guy / gal who is invariably missing from the scene by now. They don’t get new cells, someone rushes out to buy them or request from admin… it is hilarious and sad. Just buy the cells and carry them.
- A laser pointer and clicker is useful. I use a special mouse which has all of these so I don’t need to carry it.
- Power Adapter is necessary if you travel internationally. The composite ones are good but usually don’t fit into artistically restrictive crevices even in the most sophisticated conference rooms. It is best to buy the dedicated adapters (2 pieces at least) as soon as you land in a country. Convenience store on the airport is the best bet as stores within the city usually do not keep such adapters.
- Finally, a printout of your presentation may be all that you have in case of power failure or some technical glitch.
- If you are using a tablet, make sure that you are carrying the VGA / HDMI adapter
What if everything fails?
No worries. Just go on stage and express yourself from your heart.
No amount of technology, tools and accessories can substitute for depth of knowledge, experience and passion to add value to the audience.
Office has thousands of features. And contrary to popular belief, all of them are useful to everyone under certain circumstances. Learning these things is not complex but time consuming.
My approach is to help you learn these things in a simple and intuitive manner. In future articles I will show you some easy methods of learning Office while you work.
But let us start with three very important things you must know.
No negotiation. No option. Absolutely Mandatory. Trust me on this!
Word Styles, Excel Tables and PowerPoint SmartArt.
I would like to know if you already use these features. Please vote. Just three clicks!
We spend too much time on formatting and too little on the core content.
Solution: Let Word handle the formatting
Don’t do formatting manually. Word is better than you. That is why it is called a word-processor. Let Word handle the formatting.
Most common formatting is to show titles and subtitles in a document. Word has already created formatting for up to 9 levels of topics (headings). Just use it.
How? By choosing the appropriate style.
Styles are just ready to use formatting which is created by graphics experts. There are 9 styles – Heading 1 to Heading 9
While creating a document, you know which of the paragraphs are Headings or Topics or Titles. As soon as you type the paragraph, choose the style.
Main topics get H1, sub topics get H2 and so on.
How to select styles quickly
- Click the style in the Home tab – Styles drop down (it is called a Gallery).
- Or use keyboard shortcuts CTRL ALT 1 for H1 CTRL ALT 2 for H2 and
CTRL ALT 3 for H3
- Or use the shortcut Shift Alt Up arrow to apply Higher styles, Shift Alt Down arrow to apply lower styles
- Automatic table of contents
- Live navigation pane
- Ability to create PowerPoint presentation automatically
- Automatic numbering
- Ability to rearrange the document by just drag drop of headings
- Expand / Collapse headings to make long documents easier to manage (2013 only)
- and many more
We will cover these benefits in the upcoming articles.
Excel is a very dangerous piece of software. We use complex Excel files to take critical decisions – personally as well as at organizational level.
All of us know that Excel contains two primary things. Data and Formulas (Charts are visual formulas, Pivot Tables are automated formulas)
When you add a formula Excel calculates the results. Usually we do not cross check the results for every formula. Which is very dangerous.
Why? Because, when you add more data, you must update all the related formulas. Often we forget to do that. Due to this, the formulas may be outdated but you or others may not notice that. If you trust a formula which is showing outdated results, your decisions will be wrong.
Solution? Excel Tables
I will explain it in the upcoming articles. But to cut a long story short, Excel tables automate the process of updating formulas when you add more data.
If there is an outdated result, Excel shows an error marker (Green mark on top left corner). Unfortunately, most people in the world have never bothered to find out the meaning of that poor little green mark. We simply ignore it and take the risk of looking at wrong information.
- The primary benefit is auto-update of formulas and references
- Automatic formatting of tabular data
- Automatic copying of calculated column formulas
- Automatic copying of calculations when more data is added
- Automatic display of headings
- Automatic copying of formatting, conditional formatting and validations
- Ability to use Table and Column names in formulas
- Ability to integrate with SharePoint and Visio
The purpose of PowerPoint is to present your case to the audience to achieve the desired impact. The impact could be sales, training, convincing, debating, explaining, and so on.
Most presentations are boring and uninteresting. If your audience loses interest in what you are showing or if they cannot understand it clearly, your objective will not be achieved.
There are thousands of ways of making better presentations. But one of them stands out.
That is called SmartArt. It is a very quick way of converting text (bullets) to appealing and high-impact visuals (diagrams). PowerPoint offers around 130 diagrams – intelligently created to help us depict various type of information (Lists, Processes, Hierarchy, Relationships and so on).
Creating a SmartArt Diagram is very easy. But choosing the right one in the right place does take some amount of practice.
- Easy to create visually appealing diagrams
- Automatic formatting and resizing
- Eliminates the need for manual alignment, formatting and animation
- Automatic diagram creation from multiple pictures of different sizes
We will cover SmartArt in detail in upcoming articles.