Tips On When Best (Only) To Use Powerpoint

Back in 1997 I was the technical lead on a roll-out of Microsoft Exchange (ver 4.0 for the initiated) across the UK. One particular morning I was to present on the migration plan for over 3,000 users at the ICI plant in Runcorn, near Manchester.

The assembled audience were all technical and looking to understand the technical intricacies of the design and impact on their particular area.

When my laptop died.

These were the days prior to the cloud, or even backup memory. I had a dead machine with no way to deliver my presentation to the assembled, not to mention somewhat hostile, audience.

So I whiteboarded the session. Everything. The design, the rationale, the gotcha's, the plan. Over almost 2 hours I drew, fielded questions, and transferred the key knowledge needed for a successul migration.

And at the end of the session a miracle had happened. I had won over the crowd.

There is something wired into our species about narrative. From the hunt dance around the campfire, to the oral poetry of Homer's “Iliad and Odyssey,” to church drama during the mediaevil times, we transfer information via story. And we need to be a participant.

Part of winning over the crowd was the depth of my knowledge demonstrated in the ability to draw all of the complex models, talk to them, joke about them, and field questions – often with new drawings and models.

So the best time to use Powerpoint (Keynote, Prezzie, Google Slides, Haiku Deck etc) is when you know your material well enough not to need Powerpoint. If you can't whiteboard, draw, or even explain your message simply enough without slides, you shouldn't be using slides.

If you can, then slides adds another whole new dimension to your presentation. Because a picture truly does paint a thousand words. That's why we watch movies and TV rather than listening to the radio.

The next time you have to give a presentation, try doing it without slides. See how you get on.

IPad Pro in Anger: Day Eight – Flying

Flying Home

There are many reasons for using a tablet on an aeroplane:

  • Entertainment
  • Creativity
  • Learning – and –
  • Work

Entertainment

As an entertainment device, the iPad Pro has no equal. The screen, both from a real estate and resolution perspective, is phenomenal. Also the brightness. I was next to someone watching a movie on a Surface Pro today. He asked me to close the window shade because of screen glare. The Pro was plenty bright enough to not need this.

Then there’s the battery life, which even without in-seat power on my recent SYD-SFO flight, lasted the whole flight.

Quite apart from purchasing iTunes movies and TV shows, you can get the OPlayerHD App, or VLC, or any number of video players. Simply copy movies in any format to the device, and et voila, your movie collection comes to life.

Creativity

Photo-20160201235906145.jpgIt is true that the iPad lends itself to creative tasks. Just today on two short haul flights between Sydney and the Gold Coast (1 hour flying time) on the iPad Pro I:

  • Used calligraphy to handwrite a thank-you note
  • Blogged
  • Edited video
  • Edited photos, and
  • Sketched

Of course there’s plenty more I could’ve done from creating music to building websites.

Udemy Course on Drawing
Udemy Course on Drawing

Learning

Here Udemy, iTunesU, Kindle, Kahn Academy, DuoLingo, and iBooks are my friend. So many options for learning, there is no longer an excuse for not finding the time to learn your next skill.

Work

Ok, the biggie. Can you really do real work on the iPad Pro, in an economy seat on an aeroplane?

Of course, that’s determined by your definition of real work. So let me say, for me, the compute tasks I need to do to conduct my work when travelling include:

  • Email
  • Reviewing & authoring documents (PDF’s & Word)
  • Reviewing, creating and delivering presentations
  • Reviewing spreadsheets
  • Research, both primary (mostly Interviews), and secondary (mostly Internet) which I need to collate, synthesise and share with colleagues
  • There is administrivia, like timesheets, expenses, booking travel, the leave and payroll system, and occasionally procuring equipment. All of these systems are web-based, and even with last years 108 days of travel, I can do these back in the office (or on a PC at home)

In the last two weeks I’ve flown 4 times – two 14+ hour flights to and from San Francisco, and two 1 hour flights to and from the Gold Coast.

On the Qantas 747-400, there is no problem doing serious work in economy. Both flights I was on the aisle (44C and 48H), in a seat behind another (so people reclined seats onto me). With the seat reclined, it was tough to use the iPad Pro on the in-seat table. There’s not quite enough room to extend your arms for the keyboard, without standing the Pro upright. However, there’s no problem at all with the keyboard on your lap.

If the seat in front is upright, the table is the way to go.

On the Virgin 737-800 I was in a window seat (29A) and found it pretty cramped. Once the seat in front reclined, there wasn’t really enough room to type comfortably. On the Embrauer 190, however, also a window seat (9F) there was room to type comfortably on the table, even with the seat reclined. I think the extra elbow room on the E190 contributes to this.

On all four flights I cleared my email, mostly before take-off.

Travelling to San Francisco saw me reviewing some 10 deep technical abstract papers, and summarising these for a calibration workshop. I also worked on a client PowerPoint presentation, and another client PoC Proposal (Word).

On the flights too and from Coolangatta I continued work on the Word proposal, and the PowerPoint presentation.

Of course it was hard to review anything without Internet Access, but I did read the pages I had clipped into Evernote prior to the flight.

I’m collaborating with others on both the Word and PowerPoint files, and as soon as I connected to the web again, MS Office365 OneDrive synced my changes to everyone else.

Added Bonus

There are five added bonuses for using the Pro as a travel work device:

  1. As it’s not a “laptop” you don’t need to remove it from your carry-on at security
  2. As it’s not a “laptop” you can use it (in airplane mode) from gate-to-gate
  3. LIghtning Connector – you can charge it in-flight on most long haul carriers. Not to mention everyone has a Lightning cable, and on the odd occasion you sit next to an Android Afficionado, you can pick up a cable in every airport. If you start with a charged device, you won’t need this on all but the longest flights
  4. No fan noise, or overheating.
  5. Integrated 4G means you can stay connected until the doors close, and reconnect as soon as you land, allowing you to send all of those queued emails, and post those blog’s.

Drawbacks

There are a couple of drawbacks:

  • That damned Pencil design. I’ve lost the magnetic lightning connector cap. It came off in a seat-back somewhere over the pacific, and is no more.
  • Also, the Pencil dropped during a meal, and rolled back 2 rows. This saw me using my iPhone torch at 3am somewhere to try and recover the device. (I recovered it). Seriously Apple – A CLIP WOULD BE NICE.
  • None of the Office Products are fully featured. This is particularly irksome on PowerPoint, especially if you’re trying to create graphics. Word is okay-ish: It’s ok for most text styles, and even tables. Just not ideal for graphics (e.g. No aligning function, no multiple select etc.) The workaround is to open the documents in Pages, or Keynote, and edit them with the rich tools there, then save them as Office formats. Either that or only do work that requires limited editing functionality.

The Answer?

Uniquivocally…

“Yes!”

I took both the laptop and the Pro with me for the last two trips, and didn’t need to use the laptop for all but the most obscure reasons.