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Friday, April 23, 2010

2 things which Microsoft can never explain (plus debunks)

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Douglas Irwin
Sent: Fri, April 23, 2010 10:11:08 AM

2 things which Microsoft can never explain
AMAZING !!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!! !!!!
Do it practically Then u 'll come to know........ ..

An Indian found that nobody can create a FOLDER anywhere on the Computer which can be named as "CON". This is something funny and inexplicable. At Microsoft the whole Team, couldn't answer why this happened!
Doug: Simple. Windows is built based on an older operating system called MS-DOS. Lots of fragments of this still float around in Windows and CON is one of these. In MS-DOS CON is the "standard output" - which is normally your monitor. So you want to create a folder that is your screen? Not displayed on it but actually is your screen? I think not.

Again this is something funny and can't be explained. At Microsoft the whole Team, including Bill Gates, couldn't answer why this happened! It was discovered by a Brazilian. Try it out yourself.
Open Microsoft Word and type : 
=rand (200, 99)
And then press ENTER
And see the magic.

Doug: Sorry but this is by design, a test feature built into Word. The software developers included a powerful macro language in Word and this is part of it's testing suite. Oh and it varies depending on which version of Word you are using.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lessons on work-life balance from one CIO to others

ECGMA says: How many of us really do understand what work-life balance is? Many THINK they know from what their mundane routine they do week-in and week-out. Majority work fairly long hours during the week and allocate all their time to either their own personal interests and/or doing mummy-daddy duties like ferrying the kids to tuition, extra-curricular activities like swimming, piano lessons, sports etc on the weekends. It has come to a point that personal space is important but the world is changing, circumstances and decisions change constantly. So this balancing act is a fine line between work and family time. If we talk about spending 'quality' time with the family, ferrying kids around for their extra activities is NOT spending quality time but a chore.I work long hours too but to me that is not a chore. Unlike others when I am on holidays I am still in touch with my work colleagues, team and associates. In my position, I have to, to be on top of things, so to speak. Do my best not to be complacent. When things are in order, I can enjoy my holidays knowing all is under control. Isn't that better to have to come back to work from your vacation to find hell broke out in my absence? Sorry, Mr. Subramanian, it's is NOT about leaving work behind and not carry over. He switches off. I don't subscribe to that. I won't switch off, dim the 'light' a little but not total blackout. Ask Anthony Robbins whether his brain/mind is ticking 24/7? 

By T.K. Subramanian

April 16, 2010 I first learned the importance of work-life balance in keeping a professional focus 30 years ago. I had just quit L&T and joined a pharmaceutical company. I had only been with the company for four months when a date for my wedding was set. I knew getting leave would be difficult, but my reporting manager assured me that marriage was the one occasion for which adjustments could be made. On my part, I was willing to finish work that was assigned to me. It was all going well, when the reporting manager told me -- just a few days before my wedding -- that his boss objected to our arrangement. Apparently, it was too soon for me to take leave.
What did I do? I got married and I put in my papers on my return. At my exit interview, I was honest about why I wanted to leave. But that experience influenced the way I have thought of work-life balance ever since. It made me determined to provide a sensible balance for myself and my team. Here's how I do that:

Build in back-ups. In my team, we make sure that everyone takes off for family time, be it children's birthdays or anniversaries. We ensure that someone can step in when someone else needs to be away and we've also created infrastructure to guarantee that work doesn't suffer. Geographical boundaries really don't matter any more. People need some time away, especially since my staff sometimes works on weekends (Although we make sure no one works late unless absolutely required.) It also helps to build adequate redundancy in processes.

Work with a merged calendar. Both my personal and work calendars are one and the same. It helps me ensure that no clashes -- like birthdays -- take place.

Be flexible. At UB, given that we are an old economy company, everything is based on grade and position. But in my department, we don't always go by the book. I give my people facilities based on need -- not rank. For instance, UB staffers need to be of a certain rank before they can get a data connection at home. But if the junior-most person needs to monitor the servers 24x7, he needs access from home. So if he needs a high-speed data card, he gets it. And my management supports me.
We also have arrangements -- though not formal -- for employees to work from home if their kids are unwell or their families need attention. It's my opinion that productivity actually rises with arrangements like these. That's probably why this freedom has begun to spread to other departments.

Create a nurturing environment. I strongly feel that so long as a team is confident that no one will finger-point, they will never be stressed. We create an environment of understanding and co-operation, one in which everyone is treated well, and everyone knows they need to treat others well.

Make quality time count. I believe that it's not the amount of time you spend with your family that matters but the quality. Among other things, I make sure that we share at least one meal. On the days I get home from work early, I make sure we don't sit in front of the television. We try to go for short walks, to a nearby temple, and generally try to spend time together. I always make sure that when I am home, I am really at home: By and large, I don't carry over work and I switch off.
Using these techniques, it gets easier to balance your work with a personal life -- and that of your team as well. And when you get that right, it increases productivity by several notches.

The IT helmsman of the UB Group, T.K. Subramanian, Div. VP-IS, started his journey with the brand in 1983, at Herbertson's (one of UB's companies). He moved on as country manager of Ubex (UB's software export arm). In 1995, he set up the IT department of McDowell's (now USL). He implemented ERP and in 2005 started virtualizing infrastructure. Today, all 40 manufacturing units of the group are consolidated on one platform.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Elizabeth Tu Hoffman - Lifetime giver strengthens region's ties with China

Congratulations to my friend, Beth Tu, for being selected as one of 2 handfuls of Women of the Year by Cincinnati.Com. Very proud of her. Her passion and tireless dedication to her work to bring close relations between China and Cincinnati (her home) is rewarded and about time.
regards Eugene

 Elizabeth Tu Hoffman
The Enquirer - 4/18/2010

Combining her bicultural background and desire to give, Elizabeth Tu Hoffman of Indian Hill has spent countless hours working to improve ties between China and Cincinnati. She has since worked tirelessly to strengthen the relationship with our sister city, Liuzhou.


Elizabeth Tu Hoffman

Lifetime giver strengthens region's ties with China

By Shauna Steigerwald • • April 18, 2010

As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, Elizabeth Tu Hoffman grew up bilingual and bicultural, embracing the America of her birth while holding onto her family's Chinese heritage.

Later, at Wellesley College, where she majored in Chinese studies, the school motto "Non Ministrari sed Ministrare" - "Not to be ministered unto, but to minister" - struck a chord.

"It matches what my mother and father taught me about how to live a full life: you give of yourself," she said.
Combining that bicultural background and desire to give, Hoffman, 56, has spent countless hours working to improve ties between China and Cincinnati, her hometown of 28 years.

In 1987, while running her company, E. Tu Associates, which helps other companies establish trade relations with Asia, she served on the committee that selected Cincinnati's first Sister City - Liuzhou, China. She has since worked tirelessly to strengthen the relationship, serving as either chair or co-chair of the Cincinnati-Liuzhou Sister City Committee since 1989.
Among her greatest accomplishments there has been establishing a biennial teacher exchange with the help of her mentor, the late Charles Weilbaker. The 21-week program brings Liuzhou teachers to Cincinnati, where they learn methods for teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to their Chinese students; visit local schools and retirement homes; and present Chinese cultural programs at local libraries.

The teachers take the experience - and the often lifelong relationships they build with their host families, which Hoffman calls the "heart and soul" of the program - back to China. "They look at their students differently; they look at their jobs differently; they have more love to spread around," she said, adding that they also get a truer perspective of America and its values.
Cincinnati gets the exposure and the financial benefit of the teachers' and host families' spending, but more valuable is the knowledge that the teachers impart, she said.

"When children and adults are exposed to more information about modern China, then you're creating a bridge to peace, and that is the ultimate goal."

Hoffman's other passions include her family - husband Rowe, 81, and daughters Sarran, 25, and Virginia, 23; Timberlane Home LLC, the private home that she and Rowe founded for Sarran and three other young women with special needs; and art - she's serving on the board of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Her work with the Sister City program, however, is the work Hoffman feels she was born to do.
"I believe that I was truly put on this earth to be a cultural bridge," she said.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Three Grammar Rules You Can (And Should) Break

English Grammar

Grammar rules exist so that we don't sound like complete idiots when we write. Most of them have a good reason for being around; after all, clarity in communication is a good thing. A virtue, even.

However, that's not to say that all grammar rules are written in stone. In fact, some of them seem to be the work of rabid grammarians, who gleefully enforce confusing syntax and awkward construction in the name of "proper English."

To heck with that, I say. Here are three grammar rules that were made to be broken.

1. Ending a sentence with a preposition

I have no idea where this rule came from. What I do know is that many people, in an effort to keep from ticking off the Grammar Police, start twisting their sentences around so as not to end them with prepositions.

Unfortunately, more often than not, the new syntax is terribly awkward and painful to read. Take the first sentence of this section, for example. "From where this rule came" sounds like something Yoda would say, not me. A big part of blogging is showing your personality through words. How can you do that when you're twisting your phrases to suit some archaic rule?

In the interest of clarity and readability, it's quite all right to end a sentence with a preposition.

2. Beginning a sentence with "and" or "but"

Somebody, somewhere, once decided that you shouldn't begin sentences with conjunctions. Maybe it was an overzealous teacher who thought her students were doing it too much. My guess is that it was frustrated mothers who got sick and tired of hearing their children start every single sentence with "But Mo-om!"

The rule even got screen time in the movie Finding Forrester, when Sean Connery and Rob Brown have an entire conversation about it (and deliberately start their sentences with the offending words in order to make their points).

Regardless of how it began, you don't have to stick with it. It's perfectly all right to start your sentences with "and" or "but." It's a great way to grab attention and emphasize a point. But, as in all things, take it in moderation.

3. Splitting infinitives

How often have you heard that you're not allowed to let another word come between "to" and its verb? Some people hold that construction with the same reverence as is typically given to marriage: that which the writer hath wrought together, let no man tear asunder.

Except that it's really not that big of a deal. Come on: "to go boldly where no man has gone before" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "to boldly go." If it sounds better to split the infinitive, then take an axe to it!

Don't cling to the ancient rules just because your high school English teacher told you to. Be a rebel and break free of these nonsensical shackles!


About the Author: Michelle Pierce is the editor-in-chief (and word ninja) for Aqua Vita Creative, and she is very picky about spelling, grammar, and punctuation. She would like to remind the entire Internet that there is no "a" in "definitely."

Do You Make These 7 Mistakes When You Write?

Do you make these mistakes when you write?

It's time once again to review those nasty errors that damage our credibility when we write. Not normally a fun task, but absolutely necessary. I promise to keep you amused to diminish the pain (or at least I'll give it a shot).

As with the last time we explored grammatical errors, I feel compelled to mention that copywriting and blogging should be conversational and engaging, and breaking formal grammatical and spelling conventions can often be a good thing. Every time I see a comment complaining about something like, oh, I don't know… the improper use of an ellipsis or one-sentence paragraphs, I shake my head with sadness.

They just don't get it.

Outside of specific professional or academic contexts, writing with a personal style that makes it easier on the reader is more important than pleasing Strunk and White. That said, I also believe you have to know the rules in order to break them. Plus, there are some errors that you'll never convince anyone that you did intentionally in the name of style (outside of a joke), and even then some people will still assume you're dumb.

So, let's take a look at some more of those types of glaring errors that you never want to make. Thanks to reader suggestions and the aforementioned Messrs. Strunk and White, here are seven more common mistakes that can diminish the shine and credibility of your writing.

1. Loose vs. Lose

This one drives a lot of people crazy, including me. In fact, it's so prevalent among bloggers that I once feared I was missing something, and somehow "loose" was a proper substitute for "lose" in some other English-speaking countries. Here's a hint: it's not.

If your pants are too loose, you might lose your pants.

2. Me, Myself, and I

One of the most common causes of grammatical pain is the choice between "me" and "I." Too often people use "I" when they should use "me," because since "I" sounds stilted and proper, it must be right, right? Nope.

The easy way to get this one right is to simply remove the other person from the sentence and then do what sounds correct. You would never say "Give I a call," so you also wouldn't say "Give Chris and I a call." Don't be afraid of me.

And whatever you do, don't punt and say "myself" because you're not sure whether "me" or "I" is the correct choice. "Myself" is only proper in two contexts, both of which are demonstrated below.

Many consider Chris a punk, but I myself tolerate him. Which brings me to ask myself, why?

3. Different than vs. Different from

This one slips under the radar a lot, and I'll bet I've screwed it up countless times. It boils down to the fact that things are logically different from one another, and using the word "than" after different is a grammatical blunder.

This vase is different from the one I have, but I think mine is better than this one.

4. Improper Use of the Apostrophe

Basically, you use an apostrophe in two cases:

  • For contractions (don't for do not)
  • To show possession (Frank's blog means the blog belongs to Frank)

If still in doubt, leave the apostrophe out. It causes more reader confusion to insert an apostrophe where it doesn't belong than it does to omit one. Plus, you can always plead the typo defense if you leave an apostrophe out, but you look unavoidably dumb when you stick one where it doesn't belong.

5. Parallelism

Back when I talked about bullet points, one of the tips involved keeping each bullet item in parallel by beginning with the same part of speech. For example, each item might similarly begin with a verb like so:

  • deliver…
  • prompt…
  • cause…
  • drive…

When writing a list of items in paragraph form, this is even more crucial, and failing to stay in parallel can result in confusion for readers and scorn from English majors. Check out this non-parallel list in a sentence:

Over the weekend, Kevin bought a new MacBook Pro online, two software programs, and arranged for free shipping.

Do you see the problem? If not, break the list into bullet points and it becomes clear:

Over the weekend, Kevin:

  • Bought a new MacBook Pro online
  • Two software programs
  • Arranged for free shipping

Stick the word "ordered" in front of "two software programs" and you're in parallel. Your readers will subconsciously thank you, and the Grammar Nazis won't slam you.

6. i.e. vs. e.g.

Ah, Latin… you've just gotta love it. As antiquated as they might seem, these two little Latin abbreviations are pretty handy in modern writing, but only if you use them correctly.

The Latin phrase id est means "that is," so i.e. is a way of saying "in other words." It's designed to make something clearer by providing a definition or saying it in a more common way.

Copyblogger has jumped the shark, i.e., gone downhill in quality, because Brian has broken most of his New Year's resolutions.

The Latin phrase exempli gratia means "for example", so e.g. is used before giving specific examples that support your assertion.

Copyblogger has jumped the shark because Brian has broken most of his New Year's resolutions, e.g., promising not to say "Web 2.0," "linkbait," or "jumped the shark" on the blog in 2007.

7. Could of, Would of, Should of

Please don't do this:

I should of gone to the baseball game, and I could of, if Billy would of done his job.

This is correct:

I should have gone to the baseball game, and could have, if Billy had done his job.

Why do people make this mistake?

They could've, should've, would've been correct, except that the ending of those contractions is slurred when spoken. This creates something similar to a homophone, i.e., a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning, e.g., of, which results in the common grammatical mistake of substituting of for have.

Ain't this been fun?

Five Grammatical Errors that Make You Look Dumb


One thing blogging and good copywriting share is a conversational style, and that means it's fine to fracture the occasional rule of proper grammar in order to communicate effectively. Both bloggers and copywriters routinely end sentences with prepositions, dangle a modifier in a purely technical sense, or make liberal use of the ellipsis when an EM dash is the correct choice—all in order to write in the way people actually speak.

But there are other mistakes that can detract from your credibility. While we all hope what we have to say is more important than some silly grammatical error, the truth is some people will not subscribe or link to your blog if you make dumb mistakes when you write, and buying from you will be out of the question.

Here are five mistakes to avoid when blogging and writing web copy.

1. Your vs. You're

This one drives me insane, and it's become extremely common among bloggers. All it takes to avoid this error is to take a second and think about what you're trying to say.


"Your" is a possessive pronoun, as in "your car" or "your blog." "You're" is a contraction for "you are," as in "you're screwing up your writing by using your when you really mean you are."

2. It's vs. Its

This is another common mistake. It's also easily avoided by thinking through what you're trying to say.


"It's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has." "Its" is a possessive pronoun, as in "this blog has lost its mojo." Here's an easy rule of thumb—repeat your sentence out loud using "it is" instead. If that sounds goofy, "its" is likely the correct choice.

3. There vs. Their

This one seems to trip up everyone occasionally, often as a pure typo. Make sure to watch for it when you proofread.


"There" is used many ways, including as a reference to a place ("let's go there") or as a pronoun ("there is no hope"). "Their" is a plural possessive pronoun, as in "their bags" or "their opinions." Always do the "that's ours!" test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, "their" will get you there.

4. Affect vs. Effect

To this day I have to pause and mentally sort this one out in order to get it right. As with any of the other common mistakes people make when writing, it's taking that moment to get it right that makes the difference.


"Affect" is a verb, as in "Your ability to communicate clearly will affect your income immensely." "Effect" is a noun, as in "The effect of a parent's low income on a child's future is well documented." By thinking in terms of "the effect," you can usually sort out which is which, because you can't stick a "the" in front of a verb. While some people do use "effect" as a verb ("a strategy to effect a settlement"), they are usually lawyers, and you should therefore ignore them if you want to write like a human.

5. The Dangling Participle

The dangling participle may be the most egregious of the most common writing mistakes. Not only will this error damage the flow of your writing, it can also make it impossible for someone to understand what you're trying to say.


Check out these two examples from Tom Sant's book Persuasive Business Proposals:

After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

Uhh… keep your decomposing brother away from me!

Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server's flexibility and growth potential.


Hmmm… robotic copy written by people embedded with circuit boards. Makes sense.

The problem with both of the above is that the participial phrase that begins the sentence is not intended to modify what follows next in the sentence. However, readers mentally expect it to work that way, so your opening phrase should always modify what immediately follows. If it doesn't, you've left the participle dangling, as well as your readers.


P.S. You may find it amusing to know that I, like David Ogilvy, have never learned the formal rules of grammar. I learned to write by reading obsessively at an early age, but when it came time to learn the "rules," I tuned out. If you show me an incorrect sentence, I can fix it, but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife.

What makes a good website and the common mistakes to avoid

ECGMA says: KISS principle = Keep It Simple, Stupid!



1. Keep your site simple - KYSS

How many times have you tried to access a website only to have to wait while the intro loads?

The main reason that people use the internet is to get information. And they want it quickly. So, unless, you're a graphic designer, a special effects expert or an audio-visual nut, the best advice I can give you is forget the flashy graphics and focus on the beef – the content.

Getting your homepage right

The first page most visitors will visit is your homepage.
I can't emphasise enough how important it is that your homepage sets out clearly, quickly and simply:

- what's on your site
- where to find it
- how to contact you
- why they should explore further.

Everything else is subordinate to these four tasks.

As a general rule your homepage should look slightly different to the rest of your site. It's then recognisable as the base camp to which visitors can return and explore from.

Don't tell them – tell them what you're going to tell them

A common homepage mistake is to write too much.

Decide what you want people to do – identify two actions and focus on them. Everything else should be subordinate to these two results.

Most people don't read websites – they scan them. There are billions of pages out there and life isn't long enough to read them all. Split your homepage into chunks so that visitors can quickly assess whether there's anything on your site they want.
Link to more detailed content on separate pages.

These pages should be written so that they appeal both to your readers and the search engines. You need to include your keywords and phrases so that the engines' robots detect the high relevance of your site to the keywords you've identified as important in your market. We'll cover this in greater depth in another article.

2. Designer sites that don't sell

Don't misunderstand me, I like designers and I count some as friends. And some are excellent website designers. But the majority get websites wrong. Their mistake is that they think the web is primarily visual. Actually, they think everything is visual and words are a waste of space.


First of all search engines can't read pictures; they read words.

Secondly when was the last time a salesman used pictures to sell you something? Without talking!

And that's what a website is – your 24/7 'talking' salesman.
Many of the most profitable websites are downright ugly – just like some salespeople– but they're structured, designed and written to:

- grab your attention
- stir your emotions
- build your interest
- get you involved
- develop your appetite
- establish credibility and trust
- persuade you to take action.

Which is great news because it means you don't have to spend a fortune on animation and graphics. Stick to the principles of good salesmanship, treat your visitors like intelligent human beings and you'll be half way there.

If you want an effective, search engine friendly website, things to stay away from include:

1. Intros designed in Flash, the animation technology for websites.
2. Revolving globes, bevelled line separators and animated mail boxes.
3. Too many pop-up or pop-under boxes.
4. Autoplay music. Let your customer choose to play music if offering it strengthens your message.
5. Free hit counters saying "you're the 27th visitor" – big deal.
6. Date and time stamps, unless you update your website daily or weekly.
7. Busy backgrounds.

Focus on your core content, easy navigation, interactivity and promoting your site to your target audience.

3.Content, content, content

It's natural and desirable that you should want your website to be well designed and professional looking. But it's far more important that you offer valuable content and promote your site effectively.

How do you create good content? By focusing on your audience's needs, not on what you're selling.

The internet is a vast warehouse of information. Most people – 75-90% according to research – search for information through the search engines.
To get a good presence or ranking on search engines you need quality content, now more than ever. This is because the search engines have commercial links to the directories – directories rank sites according to their editor's opinions of their content.

The rankings at, the open directory project, feed directly into Google, AOL, Lycos, Hotbot and Alta Vista amongst others.
The LookSmart directory feeds its results into MSN and

You can create good content by, for example:

- offering objective analysis and commentary on your industry or subject
- inviting others to write articles for your site (you can incentivise them by providing a link to their site or allowing a subtle plug, provided they're not competitors)
- providing a news digest
- listening to and addressing your customers' concerns, worries, enthusiasms and ideas
- subscribing to a syndicated content site like

4. How to keep people flocking to your site

Remember – most people use the internet to get FREE information.
Content really is king so it follows that you need to refresh your site at regular intervals or as topics arise in the news. People need a reason to return to your site but if they find nothing new, they may not give you a second chance.

Why not diarise website changes once a fortnight? If your site comes with an easy to use content management system, you can make simple text and image changes yourself.

You can get ideas for new content from trade publications, the internet, local media and good old fashioned creativity.

Special offers make great new content too and give you a reason to contact your 'opt-in subscribers'. We'll discuss this technique in a later article.


what makes a good website About The Author
what makes a good website

Paul Lock
(Visit Paul's Website)
Brought up in London and been in marketing since the days of Johnny Rotten - yes, that long. Corporations may be slow moving and full of political windbags but they're a great way to get your training. After 20 years 'training' I went into the agency world and set up my own company three years ago. We help small businesses make the most of their web marketing investment, from design and planning to search engine optimisations and analytics. If you can't measure it, don't waste your money - are you a business person or a gambler? Over the years I've made more mistakes than you could shake a stick at and, on the basis that an investment in knowledge pays the best returns, I offer a few morsels which might help you make fewer mistakes than me. I hope my articles help and feel free to visit my web site. Best of luck, Paul

what makes a good website Paul Lock is a Gold author on

what makes a good website

Paul Lock

(Visit Paul's Website)

Brought up in London and been in marketing since the days of Johnny Rotten - yes, that long. Corporations may be slow moving and full of political windbags but they're a great way to get your training. After 20 years 'training' I went into the agency world and set up my own company three years ago. We help small businesses make the most of their web marketing investment, from design and planning to search engine optimisations and analytics. If you can't measure it, don't waste your money - are you a business person or a gambler? Over the years I've made more mistakes than you could shake a stick at and, on the basis that an investment in knowledge pays the best returns, I offer a few morsels which might help you make fewer mistakes than me. I hope my articles help and feel free to visit my web site. Best of luck, Paul

what makes a good website Paul Lock is a Gold author on

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Talk to the suits: How to sell IT outside of IT

Talk to the suits: How to sell IT outside of IT

Less is more when it comes to bang-up business presentations. Here are five tips for better tech talks.

Mary K. Pratt

April 12, 2010 (Computerworld) Thomas Murphy needed a new ERP system, and he needed $300 million to buy it.

With a price tag that large, you'd think Murphy would add every justification he could think of to his presentations for his business colleagues. But even though he had enough data to fill 200 slides, Murphy, senior vice president and CIO at AmerisourceBergen Corp., resisted that temptation.

a good presentation can keep the crowd rapt

Instead, he sold his plan -- to IT employees, line-of-business colleagues and C-level executives at the Valley Forge, Pa.-based pharmaceutical services company -- with a mere five slides that used impressive images and just a few persuasive facts to get his point across.

For example, he showed an image of an iceberg to demonstrate that little issues with the company's current processes were symptomatic of much bigger problems to come. And when he told audiences that the company's supply chain application was older than Pong, up came a screen shot from the ancient video game.

"It always got a big laugh, followed by a look of dawning realization and fear," Murphy says, explaining that "good sales people use analogies or powerful references, because people don't remember the numbers. They remember the story."

Three years later, and halfway through the implementation of the ERP system, IT people still talk about the iceberg. "I have always said that the CIO's role is primarily a sales role," Murphy observes. "That's really what we do. We have to sell to people who don't know they want to buy."

Techies get talking

By and large, IT types aren't known for their smooth communication styles or savvy presentation skills. That used to be OK. Now, though, as board members want more details about IT spending, and business colleagues want more information on what technology can do for them, technology employees at all levels need good presentation skills -- particularly if they want to move up in the ranks.

There's a lot at stake, says Lori Michaels, chief technology officer at The Economist Intelligence Unit Ltd., a New York-based research and advisory firm. Michaels says she's seen great projects passed over because no one could present a compelling case for them, while flash-in-the-pan "bubblegum tech" that was presented well got funded.

Good presentation skills can help IT professionals reach not just their organizational goals, but their personal goals as well. As communication becomes increasingly important, presentation-savvy tech employees are often called upon to carry IT's message to the rest of the company, simultaneously increasing their visibility and their perceived value to the organization.

Want to create a message that others will remember years later? Consider the following tips for putting together a killer presentation.

Give your audience an action item

If you want to make a persuasive presentation, start by defining its purpose, says Kimberly Douglas, president of FireFly Facilitation Inc. in Atlanta and author of The Firefly Effect: Build Teams That Capture Creativity and Catapult Results.

"Get extremely clear about what you want to get out of the presentation, from these particular people, at this particular point in time," she says. Ask yourself: Why is this project important? Why is this project going to help those around me? And what do I need from this group?

If you are making a pitch to develop a new application for your company's marketing department, for example, you need to demonstrate what the application will do for marketing, articulate why it will be money well spent and spell out the actions you need them to take -- all from the audience's point of view.

"What do you want them to know, think, feel, or do differently?" Douglas asks. Answering those questions will help you articulate what you need to convey in your presentation.

Michaels asks her team members to sum up in one sentence what they want to convey in their presentations and what they want their audience to come away with. The exercise helps shift the presentations from a regurgitation of technology facts to an action that the audience can rally behind, she says.

Michaels once worked with her vice president of technology as he was preparing a presentation to stakeholders about a new database architecture. His original presentation had about 30 slides, mostly detailing the benefits of the new technology. To help him tailor his presentation, Michaels asked him to define his audience and explain what he needed from them.

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Tips for better tech talks

  • Think of a presentation as a story with a beginning, middle and end.AmerisourceBergen CIO Thomas Murphy says he has built presentations on storyboards like movie directors do.
  • Start with a headline, says Suzanne Bates, president and CEO of Bates Communications. "Figure out the problem and the solution, and then present that big idea in the first minute or two. That's backward for many technical people, who don't understand how people can make a decision without hearing all the facts." But with this approach, she says, "you'll be far more successful in getting their attention."
  • Understand your topic thoroughly. You don't want to present everything you know, but having detailed knowledge about the issue will help you present with confidence, answer questions effectively and build credibility with your audience.
  • Prepare a condensed version. Even if you've been told you'll have a certain amount of time, you might be told to cut it short for myriad reasons, Bates says. So know where you can trim if you have to. She recommends having a three-minute version ready to go.
  • Test the technology. Abbie Lundberg, president of Lundberg Media, attended a recent meeting where the first 15 minutes or so was spent waiting for someone to get the video working. Not the best way to engage an audience, she points out.
  • Ask "What questions do you have?" rather than the "Does anyone have a question?"It's a small rephrasing, says Kimberly Douglas, president of FireFly Facilitation, but the first version is much more inviting and likely to elicit audience responses.
  • Practice. Douglas recommends asking someone who can give you honest feedback to watch you run through your presentation to ensure you've got it right.

"His audience was all high-level stakeholders from business management," she says. "What he needed from that group was to get approval for funding and set expectations on a timeline that would satisfy the business goals." That produced a very different deck with points on ROI-related information, goals that related to the business's timelines, and examples of features to be delivered that accomplished their strategies."

In the end, the presentation didn't mention architecture or relational database structures -- and he got the funding he needed.

Say what the technology does, not what it is

"The majority of presentations I see are, 'We're going to go with Java and it will solve the problems,' whatever the problems are," Michaels says. "But the CFO just hears, 'I want $5 million to make my life easier.' "

That's why you need to leave out technical jargon and focus instead on explaining what that technology will bring to those in front of you, says Abbie Lundberg, president of Lundberg Media LLC in Gloucester, Mass., and former editor in chief of Computerworld sister publication CIOmagazine.

"Where a lot of IT people fall down is they talk about what the technology does. They tend to talk about the functioning of the systems, which is a big mistake. Most others don't understand it, and they don't care about it," Lundberg explains. "IT people have to be more audience-focused. They have to ask, 'What does my audience care about?' "

Think about what you want the technology to do for each audience.

If it's going to help sales deliver goods to customers more quickly, that's what you present to sales. If it helps your call center people handle calls faster, that's your key talking point, Lundberg says.

AmerisourceBergen's Murphy, who needed two years to sell his $300 million ERP project, honed his ability to describe technology in business terms by meeting one-on-one with his counterparts in other departments. It wasn't until he framed the need for the ERP project in the terms that his business colleagues focused on -- describing it in terms of revenue vs. profit -- that he was able to really engage his audiences during presentations, he says.

Use more images, fewer words

As Murphy learned with the success of his iceberg picture, images speak louder than words.

"Audiences can only read or listen. They can't do both," says Suzanne Bates, president and CEO of Wellesley, Mass.-based Bates Communications Inc. and author of Speak Like a CEO andMotivate Like a CEO.

This point is particularly important when speaking in front of a live audience, which is often forced to squint while looking at small type squeezed onto slides by a presenter desperate to cram it all in.

Bates tells her clients to resist that urge. "You want people to walk out of the room remembering your presentation and what you said, and the only way you can do that is with powerful imagery and good stories."

Bates suggests that clients write a script before compiling any visuals. And then, before they log onto PowerPoint or a similar program, she has them get out crayons -- yes, crayons -- and draw images based on their messages. Those images then become the basis of a photo or more polished design.

Think beyond plain-vanilla slides

Despite the high-tech communication tools now at our fingertips, experts say most presentations still feature slides with bullet points and more bullet points. It's time to expand that basic menu to deliver maximum impact.

Michaels, for example, has used PowerPoint's animation feature to help illustrate the transformations that her proposed IT projects can bring. "We're almost always decommissioning and rebuilding, so what better way to illustrate that than to put a picture up and morph it?" she asks.

at first the message is unity
Figure 1. Give a straightforward PowerPoint slide, like this one, a little life ...

She once needed to deliver a presentation on agile development and why it would work well for her business colleagues, who were still wedded to a two-year development-and-delivery cycle.

Michaels knew that her audience didn't care about the process of agile development as much as the results it could bring. So she designed a slide featuring a block arrow with the project's name on it. The arrow was made up of smaller arrows that at first all pointed right (Figure 1).

image shifts to show business benefits
Figure 2. ... by moving the image midpresentation to show business benefits.

Then, when Michaels talked about how agile development delivers pieces over time, the smaller arrows turned and pointed down to individual business benefits listed along a timeline (Figure 2).

"Good presenters are able to pull on the right tools at the right time," Lundberg says, noting that video and other visuals usually have more impact than bullet-point presentations. Lundberg says she uses video in the same way as graphics -- to highlight a point in a memorable way. She recommends keeping video clips to under 30 seconds, going as long as a minute "only if it's really good."

"I tend to use video for humor, too," she says. Lundberg cites a presentation she prepared on IT's ability to drive both efficiency and innovation. In it, she noted that though it's possible to do both, it can be hard for an immature IT organization to achieve. She used an analogy: "Can you pat your head and rub your belly at the same time?" alongside some YouTube clips, first of a 3-year-old having a tough time and then of a daredevil teen doing that and much more.

"Video is also good if you need to show a demonstration of some kind. In that case, you might want to hire someone to produce it for you. Again, though, you need to keep it short," Lundberg says. "A mistake I've seen a lot of CIOs make is to run a long promotion-type video about their company. Really, nobody cares how fast your cars go or how big your ships are. It just looks like a commercial to them, and we all know how much people love commercials."

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes nothing works so well as a good, old-fashioned analog prop. For example, when Murphy had to talk about business transformation to 650 salespeople from his company, he opted to unroll a supersized printout representing the company's systems and its complexities.

"It was probably four feet wide and 10 to 12 feet long. I rolled it out in front of me on stage and let it roll over the stage floor," he recalls, explaining that the highly detailed technical chart showed all of the data connections among 300 or so master applications. "It wasn't the drawing but rather the act of rolling out the scroll that amplified my point about complexity," Murphy says.

Props like that, he says, get the point across in a way that words and data charts can't.

Show your passion

Most techies are used to developing highly detailed, well-documented reports and requirements, making it extra difficult to switch from that scientific frame of mind to an emotional one. But Douglas says just such an adjustment can help IT folks connect with their audience.

She cites the case of one IT manager from a large financial institution speaking out at an IT managers meeting. At a point where the meeting seemed to be going off track, the manager rose and issued an impromptu plea regarding the critical need to work more cooperatively.

"I can see him standing, I can see the room. He stood up and called people up by name, saying, 'We are here to come together.' He was passionate about the need for people to leave their own silos behind," she recalls.

What made the moment so memorable, Douglas says, was the manager's obvious emotion. "When he talked about the excitement of being in that organization's IT department, there was a transparency, a vulnerability," she says. "He made great eye contact with people. He commanded presence from both the tone of his voice and the passion that came through. It was just riveting."

Douglas doubts it would have had the same impact if he had put up a pile of slides and talked through critical data points.

AmerisourceBergen's Murphy would agree with that assessment wholeheartedly. "It's hard to sell if your passion about what you're selling doesn't come across."

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at