Category Archives: presentation

Dealing with presentation block

Every so often, I have to come up with a presentation topic. This is what happens when you know people who organize events and people know that you don’t mind speaking in public. Sometimes I even volunteer for this, and then I wonder why I do.

I rarely have a specific topic in mind when I say yes. I trust that something interesting will come up, and I’m curious about what it will be. Then I end up in situations where I’ve promised to give a talk and I’m trying to figure out what it is.

There are a few ways I approach this challenge when I have to come up with a talk quickly:

  • A. Pin down the one key thing I want people to remember or act on, and then build a talk around that.
  • B. Brainstorm a catchy title and talk description. Trust that my brain’s going to figure out a good way to justify it.
  • C. Ask people what they want to learn from me.
  • D. Flip through my blog posts and look for something worth fleshing out further.
  • E. Think about the kinds of follow-up conversations I want to have. Work backwards to determine what I need to present in order to spark people’s curiosity.
  • F. Ask the organizers.
  • G. Peek at other people’s talk descriptions. Plan something that complements what’s out there.
  • H. Write and write and write until something comes loose.

Other helpful thoughts:

  • I’m not expected to change anyone’s life or worldview in five minutes or sixty minutes. If I spark curiosity in five people, that’s already a win.
  • Constraints help with creativity.
  • It should be something I want to learn more about, so that I grow in the process of creating the presentation whether or not anyone actually attends. In-person and online participation becomes icing on the cake.

Next week, I’ll be talking to a mostly-designer crowd. Sketchnotes are an obvious choice, but I don’t want to do just a basic “You should draw your notes and here’s how” presentation — there’s plenty of that on the Net. I’m curious about the deliberate study of sketchnotes that I’ve been doing by building the sketchnoteindex.com . I’d love to see if I can convince sketchnoters to share their notes with me and everyone else to build indexes like these for their own interests.

There might be a talk there somewhere.

Quantified Awesome: Tracking clothes, groceries, and other everyday things

Girl Geeks Toronto: Quantified Self. =)

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Hashtag: #girlgeeksto

Getting ready for my “The Shy Entrepreneur” talk at the Toronto Reference Library tomorrow (Apr 10 Tue, 6 PM)

Here are my notes (click on the image for a larger version):

shy entrepreneur

I’ll tell stories along the way. =) Looking forward to it! (I may even remember to record it if I don’t get too flustered…)

Session follow-up #1: Discovering Yourself through Blogging

This entry is part 16 of 16 in the series Discovering Yourself Through Blogging

I enjoyed chatting with Holly Tse about blogging and how it can help you learn more about life, connect with people, save time, and do awesome. For the next day or so (Aug 17), you can listen to a free recording of my interview with Holly at http://instantteleseminar.com/?eventid=21913131 . I’m working on putting together a transcript and some follow-up notes, but here are some quick thoughts.

Blogging doesn’t have to be about building a personal brand or improving your search engine ranking. You can write as a way to learn, understand, remember, share, and save time.

Trying to figure out how to write about something possibly sensitive or offensive? Take a step back and try to take a really, really positive approach. Don’t focus on past hurts, focus on how to move forward. Don’t focus on what other people are doing wrong, focus on what you can do and what you can change about yourself. Write through things in your private notes if you need to, then see what insights and ideas you can share with others.

Where can you find the time to write? Holly Tse mentioned spending most of her time focused on her husband and their toddler, organizing this telesummit, and taking care of other essentials. I mentioned that mommy blogging (and parent blogging in general – let’s not forget the blogs!) was popular for lots of reasons: grown-up connections, memories, ideas, sanity checks, and so on. I also shared some time-saving tips, like cooking in larger batches. =)

You might be boring. In fact, you almost certainly will bore yourself from time to time. Writing will feel awkward if you haven’t been doing it a lot, and even if you have, it can still be frustrating. Keep writing. Don’t worry about being interesting. Don’t worry if no one reads your notes. Write in order to think clearly, write in order to remember, and write in order to share. You can grow into a good writer, but only if you write. You don’t need to win the Pulitzer Prize to write notes that can help you and other people.

How frequently should you write? As frequently as you can or would like to. =) Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t post every day or you blog sporadically. That said, try using writing as a tool for thinking. Try asking yourself questions like: What do I want to remember? What did I learn today? What do I want to do better tomorrow? What do I want to work on learning? If you do that, you’ll probably find that there’s a ton of stuff worth writing about.

More thoughts to follow. Feel free to ask more questions! Leave a comment so that other people can also share their thoughts with you, or use the contact form to get in touch with me. Have fun!

Presentation draft: Mentoring on the Network

Gail LeCocq asked me if I wanted to give a presentation for the Other-Than-Traditional-Office (OTTO) group in Toronto. At the time, I was preparing The Busy Person’s Guide to Learning from the Network, so I suggested that. When she got back in touch a ew weeks later to confirm, though, I realized that I wanted to talk about a different topic instead. I suggested a topic on mentoring, which several people had asked me about. Here’s a rough draft.

Mentoring on the Network
View more presentations from Sacha Chua

Why

Mentoring. We all know mentoring is good for your career, but sometimes it’s hard to make time to find and meet with mentors. Here’s how mentoring can make a big difference in the way you work:

  • Information: Mentors can help you learn complex tools or processes, review your work, and avoid or resolve problems.
  • Advice: Mentors can share insights you didn’t even know you needed. Mentors can also help you understand your hidden strengths and weaknesses.
  • Accountability: Mentors can help you commit to your goals and stay motivated.
  • Stretching: Mentors can challenge you to grow and call you out if you’re slacking off.
  • Connection: Mentors can help you navigate a large organization and find just the right people who can help you.
  • Sponsorship: Mentors can help you find opportunities you may not hear about yourself, or convince people to take a chance on you. Mentors can also speak up for you when people are making decisions.
  • Social interaction: Regular mentoring conversations can bring some of that social interaction back into remote work.

    Challenges and advantages

So mentoring is good, but how can you convince someone to invest the time and energy into mentoring you, particularly if you can’t make that face-to-face connection with them or develop familiarity by working together in a colocated office?

Mentoring can be difficult if you’re a remote employee. In an office, you might bump into someone you admire and ask them questions, your manager might walk over and introduce you to someone, or you might buy someone coffee or lunch while picking their brain. When you’re remote, you need to be more creative about connecting with people.

On the plus side, you can connect with possible mentors around the world. This means you can learn from very different perspectives. You can get a sense of what life and work is like in different business units and geographies.

Finding mentors

In IBM, you can use the Bluepages company directory system to find people who have volunteered to mentor other people. IBM Learning organizes speed-mentoring events where you can connect with many possible mentors, ask quick questions, and follow up for additional help or introductions. IBMers are also usually open to e-mail requests or questions.

Mentors can be older than you or younger than you, in the same business unit or in a different one, next door or around the world. Keep your mind open, and reach out. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

You can build a mentoring relationship over time. Start by connecting with your potential mentor and asking for a small piece of advice. Act on that advice if it’s good. Send a thank-you note with the results. Ask for more advice, and share more updates. Share what you’ve been learning from other people, too. If it turns out to be a good fit for both you and the other person, you might ask if you can set up a regular monthly chat to learn more.

If your potential mentor posts blog entries or profile updates, you can use that to build a relationship as well. Read what they post, comment, and share any updates on insights you’ve picked up from them and applied in your work or life. Send thanks – or better yet, post your thanks online too.

Making the most of mentoring

  • Have a clear idea of what you want to learn, how your potential mentor can make a difference, and why he or she may want to help you.
  • Set up a regular time to connect with your mentor – once a month, for example. Meet in person if possible, or connect using a video-conferencing program like Skype.
  • Talk about communication preferences with your mentor. Some people like having very focused meetings. Send them prepared questions before your conversation. Other people prefer e-mail or blog conversations over phone conversations. Try that out.
  • Take notes. Mentors invest time into helping you, and you can save them time and increase the ROI by writing down what you’ve learned in a form that they can easily share with other people.
  • Thank people!

    Helping others

Helping others is fulfilling, and you’ll learn a lot along the way. Even if you don’t consider yourself an expert, you’ve probably learned a lot of things you take for granted. You can help people get started, save time, and learn more. Give mentoring a try!

Some ways to connect with mentees:

  • Talk to your manager and other people about the things you can help people with. They can refer people to you.
  • Give presentations and share your slides. There are many groups in IBM who organize regular conference calls, and they’re always looking for speakers.
  • Attend virtual and real-life networking events. Ask people what they want to learn or what could help them be more successful.
  • Post profile updates or write blog posts. This helps people learn what you’re good at and get a sense of who you are.

Don’t forget to mention your mentoring during the Personal Business Commitments (PBCs) review. It’s a way of giving back to the community and investing in others!

Next steps

Now we get to the networking part of this presentation, where you might find a mentor or connect with a mentee. You’ll probably want pen and paper for this one, so you can write down people’s names. Let’s go around and introduce ourselves. Say your first and last name, then answer these questions: What do you need help with? What can you help people with? Then say your first and last name again, in case people missed your name the first time around. (Spell your name if you need to.) If you’re listening to someone’s introduction and something interests you, feel free to connect on this call or through Sametime!

What do you think? What would you like to share with other people looking for mentors or mentees?

2011-05-20 Fri 14:55

Giving a presentation using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and a web conference

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I gave a presentation using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and desktop-sharing in Lotus Live, and it worked out really well. I think I’ll do this for as many presentations as I can get away with. =) I’ll post a link to the recording when it’s up. It was much more fun and much more flexible than annotating in Microsoft Powerpoint. Here’s how I did it.

I pre-drew my one-slide talking points on a single layer so that I wouldn’t have to count on thinking, talking, and drawing all at the same time. I used an idea from children’s activity books: instead of drawing, you can use the eraser to make content appear, like the way you would scratch off black paint to reveal colours. I created a layer on top of my "slide", and I flood-filled this layer with white. I set the opacity of this layer to 90% so that I could see the traces of the images on the layer underneath. That way, I could use an eraser to reveal the sketches below. I selected a large eraser to make it even easier.

I also wanted to be able to draw new sketches or highlight items, so I selected a red ballpoint pen as my primary brush. Red goes well with black and white. Because my Lenovo X61 tablet pen has a pen tip and an eraser tip, I could easily flip between revealing pre-drawn sketches and adding new sketches. I drew on the the white layer that I gradually erased to reveal the underlying sketches. This meant that I could quickly remove accents or new sketches without disturbing my pre-drawn sketches.

Just in case I needed to go into more detail, I added another layer on top, filled it with white, and hid the layer. That way, I could always unhide it (thus blanking out everything else I’d drawn), add a new transparent layer on top, and sketch away.

I hid all the tools I didn’t need, and kept the layers window open on the side so that I could easily switch to another layer. Then it was time to share my screen, turn on the webcam, and give my presentation!

Here’s how you should set up your layers, from top to bottom:

  1. White layer, so that you can easily add layers on top of this for new drawings
  2. Translucent white layer with parts erased
  3. Pre-drawn sketches
  4. White background

The technique should work just as well with any drawing program that supports layers, a web conference that supports screen-sharing, and a tablet or tablet PC that lets you draw or erase easily.

Try it out and share your tips!