Presentation Zen

A book review of Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds

It’s SAP BusinessObjects User Conference season and time to put the final touches on presentations.  I recently picked up a copy of Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen, second edition to keep my copy of The Naked Presenter company.  The book is divided into three sections- preparation, design, and delivery- and gives solid examples with lots of illustration. It begins with a forward by former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki, who cleverly writes his forward as a slide deck.  The book also features sidebar articles by other well-known presentation gurus like Nancy DuarteSeth Godin, and Gihan Perera.

Although the presentations I give tend to be technical with lots of how-to and screen captures, I appreciated the discussion on the evils of “slideuments”. A slideument is a slide presentation that really should be broken down into a more general slide deck and a more specific document handout.  Although I tend to agree with the author, it’s easier to see the concepts applied to the sample slide decks of the late Steve Jobs or TED speakers than pure hands-on technical content.

The other advise I took was purchasing a presentation remote.  Mr. Reynolds writes about Keyspan remotes on his web site, so I purchased a Keyspan PR-PRO3.  There are smaller remotes on the market, but this one fits comfortably in my hand and has great range.  It really makes a difference in your presentation when not trapped behind a lectern.

I did my best to apply as much advice as possible in my upcoming presentations at the 2012 ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference.  I’m glad I bought it and know that I’ll pick this book up again and again as I prepare for future conferences.

What are your thoughts about Presentation Zen?  What other books about presenting should I read?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Goodnight iPad

A great gift idea for gadget geeks who need to learn to power down.

Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd is billed as “a parody for the next generation”. This parody of the popular children’s book Goodnight Moon is wonderfully written and illustrated, making it a great gift idea for gadget geeks who need to learn to power down.

Highly recommended.

Purchase Goodnight iPad on Amazon.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Freedom is Blogging in Your Underwear

This is a book about freedom.

I saw the title of Hugh MacLeod‘s latest book and knew I had to buy it immediately. If you’re not familiar with his work, Hugh MacLeod is a cartoonist whose work can be found at gapingvoid.com.

The 128-page book is a manifesto for bloggers, not a “how-to” guide. It also features a generous amount of Hugh’s artwork. According to the author:

This is a book about freedom. Specifically the personal freedom I discovered from the wonderful world of blogging, the freedom I hope everybody will eventually discover for themselves. The freedom that, I believe, will permanently and irrevocably change the world for the better.

Without blogging, without the internet, Hugh MacLeod would most likely be sitting on a bar stool in New York City drawing cartoons on the back of business cards after a long day at a traditional job. But blogging gave him a voice, one that couldn’t be silenced by the gatekeepers of traditional media. And for Hugh, it has led to a non-traditional yet successful career.

I started blogging using free Google Blogger on October 27, 2007. My initial goals were modest. I started a blog after reading article suggesting it was a great resume/CV booster. Over time, I learned that I could use my blog as a public Evernote – a space where I could record bits of information that I would want to read again on the next consulting project. I figured if the content was useful for me, it might be useful for others.

On January 28, 2008, after just three months of blogging, I received my first comment – the first visible indication that I had readers. Then just two days later, Josh Fletcher posted a comment – from Australia. I knew that Google was indexing my blog but didn’t know that somebody half way around the world would find it.

Times have changed in the nearly five years since I started blogging. I now pay a web hosting company to host WordPress, not Google Blogger. Looking at Google Analytics is a thrilling but very humbling experience. And Hugh MacLeod is right. Blogging is freedom. And as a traveling consultant, it frequently happens in a hotel room in my underwear. (If it makes you feel better, I’m typing this in a Marriott Courtyard bar fully clothed).

Over time I discovered my own voice. And the need to write, to express myself, even when Google Analytics told me that nobody read what I thought was a brilliant masterpiece.

So for me, this book was mostly confirmation of what I already knew. But for you, it could be an epiphany.

Resources

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book with my own funds. It was not a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Apple Experience

A review of The Apple Experience by Carmine Gallo

If you’ve never ventured into an Apple Store, today’s announcement of new Apple laptops might make you want to visit. And a visit to an Apple Store is quite an experience. While not every location is as visibly dramatic as Apple’s Fifth Avenue store in New York City with its impressive glass cube, Apple Stores are always located in the most fashionable retail locations. But what is it about these stores that can make the most die-hard Microsoft or Android fan want to buy a MacBook Pro, a new iPhone, or an iPad?

The Apple Experience by Carmine Gallo is the third book of a “trilogy” that includes The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs. The focus of this title is about the inner workings of Apple’s retail stores, which generate more revenue per square foot than any other retailer. But Apple hasn’t reached lofty revenue goals by focusing exclusively on revenue. In fact, the Apple retail store concept was widely ridiculed almost immediately as the first store opened in 2001. Instead, the focus of Apple’s retail stores is “enriching lives”. Apple understands that customers don’t just want to purchase a computer. Customers want to know how to use a computer to achieve their goals.

A key lesson that Apple learned in the development of their retail concept was to look outside of their industry for inspiration. So instead of looking at Gateway Computer, whose retail stores were permanently closed in 2004, Apple looked to the Four Seasons Hotel and its fantastic customer experience.

And just as Apple looked to other sources for its inspiration, so has author Carmine Gallo. While Apple’s logo graces the cover and many of the book’s major themes, he also profiles companies such as AT&T, Lush, Starbucks, and Zappos.

The 256-page book is organized into three parts: Inspiring Your Internal Customer, Serving Your External Customer, and Setting the Stage. I expected the book to focus on typical retail concepts like selling skills or product placement. But I was surprised that Mr. Gallo devotes nearly 90 pages to Inspiring Your Internal Customer – your employees. Hiring and training are a big part of creating the Apple experience.

At first glance, it might seem like this book is only relevant to people working in the retail industry. But as the author writes,

This book is for anyone who has a business that deals with people. Sure, it includes retailers in any category. But… it’s for anyone who is serious about reimagining the customer experience, because at its core, this book is not about Apple. It’s about the soul of Apple – it’s people.

Most people don’t know why they feel good in an Apple Store, they just do. But it’s people who elevate the customer experience – people who are inspired, are passionate, and have been given the resources and taught the communication techniques required to turn transactions into experiences…

Apple inspires and creates a happy place for people to work and for customer to learn. Inspire people and anything can happen.

So where is the value in this book for business intelligence professionals? Business intelligence is more than “big data” or “sexy visualization tools”. It’s about helping people solve business problems with technology- about enriching lives, just like Apple Stores. And just like Apple learned a lot about customer service by studying organizations outside its industry, I believe that you’ll learn a lot about improving your business intelligence organization’s customer experience in a similar way.

BI managers, in particular, should definitely read this book. Then take the whole BI team to a nearby Apple Store. Take a look at those iPads and their possibility for mobile business intelligence. Deliberately engage with the Apple Store employees. Then take some time afterward to discuss the store visit with your team. What impressed them about their experience? What, if anything, was unremarkable or undesirable?

Then ask the bigger questions. What would a business intelligence genius bar look like? How can our organization implement training similar to the Apple Store’s One-to-One program to increase user adoption? How can we employ Apple’s Five Steps of Service and rethink how we engage our users? How do we make the experience memorable and not the usual “oh crap, I need to go talk to somebody in IT”?

These are important questions. And I believe this book can help inspire you to find some answers.

For More Information

True Story

I had never heard of Lush soaps until reading this book, which inspired me to get some of their products for my wife. An interesting company with an unusual approach to beauty products. Worth checking out both for the products and the in-store retail experience. Their “About Us” video is pretty funny as well as informative.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from McGraw-Hill, the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What do you think a genius bar for business intelligence would look like? Does your organization have one?

StrengthsFinder 2.0

Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

At my organization’s last annual company meeting, the human resources manager gave each employee a copy of StrenghtsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, whose inside cover asks “Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” [emphasis theirs].  This thin, 183-page career book includes an access code for the online Clifton StrengthFinder 2.0 assessment test.  The first 31 pages articulate the central thesis of the book – that “you cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”  Instead of focusing a majority of personal self-improvement time on weakness, the book asserts that we should instead focus on developing strength.  The remainder of the book describes 34 talent themes.  The online assessment, which takes only about 30 minutes to complete, generates a personalized profile of your top five talents in Adobe PDF format (I keep mine on Dropbox).  Not only does the assessment describe your talents, but it provides a customized action plan based on the results thousands of other people who have taken the assessment (statistical analysis, anyone?).  Once you have your test results, you can finish the book quickly by only reading about your five talents.  Or if you’re like me, you’ll read about the other 29 talents to see if the assessment “got it all wrong”.

I’ll share the results of my assessment in a future post so you can decide.

 

 

Used copies can be found cheaply at bookstores like Half Price Books. But beware – the access code in the back of the book can only be used once.  If the seal is broken, the book isn’t worth purchasing. Thankfully, the book is relatively inexpensive from online booksellers like Amazon.

Highly Recommended.

Have you taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment?  What did you think of the results?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th Edition

As an IT consultant, conference speaker, and blogger, I have found the recently updated Microsoft Manual of Style to be indispensable.

As an IT consultant, conference speaker, and blogger, I have found the recently updated Microsoft Manual of Style to be indispensable. Although not a full-time writer, I spend a great deal of time creating project documentation, training manuals, and short articles. Because I’m an engineer by training and not an English major, a guide written by Microsoft is much more helpful to me than a generic style guide such as the Chicago Manual of Style, since the latter is written for non-technical journalists.

This manual is well-balanced between technical issues and writing issues. On the technical side, the book deals with writing content for the web and how to properly refer to visual elements in Microsoft operating systems (including mobile). On the writing side, the book deals with writing for a worldwide audience (helpful, as 50% of my blog readers are outside the United States), punctuation, and voice. The authors present examples in “Microsoft Style” and “Not Microsoft Style”, allowing the reader to see style concepts in actual usage. Microsoft® Manual of Style is also available in several electronic formats including Amazon Kindle format, Barnes and Noble Nook format, ePub, Mobi and Adobe PDF (the latter three from O’Reilly’s web site), making it easy to take anywhere.

Thanks to O’Reilly Media for providing an e-book review copy of this book as part of the O’Reilly Reader Reviews Program.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Naked Presenter

This book not only gives useful presentation tips but enlarges your thinking about presentations and engaging with an audience.

I have frequently heard about Garr Reynolds and his Presentation Zen books. But I never ordered one until picking out my own Christmas presents on Amazon.com last month. I’ll be speaking soon at BI 2012 in Las Vegas. It’s too late to learn how to make better slides (Presentation Zen and Presentation Zen Design), as they’re already finalized. But it’s not too late to improve my delivery, so I chose The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides as my first Garr Reynolds title. It’s a great book and this quote from page 101 explains why:

If you are talking about trying to lead a movement, change the world, or just get your message heard and remembered, then you sure as heck better be prepared to show your passion. You don’t have to be slick or polished, and you don’t have to be tall or good looking, but you do have to engage, inspire, and motivate. That’s what leaders do. That’s what naked presenters do.

Whether you’re a conference speaker or just engaging with co-workers in a conference room, this book not only gives useful presentation tips but enlarges your thinking about presentations and connecting to an audience. I’ll definitely be re-reading this book on the flight to Las Vegas and hope that the results come through in my presentations. But I will be fully dressed.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book with my own funds. It was not a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Agile Analytics

If your business intelligence team has discussed “going agile”, this book can give you practical information to help you get there.

A lot of software development projects fail, and business intelligence and data warehousing projects can fail spectacularly. In the world of software development, the Agile movement has created some practices aimed at speeding up customer delivery and reducing failures. Author Ken Collier explains how to harness Agile techniques in a business intelligence/data warehousing environment in his book Agile Analytics: A Value-Driven Approach to Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing.

The book is organized into two sections, management methods and technical methods. Most of the technical methods focus on data modeling and data integration (often referred to as Extract, Transform, and Load, or ETL). While these areas are critical to a successful business intelligence system, my role is most often focused on the presentation layer or BI toolset (such as SAP BusinessObjects). So I personally gravitated toward the first half of the book, management methods.

An Agile DW/BI team is made up of more than just developers. It includes the customer (user) community, who provide requirements; the business stakeholder community, who are monitoring the impact of the BI system on business improvements; and the technical community, who develop, deploy and support the DW/BI system.

Defined in this way, one of the immediate challenges an organization faces in moving toward agility is that it is not an IT-only exercise. Although BI teams can certainly self-organize and practice agility, those efforts will only go so far without support from management and the user community.

Ken says more than once that the whole point of agile is to “be agile”, not just to “do agile”. Unfortunately, “agile” can be overused as the latest management buzzword to dress up “hacking” or “unrealistic deadlines”. I was actually surprised to read that agile may not improve delivery times. In the short term, delivery times may increase. But the payoff for agility is projects that more quickly respond to changing requirements and users that receive smaller functional deliveries instead of the “big bang” of the waterfall project death march.

While the book is a well-written and easy to read, I found it necessary to read slowly, chapter by chapter, and reflect on what I had read.  The book would easily lend itself to a weekly BI book club, where technicians, users, and management meet weekly to discuss the book one chapter at a time.

It’s refreshing to see that business intelligence and analytics professionals can adopt practices typically associated with Java, Ruby, and Objective-C developers. If your business intelligence team has discussed “going agile”, this book can give you practical information to help you get there.  Definitely recommended reading.

UPDATE: You may also enjoy reading Agile Analytics and the SAP Information Design Tool – An Introduction by Stuart Wallace. (added May 11, 2012)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Discover SAP BusinessObjects

This book is a great addition to your bookshelf, especially if your role is to recommend SAP BusinessObjects solutions to customers or coworkers.

SAP Press recently released Discover SAP BusinessObjects by Chris Dinkel, JC Raveneau, and Thierry Audas.  This book is a great addition to your bookshelf, especially if your role is to recommend SAP BusinessObjects solutions to customers or coworkers.  As a technology consultant that lives and breathes this stuff, most of the material was not new.  However, I found the coverage of less-familiar topics like EPM and GRC very helpful.  The book provides a high-level overview of the entire SAP BusinessObjects portfolio, starting with the standard Business Intelligence (BI) suite (SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise, Web Intelligence, etc.) and moving through On-Demand solutions, Enterprise Information Management (EIM), Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) and Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC).

The book describes the current SAP BusinessObjects product landscape while looking ahead to the future roadmap.  Despite the book’s recent publication, it still reveals SAP’s last-minute internal wrangling over product names.  For example, Web Intelligence 4.0 is referred to as Interactive Analysis (which I predict will be its name in BI 5.0) and “Advanced Analysis” (Pioneer) has been released as simply “Analysis”.  I enjoyed chapter two the most- “Business Objects: A Historical Perspective”, which provides the colorful history of Business Objects from its founding in 1990 by Bernard Liautaud and Denis Payre to its acquisition by SAP to the present.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook

Authors Xavier Hacking and David Lai channel their inner Julia Child with tasty results.

Packt Publishing recently released SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook and I was pleased to receive an eBook edition to review.  Authors Xavier Hacking and David Lai channel their inner Julia Child with tasty results.

First of all, the book is truly a cookbook. So instead of thumbing through a reference manual that describes product functionality like chart components, dynamic visibility, and data access devoid of practical application, readers can easily find clearly organized recipes like “Opening up a Web Intelligence report using dashboard parameters”, “Building a pop-up screen”, or “Analyzing trends”.  There’s over 90 recipes to choose from, including 7 recipes for  data connectivity (even SAP BW) and 7 recipes for third-party components (from Antivia, Centigon Solutions, IdeaCrop, and Inovista). To help readers work through the recipes, a collection of sample Xcelsius (XLF) and Adobe Flash (SWF) files can be downloaded from the Packt Publishing web site.

Although the book is entitled “Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook”, most of the recipes can be baked with Xcelsius 2008 and do not require Dashboards 4.0, which is a huge plus. On the downside, I wished the book would more clearly indicate which recipes are specific to Dashboards 4.0 (and therefore not possible in Xcelsius 2008). One example is the recipe for “Using Universe queries”, as it requires Dashboards 4.0 and new UNX universes created with the SAP BusinessObjects Information Design Tool 4.0, not legacy UNV universes created with the Universe Design Tool. Also, integration with the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform is shown using Enterprise XI 3.1, not BI 4.0. However, neither of these deficiencies take away from the usefulness of the cookbook. I would guess that the authors might easily address these items in a second edition timed for the release of BI 4.1.

As an instructor of SAP’s official BOX310 “Xcelsius 2008 Enterprise: Core & Connectivity” training class, I’m disappointed that the curriculum hasn’t been updated since the initial release of Xcelsius 2008. Students tend to leave the class unfulfilled and unprepared to use new and interesting features introduced through service packs. SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook not only covers these newer features, but presents them in a task-oriented “cookbook” format that allows readers to quickly find information on implementing specific functionality in their Xcelsius dashboards.

The SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook is available in paperback, PDF and ePub formats. Kindle readers should note that the ePub format is not natively supported; however, there are several tools available to convert ePub into something Kindle-friendly. As with any cookbook, the eBook PDF edition is loaded with full-color screenshots. Reading was therefore a bit tedious on a monochrome Kindle but glorious on my Apple iPad 2 using iBooks.

Learn more about Xavier Hacking by reading his blog or follow Xavier Hacking on Twitter

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”