Every year I try to learn something new – be it a skill, a tool or just some facts. 2018 has been a time of great learning, thanks to my daughter, I wanted to share two tools that I’ve learned about from her and since put to good use for myself and customers.
Canva, as my primary online visual design tool – from making Twitter or web post headers, webinar announcements to trifold brochures and even eBook cover design, this has been an amazing tool where every day I’m discovering more. Here are some examples
Tableau as my data visualization tool has similarly been a much used for not just number crunching, but being able to create excellent visualizations as well as insights that aren’t always self-evident from staring at the data in Excel.
Here are two examples
The kicker is, both of them are available online, easy-to-use and you can get started for free. They also have great online communities that can help you get up the learning curve fast. So give them a spin today and share your own favorite tools in the comments.
Regardless of our job role, one skill every one of us needs is storytelling. The truth is we are all born with it, but let’s just say some of us are a little rougher around the edges. Having spent most of my time around tech folks, I suspect we probably beat this skill out of them which is why so many presentations we sit through or documents we read, make us at the very least drowsy — some even maybe put us in a coma. These same people, when you observe them talking to friends or colleagues can be greatraconteurs. Some of this comes from just not having performance anxiety that presentations induce in all of us. So without having a few libations how do we spin a good yarn? And particularly in a business context how do ensure that we’ve provided our listeners or readers something of value – that elusive takeaway?
Here’s what I’ve learned.
A. Begin with the end in mind I’ll use the example of a seminar or webinar that you intend to host. Write down the one takeaway that your listener or audience walks away with – it could range from broad statements or highly specific
Entrepreneurship is hard – so you’d better be certain, what it is your passion? And why you are doing this?
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Writing 1000 words every day is the key to finishing your book – then all you have to do is edit it
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B. Use the power of three While scientists and psychologists thought that the human brain can hold only 5-7 things at a time, newer research suggests that number might actually be (gasp) 4! So why risk it? I find if you break down things into three chunks, they are a lot easier to hold at least in my easily distracted mind. Now break it down into three chunks. Sticking with the entrepreneurship or leadership theme,
Context: Set the stage – often best set as a story – that usually illustrates or reinforces a widely held belief. How Steve Jobs had a mythical touch when building products or how Unilever or P&G were masters of strategy leading to their success; Or why government projects are always a boondoggle, like the Big Dig in Boston
Counterpoint – core premise: Is that really the case? Here are eight products that Steve Jobs launched with much fanfare and failed miserably at; here are the huge missteps P&G made and here’s what we’ve learned from NASA’s space mission, which has had minuscule failure rates – so here’s the takeaway – entrepreneurship is hard, there will be naysayers, you’ll fail before you succeed, so you’d better know what your passion is about, if you wanna be able to stick with it
Break it down: Offer an actionable set of things that they can do – how can they realize this core premise you’ve made? Maybe it’s a checklist – that helps them understand themselves better? It’s reading of case studies – of how other entrepreneurs succeeded (or better yet failed and recovered), followed by a checklist.
C. Challenge your audience This is what we marketers term the Call to action! This could be as simple as inviting questions that allows them to challenge your assertions or having them take the first step (“What will you do differently tomorrow morning, because of what you learned here”) The key here is that this doesn’t remain your story but one that compels them to action – ideally an action that benefits them. Of course, if it benefits you whether purely psychically (I did some good!) or professionally (lands you a consulting gig or job) that’s icing on the cake. As my father tried to teach me, “Give first before you ask.”
Here’s a great presentation on how one technical guy (Claudio Perrone akaAgileSensei) went from being just a dude to a compelling storyteller to even cynical technical folks).
As a regular reader of Om Malik’s blog, I never cease to be surprised by the variety of topics he covers. In a shameless tip of my (virtual) hat, here’s a utility I found immensely useful and reckoned I’d share with you.
My wife, whom readers of this column know figures big in any new learning I have, as a classical musician, has an immense, I mean, immense collection of old style cassettes. Even after CDs became prevalent, a great deal of Carnatic music continues to be put out on cassettes. I’m not sure if it’s the price difference or some other thing at play. Nevertheless, things got really out of hand, when we moved a couple of years ago and discovered 20+ years of music in cassette form, a great many of them unopened, still in their plastic wrappers. Soon as we got settled in our new digs, one of my projects was going to be transfer these into digital MP3 format. However, after an initial attempt with a 2.5mm male to male cable from our mini-component system (remember those?) to my Windows PC, I threw in the towel.
Recently while trying to avoid something more critical that needed to be done, I began researching once again a painless way to convert the music on these cassettes into digital form. On a trip the US MidWest, I checked out Radio Shack, Best Buy and other big box stores, but to no avail. Surprisingly they carried LP to MP3 converters but not cassette to MP3. Amazon offered a variety of such converters in Walkman-like form factors, but I was hesitant to buy these sight unseen. Having returned empty-handed the project languished, till a friend mentioned that he was traveling to the US. So once again I got online and voila this time discovered Ebay carried the darn things in India (the same Chinese units that were available on Amazon.com). So whipped out the credit card and got myself the EZCap USB Cassette Capture.
Two days later I had the unit in my hand and now have converted 5 of the hundreds thousands of cassettes we have. So far am delighted. If you have cassettes that are crying to be converted run out there and get it.
ps. I should add I used Audacity on my Mac running OS X Yosemite with the USB PNP Audio Device setting as my audio input and haven’t tried the software (for PC) that shipped with the EZCap. Has worked like a charm.
Over the last several years, I have written about startups, entrepreneurship and business in general in the Hindu BizLine and Wall St. Journal. I have compiled these for easy access in the column below.