Is PowerPoint 2013 now better than Keynote?

A year ago I would have accused you of technology sacrilege and lacking in the nuances of presentation design if you had said that PowerPoint 2013 was better than Keynote. While both are available as web apps, the comparison may seem strange because PowerPoint 2013 is a Microsoft Windows product and Keynote lives on Apple products. However, I think a number of professionals live in both worlds, having a Windows desktop and an Apple product such as a MacBook Air or iPad.

For four years I always picked up my MacBook Pro or MacBook Air to design a presentation. I didn’t even think about it. A few weeks ago I was designing a presentation and needed to group a text box with a photo so they appeared together at the same time. Keynote wouldn’t let me do it. Grouping was grayed out (probably some kind of glitch in the newly updated Keynote software).  I also needed to graphically demonstrate a process, which is possible in Keynote, but easier with PowerPoint’s SmartArt features.

So, I did the previously unthinkable and used PowerPoint 2013 to design my presentation slides. At times this was painful, because PowerPoint does require an extra step or two (or three) for some tasks that are just drag and drop for Keynote. I noticed that PowerPoint does have some new modern looking templates with modern fonts. This is a nice change from the 1992 templates that I often see in PowerPoint users presentations. Keynote handles video better, and slide transitions seem more seamless and professional.

All of these issues and which software to use come down to presenter choice, style and what kind of information you need to communicate. While I am not ready to switch completely, the choice of which software to use is not as easy as it used to be.



Four strategies for people with vision or hearing issues that help everyone

When we provide faculty training for the Center on Aging @ AACC, we always talk about making classroom adjustments for vision and hearing losses. With more than 4,000 students over the age of 60, almost everyone will be experiencing some decline in hearing, vision, or both.

As I look at our recommendations, one thing we need to think about is that all of these strategies not only help those with hearing or vision declines, they actually are helpful to everyone.

Here are a few of our recommended strategies that every student will likely find helpful. 

 Bigger fonts on PowerPoint presentations. How often have you heard “I know you can’t read this, but…” This always makes me wonder why the text is up there if the audience can’t see it. We recommend using nothing smaller than 30 point font. Whether the student is 18 or 78, who doesn’t appreciate a large, clear font that is easy to read? The truth is that everyone does.

Speaking clearly, and facing the audience. It is difficult enough to hear someone who is looking down at their notes the entire time, it is even worse when the person turns their back on the class and begins reading their slides. Powerpoint slides are not speaker notes. Again, this is not just about people with hearing loss, this is helpful for everyone.

Stop the “I don’t need a microphone” people. I can’t help but cringe and scowl when someone stands up to ask a question or make a comment in a 300 seat auditorium and says “Oh, I don’t need a microphone.” I don’t know whether this is hubris or whether the person is scared of the microphone, but whoever is talking on stage needs to stop them cold. If there is a microphone available, everyone should use it. Period. We all appreciate being able to clearly hear what is being said, whether a hearing loss is involved or not.

Make handouts more readable. Microsoft Word 2013 defaults to Calabri 11 point type. In my opinion, this is probably too small for people with any kind of vision issue. Numerous studies suggest that larger font helps with reading comprehension, and of course we all appreciate how larger font reduces eye strain over the course of a day. I typically use 13 or 14 point font text in my own handouts.

A principle to consider is that when we design documents, or teaching, or other environments with consideration of those with physical limitations, we are really improving the environment for everyone.

Why Some Staff and Volunteers in Non-Profit Organizations Start to Obsess over Money

Most people who work or volunteer in non-profit organizations do so because of their interest or commitment to the mission or cause. Some of these people shift their focus to fretting and obsessing over money, talking very little about mission, values or vision. If they do in fact mention these words, it is really as a method to get more money for their chosen organization. Sometimes this shift affects entire organizations and they get into an endless loop of the majority of staff and volunteers chasing after donations. If they stumble upon moving the mission forward, they view it in terms of something they can share with donors to help raise more funds.

How does this happen?

1. A real financial crisis. The organization loses a major donor, membership drops, or the economy goes into recession. People start to wonder if their favorite non-profit will still be around five years from now. You hear phrases like “no money, no mission,” which is actually the opposite of what skilled leaders should be saying. Panic can set in and bad decisions begin to be made. Mission and vision get locked away in the back room, only to be pulled out and shown to donors from time to time.

2. Perceived financial crisis. Professionals who are coming from large companies or organizations are often stunned at the lack of infrastructure and shoestring budgets they see when they get into the non-profit world. They may immediately feel like it has to be “fixed,” that the organization cannot continue to live paycheck to paycheck.

3. Nothing else to measure. Non-profits often struggle to quantify what they do and how they help people. Budget performance is measurable. You can specify net profit or loss, or percentage of growth or decline. Some people naturally gravitate to numbers, so they focus almost entirely on budget. Obviously the need is to develop other methods for measuring impact and effectiveness and insist that these are viewed in the same serious light as the budget statistics.

What’s the downside?

Non-profit organizations have limited people resources with which to accomplish their mission. While the annual report may show 10 or 20% of the organization’s funds going toward fundraising, the reality may be much different. 60 or 70% of staff or volunteer time may be consumed by fundraising tasks such as managing or supporting major events, staying in touch with current and potential donors, etc. These people are often reported as “program staff,” when the reality of their jobs is much different.

If you are on the inside, and wish to stay there, then push internally for metrics that demonstrate mission impact. Listen to what senior leaders are saying and watch out for phrases such as “no money, no mission,” or “that’s nice, but it doesn’t help us meet payroll or pay the rent.” When asked what kind of year they had as an organization, listen to see if the first words have to do with money.

Robert Egger has two great quotes on this issue in his book “Begging for Change:”

“If you chase money, you’ll be on an endless loop. If you chase results, the money will come.”

“The most effective nonprofits find the connection between purpose and effort by identifying the priorities of those they’re serving.”

Microsoft customer service — not so much

Yesterday I had the simple task of canceling a Microsoft subscription to SkyDrive. Last year I added 20gb for $10, mainly to try out the service. You have to cancel it before it renews, or it does so automatically and there are no refunds. So, since it is an online service that should be simple, right? No, despite what the help forums tell you, you have to call. That’s right, to cancel an online service you have to call someone in the Philippines. Wait, before you call, you have to verify your account, via a code they will text you.


Well, I didn’t want to do that, so I decided just to delete the payment method on the account so it wouldn’t be charged. You can’t do that… without calling the call center in the Philippines.  So, I went through the process of selecting to have someone call me.

Microsoft_account-help 2

To their credit, someone called me within three minutes. Well, of course, he couldn’t talk to me without sending a code to my cell phone. It took me a minute to understand what the rep was saying because his English skills were a little limited. Finally, I understood, and read back the code. Shortly after I did, there was a loud buzz and the call disconnected. Yes, I had to go through the entire process again, only to get the loud buzz and be disconnected again. After the third times of entering codes, talking to someone, explaining why I wanted to cancel the subscription, and almost begging them to do so, it was done. Time spent: 40 minutes.

I had a similar experience when I went to install a new copy of Windows 8 on my computer. After installation, I received a notice that said I couldn’t activate online, they I had to CALL to verify. Evidently they thought I had stolen the copy of Windows. I had to read a string of numbers, and then enter a string of numbers.

What will drive people away from your company today is you hassling them. Don’t hassle me over a $10 online subscription, because if you do, I will never subscribe to anything again.  Making me call to do something that should be done online is from 1990 and makes your company seem outdated.

It’s not always about the technology

This weekend I was in an Apple Store, which was full of people. Kids were playing with iPads (primarily iPad minis), parents were buying their college students new MacBooks, and some people were just there playing with the technology. The children were taking pictures of each other with the iPads and playing games.

I was also in Staples, and went over to look at two Microsoft Surface tablets on display. There was no one around. I clicked on an Office app, which asked me to sign-up for a SkyDrive account before it would work. I set it down and walked away.

What felt almost offensive to me about the Staples experience is that I know that thousands of people worked on the Surface, which seems to be a great product. Billions of dollars were spent on research, design, and production. Yet at the end, how much thought was given to customer experience?

In a time where people are doing much of their shopping on the internet, the store experience had better be something that is hassle free and adds value, like friendly and experienced staff who are readily available and know what they are talking about. If Saturday were any indication, Microsoft better hope that people are just going to the web and buying the Surface, not stopping in Staples before making a decision.

The real truth about my day

I had the health and strength to get up early this morning, get ready, and drive myself to work. There are millions of people who are struggling with disabilities who find this difficult, or impossible. 

I will spend the day in the luxury and privilege that is middle class America. I have an abundance of fresh food, clean drinking water, and live and work in an air conditioned building. There are literally billions of people who would trade places with me, in a second, with no questions asked. 

Don’t worry, though, I am sure I will be uncomfortable for five or six minutes while my car cools off, or be inconvenienced by some advanced piece of technology that doesn’t work for a few seconds, or be irritated by someone who doesn’t do or say exactly what I want them to. 

By lunch I will have forgotten about paragraphs one and two, and might even post some vague and petty problem on Facebook so people can affirm me.