Monday, December 16, 2013

Tips for an Effective PowerPoint Presentation

Making an effective PowerPoint presentation is an acquired skill, and one that can help you succeed in your career. It's important to make sure you know what is necessary to deliver a good PowerPoint presentation before you step in front of a room filled with an expectant audience. Otherwise, whatever important information you present will likely be lost on your listeners.

Write a Script
A little planning goes a long way. Since the point of your slides is to illustrate and expand upon what you are going to say to your audience, you should first plan what you intend to say. Then, figure out how to visualize and present it in PowerPoint.

No Paragraphs
Your slides are the illustrations for your presentation, not the presentation itself. They should underline and reinforce what you are saying as you give your presentation. Save the paragraphs of text for your script.

One Point at a Time
Plan your presentation so just one new point is displayed at any given moment. What should be on the screen is the thing you are talking about. Your audience will almost instantly read each slide as soon as it’s displayed. If you immediately display the next four points you plan to make, the audience will be three steps ahead of you waiting for you to catch up rather than listening with interest to the point you are making.

Avoid clutter
A headline, a few bullet points, and maybe an image. Anything more than that and you risk losing your audience as they work to sort out the information on the slide.

Ask Questions of Your Audience
Engage in a little Q&A with your audience. Questions arouse interest, pique curiosity, and involve audiences. Build tension or anticipation by posing a question and letting your audience think a moment before moving to the next slide with the answer.

With a little preparation and attentiveness to the needs of your audience, you will effectively deliver the important information from your next PowerPoint presentation.

David Schuchman

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Your Goals Should Always be SMART

You prepare goals for many situations. Whether for project management, employee performance management or personal development, use goals to validate a level of achievement and success. In order for a goal to provide value, it must clarify exactly what is expected and identify the measures used to determine if the goal is achieved. Your goals must be SMART!
Specific: Clearly write and define what you are going to do. Your goal must identify what you will accomplish, an expected result, the purpose or benefit, who are involved, where the work will occur, and any external requirements or constraints to consider.

Measurable: When your goal is measurable, you can determine the progress you are making towards its successful completion. It is difficult to stay motivated to complete your goal when it has no milestones to assess your progress.

Achievable: While a goal should make you feel challenged, the goal should not be extreme. Do not set a goal that is out of reach or well above your ability to perform. You must possess the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to achieve the goal.

Relevant: Choose a goal that is important to successfully complete. Your goal needs to pertain directly to the performance or challenge you manage.

Time-bound: Give your goal a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps you focus your efforts on the completion of the goal on or before the due date. This is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise, and to establish a sense of urgency.

Setting goals is a powerful way of motivating people and of motivating yourself. SMART goals are effective in providing the details and clarity needed to ensure you complete your goals successfully.

David Schuchman

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Should You Back Up Your Data to the Cloud?

Cloud-based backup solutions enable companies or individuals to store their computer data and files via the Internet using a storage service provider rather than storing the data locally on a hard drive or tape backup. While the cloud backup solutions are robust and efficient, you need to be aware of the disadvantages, as well as the advantages, to make an informed decision to determine that the technology is right for you.

On-site backups are hard drives or other backup devices that are directly connected to your computer or network. You maintain all responsibility and control of the backup media and environment. Cloud-based backups are servers that connect remotely to your computer or network via the Internet. The storage service provider maintains responsibility and control of the backup media and environment.

Advantages of a cloud-based backup solution, which you must validate and verify with each storage service provider you consider, are:
  • Backups of backups: Your data is always stored off-site and is redundantly copied to other servers in different locations. If one location goes down, your data can be backed up, or retrieved from, elsewhere on the backup network without a service interruption.
  • Security: Data is encrypted by the backup service provider’s software program on your computer or network before it is sent to the cloud, so thieves on the Internet cannot access it.
  • Virus protection: The backup service software detects any virus or infection before data is sent. If a virus is found, that file is not copied to the backup service. You will be notified that the corrupted file has not been deleted from your computer. In this case, you won’t lose any data, but that data won’t be backed up online.

Disadvantages of a cloud-based backup solution are:
  • Cost: Cloud-based backups can be more expensive than on-site backups, often requiring monthly or annual fees based on the amount of data stored on the storage service provider's servers.
  • Capacity: Cloud-based backups may not be best for large backups such as a large number of files, or very large files such as data bases. Since some Internet providers limit the amount of data you can send and receive in a month. You must be careful to avoid large backups that cause you to exceed their stop-limits or trigger over-utilization charges.
  • Speed: It can take a long time to back up large backups online, even with a broadband connection.
  • Out of Business: If the storage service provider goes out of business, you may never be able to recover your backed up data.

You may be able to mitigate the disadvantages of the cloud-based backup solution with a robust back up strategy. The cloud-based storage service provider can assist you with understanding the options they recommend and support. Make sure you understand how they can mitigate the disadvantages for both backing up and recovering your data.

Both on-site and cloud-based backup storage options allow you to protect your data. Each type of backup solution has advantages and disadvantages. You need to be aware of the disadvantages, as well as the advantages, to make an informed decision to determine whether cloud-based backup storage is right for you.
David Schuchman

Friday, November 1, 2013

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

There are a number of approaches to managing a project including lean, iterative, incremental, and phased approaches. Regardless of the methodology used, careful consideration must be given to the overall project objectives, timeline, and cost, as well as the roles and responsibilities of all participants and stakeholders. Following these 5 P’s when starting a project will help ensure success.

Proper:  Regardless of what type of project you will undertake, there is a proper way to approach and execute each task. There are steps to follow and specific tools you will need in order to complete any project efficiently and skillfully. If you don’t know how to do something, get as much information as you can from reliable sources so that you do not miss any important steps, use the wrong tools, or attempt something outside of your skill set.

Planning: Thoughtful, detailed planning is very important when starting a project. Start by making a list of the steps or tasks that identify what you want to accomplish (scope of work), who will be involved (the stakeholders and roles), and what will you need to make it all happen (the participants, tools and budget). Be specific and research each task so that every detail has been addressed and nothing has been overlooked.

Prevents: It is always a good idea to have a Plan B in place so that you are ready to address issues as they arise.  Establishing a backup plan will prevent costly delays that can occur during a project’s execution.

Poor: If something is done poorly, why bother. Cutting corners to save money will result in a difficult execution and disappointing results. If you think hiring someone else to take on the project is expensive, wait until you see how much an ineffective manager will cost.

Performance: If you keep focused and stay actively involved with each phase of your project, every member of your team will work together to produce the best possible results.

David Schuchman

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Improve Performance in Poorly Performing Staff

Most managers have to deal with poor employee performance at some point. Poor employee performance is a concern because it affects team and organizational performance. When poor performance goes unaddressed for a long period of time, it can become a major problem. In addition, managing poor employee performance should not be delayed or a huge event. It should be quick and relatively pain free, for both the manager and the employee.

Sometimes managers may see that a team is performing well. If they haven't made time to personally observe who are and aren't the real drivers of team performance, they effectively praise everyone. To the poor performers, this reinforces their ineffective performance.  For the top performers, it can cause them to question why they should work harder and produce more.

Identify why the employee is under performing
Poor performance that is not addressed quickly is seen by the employee as a behavior that is condoned.  At the first sign of poor performance, you must focus on the unwanted behavior(s), not the employee’s personality.  Then ask yourself, "Why is that person not performing as he should?" Employees perform poorly for many reasons. However, when there's a mismatch between their performance and the consequences taken to resolve the poor performance, the poor performance continues.

Confront poor performance
Meet privately with the employee to discuss the performance issues.  Do this quickly, but never in anger. Outline your concerns.  Be clear and specific.  Use evidence and factual information to state your case and focus on the performance issues. Support your assertions with data whenever possible. In the process of confronting them, tell them what they have done, how you feel about their actions and why you feel that way. Avoid general statements such as, "You don't seem to be doing very well," since this does not focus on specific performance issues that the employee will need to address.

Improve Performance
Get the employee’s opinion of your assessment of the performance issue. Ask for their perspective of their performance and your assessment. Offer the employee a solution; the path you want them to take to improve their performance. Discuss any points where their perspective on the solution does not agree with yours. Don't simply mandate a solution for them; get them to take ownership of it. This is to ensure that they have accepted the fact that they've been performing poorly and that you are eager to see them improve.  Create a simple monitoring and evaluation plan.  For example, set weekly goals for the employee. Then meet weekly to discuss progress and status.

Poor employee performance is a challenge. Poor performers can affect the entire work environment, the team's attitudes and the organization's productivity. If it is feasible and cost-effective, offer the employee the opportunity to improve their performance and make a positive contribution to your organization. If their performance problems cannot be resolved, you may need to consider firing the employee.

David Schuchman

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Negotiate to Win-Win

Effective negotiation helps you to resolve a situation where what you want conflicts with what someone else wants. While some believe it is best to negotiate with the expectation of getting what they want regardless of the needs of the other party, the better approach is to get what you want while considering the needs of the other party. Negotiate to Win-Win, not to win.

When you don't expect to deal with the other party ever again, or you do not need their goodwill, then it may be appropriate to play “hardball", seeking to win a negotiation while the other party loses out. Many people go through this when they buy or sell a house, which may be one reason why negotiating a house purchase can be an unpleasant experience. However, this approach is not much good for negotiating with people with whom you have (or expect to have) an ongoing relationship, such as a vendor, service provider, employer, etc.

Playing hardball with someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship may damage that relationship and lead to reprisals later. Using tricks and manipulations during a negotiation to disadvantage the other party will certainly undermine trust. While a manipulative person may not get caught if negotiations are infrequent, this will not be the case when people work together routinely. In that case, fairness, honesty and openness are the best policies.

The negotiation itself should be a careful evaluation of your position and the other person's position, with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable compromise that gives you both as much of what you want as possible. In an ideal situation, you will find that the other person wants what you are prepared to give, and that you are prepared to give what the other person wants. For a negotiation to be "win-win", both parties should feel positive about the negotiation once it's over. This helps people keep good working relationships afterwards.
David Schuchman

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How to Give Your Boss Bad News

Having to deliver bad news to a boss or manager is always an uncomfortable situation. If you have to be the bearer of bad news to your boss, it's important to know the best way to deliver the news to make sure it doesn't negatively alter your boss's opinion of you. 

Try these four steps the next time you need to share upsetting news:
Describe the problem. Provide your boss a general overview. Explain the impact the problem has on your work as well as the department's and company's goals.

Identify your solution. Explain how you have already tried to solve the problem. Recommend a solution, along with alternatives to give your boss options. 

Discuss the benefits. Offer examples of how your idea will succeed. If you have tested your approach on a small scale with good results, share that information. Inform the boss what you have learned from the solution.

Accept responsibility. Demonstrate your commitment to ensuring success. Work with your boss to develop a final action plan.

No one likes a difficult conversation with the boss. However, it can be a valuable tool for building a trusting relationship.

David Schuchman

Sunday, September 1, 2013

EDI – The Code is More What You'd Call "Guidelines" Than Actual Rules

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a standard to document a common data interface between computer applications. To effectively communicate using EDI, the application receiving the data must follow the same formatting rules as the application originating the data. This is necessary so both applications know where to find specific data within the EDI message.
EDI provides a technical basis for electronic "conversations" between two systems. The messages generally contain the same information that would normally be found in a paper document used for the same purpose. There are EDI standard formats used by different industries, such as retail (orders and shipping notices), medicine (patient records and laboratory results), shipping & transportation (container and intermodal bookings), engineering and construction, etc.

While there are rules that govern various aspects of formatting EDI data, you must understand that the rules are subject to how the originator and recipient initially implement their EDI. This often results in the need to adjust the EDI for each specific implementation, and sometimes transform the data values between the originator and recipient.  Examples of implementation issues are:

  • Needed data that are not defined in the standard EDI message format must be placed in a mutually agreed upon message fields not anticipated to be used for another need.
  • The originator and recipient use different data values to represent the same data creates discrepancies.  This typically occurs with codes. For example, there are 3 standards for country codes: 2-character, 3-character and 3 digit codes. If the systems between the data originator and recipient use different standards (or non-standard data), the party to perform the data transformation must be agreed upon before initiating the EDI.
  • The data originator and recipient must agree to not change their mutual EDI structure without notifying the other party. Doing so may affect the quality of the data transmission.

EDI standards are valuable and necessary to interface data between computer applications. A little due diligence before implementation will ensure a smooth, consistent and accurate transmission of data.
David Schuchman

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Know Your Audience


Before you say or write anything, you need to consider the makeup of your audience and try to anticipate the type of presentation they want to hear.  Salespeople are no strangers to the concept of “putting yourself in the buyer’s position.”  It means that the seller (you) will consider what points to present, and your means to present those points.

Do not assume all of the people in your audience have the same perspectives as you.  Everyone has different educations, income levels, present life situations.  These individual life experiences are what will that form their perspective on any presented topic.

You may have heard the expression, "Open with a joke".  It's often what someone hears as a point of advice when preparing for a presentation or important  meeting.  Opening a meeting or presentation with a joke can be a great ice breaker or put others at ease. Since technical topics can sometimes be difficult to grasp, it can also assist you in grabbing attention or creating a bond between you and your "audience".  Be sensitive in a meeting or presentation that your audience will be composed of people who will all have different perceptions.  Some may not appreciate your joke.

Knowing your audience — their beliefs, attitudes, age, education level, job functions, language and culture — is the single most important aspect of developing your successful presentation.
David Schuchman

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Delegate: Save Time and Help Others Develop New Skills

There is a solution to when you have way too much to do, you're buried in work, and it seems there's no way out from under it all: Delegate. Many managers complain of having too much to do, but often do not effectively delegate work. Delegating work assignments is an underutilized management tool.
There are plenty of reasons why managers don't delegate.  Some are perfectionists who feel it's easier to do everything themselves, or that their work is better than others.  Some believe that passing on work will detract from their own importance.  Others lack self-confidence and don't want to be upstaged by their subordinates.  Accepting that you can't do everything yourself is a critical first step to delegating.

You may not realize that you're unnecessarily hoarding work.  Look for warning signs.  For example, you are working long hours and feel indispensable while your staff keeps regular hours.  You may also feel that your team doesn't take ownership over projects and that you're the only one who cares. These may be indications that you're not sufficiently doling out tasks and not handing over responsibility.  Once you've recognized what's standing in your way, the next step is to adjust your work approach.

It's important that you pass on work to people who have the necessary skills and are motivated to get the job done right. Ideally, you should be able to delegate some form of work to everyone on your team.  If you push work down to your team, you will free up your time and help your staff members grow.

After you delegate, you must observe and support your direct reports.  Give your employees guidance, but give them the space they need to do their assigned work. Don't walk away from a task you've delegated. Stay involved, but let your employees lead the way.

Once you've started delegating more, pay attention to the results. Ask yourself how you can tweak your approach. Can you delegate more involved tasks? Should you give your direct reports more freedom or do you need to monitor progress more closely? Be patient with yourself while you hone this new skill. It may take a little time, but the payoff will be great.
David Schuchman

Monday, July 15, 2013

How to Send an Email When You Do Not Know the Email Address

It can be a challenge to send an email to someone when you do not know his/her exact email address.  Here are some tips for overcoming this challenge.
The first (and obvious) thing to do is to search the web for the person using a search engine.  Google and Bing are good search engines to use for finding someone.  In addition, search common social media sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, to see if the recipient has openly posted an email address.  You can also search for someone via a fee-based search sites like Spokeo (

Often when you want to email someone, you will know the most common information about the person, which you can apply to the email address.  For example, you will likely know their name and company.  With that, you have what you need to get started.

The first thing to do is to search the web for the company where the recipient works.  That will enable you to learn the “domain” part (e.g. the “” part) of the email address.  The company URL (e.g.““) will often equate to the email “domain” part.  If you cannot determine the exact company name, but find variations, then jot those down.  Also, include the best known ISPs that offer email (Google, Yahoo, etc.).  The maximum length of the “domain” part is 255 characters.

Now, mix and match all of the “local” and “domain” part words you found and created into a group of email addresses.  This group can be as large or small as you would like.  If you were searching for “Mary Smith” who works for the “Very Big” company, you may create email a list of email addresses that look like this:

The last step is to pick one email address from the group you created.  Pick anyone, it does not matter.  The one you pick is the email address you will place in the “TO:” field of your email message.  Then, copy all of the other email addresses from your group to the “BCC:”  (Blind Carbon Copy) field.  The result of doing this will be that the recipient will likely receive the email, but only see the one email address in the “TO:” field.  The recipient never sees the “BCC” field.  So S/he will never know you placed many more email addresses in the “BCC:” field.  The secondary benefit is that you will likely receive “undeliverable” email messages for all of the invalid email address.  The email address for the one you did not receive an “undeliverable” email message is the actual email address.  VoilĂ !
David Schuchman

Thursday, July 4, 2013

When to Hire a “Hit Man” (Contractor)

When to Hire a “Hit Man” (Contractor)

A hit man (or contractor) is simply a person that is a subject matter expert who is paid to perform a specific task for a specific sum of money.  In this case, I mean for you to consider when it is appropriate to hire a contract specialist for your next project.
As you approach starting a new project, take stock in the skills, backgrounds and timely availability of the in-house resources already accessible to you. Then, determine the skills and availability that you need to complete your project on schedule.  If there are gaps between those two reviews, consider bringing in contractors.  It’s important that the assessments of the skills, backgrounds and availability are performed objectively.  An over confident or over ambitious program manager may not see these clearly (or truthfully).

A professional consultant brings to a project:
  • Accountability for results, schedule and costs to complete key project tasks.  These tasks and goals can be identified and added to the contract, which will translate into significant economies as compared to in-house efforts.
  • A proven methodology applied to the appropriate tasks.
  • Creativity drawn from a wide base of prior experiences.
  • No cost of training or “experimenting” on how to complete the assignment.  The contractor will focus on achieving results. Training of in-house staff can be scheduled into the project.

Once you determine that you will hire a contractor, you have many options for finding the right resources.  If your project involves purchasing a product, consider the vendor.  While this may appear to be the most costly upfront option (e.g. highest hourly rate), the vendor will provide well-trained resources that performed the needed tasks before.  Hence, the vendor-provided resource may get the project completed sooner, actually not costing more than a non-vendor resource.  Also, consider independent contractors with demonstrated experiences in the targeted area of expertise you need.

Hiring a consultant can be extremely advantageous by helping you plan, manage, and implement your key project goals.  The apparent cost may actually be less than the real cost when you consider the benefits gained from hiring a “hit man”.

David Schuchman