How to Up Your PowerPoint Game

Back when PowerPoint first came out, it didn’t take a lot of finesse to create something visually appealing and exciting. Now, however, PowerPoint and its similar counterparts like Keynote and Prezi, are old hats. It is no longer sufficient to add some generic photos and bullet points that outline your speech to grab your viewers’ attention.

In fact, such uninspiring presentations have led to the coinage of the phrase “death by PowerPoint” to describe PowerPoint strategies that fall flat and leave those forced to watch them on the verge of sleep.

Presentation slide templates for your business with infographics and diagram set

Presentation slide templates for your business with infographics and diagram set

Here are a few things to keep in mind when crafting your next presentation:

• Avoid the following kiss-of-death PowerPoint photo types. Some images have been overused to the point of having little to no meaning. This, consequently, leaves viewers bored because the photos add nothing to the material covered in the presentations. Archery targets, cogs, business people preparing to race or grouped around a monitor, jigsaw pieces, hand gestures, and globes are among these types of images.

• Instead, think outside of the box when choosing photos for your PowerPoint presentations. For example, pass over an image of a handshake to represent a partnership and choose something more untraditional like cheese and crackers or a needle and thread.

• Don’t hesitate to use some of Microsoft’s newly released tools to showcase your images. For example, you can create animations using Morph or try things like frames or transparencies. However, when using such tools and enhancements, make sure they fit the overall theme and feel of your presentation.

As such, your extras will be a seamless part of your PowerPoint and not stick out like a sore thumb.

• Most importantly, focus on the content of your PowerPoint presentation. That is, after all, the purpose – to inform and effectively convey ideas. Your photos are meant to complement your content, not overshadow it.

Avoid These Five Email Annoyances

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Email is a primary form of communication in the business world because it allows people to work within their own schedules and time-management styles.

With its ease of use, however, we may be sending more messages than necessary, contributing to a general email overload that can mask which items are most important.

Here are some common pet peeves in regards to this lightning-fast communication that may help you refine your email practices:

Sending/Responding to All
Before you send a mass email to all of your contacts or reply to all on an email, ask yourself if each of those people really have a need to know the information within your message.

While this may cover all bases, it is disrespectful to the recipients of your message that aren’t an essential part of the conversation by wasting their time and clogging their inbox. [Read more…]

How Can Small Businesses Amplify Employee Communication?

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

Using email to conduct important business always starts with the best intentions, like saving everyone time. Just think back to the last time you used email to solve a significant business issue or answer detailed questions from an important customer.

But, sometimes, email creates a disaster of miscommunication. Tone, intonation, and emotion get lost in translation. Messages and ideas are misunderstood. Nothing really gets accomplished.

So, what’s your next step when email isn’t working?

Usually, it’s a meeting in person or a quick conference call. Un-fortunately, those communication methods can create a whole new problem. In an increasingly mobile business world where teams, employees, and customers are spread out over multiple remote offices, work-from-home setups, or field operations, it can be nearly impossible to get everyone into the same place at the same time.

Tethering to the mothership: The lasting value of a virtual phone system
Web conferencing has helped mitigate the above problem. However, the fact that many businesses lack the communication and collaborative tools their team’s need — regardless of where they work — is the bigger issue. For example, even with web conferencing, many remote or work-from-home employees still rely on personal cell phones that aren’t connected to the company’s main phone system.

That’s problematic for a couple of key reasons:

• With personal landlines and cell phones, it’s significantly more difficult for remote employees to access antiquated company systems for voicemail, call forwarding, and conferencing.

• Without a true company-owned connection between the corporate office and the employee, the relationship between the two feels more like a contract gig than a full-time job — hurting employee engagement and retention.

Thankfully, there’s a relatively simple way to solve that problem: implementing a new, company-owned communication system that’s flexible, mobile, and collaborative.

One common solution is a VOIP (Voice Over IP) service, which can be based in the cloud or on-site.

The reality is that voice communication is still a far superior — and much more immediate — way for team members to connect with each other. It typically leads to richer, more sincere, and more empathetic communication, which in turn amplifies productivity.

These tools are like a tether to the corporate mothership. They’re a lifeline that allows everyone to feel connected to their colleagues and customers, but in a way that aligns with the mobility and functionality that today’s remote workers need.

Why many businesses are moving to the cloud
Of course, the image of a desktop phone doesn’t exactly convey a sense of mobility. And it certainly doesn’t solve the problem of being able to connect from any location.

That’s where cloud-based phone systems come in.

Cloud-based phone systems allow team members to receive company calls, access corporate voicemail, and set up virtual conferences from a basic Internet connection.

When employees step out of the office, calls can be forwarded and certain features can be accessed from their cell phone.

Traditional phone systems, on the other hand, often hinder remote workers’ communication effectiveness because of their limited mobile capabilities. This often results in lost money, lost productivity, and big headaches. Even worse, businesses often pay more for traditional phone systems in the form of equipment maintenance and outages.

Virtual communication systems create an overall experience that makes people feel like an effective part of the team, wherever they are. No more emotionless email exchanges and no more awkward, disjointed conference calls. At the end of the day, that’s good for your team, your company, and, most importantly, your customers.

Documenting Business Processes

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Documentation is quite possibly the most important aspect of a business, but it can also be workers’ least favorite task to do. The average person doesn’t want to spend time writing down how they do something — they just want to do it and move on.

Can you guess the biggest reason for documenting your business processes? It may come as a surprise, but it’s also the most fluid part of your business: your employees.

Employees come and employees go and some just take vacations. It’s what they do in between that’s important. Every employee is responsible for some part of your daily business.

Whether an employee quits or just needs time off, having documentation that lists the software used with usernames and passwords, step-by-step instructions on how to use the business software, client and vendor contact information, and credit card information makes their absences that much easier to deal with.

Well-documented processes will cut down on the time it takes to train a new employee.
Give the related information to the new employee and let them use it as a guide for their daily activities. This will allow your other employees to spend more time on their tasks and assignments instead of spending the majority of their time answering routine questions that a documented process could answer.

Order-of-operation questions and disputes can be minimized as well. If there ever comes a time when your employees are unsure of the next step or there is a dispute between departments on how to proceed, they will only need to look over the documented processes in question to resolve the issue.

Having documentation that shows in detail how long it takes to produce a product will also help your sales force deliver your product to your customers.

It allows your sales and marketing departments to understand the timelines of production.

This knowledge will let them know when a product order can be delivered and if the amount can be fulfilled in the timeline requested by the customer. There will be no more over or under promising of delivery dates to customers.

Put trust in the documents, not the person. No one person should be trusted with remembering processes without documenting them. What if this employee quits or becomes ill and is unable to return to work?

For example: You have an employee that works in your IT department. This employee’s job is to monitor and resolve any network related issues. While doing his daily tasks, he discovers it’s time to change the passwords on the business networking equipment such as the router, managed switches and domain admin password.

While the employee doesn’t think twice about it and may have mentioned it to his manager, there was nothing ever documented. Now, four months later, the employee falls very ill and is unable to return to work. What do you do?

The best way to document your business processes is to document them in such a way that all contributing employees have access.

You could use online tools such as Google Docs or Microsoft SharePoint. This way, whenever a process is changed, amended, or removed, the documentation is instant and available for all to see.

After a while, you will have an impressive collection of documented procedures. Having documented information available for employees to read can also start the flow of constructive questions and comments why things are done a certain way and how they can be improved.

If you have questions or you’re looking for suggestions on documenting your processes, call Tech Experts at (734) 457-5000.

Is Skype For Business Right For Your Company?

Last month, Microsoft released its vision video preview for Skype for Business, which suggested some major changes to ways we currently conduct business.

The video shows a wrist-worn communication device that allows you to contact colleagues on the fly. It also illustrates how Skype can help people be virtually present in the office while actually working in the field.

Skype-powered technology can integrate data into one space and share it on a big screen to facilitate brainstorming, can instantly translate speech into a number of languages, and even simulate a doctor’s house call – if what is depicted in the preview becomes a reality.

Really, nothing in Microsoft’s Skype for Business preview is all that far-fetched. Skype has already drastically changed how people keep in touch on both business and personal levels.

Presently, you can video chat with anyone, anywhere to conduct interviews or meetings. It’s not that big of a leap to envision using Skype to do these same things in the great outdoors or to integrate it with web searches and data files. The basic technology is already there; the vision video just shows some tweaks and new exciting applications.

The possibilities illustrated in the preview video highlight Microsoft’s mission to develop cross-platform technology that increases productivity.

While Skype for Business may not initially perform as seamlessly as the video leads us to believe – especially when real-time translation has yet to be perfected – there are products already advertised that do similar things.

Microsoft’s Surface Hub combines Skype with an 84-inch touchscreen display, and the HoloLens promises to take holograms and headsets to the next level.