Archive for the 'Mundane Monday' Tag

Once upon a time there were physical viewgraphs that sat on a projector located some distance from the speaker. To change viewgraphs, the speaker used a Voice Activated Slide Changer (VASC) (also know as a person who responded to the phrase “next slide please”).

As we shifted from viewgraphs to slide carousels to digital presentation the concept of someone else turning the page remained. Yet the technology evolved over time so that a remote presentation mouse is available, cheap, user friendly, but also rarely used in military settings. Instead, presentations tend to fall back on the cheapest commodity we have – people.

Well, they aren’t actually the cheapest commodity but it sure does come across as cheaper and easier for senior, and in some cases junior, personnel to have someone at the computer to respond to “next slide please”. But there’s a flip side to this problem.

Outside the military the concept of the VASC has fallen by the wayside. Look at any major presentation given today. The two most common methods are either self-flipping with a remote – or careful rehearsal and timing. In some rare cases there is someone flipping slides, but it is so seamless as to not be noticed – and the words “next slide please” are never used.

Why do military personnel rely on the concept of “next slide please”? Because some leaders maintain that sense of entitlement that they need mundane tasks performed by someone else. Others just simply can’t be bothered with the task of learning how to control a remote, or even worse, don’t have the capacity.

Now, I’m certain some of the pushback will be “why does it matter?” How can something as simple and mundane as “next slide please” be worthy of time and discussion? Because I believe, as we see a generational change, that the idea of using a VASC is becoming equated with unprofessional or lazy presentation. And that in turn colors the manner in which the presentation is received. Unprepared, lazy, unprofessional presentations lose the audience and in doing so lose the message. Which is the point of making the presentation anyway, right?

There’s Diversity Thursday, Full Bore and Flightdeck Friday. Typically exciting or insightfull posts and commentary. This week I am inaugurating something new and different: “Mundane Monday”, a series of tips and ideas on the mundane things that can be banes of our existence. Administrivia (or administerrorism), use of data processing and presentation programs, the side of information assurance that the dear mongering annual training won’t cover, and a host of other normally boring things that yet cause people to say “WTF” on a regular basis. This week I’m commenting on the venerable and universal PDF file.

The Adobe Acrobat Portable Document File has been around for two decades, and been the de-facto standard for distribution of text files for half of that. One would think that after a decade of common use, both in the hallowed halls of government and without, that there’d be a bit more knowledge of it’s usage. Sadly, like most data processing tools there are few educational tools for producers, and even fewer for consumers.

The PDF format allows you to do many things – all of which universalize the document as well as reduce the file size.
– Have a PowerPoint document that runs at too many slides and too many pictures but need to email it? Try printing to a PDF (look under the “Print” option in PowerPoint) and emailing the reduced and unalterable file.
– Have a form that needs to be filled in? Create it in MSWord, then print to a PDF. If you have a full version of Acrobat (not just the reader) you can add fillable blocks on the form.
– Distributing an instruction? Rather than scan in a bunch of images and sending out unsearchable files in either PDF, TIFF, or JPG files, PDF the original MSWord document (yes, you can create a fancy government seal header in MSWord, and embed a signature as well). That makes the document searchable – and if you are really daring you can go so far as to build hyperlinks into the Table of Contents – something I believe MSWord will do if you use the Table of Contents form fields.

So, mundane. On Monday. Any good stories on improper use of PDFs? Good stories on excellent use of this common tool? Places someone should have used a PDF and went with some gucci-proprietary over-costed solution? Or other ideas to talk about on a Mundane Monday.