Embedded below are the results of my faculty presentation this afternoon. We had a good audience, with a lot of participation. I’m currently finishing up this as a journal article.
I’ve been recommending Kuler for a while now. It’s a great way to build a custom color theme for PowerPoint presentations. However, getting those colors into PowerPoint has always been a bit tricky.
Fortunately, Bruce Gabrielle has put together a very simple step-by-step explanation of how to setup a theme.
Here are the slides for my guest lecture in MRKT 301 at Woodbury.
Pretty amazing combination of the Dark Knight audio & Lion King video.
I’m at eLearn 2012 this week doing a presentation on my PowerPoint research.
Here is an abstract of the presentation, the slides, and a downloadable pre-print of the paper.
Abstract. How can we best use PowerPoint? Three streams of research provide answers: (1) surveys provide student and faculty perceptions, (2) expert presenters give their opinion, and (3) cognitive scientists conduct focused perceptual experiments. I expand on this research by testing existing research findings against actual conference presentations. My C# software automatically analyzes 166 slide presentations to generate numeric slide characteristics. A regression analysis then correlates these characteristics with audience ratings and social media impact. The results generally support existing research, but have two surprising outcomes: (1) only certain types of images generate positive session ratings, (2) high words counts lead to improved social media impact.
PDF Download: PowerPoint’s Impact on Conference Ratings and Social Media Likes
I worked with my good friends Joan Marques and Satinder Dhiman to put together a short article with some of the things we’ve learned doing assessment at Woodbury. It was a short article, and more of a reflection than a qual/quant study. Even so, I think that it provides a nice follow-up to the article I wrote with Joan last year.
This article presents two contrasting assessment programs implemented at a small School of Business in the Los Angeles area. The program for the undergraduate degree, which includes four majors, relies upon tight coordination and a centralized assessment group, while the graduate program, an MBA, relies upon individual courses as the key building blocks of the assessment program. This article shows ways in which pre- and post-tests, nationally normed instruments, longitudinal tracking, and cross-sectional analysis can be used to demonstrate effective assessment of learning in each program. Lastly, the article concludes by discussing ways to continually continuously improve a curriculum.
I frequently have friends ask me for help resolving some type of technical problem. Unfortunately, the following is a typical request:
I am having trouble loading your presentation, it won’t work for me. It just keeps freezing. Sam
To help Sam, I need to be able to exactly replicate what he did. This means I need to know,
- Who you are
- Your name (and nickname if you use one)
- You class and section (e.g., if you’re enrolled in my MBA class, or an evening or accelerated class).
- Software version
- For a PC,
- Windows: right-click on “My Computer” and click on “Properties.” The screen opening should say if you’re using XP, Vista, or 7
- Office: open Word or Excel, click on the “File” menu, and click “Help”
- Browser: are you using Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, or Chrome?
- For a Mac,
- OSX: click on the Apple on the top-left of your screen and click “About This Mac.”
- Office: open Word or Excel, click on the “Excel” or “Word” menu, and click “About”
- Browser: are you using Safari, FireFox, or Chrome?
- For a PC,
- What you did
- For example, he could say “I tried clicking on the http://faculty.woodbury.edu/garrettn/info.php link in your email.”
- What happened
- For example, he could say “The presentation loads, but only plays one or two seconds at time.”
- A screenshot
- For a PC,
- Press the “print screen” button on your keyboard.
- It doesn’t like this is doing anything, but it has actually copied a picture of your screen.
- Open a new Word document and click Paste.
- Save the document and email it to me.
- For a Mac,
- Press the Command, Shift, and 3 buttons at the same time.
- This will save a copy of your screen as a file on your desktop.
- Email me the file.
- For a PC,
So, to follow our example, here is what Sam should have written me.
My name is Sam Samington, and I’m enrolled in your MGMT 336 F1 section.
I am using Windows XP, Office 2010, and FireFox.
I tried clicking on the link in your email to watch my video. Unfortunately, it loads, but only plays a few seconds at a time. A screenshot is below.
How good are you at email? These five guidelines should help you:
- Deal with overload
- Write gripping subject lines
- Invert your email structure
- Avoid emotion communication minefields
- Write greener email signatures.
1. Dealing with email overload
What is the best way to deal with too many emails? It depends on your workload.
First, decide how frequently to check your email.
- If you get under 100 emails a day, check 4 times a day.
- If you get over 100 emails a day, check 6-8 times a day. It’s overwhelming to deal with over 40 emails at once.
Always turn off message notifications so new emails don’t break your concentration (steps for Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010). If you really need to be alerted for emails from certain people, then add a conditional rule for them.
Second, recognize that filing email in folders or using “flags” comes with a cost. The more complex your organization system, the longer it takes to decide how to file or find an email. Almost 20% of your “email time” is spent organizing or searching.
The following table gives 4 general patterns you can use depending on the volume of email you receive.
|Plan on keeping less than 100 messages||Leave your messages in the inbox.Use the “sort by sender” feature to find messages.|
|Want to use your inbox as a “to do” list OR have complex on-going projects to manage||File messages in 4-20 folders. Using more than 30 generally takes you too long to decide how to file messages.Read about GTD philosophy. Decide if an email requires an immediate response, should be done today, or will be deferred to a future date. Use folders to avoid emails you won’t deal with today.|
|Do not want to spend much time filing messages.||Have a simple archive folder where you store all of your messages.Use the “sort by sender” or “threading” option to track ongoing conversations or projects.
Make sure that your software has a good search feature to find messages.
|Receive a large amount of task-related emails from internal senders||Have senders use code words in the subject and use automatic rules to sort messages into “to do” folders.Try to keep your inbox limited to “to do” items only. Use folders to group projects or similar tasks.|
Recognize that you probably will keep half of your email in the inbox, and respond to about a third of them.
Use your inboxes as either “to dos” or reminders. More people use their inbox as a to-do list than those using calendars or an actual “to do” list combined.
2. Writing a good subject line
The most important element of your message is the subject line. Readers prioritize; a clear message makes it more likely that that they will answer your email first!
The subject should completely and concisely describe the email. Don’t be vague – let the reader see exactly what your message is about. Use less than 12 words so the subject doesn’t get cut off on phones and computers.
Bad Message Line
Good Message Line
|Follow-up on meeting||Need to contact copier vendor for project 12|
|Important question||How can I get the copier to print double-sided?|
|Help!||How can I get the copier to stop spewing toner?|
|Costs?||How much would a new copier cost?|
When you write the subject line, you need to remember that the receiver will use it both for (a) deciding if they should read it now, and (b) finding it at a later time. The better the subject, the easier it’ll be to find.
Some people use the subject line for the entire message. A good policy for these senders is to add “EOM” to the end of the subject; this tells the receiver to not to open the email.
It is especially important to have good subjects for newsletters. A vague or generic message line will make it look like spam. If your message “feels like an advertisement from the Sunday paper” it won’t get opened. The following table from MailChimp provides good examples.
Best open rates (60%-87%)
Worse Open Rates (1-14%)
10.ATTENTION [Company] West Staff!!
10.Technology Company Works with [Company] on Bananas Efforts
The best newsletter messages are straightforward and almost boring. Message lines that aren’t clear, sound like spam or marking, or don’t meet the reader’s expectations will be deleted. Even personalizing messages does not have a major impact on open rates.
People tend to delete messages more if they are sent to large groups or do not have a history dealing with the sender.
3. How do I structure the message?
Put the goal of the message in the first sentence. Assume that people aren’t going to read the entire message – they scan and skim. If you want them to perform some action, say so as quickly as possible. This is called an inverted pyramid structure, and is similar to how newspaper articles are written.
Have only one thought per paragraph. Because people read so quickly, they tend to not read sentences near the end of a paragraph. Avoid paragraphs over 7 lines.
Use bullet instead of paragraphs for lists. Make each bullet list about one thing only; don’t confuse “types” of items. For example, a bulleted list of requirements for a new copier should not contain a question about delivery date.
For example, which of the following two emails is easier to understand?
|How are you doing? I need to get some work done on finding a new copier since the old one broke. The old one had a paper feed that was too small. We need it to be at least 200 pages. Also, we need one that is smaller, since we are losing the supply closet during the remodel. We had trouble with fitting it in the supply space. We also need to get it soon by Friday for the XYZ job, does that work?||We need to get a new copier by Friday to meet the XYZ job.Our new copier needs:
Is this possible?
An exception to these rules is when conveying bad news to a motivated recipient. In this case, it is better to write the reason first and the result second. Giving reasons before the decision causes readers to view the message as more persuasive, and gives them a better image of the company and sender.
Be especially careful of tone in “bad news” messages. Phrasing things in a positive manner, such as “we want to help you, but…,” makes the receiver more likely to view you in a positive way.
4. How do users interpret emotions?
People are bad at reading emotion over email.
You can only detect sarcasm 60% of the time, and humor loses 50% of its “funniness.” This is a result of the sender being unable to put themselves in your shoes (called egocentrism). If you are determined to be funny or sarcastic, read your message out loud with the opposite emotion to hear it from the receiver’s point of view.
Emoticons can be a useful way to enhance the emotion of an email. Most guidebooks say to not use them for formal messages, but they can be a good way to enhance the emotion in informal or internal emails.
🙂 Smile 🙁 Frown 😉 Wink :-p Tongue sticking out
The best way to convey emotions in an email is to explicitly state it. For example, “I am unhappy that you have failed to buy a new copier.” When written like this, almost all receivers interpret emotion properly.
The shortness of the email, length of time for the writer to respond, and symbols (+, ?, !) are poor emotional indicators. People interpret these in different ways.
Never use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS because people interpret it as shouting. If you have to use capitals to highlight a critical point, it’s a sign that the email IS POORLY ORGANIZED.
5. What is the best type of message signature?
Outlook can easily add a signature to your emails, but what should be included?
- Don’t include your company logo. Many email programs will not show images by default, replacing it with a “broken image” icon. Even if the receiver does choose to view your image, a logo takes up extra inbox megabytes and takes longer to download on phones. It is also harder for receivers to find an attached document (as all of your emails will have an attachment).
- Don’t have a “be green and don’t print this email” message. First, the green colored text will cause them to print in color instead of black and white (10-20 times more expensive). Second, can you remember a time when you were going to print an email, but stopped because they had this footer?
- Do include your company phone and address information. When possible, make the signature wide instead of long. This makes it easier to follow a back and forth conversation.
Hopefully, this set of principles is helpful in providing a set of common-sense guidelines. While the best email style depends on your organizations culture, these suggestions should be useful for everyone.
References and Further Reading
Baltar, Olle. Keystroke Level Analysis of Email Message Organization. CHI (2000)
Bellotti, Victoria, Nicolas Ducheneaut, Mark Howard, Ian Smith, and Rebecca E. Grinter. “Quality Versus Quantity: E-Mail-Centric Task Management and Its Relation With Overload.” Human-Computer Interaction, Volume 20 (2005)
Dabbish, Laura, Robert E. Kraut, Susan Fussell, and Sara Kiesler. “Understanding Email Use: Predicting Action on a Message” CHI (2005)
Ducheneaut, Nicholas and Leon Watts. “In Search of Coherence: A Review of E-Mail Research.” Human-Computer Interaction (2005)
Fisher, Danyel, A.J. Brush, Eric Gleave, and Marc A. Smith. “Revisiting Whittaker & Sidner’s “Email Overload” Ten Years Later” CSCW (2006)
Kruger, Jason, Nicholas Epley, Jason Parker, and Zhi-Wen Ng. “Egocentrism Over E-Mail: Can We Communicate as Well as We Think?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 89:6 (2005)
Mackiewicz, Jo. “Which Rules for Online Writing Are Worth Following?: A Study of Eight Rules in Eleven Handbooks.” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. 46:2 (2003)
Jansen, Frank, and Daniël Janssen. “Explanations First: A Case for Presenting Explanations Before the Decision in Dutch Bad-News Messages.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 25: 36 (2011)
Jeff Atwood posted a terrific presentation on “How to stop sucking and be awesome instead.”
Anyone who has created a success like StackExchange, or successfully grown his own software company, deserves to be taken seriously.
“The first rule of programming is that its always your fault” is so true. In dealing with students, I frequently see the same pattern of refusing to take responsibility for your actions. In dealing with faculty, I see that it’s always easier to complain about problems than to be a change agent and try to fix it. The saying “be the change you want to see in the world” is corny but correct.