Sunday, July 15, 2012

Use LinkedIn without alerting your boss and colleagues

The question I get asked most often by individuals who want to update their LinkedIn profiles is, “How do I do it without letting my suspicious boss, who doesn't know anything about social media, think that I’m looking to leave the company?”

My response to this question is to always err on the side of caution. If you think that updating your profile is going to get you in trouble, then don’t do it. But does this mean there is no way to update your profile?

Not at all.

See, the thing that underpins a gifted social media practitioner’s strategy is a good understanding human psychology and relationships. If we can understand our boss as a human being with feelings and ideas, rather than as a Mr. Burns, we will have a better idea of how to establish our social media presence in a way that not only makes us look good, but makes our company look good as well.

Bosses’ and colleagues’ concerns

Bosses often get worried when their staffers update their profiles, because it could be a sign that they are looking to jump ship. Bosses are worried that they might have to quickly hire new people who don’t know their job as well as individuals that have worked in the office for some time. Even with the horrible economy and the oceans of unemployed, finding a new worker who knows exactly how to do the job or training a newcomer can be a huge time suck.

The other way that your boss might be wary of you updating your LinkedIn profile is if he or she thinks that it makes you look more qualified than others – including your boss! Organizations sometimes have politics, spying, undermining and sensitive egos lying just under the surface, especially in organizations where loyalties are unclear and/or turnover is high. 

If we update our profiles in such an environment, we can be perceived by our bosses and colleagues as potentially rocking the boat.

Third, your boss or colleague might be worried about your LinkedIn profile because he or she doesn’t know what LinkedIn really is about. Some people see LinkedIn as a glorified Facebook, fit for revealing personal or company information that compromises the organization’s image. Your boss might even think that LinkedIn is a tool that facilitates building an organization that competes directly with the boss’ organization!

All of these ideas should have nothing to do with why you want to update your LinkedIn profile, but they do need to be addressed.

What are your options?

Remember, your boss may not know your intentions or understand what LinkedIn is about. It is your responsibility, not your boss’, to clarify the situation. Do not do any of the following if there is any chance it could hurt your position at work.

Here is where human psychology comes in: things that are written down can be more easily misunderstood than things that are spoken. The written word also carries more weight than what is spoken. So before you update your profile, if you think your boss can be reasonable about it, go have a nice talk with him or her.

I would suggest you choose a fairly quiet, calm time to bring up the topic of your LinkedIn profile. If your boss is busy or upset already, then you talking about your profile is not going to win you any favors. Don’t take it personally, it’s just not the most important thing on his or her agenda.

Second, you might mention that you have heard that maintaining an accurate record of your duties on LinkedIn is now considered a basic part of a person’s career. You can also say that by filling out your profile you mean to give your current employer a message that you are taking clear responsibility for your work and the job requirements.

What about co-workers or bosses concerned about how they will look if your profile is well-developed? You might win friends if you tell your colleagues and superiors that you would like an off-the-record review of your skills so that you can tell the world what it is that you do in a way that is more well rounded than if you had described your position by yourself. Make sure if you do this that you are talking to people who are not clear enemies, but rather people you think can be trusted.

If you are really concerned about filling out your profile and you have some nasty enemies in the office watching, there is another way to do it, but there is a certain amount of risk involved. You might tell your “frienimies” that you would like to give them recommendations on their LinkedIn profiles. Almost everyone has some redeeming characteristics that you can mention. Once you have done this, you might make a few friends and find that building up your profile is easier. If it doesn’t break the ice or you can’t even convince them of the wisdom of being publically praised on their LinkedIn profiles, you can still back out of updating your profile

Just so it is very clear, I do NOT advise that you recommend people you don’t like, and especially if you suspect them of illegal or unethical behavior.

If you give someone a recommendation, you are publically endorsing that individual. If they do something wrong later and get in trouble for it, your recommendation can be held up as proof that your “friend” was a good person.  This can have all sorts of legal consequences, so tread carefully. I personally never give anyone a recommendation unless I have a good feel for the person’s character built up over a longer period of time. 

Recommendations say as much about me as they do others, so I don’t take them lightly.

Luckily, the most common reason for professionals to spurn LinkedIn is that they don’t understand the site very well. Yes, “luckily”! This is the most easy reason to address.

If you are concerned that your colleagues and superiors are going to be suspicious of your profile update for this reason, then I would suggest that if your workplace has an open culture that you share an article or two about how using LinkedIn is considered a very standard practice. For example, LinkedIn can be used to exchange information with people around the world, not just job hunt. When people fill out their profiles then they make it easier to share and receive information, because they are putting out a very important part of their lives that all can see and judge. 

By far the best way of getting a workplace on board with LinkedIn is to have trainers come in and explain what the site is all about. Lori Ruff (@loriruff), at left, and Laurie Boettcher (@LaurieBoettcherare two well-liked individuals I know of who train professionals on how to use LinkedIn, but there are many others as well. See if anyone you trust in HR is open to the idea of having such people come in to train the staff and see where it goes from there. If the idea takes off, it can have a profound affect throughout the company.

LinkedIn is a wonderful site that you can use in many different ways to enrich your career. Just use it responsibly, ethically and legally, and always share what you learn with others. 

(This article is meant only as advice and is not binding upon anyone.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

How to use Prezi to blow away audiences

Are PowerPoint presentations not working for your audiences? There’s a solution in sight, and it’s called Prezi.

Prezi uses a what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface to create beautiful zooming and rotating presentations. Here is a demo:

Prezi is special because it is cloud based. It can facilitate potentially dynamic and exciting offerings that leave positive vibes with audiences long after. Prezis can be shared via email, Facebook and Twitter. I can’t say enough about how cool Prezi is. Prezi is amazing!

Except when it’s not done right.

Prezi can definitely be done the wrong way, which is when things get ugly. Fast.

Today, I’m going to explain some simple pointers for using Prezi. Use these tips and you’ll find your presentations pop more. I assume from the outset that you have some design skill, and that you can do the following. If this is difficult, you’ll want to enlist a designer to help you out. You can definitely do even more with Prezi if you know Flash, but I want to keep this straight forward.

Let’s do this.

Find photos and video

The most important thing you can do to make your Prezi’s interesting is by introducing elements of surprise. This is accomplished by zooming in and out.

Look at your presentation topic. Is there a common theme? Are there visual elements? What ties the speech all together?

After you’ve brainstormed your speech elements, go to Google images. Make sure to only use photos that you have permission to use, or can use under fair use. If you are a student, almost any images you use for a class project will be considered fair use. If in doubt, use to find content (you’ll still want to check that the content is indeed usable).

Use the most high-resolution .jpg files for your art. Change your search terms to “large” photos for these purposes. Once you find the photos you want, save them to a folder. Once you have all your photos gathered, “save as” them as .pdfs. Making the .jpgs into .pdfs ensures that they will not get pixelated when zooming in and out of them.

You can also use videos from YouTube in your Prezi. Be careful that you don't use clips that are so long or powerful that they take away attention from you and the rest of the Prezi.

Here are some photos I'll be using:

Make captions

You can use Prezi itself to insert text into your presentation, but for a custom look you will want to create your own captions offline.
Here’s how to do it. Open a graphic design program (I prefer InDesign) and set up a new document. Make sure to switch it from “print” to “web”. You can really set up whatever pixel dimensions you want. 1024x768 usually works well for me.

Create a text box that is centered and fill it with words for your presentation. Just use a standard font at this point. After you’ve made sure that everything is spelled correctly and makes sense, select all and use new font that looks good – Comic Sans and Papyrus are two fonts you should avoid like the plague.

Generally san-serif fonts are sleeker, look better for headlines and have a more modern vibe, while serif fonts are easier to read in larger chunks. Here’s what I mean:

When you have created your text, “save as” your work as a .pdf and put it in a folder where you can easily find it.

Here is another example:

Choose a master photo or graphic for your backdrop

Remember all those photos we set aside? Choose the one that best summarizes your topic or will be easiest to remember, and which has plenty of white spaces that you could potentially zoom in on.

Log in to Prezi and select “your Prezis”. Choose “new Prezi”. With few exceptions you will want to use the white/blank background. Delete all the default starter elements by zooming or out until your elements change from light grey to vibrant grey. Now you can click on the elements and delete them. Do so.

Use the “insert” selection on the top left side of your screen and choose “image”. Select the photo that you want to use from the folder on your computer. It will be uploaded to Prezi after a few moments. Move it into position and resize it so that it fills the screen appropriately. Right click on it and choose “send to back”. 

Here's the photo I'm using for this tutorial:

Don’t make your audience members nauseous, but do
surprise them

Besides using pixelated images, the single worst error I see often on Prezi is overdoing the rotating and zooming function. Yes, Prezi supports rotation and zooming, but that doesn’t mean you should do it!

That said, use the master photo you have placed as your point of entry. Zoom into different places on your master photo for places where you can add other pictures and captions. 

Here is another place where Prezi’s can confuse audiences. Choose logical patterns to place your materials. You’ve already piqued your audience’s interest with the introduction, now you need to inject some stability. There is a fine balance between a presentation that is staid and a presentation that is confusing to follow. You might want to choose some sort of grid pattern or use simple shapes to establish coherence.

This is what I mean:

Use your path and invisible frames wisely

Now that all your elements have been placed on your Prezi canvas, you need to chain them carefully.

Select “path” on the Prezi menu on the upper left hand corner of her screen. Click on your photos and text in the order that you want. As you do this, your elements will pop up on the left hand side of your screen in order from top to bottom. These are your “slides”.

Once you’ve ordered your slides and text, you might want to have points that you zoom in on. Choose “frame” and then choose a frame style. 

Personally I prefer invisible frames, because the other type of frames look very cookie-cutter.

Click where you want to set your frame and drag until it covers what you want. Go back to your “path” button on the Prezi menu. You’ll see all the path points jump up, with little “+” signs next to points. The pluses let you add path points. Click on a “+” and drag it to the frame you set up. Let go and it should turn into a new point.

If at any point you want to change your slides around, just click on them while the “path” menu is selected and move the slides up or down to reorder them. If you want to delete path points, hover over the slide with your arrow. A little red “x” should pop up. Just click on that if you want to get rid of it.