Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Place, New Life

If you follow me on social networks then you may have noticed that, well, I was silent. Actually, I was more busy than ever - in the real life, so to say. I moved to Stuttgart. I had that plan for a long time, but if I ever supposed what it looked like, I would have done that a while ago. Life teaches...

I moved to Stuttgart this month, and I don't need to explain you that adding to the Christmas stuff and closing the work year, this is not really a human amount of stuff to execute. But I'm raving. Stuttgart is much more than I thought it would be. The place is in a roll currently. Heard of the German export dream lately? It's clearly manifesting here, and Stuttgart which was a pretty shy city until recently, seems to be in the up and comers. Why then?

Stuttgart is the German capital of the car. This is home to Daimler Mercedes, which invented the car, but also to Porsche (do I need to explain that name to anyone). Bosch, one of the main automotive supplier, is also from here. Audi is around the corner with a major plant in Neckarsulm.

So people drive around with all kind of luxury cars, mostly German, and of preference Mercedes/Porsche over BMW, the traditional enemy. Take that with a grain of salt of course, but this is very marking when you come over here. Beside that, I thought Stuttgart was not much more than a grey city between hills.

Oh, the hills! They make actually the magic of the city. As the usual, the higher you live, the more expensive it is. The hills offer such incredible views of the city! There are magnificent villas to look around, including one built by Le Corbusier. And the Bauhaus began here, also. So there is quite some architecture that you won't notice at the first look but that are actually outstanding. The hills offer some place for some wine from the city itself - and their wine is very much tasty.

Cars, Bauhaus. Stuttgart lives on a kind of simplicity melt together with excess. Things are not always what they seem to be, a lot of richness is hidden. The German "discipline" comes a lot from the south part of the country, and that still lets its marks nowadays. What do I mean with excess and modernity? Well, Stuttgart has two majors modern art museums, but no dedicated big classic museum. And the Mercedes and Porsche museums, both landmarks of architecture. That's the "do one thing, but do it well" applied.

Meanwhile, the 2000's boom has changed the city. 10 years ago, Stuttgart was still marked by its architecture from the 50's. Now, much of it has been integrally renovated, or even rebuild. New neighbourhoods have been and will appear. A new high speed train station is going to be built, integrally under the ground. And when so much is going on economically, other things follow. You know, like culture... It's not that it was ever as bad as told. Germans like to see Stuttgart as the car guys, but not with not much taste for culture. Actually, the Stuttgart opera has been named best German opera a few times for quite some times already. The theatre is getting completely renovated, there are also a few other very good concert halls, like the Liederhalle.

You get me, I'm raving about this city. And don't start me with the awesome connections opportunities, around 2 hours from Zurich and 3.5 from Paris by train. Munich and Frankfurt is around the corner, France less than 2 hours away.

So I have to say goodbye to Tübingen, the town that made me feel so very welcome in Germany. I'm still not far and will still be around there. But I needed to be in a place where I can meet more people and do more things. Now it is.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Do Speeches, Go Without Slides.

This week I had to present our latest features to a group of IBMers from tech sales and services divisions. Those are the guys working with clients to get the stuff to work - in form of demos or production systems with a defined, often customized, architecture.

They asked clearly to get as few charts as possible, so quickly I had my decision - I would make this presentation without slides. I would make it a speech. And discussion. Not a slide-based presentation, in any case.

So I just stood in front those people, and at the beginning that was a bit unusual, but as I came into the topic, two things struck me:
- People were looking at me, not the charts. They were actually listening, and I could clearly see that they weren't struggling understanding the charts - there were none. Instead, I got a bunch of questions, and we got in a deep discussion about the topic. Which was very useful for them to understand well the new features and their impact.
- You avoid the usual question: "Can I get those charts?", "what does this chart means?". Instead, the whole discussion was based on what I spoke about. Much better.

Looking backward, I see other fantastic advantages to not use any charts at all:
- It is much more flexible. If a question comes in that may influence further points, just go to those directly. You are not a slave of the chart ordering anymore. Because a presentation rarely runs as intended.
- It saves a lot of time! How many hours did you spend in your last presentation? Was it really worth it? Think about it. Getting this cool picture from a colleague, and then adapting the whole style, readapting the template. Should I mention the colleague in chart 12? etc etc, you know what I mean. Without slides, you just have to prepare yourself an outline on a few post-it. 15-20 min of work max. Mastering the topic is quite more work - but you'd have to master it as well if you use slides, wouldn't you?
- It is so much reliable! You don't need to care anymore if there is a VGA cable, or if the resolution is fine, if you have backups, etc. You only need to care not to faint, but that is also the case if you use a
slideshow ;)

Of course I am not arguing that you should never use charts. They are sometimes useful. But do you need slides for all your presentation, or are they oy needed for that for showing some particular point at one or two moments in the presentation? Try it!