The product mindset at WordCamp Torino 2017

I’m super excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at the next WordCamp Torino!

I’m speaking (in Italian) about my mindset as a product person. In a nutshell, I’ll share with attendees how I apply my identity as a product person to everything I do.

Saturday 8 April 2017, in the beautiful Toolbox Coworking, starting at 10AM—my talk is at 10:45, in Track A.

My speaker profile
My talk’s abstract
WordCamp Torino 2017 schedule

 

Remote Work & Digital Nomadism: My interview on Merita Podcast

I’ve recently had the pleasure to be interviewed on one of my favourite podcasts, Merita. Giorgio Minguzzi, the host, is a true professional when it comes to using the Internet to grow a business, so I think you’ll enjoy the conversation—as long as you understand Italian.

We chatted about remote work and digital nomadism, particularly focusing on the challenges and dark sides typically connected to them.

Listen here ⬇️, or on iTunes. If you speak Italian and are on the lookout for great growth and marketing advice I’d recommend you subscribe to the podcast.

Mute tab: a relatively unknown Google Chrome feature

Some months ago I stumbled upon one of those “The [prime number] Google Chrome features you should know.” It was a good list, but I threw in an extra one in the comment section that received a lot of praises: Mute tab.

When you open one of those sites that have background music or an autoplaying video, Chrome makes you identify the noisy tab immediately thanks to a nice audio indicator:

Chrome Tab Audio Indicator

So instead of muting the whole machine, looking for the pause button in the page, or maybe closing the tab altogether, you can just right click on the tab and select Mute Tab.

Right click menu on Chrome Tab that has the Mute Tab option

From the reactions I got when I posted that comment, it seemed clear to me that not many people were aware of this feature. Did you know about it already?

Out of Office, our online event about remote work, is today. Are you joining us?

You’ve probably been there: someone says “I work remotely” and you think they’re all about posting pictures of their laptop next to a macchiato in a hip coffee shop, working from a beach, or—worst case scenario—preaching about some obscure, passive—of course—way to earn the income that unlocks the chance to live that lifestyle.

Whilst that’s not necessarily old news, there’s so much more to remote work: think about productivity, growth, dealing with stress, or onboarding. Curious about how distributed companies, remote freelancers, but even the office worker who occasionally works at home deal with those? Good, because they’re all topics that will be discussed at Out of Office, today, at 4PM UTC.

Out of Office is live streaming online and it’s free

Yep, that’s right. You’ll be able to watch it at your own desk, on your couch (just cast the relevant Chrome tab to your tv if you use a Chromecast), wherever you want.

Reserve your spot now, go to the event page when it’s 4PM UTC, boom, done. Now it’s all about learning and asking questions to our speakers.

Talks & Q&A’s

We’re hosting a pretty nice group of speakers, coming from some of the most influential companies when we’re talking culture and flexibility: if you’re thinking about Basecamp, Toptal, Buffer, yes, we’ve got them all.

Here’s the full schedule:

16:00 – Opening remarks

16:15 – Toptal bootcamp: onboarding with impact, by Jennifer Weinmann (People Operations at Toptal)

17:00 – Productivity, by Rodolphe Dutel (Operations at Buffer)

17:45 – Values of a humane remotee culture: empathy, trust & inclusiveness, by Dino Anderson (Operational Development Consultant)

18:30 – Live Interview with Jason Fried (CEO and co-founder at Basecamp)

19:15 – Dealing with stress in remote teams, by Tom Willmot (CEO and co-founder at Human Made)

20:00 – Closing Remarks

At Human Made we’ve been working hard to put together a strong, BS-free event that will teach you a lot of interesting stuff about something we truly care about. Come watch it and you’ll appreciate.

Join now, there’s still time!

So, want to watch Out of Office? Awesome.

Reserve your spot HERE. Do it now, there are more than 1,000 people who already opted in.

Read more here, and tell your friends on social media you’re joining us. The more the merrier, you know?

Public Speaking: Organisation Tips

The other day I was asked to write about how I approach public speaking from an organisational point of view. Things like “do you have a general roadmap”, “how do you start creating your slides” or “do you use spreadsheets“ and so on.

I thought this was really interesting, so here we are, without further ado: tips on how to keep your life as a public speaker organised.

The Trello board

Just like almost everything else in my life, it all starts from a Trello board. My Trello board for public speaking helps me navigating across the grand scheme of things: biographies, headshots, speaker media kit, talk titles & abstracts.

trello-ps-board

The first column on the left has static info as well as a bit of meta—always explain how to use the board as it has to be accessible to mentors or colleagues. As I write this article, the Info column has four cards: a readme with instructions, a card for the Speaking Media Kit with the link to Dropbox (I’ll talk about this later), my biographies, and the abstract structure.

Second, third and fourth columns are New Ideas, In Development, Completed. Every card in those three columns is a talk, with the abstract in the description and everything else—comments from peers or mentors, checklists, links, attachments and so forth—where appropriate.

Every time I have a new idea for a talk I just create a new card in the New Ideas column. There’s no such thing as Hmm, shall I add this here? Hmm… not sure if… hmm… at this stage. Wild ideas must be encouraged. You never know.

The In Development column have only talks that I’m currently working on. Might be talks that have been accepted for an event, talks that I’m preparing before applying with them, or talks that already exist in some incomplete form for some reason. When a talk is in this column I want slide deck and speaker’s notes to have enough meat as soon as possible. When the talk reaches that stage (talk ready to be delivered, but if there’s time I’d appreciate the opportunity to give it some extra love), I apply a label to it, which I named “MVP” (buzzwords, yay), but remains in the In Development column.

The Completed column has only talks that are ready to be delivered or have been already delivered.

Talks are moved around among those three columns, with the usual movement being left to right—New Ideas ➡️ In Development ➡️ Completed.

Labels help a lot with the process. No label means it’s a regular 30–40 min talk. Labels can include workshops, lightning talks, flash talks, keynotes, “MVP”, etc.

Biographies

You’re probably asking why biographies. The answer might be more than one, notably type of events (I’ve got a bio specifically for WordPress events), and languages. Always keep them updated and make sure they reflect the speaking application you’re putting together: if you’re applying with a talk about business development, make sure your bio highlights your experience with business development.

Abstracts

My abstracts usually have three short paragraphs. In the first paragraph I define a problem, an issue, a current situation worth talking about. In the second paragraph I propose a solution, which normally is the major part of the content of the talk. The third one is all about the ideal audience (answering the question “who’s this talk for?”).

The folder for talks

I have a “Public speaking” folder on my computer, which is sync’d to my Dropbox account. This folder has two folders inside: the Speaker Media Kit and the Talks folder. The Talks folder has one folder per talk, and every talk has a “Images” folder (with all the image files that I use in the slide deck), and the Keynote presentation(s). Why plural? Because if I give the talk at different events the deck will inevitably change (from the event hashtag to cultural adjustments).

To recap: Public speaking ➡️ Talks ➡️ Talk name ➡️ Images folder & keynote file.

The Starting Deck

When I start creating a presentation for a new talk, I don’t want to start from scratch. No one likes blank pages, and let’s be honest here, some elements are common across different presentations—every slide deck has at least a cover and a final “thank you” / “questions?” page, right?

In my Talks folder there’s a “Starting deck” folder, which is set up in the exact same way of other talks: an “Images” folder, and a Keynote file.

The Keynote file has a cover (with dummy title, subtitle, hashtag and background, plus my Twitter handle and company logo), a slide about me, a couple of slides about Human Made, and a final “thank you” slide.

Every time I have to do a new talk, I will go to Trello and make sure the talk is in the In Development column, then duplicate the Starting deck, move it to its talk folder that I had created beforehand, and give the file the right name.

It’s definitely easier and quicker to do it rather than to explain!

Speaker Media Kit

I mentioned the Speaker Media Kit a couple of times already, and it’s time to go a bit deeper on this.

A SMK typically is a folder that has your biography, headshots (include only those you’re happy with, as they’re going on the event’s marketing campaigns, website, etc.), contacts, speaking topics (all the topics you’re comfortable speaking about, with some issue / solution-based explanation, very similar to talk abstracts), and testimonials.

It’s particularly useful when event organisers want your complete profile as a speaker.

The Speaker Sheet

An alternative to have separate files is a “Speaker sheet”, which has everything in one single PDF file. I’m a fan of this solution, in fact my SMK has only a PDF and a folder with headshots.

I would love to know how other people involved with public speaking keep everything organised. There are a million ways to do this, so please do weigh in with your processes or feedback in the comment section!

7 Tips to use Slack effectively

Both Human Made and the WordPress community use Slack as their real-time communication platform. As a result, I basically live on Slack.

Italia WP Community on Slack
Italia WP Community on Slack

There’s more to Slack than just “chat”, but you have to know how to own it as opposed to being owned by it.

Here’s how I got there.

1. Understand the difference between teams and channels

First of all, to use Slack properly, you need to understand the distinction between teams and channels.

Teams

Think of a team as a community. You can be logged in to multiple teams at the same time (i.e. your company, the WordPress community, the WordPress UK community, etc.), and join different teams with the same email address / username.

The question “Are you on Slack?” doesn’t make any sense unless the Slack team is implicit (different from i.e. “Are you on Skype?”).

Channels

Each Slack team has usually more than one channel, for different departments etc. This allows Slack users to read only the chats that are relevant to them.

Slack doesn’t allow channel arrangement in the left sidebar yet, but you can create your own hierarchical system (sort of). From the most important: starred channels & chats (for projects I’m actively working on, they appear on the top of the left sidebar); regular channels (I receive all the notifications for those); channels where @channel and @here are suppressed (don’t want to mute them, but still don’t want to be pinged for general announcements); muted channels (all the channels that are not strictly required for the work I’m doing).

2. Slack is not the right place for important discussions

Because of its real-time nature, any important conversation or write-up should happen or be recapped elsewhere, for example in internal websites that have a WordPress theme called P2. Websites with the P2 theme have a posting form right on the homepage, inline editing of posts and comments, real-time updates, and much more.

WordPress theme P2
WordPress theme P2

3. Use Slack asynchronously

Slack is often hailed as the saviour of internal communication as well as the destroyer of emails. Thanks to Slack, we don’t overfill our inboxes with countless internal emails, so we don’t have to keep up with different threads, mess with addresses in cc, etc.

In traditional communication, whilst emails are among the most effective asynchronous communication tools out there, chat, texts, etc. represent its synchronous variety. A team that works across multiple time zones can’t chat synchronously all the time, and as emails are out of the question, we need to adapt the chat and transform it into an asynchronous communication tool.

Do Not Disturb is the king

Slack allows users to set them on Do Not Disturb mode (automatically or manually). When someone is on Do Not Disturb, they won’t be notified in case of ping, but the system can be forced if the matter is urgent.

Do Not Disturb settings
Do Not Disturb settings

Generally speaking, it’s important that people can talk to each other even when the recipient is not around. If you understand you’re responsible for your own down time (setting yourself up on Do Not Disturb when you’re offline, not working, or in-the-zone), you’re giving others the freedom to get in touch with you anytime. It’s your responsibility then to deal with the message when you’re ready.

4. Always prefer public channels over private and 1–1 communication

When in doubt, always post a message where everyone can read it. Keep everyone updated on stuff that is not secret or private!

5. Do a routine decluttering

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been there: you’re in several channels, and some of them either ended up dead or lost relevancy to you and your job. Leaving channels when you’re not interested in them anymore means you have less stuff to catch up with.

6. Kill Slack when you need to focus

Which doesn’t necessarily mean quitting it. You can set yourself away, or activate Do Not Disturb, when you want to focus on something without being bothered.

7. Use Slack themes

Slack allows to customise the colour scheme of the left sidebar. Just head over to Preferences → Sidebar Theme and select an available theme, or enter your custom colour combination.

For example, this is a colour combination for WordPress:

#23282d,#191E23,#0073AA,#FFFFFF,#191E23,#FFFFFF,#46B450,#00A0D2

Bonus: is there a night mode?

Slack doesn’t have a night mode yet, but there’s a nice workaround for the in-browser version. Install Stylish for your browser (an extension available for Firefox, Chrome and Safari), and follow the instructions here.

External resources

WordPress communities on Slack – A collection of Slack teams related to WordPress (both country-level and non-local teams)

Slack on Product Hunt – Slack-related apps, add ons & collections.

Slack Themes – A collection of themes for the left sidebar.

11 Useful Tips for Getting the Most out of Slack, by the Slack team

An Incomplete List of Communities on Slack, by Angela Cois

WCEU, the Italian WordPress Community, here we go again!

WordCamp Europe 2016 is just two days away! It’s going to be the biggest WordCamp ever, with way more than 2000 attendees expected.

A12s, Humans and other WordPressers at Cocoquadrat (photo from https://www.facebook.com/cowork.coffee)
WCEU organisers, A12s, Humans and other WordPressers at Cocoquadrat (photo from https://www.facebook.com/cowork.coffee)

Vienna—whose duty to organise this year’s edition was publicly announced at the end of WCEU 2015 in Seville—is already experiencing an abnormal flow of WordPress enthusiasts from all over the world. Make sure you keep an eye open in coffee shops and co-working spaces (or interesting cross-overs between the two of them): we like showing off our passion with t-shirts, stickers on our laptops, someone even tattoos.

Of course I’ll be there with the awesome crew from Human Made, ready to hug everyone I know and meet everyone I don’t.

I have a special relationship with WordCamp Europe. WCEU 2013—the first WCEU—was my first WordCamp ever, and as Italian and co-founder of Italia WP Community, I cannot stress enough how much important WCEU has been for us.

If you want to know more about this, it’s all in the article Emanuel Blagonic wrote about us—and other communities—on the WCEU blog, and my Medium post for the 1st birthday of Italian WP Community.

See you all very soon!

My Social Media Wishlist for 2016

2015 has been a big year for social media. Periscope and Snapchat exploded, Instagram became incredibly valuable for products and Twitter have been struggling to grow its user base.

In 2016 the industry will keep evolving and renovating itself with its usual speed: predicting what’s next in the industry is, at best, problematic. That’s why I’m sharing a wish list for 2016 – trends, practices and features – rather than predictions. There’s a lot to be excited about, so let’s dive in.

Tweople: More personal stuff!

When you tweet something out, don’t be afraid to add your personal touch, whether it’s yours or other people’s content. A comment, a quote from the tweet, an image that reflects what you’re sharing. Here’s what I believe is a good example:

If I tweeted only a post title, link and hashtag, it would have been just another tweet in the stream. Instead, I’ve sacrificed the post title, added a quote from the post, highlighted the real meaning of the post (the author’s view on a topic), and inserted an image – taken from the post itself – that echoes the topic.

I also wish people sent out less thank-you tweets to multiple handles. Simply put, when you thank people in bulk, what you’re saying is I don’t have time to tell you something meaningful. It might work from a quantity point of view – new followers, new notifications, Klout score going up and other vanity metrics – but doesn’t really add anything relevant. There’s a lot of things you can do instead, i.e. connecting with less people but starting real conversations, intro’ing them to other people that can be interested in their content, and so on.

Less #latergram and #throwback on Instagram

From a product marketing point of view, Instagram has the attention of a pretty good number of people, so the strategies that brands are using to connect with their prospects must include a wide array of visual content.

When it comes to people, I like thinking of Instagram as a real-time tool. People, in fact, are still brands: if I follow them, they have my attention. That’s why I like to learn what they are doing now, not what they used to look like when they were 16.

Less cliché pics

Laptop and coffee. Chicken with avocado. A cat with big, beautiful eyes. We got it, you are a coffee drinker that works remotely, eats healthy food and enjoys the company of a lovely pet.

As working from coffee shops and eating less sugar become more mainstream, there’s nothing unique or inspiring in those pictures anymore.

When I see someone showing off the lack of grey office walls in their life, I’d love to know what they’re actually doing, what tool they’re using and why, how they’re solving problems. Every time I stumble upon the picture of a salad I want to know what’s inside. The social media game shouldn’t be about you, it’s about the audience.

Less motivational crap

motivational

The brutal truth about these “motivational” quotes is that they’re created and posted because they’re excellent at capturing likes and followers. That’s it. Nothing more.

You don’t need those cheap, cheesy and one-size-fits-all posts. Whatever you’re trying to do with your life. In a bad mood? Feeling a lack of motivation? Look for real stories. Luckily for us the Internet offers so many places to share success stories and things that work (looking at you, Medium.com).

More television-like experiences on YouTube

As both smart TVs and Chromecasts (or the Apple TVs for that matter) become more popular, YouTube offers a remarkable opportunity to all those media producers, podcasters and film-makers out there to host their shows, publish their documentaries and distribute short movies, episodic shows and even independent, full-length films.

YouTube is full of talented people, but sometimes it’s hard to know where and how to find them. I really wish to see a significant improvement both in the YouTube homepage and in the YouTube iOS app that makes it easy for everyone to discover new content.

Special mention to 360° videos, which I’d love to see more often during 2016.

Instagram: let us switch between multiple accounts!

For many social media managers, having the ability to switch from their personal to their professional / business account would save so much time. Apparently Instagram is testing this feature on Android, so there’s a big chance to see this happening within the next 12 months. Personally, I can’t wait.

 

What are you looking forward to seeing on social media in 2016?

3 Non Obvious Ways to Improve your Slide Deck

Let’s face it: we’ve all seen slides that suck. Business meetings, sales pitches, conferences, you name it, someone brought a terrible deck with poor colour contrast and tons of text, maybe written in Papyrus or C**** S***.

Luckily those days seem to be over, or at least close to their end. At the last conferences I’ve been to I’ve mostly seen good slides, even from not-designers – slide design is an art on its own: it requires a fairly wide variety of skills (communication, psychology, design itself), and needs you to be familiar with software you wouldn’t use on any other situation.

These are some nice tricks I’ve recently discovered while working on my presentations. The overall idea is to help the audience focus on things that matter. Great slides support your story without stealing too much attention, and are easy to remember and understandable at a glance.

Play with opacity

Let’s assume you have a slide with a full-screen image, followed by some content about it.

This is our team at Human Made.

human-made-team copy

This is the following slide, containing our logo and some information about us:

hm_text

Here’s an improved version of the second slide. It features the same text, but has the previous image on the background, with opacity set at 33% and your deck branding colour behind:

hm_pic_logo

33% is a number that feels most of the time right to me, but it’s not a rule. Play with your image and see if you need a lighter or darker effect.

The transition is quite smooth and pleasant:

TqfOy1

Use the no-shift effect

You may have two slides that look almost the same except for some details. Here’s the idea: duplicate the slide (cmd+D in Keynote) and edit only the piece of content that actually changes.

Let’s get back to the previous sequence, and let’s say we’ve got another slide with more information on Human Made, i.e. some products we have built:

products

The transition highlights the new information.

EakbAx

Respect brand guidelines

If you look at the previous slides, you will notice that I haven’t typed in Human Made or our products’ names. Instead, I’ve dropped logo files in Keynote and adjusted size and position. Let’s do the same when we mention external brands.

Many products these days have brand guidelines on their site. Here’s Slack brand guidelines for instance, and that’s a really good example of a company explaining how to use their brand assets.

Look at the difference between these two slides:

slack

Slack with logo

Whilst the first one may follow your deck branding in terms of fonts, there’s no doubt that the latter stands out more. Logos are designed for people to remember them, and the visual support for a presentation has pretty much the same goal. Take advantage of brand guidelines to increase the chances your audience remember and recognise the object of your slide.

The folks at Slack also explain when to use the coloured logo or when to opt for the white or black monochromatic version instead:

The colored version of the Slack hash logo can ONLY be used on a white background. If you are using the Slack logo on any other background color, use either the black or white monochrome logo.

Brand guidelines are not just annoying requests product people make. Think of them as reasonable design decisions they’ve taken for you.

I really look forward to reading your feedback on these points. Although I’ve spoken quite a few times over the last year, I’m still working on improving every aspect of public speaking. However, if there’s one thing that is clear to me, is that a slide deck you’re happy with design-wise has a huge impact on your confidence and therefore your delivery.

(photo header credit: Yann Ropars)