(In Lieu of any current travel here’s a tale of a trip I made July 13, 2018)
Boston to Seattle. I am sitting in the window seat. Food and beverage service comes by. “May I have the chicken plate please?” I ask.
“I’m sorry” the flight attendant says, “There was a mix-up in supplying the plane, we already ran out of meals. That woman and her daughter (pointing to the seats in front of me) got the last ones.”
My water bottle is empty. I didn’t get to fill it before boarding the plane. So I ask the flight attendant “Can you pour me some orange juice in my water bottle so I don’t have to worry about it spilling?”
“No, we’re not allowed to pour into passenger’s containers because we may spill. But I will give it to you in a paper cup so you can pinch the top and pour it into your water bottle.” Then instead of the usual low profile plastic cup, she gives me a large paper cup full to the top with orange juice. Too full to try to pour it, I set it down.
Just then I am distracted by a commotion with the passenger behind me and the very large, very full cup of juice tips over, spilling onto my laptop computer and squarely into my lap.
So now I’m trapped in the window seat, sitting in a puddle of orange juice just 1 hour into a 6-1/2 hour flight. How could this get any worse?
A minute later I feel my foot getting wet. The little girl in the seat in front of me spilled her full cup of Sprite between the seats and onto my foot and backpack. At least I already have a wad of slightly used napkins to dry it up. How could this possibly get any worse?
The girl’s mother in the middle seat turns around and apologizes and then goes into a 10-minute rant telling me how bad her flying experience has been today starting with the airline giving her trouble at the baggage check for not having water in the cage for her labra-doodle. How dare they!
She ends with “I’ve had such a bad day! This really is Friday the 13th, isn’t it?” She says.
“Yes it is.” I reply with a wry smile, “yes it is.”
If there is something people dread more than public speaking, it is probably speaking in front of a camera. But until we go back to meeting in person, we are stuck giving our speeches and presentations to a camera at home.
Unfortunately, being skilled at speaking to a live audience does not ensure you will be good at presenting to a camera. But with every challenge also comes opportunity. And by making a conscious effort to improve on camera, you will expand, refine, and diversify your speaking skills in more ways than you ever could by giving in-person speeches alone. Watch this speech to get some ideas:
Bonus: Wash your hands for 20 seconds
1. Have a simple, uncluttered background
2. Dress as you would for an in-person speech
3. Mark where to stand with a towel (and be barefoot)
4. Look at the camera, not at the screen
…but don’t stare! Look away occasionally, more naturally
5. Stand 4-6 feet from the camera (where the front row would be sitting)
6. Study Late Night talk show hosts
7. Stand further away to hide looking at your notes
8. Stand; don’t sit
9. Move around the stage
9a. Use body language, gestures and facial expressions
10. Even if you aren’t giving a speech, don’t put your camera down low!
11. Put the camera level with your eyes and tipped slightly down
12. Put the camera on a tripod or other stable support
13. Using your phone? Prop it on a box if you don’t have a tripod
14. ALWAYS use landscape (horizontal) orientation!
15. Have multiple light sources
16. Avoid bright light / windows behind you
17. Avoid harsh lighting / spotlights
18. Don’t stand too close to the wall
19. Only use virtual backgrounds if you must
20. Virtual backgrounds work best with a green screen
21. Simple, natural backgrounds are best
22. Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers sit because they do a 1 hour show
23. Silence your cell phone and close all apps on your computer
24. Put pets and kids far, far away… Unless they are quiet like @FreddyTheBassett
25. Use an external microphone
26. Cell phone earbuds make good microphones
27. Be close to camera-mounted microphones
28. Soundcheck your audio before the meeting starts
29. Use fresh/fully charged batteries or plug into an outlet
30. Be in a quiet location
31. Close any windows during your speech
32. Join early to test audio, video, visual aids, timer
33. Pin the timer’s video AND have your own timer
34. Connect to the internet using a wire instead of wifi if possible
Watch what works well for others and try different things and have fun with this new platform for speaking! Be sure to check out the other Toastmasters tips I’ve posted by clicking the Toastmasters tab at the top of this page.
If you support HCL Notes and Domino (formerly Lotus Notes and Domino) environments, you can get many great tips on how to be more productive and discover the wealth of features that only come with 25 years of software development. Follow HCL Digital Solutions’ Youtube channel. Here is one example: How to Delegate a User’s Mail and Contacts https://youtu.be/rEijwzyAshA
Watch for tips that your users might appreciate and share the videos with them.
I’m thrilled to share that HCL has brought over important content from IBM that was hosted in Domino!
- HCL Connections On-Premise Documentation Wiki:
- HCL Connections Cloud Documentation Wiki:
- HCL Notes and Domino Wiki: https://ds-infolib.hcltechsw.com/ldd/dominowiki.nsf
- Notes/Domino Fixlist: https://ds-infolib.hcltechsw.com/ldd/fixlist.nsf
Note these are .nsf databases. Yes, Domino databases. I have asked if they will open it up to anonymous access with Notes clients like they had been in the past. Meanwhile, this is another accomplishment in the process of HCL invigorating the proof of the product. HCL will add the forums too after passing the privacy requirements; not a trivial task.
This video demonstrates how to:
1. Create a Facebook event.
2. Simplify the steps to invite your friends to the event.
3. Promote your event beyond the people you know.
For more Toastmasters tips, visit https://davidhablewitz.com/category/toastmasters/
Breakout rooms are free in Zoom if you know how to enable them.
Watch this video to learn how.
I’ve gathered more information on this topic regarding iPads, Androids, and older PCs.
A few notes from the video:
- The Zoom app on Android devices doesn’t have the Virtual Background function.
You will need to use good old colored paper to indicate the colors. Be sure to keep holding up each color until time to switch colors. I have not yet tested this functionality in WebEx.
- Some older or lower end models of PCs can’t handle the Virtual Background feature in Zoom. I have not yet explored the details in WebEx.
Steps to add color cards as background images on the iPad:
- Visit http://bit.ly/timerbackgrounds
- Click each file one-by-one and download it to the iPad (don’t use the Download All)
- Open Downloads
- Tap the first file to open it, then tap it again to make it full screen.
- Take a screenshot (press the power button and the home button at the same time). This adds it to the photos which is where Zoom looks for background images.
- Repeat steps 4 & 5 for each photo
- Open Zoom. Tap on the ellipsis (…) in the top right, then tap on Virtual Backgrounds
- Click the + icon at the bottom of the screen, then select the first image (white) to add it to the backgrounds.
- Repeat this for green, yellow and red in order.
- Leave this open while timing and choose NONE for your background between speeches, then choose WHITE when the speaker starts and GREEN, YELLOW, and RED at the appropriate times.
Please add comments with your own ideas or experiences with this process to make it better. See more of my Toastmasters tips at https://davidhablewitz.com/category/toastmasters/
There is a new trend to hold meetings online. In particular, many Toastmasters clubs are moving to an online format as we wait for the pandemic to subside. I have been working from home for about 8 years now and I have a few tips to improve your online meeting experience. Today I will talk about how you can use the virtual background to enhance any presentation, but particularly if you are in the Timer role in your Toastmasters meeting. This is specific to online meetings using Webex or Zoom.
- Download the virtual background images from http://bit.ly/timerbackgrounds
- Start / join your online meeting.
- Add the images to your available virtual backgrounds.
- Before the speech starts, cover your camera lens.
- Change your background at the appropriate time for each speech:
Use None before/after the speech
Use White (Timing…) when timing is started,
Use the standard Green, Yellow, Red at the appropriate time
The purpose of covering your camera is so that your image isn’t distracting the speaker in front of the background image. You will note that there are 4 virtual background images. Be sure to use the White background when the speaker starts talking so everyone knows you have started timing. Optionally you can type “Started”, “Green”, “Yellow”, “Red” in the meeting chat so that the audience knows without looking at your video where the timing is. This should NOT be done during a contest.
For maximum visibility, if you have additional ideas for improving this procedure, please post your comments here rather than in Facebook or youtube.
Toastmasters meetings online is a great way to practice for using web meetings in other settings. Explore other ways you can use these techniques to enhance your viewers’ online experience. For more Toastmasters tips, visit
(See also the second article I published on this which has more tips on the limitations of Virtual Backgrounds and how to use it on other devices:
Part 2: Using Zoom Virtual Backgrounds for Toastmasters Timer Role on iPads & Androids
(If you are a technical expert and you are not sharing this information with your business management as well as your IT management, then you are not doing your job.)
Since HCL bought Notes, Domino, Sametime, Connections and several other products from IBM, many people are asking: “Now what? Is this the end or the beginning?”
I have been watching closely what HCL says as well as what they do. I have had long conversations with people at some of the highest levels of HCL. Those of you who have seen me at the conferences know my IBM Champion or HCL Master titles be damned, I don’t hold back any punches. I’ll the first to point it out when “the Emperor has no clothes.” So let me share with you what I know.
My first observation:
HCL is more interested in producing product than marketing it. HCL confirms this. Right now they aren’t doing a lot of blowing their own horn from a marketing perspective, at least not yet. I have asked about this and their answer is simple: They would rather let their actions speak loudest right now. That does not sit well with me having watched IBM do NO marketing for the past 20 years, but I am told that will soon change. I hope so because the absence of a message leaves people to make up their own.
My second observation:
If HCL were a car, it would be a Tesla because the only other time I have felt this much acceleration, that’s what I was driving.
That is how I would describe the pace of software development since HCL took over. The first sign of this was that HCL has more than doubled the number of people on the software development team since taking ownership.
My third observation:
HCL mishandled the initial announcement of the decommissioning SmartCloud Notes / Connections Cloud (SCN/CC).
Yes, the implementation of SCN/CC was clunky and the environment was mismanaged by IBM so it was losing money for IBM. HCL was smart to shed this and focus on what they do best. But it would have been better if they had announced the transition partners at the same time or in advance of declaring they were dropping SCN. HCL also recognizes this error and has worked hard to make it easy to transfer to the partners. For what it’s worth, IBM was not too cool in how they handled that part of the software deal with HCL and that was beyond the control of HCL. If you are hosting on SCN/CC, you are much better off transferring to one of the designated hosting partners than trying to go through a migration to a different platform. The end results will actually be even better than what was available in IBM’s cloud.
If HCL is letting their work speak for itself, what exactly is their work saying?…
HCL first got involved in the software development about 2 years ago and the final acquisition was June 2019. In those 2 years HCL has:
- Produced 2 major releases of Notes & Domino (IBM produced only 4 major releases in 20 years)
- Produced major releases of Connections and Sametime
- Created Nomad, an entirely new product: a lean & clean Notes client for iOS & Android
- Are close to releasing a Notes client that runs entirely in a browser
- Are close to releasing Volt, the software that will put low-code software development back in the hands of the power user like it was in the earlier days with Lotus Notes
- Added Domino Query Language (DQL) for better database searching
- Online training courses are coming for end users, developers, and administrators
They achieved all of this by increasing horsepower and removing the throttle limiter – They told the software development teams “You know best what we need. You make the choice and you make it happen“. Then HCL went on a hiring spree, more than doubling the resources. Then HCL got out of their way. It is amazing what brilliant people can do when you just let them.
(Yes it really exposes just how much IBM starved software development for decades.)
Oh, by the way…
This was all done while at the same time HCL was busy creating this entirely new business line within the company — Digital Solutions— along with all the necessary back office corporate infrastructure like marketing, software development protocol, business partner support, HCL Masters program, software inventory control, product rebranding, technical support, documentation, a process for receiving product ideas and feedback, websites to support all of those pieces and on and on. In essence, they are a 2-year-old multi-billion dollar startup. It feels as if Lotus is back in charge and it feels good.
With all the work they are doing, it is your responsibility to implement the solutions. Make sure you are taking full advantage of what HCL is providing:
- Be on Notes and Domino V11
- Have Sametime chat and online awareness and Connections Files and Profiles running
- You should have Nomad deployed to iPad users and plans for deployments to iPhones and Androids
- MarvelClient Essentials should be deployed to manage the client software. All of this is part of the typical standard licensing
- Investigate how you could be using Domino apps to solve business problems including the free apps at OpenNTF.org
- Consider saving costs by running these servers on Linux instead of Windows
- Properly train users, developers, and administrators
After that, if there are features or enhancements your business needs that you don’t see in the product, post them at the Product Ideas Lab website. Since HCL started this feedback website a year ago, they have already shipped 134 of the proposed ideas, 67 more are in development and over 600 more are marked as likely to be implemented. This is all in addition to the hundreds of features, fixes, and products they were already doing on their own. It is impressive just how responsive HCL has been to the suggestions posted.
- HCL is doing superhuman work advancing their products and adding new ones to the portfolio. They have more than doubled the development team and invested over $2 Billion on the software suite so far and they are just getting started. The future of the HCL (Lotus) software suite is the brightest it has been since Lotus was bought by IBM.
- They have a few challenges they are working through (pricing models, Marketing).
- It is your responsibility as a savvy business owner to be sure you are leveraging everything you are paying HCL for.
I have performed many email migrations to/from every major platform out there. I even worked on Microsoft’s O365 team. Migrations are always vastly more expensive and disruptive to businesses than expected with less payoff than anticipated. And if you have Domino applications then migration costs can be prohibitive, so you will still have Domino for apps even if you aren’t using it for email. It would be far more productive spending that same money on improving and cleaning up your existing system and educating users instead of migrating. The HCL acquisition of the IBM collaboration software portfolio is what we have needed for a long time. The beauty is if you are already on Notes & Domino, you’re in the right place at the right time.
I attended a presentation by King County Director of Elections Julie Wise. She presented some important information regarding the Primary election coming to the State of Washington for the first time since we voted to change from a Caucus process last year. Even if you aren’t in King County, the ballot and election date is the same state-wide. Here are the facts you need to know…
Photo of the sample ballot:
Photo of ballot envelope:
- Everyone will receive the same ballot regardless of party affiliation.
- You must indicate a party affiliation in order to vote in the primary and you must select someone from the party you indicate, otherwise your ballot will not count.
- If you vote for more than one candidate, your ballot will not count. If you make a mistake, follow the instructions on how to cross it out and change your choice.
- You must sign your ballot and that signature must match what you provided when you registered to vote. If it does not, they will attempt to contact you if you provided contact information, otherwise your ballot will not count.
- Your party preference will be public record and it will be kept for 90 days after which time it will be deleted.
- The preferred method for voting is to use the ballot drop boxes around the county. Here is a map of their locations. No stamp is needed and it can be dropped off up to 8:00pm on Tuesday, March 10, 2020.
- If you choose to mail your ballot, it is recommended to do so at least several days prior to March 10 because mail is not certain to be picked up every day from your mailbox. Generally it is only picked up when you receive mail. If you drop off at the post office, be sure it is prior to the collection time for that box on March 10. If you miss the pickup, your ballot will be postmarked the next day and it will not be counted.
We are so lucky that Washington State is exclusively vote-by-mail. We have the luxury to take our time reviewing, studying and marking our ballot at home instead of driving to a polling center and standing in line to cast your vote. That might explain why Washington always has one of the highest voter turnouts. Even a poorly-timed blizzard won’t keep us from voting IF you plan ahead. But you have to be registered. March 2 is the deadline to register online or by mail and participate in the Primaries election. March 10 is the deadline for registering in person. But trust me, you don’t want to have to drive to the elections office to register. Do it online now. All the important dates can be found here.
There is also this great posting on the official state website on more FAQs. Definitely worth reading.
Ginni Rometty is stepping down from her role as CEO of IBM. The news brings back memories of this viral photo that friend and fellow IBM Champion Joerg Rafflensbeul captured of me with Ginni at IBM Think conference in 2018. Just more proof that the times are definitely changing. This photo was taken shortly before HCL began getting involved with the collaboration software that ultimately led to the acquisition of Notes/Domino, Sametime, Connections and several other products that HCL is turning into profit centers as they revitalize and leap forward. More about this in the next blog post. Until then, as the dolphins so eloquently put it in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “So long and thanks for all the fish.”
It never ceases to amaze me the incredible pace that HCL is working to advance Notes & Domino products. Case in point: Domino Query Language (DQL) is now an integral part of Domino V11. Taken from Deputy General Manager, Marketing at HCL Technologies, Jan Kenney’s post:
With v11, Domino Query Language (DQL) completed its consolidation of all means of searching Domino data, using full-text indices. Join this webinar on January 30th to learn all about it! https://lnkd.in/eeYYPXw
This is the new way to search in Domino from now on. Don’t let the rapid pace of technology leave you behind. You will want to listen in for this. Be sure to register even if you can’t attend live, so you will get the link to the replay.
A footnote: Once you register, you can also add the event to your Notes calendar. Choose the iCal option. Funny how HCL Notes is the only major email client to follow the industry standard format.