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Archive for the ‘illustrating’ Category

The Right Way to Add Adobe Connect to Outlook

Posted by contentgrrl on April 9, 2011

For Web conferencing, demos, and collaboration, Adobe Connect Pro is a nice tool for sharing a whiteboard, document, slide show, spreadsheet, or your whole screen, and record those conferences for later editing and publication.

Unfortunately, the ability to schedule Web conferences in Outlook is beset by a counter-intuitive installation interface for the Connect Pro Outlook Add-In.

I had to uninstall & reinstall many times, and I’d like to help you avoid that hassle.

The right way to do this:

  1. Print out or copy to Notepad your Adobe Connect logon ID, password, and room URL so you’ll have it handy when the configuration wizard comes up.
  2. Close Outlook.
  3. Download and run the installer (
  4. Restart Outlook, which launches the 2-page configuration wizard.
  5. Uncheck Use secure connection, which removes the “s” from the “https” in the URL.
  6. Re-enter the “s” in “https” in the URL.
  7. When configuring the default text, you can personalize it with audio-conference information, such as the phone number, access code, and mute/un-mute keys. (I use

Hat tip to the kind folks on the Adobe Connect User Forum for steps 5 & 6.

In Outlook 2010, I can add the connection instructions to a New Meeting Request. If installed properly, the Adobe Connect button is in the New Meeting Request’s ribbon in the Add-Ons tab, as shown in the screen shot above.


Posted in illustrating, publishing, tools, video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

12 Steps to Hatchet Mastery: Less Detail, More Dialog

Posted by contentgrrl on October 26, 2009

Less of just the right detail is more engaging to readers. That works for magazine copy, Web copy, and even proposals.

But in my geeky love for technical prowess and quotable professionals, I once was guilty of being too, um, prolific.

I wrote my first cover story for a trade magazine with an amber-on-black Tandy Radio Shack word processor, aptly dubbed the TRaSh-80. My ambitious draft was 24 screens of helpful detail and quotable quotes. My editor (Bless you, Blake!) said, “Cut it down to eight.”

It was painful, but I did it. I continued to hatchet down my own and others’ articles for years. I made “proof pages” bloody with red ink.

In celebration of Halloween, here are my 12 tips for hatchet mastery:

  1. Inverted Pyramid. Don’t bury the lead. Get to the point. Start with the crucial conclusion you want readers to take away, and sequence supporting details in order of their importance or relevance to the target audience. Fairly quickly, you’ll be able to cut the chaff.
  2. Raise questions. Leave some things unanswered. You don’t have to answer them all right now. That’s for you to do later in dialog/commentary, or for your sponsors and advertisers to do as they build the relationship, or in a follow-up story.
  3. One-Time Only. In some circles, they teach you to tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, then tell ’em, then tell ’em what you told ’em. That works in speech and academic print publishing, but it won’t work in magazines or Web content. Just pick the best way to say it once with your key words. Save the lesser gems to polish for a future article.
  4. Select the Best Example. If you’re teaching or training, it’s a good idea to provide multiple examples. It gives your audience mental hooks to connect with you and learn new knowledge. Save such elaboration for the classroom or Webinar. Pick one example that shows off expert credibility, newsworthy timeliness, a picturesque analogy, or the audience’s deep-seated pain.
  5. Trade up for a Picture Worth a Thousand Words. Sometimes when you want to describe a thing, a whole and its parts, a process with inputs/outputs, the flow of a procedure, or an abstract concept, it’s better to illustrate it, which provides visual interest editors and visitors love. If you or your artist design the figure, chart, or photo well enough, you don’t have to reiterate much in the copy. I like short highlights followed by, “as shown at right” or “as shown in the figure below” — or even no reference at all. If it’s shown nearby, they’ll get it.
  6. Replace Lengthy Transitions with Brief Bold Subheads. Breaking up long grey columns of text with subheads shows off your organization, and helps the reader scan for what they want to know.
  7. Change Passive to Active Voice. When you clearly identify the actor and use active verbs, you can avoid the foggy rigmarole of “The prize was awarded to him by the so-called committee” in favor of  “He won the Nobel prize” — eliminating several words in the process!
  8. Shorten Sentences. Split up convoluted or compound sentences, simplifying statements to subject and verb when you can. Sometimes you can cut out “that” and “which” in subordinate clauses, as well as wordy correlative or subordinating conjunctions.
  9. Effusively Cut Adverbs and Fluffy Adjectives and strings of Prepositional Phrases. Do you really need to specify exactly where, when, how, why, which, and to what extent in every sentence? In some cases, that detail is superfluous or redundant.
  10. Bullet Lists. Sometimes you can get the point across with lists of things or short phrases instead of complete sentences.
  11. Fewer Syllables. “Utilize” is rarely better than good ol’ simple “use.” Try
  12. Cut Articles Before Nouns. Unless you must specify which one, see how many instances of “a”, “an”,  “the”, “some”, and so on you can eliminate. Switching to plural may help. You may be surprised how many nouns can stand alone.

These 12 Steps of Wordyholism drill down to your substance, whispering promises of more.

Rather than lull readers to inaction, keep it short and succinct (KISS). Inspire possibilities and questions…Prompt them to action, and increase dialog between you, your readers, and your sponsors.

Posted in illustrating, marketing, persuasion, publishing, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

20 questions: scoping out a writing assignment’s focus and misconceptions

Posted by contentgrrl on January 17, 2008

To fully capture a writing assignment’s focus and value, twenty questions are usually in order. Give or take a few. At the beginning of a gig, I’ll ask all of them. I never know when I’ll run into a misconception or political curse. But after a while, experience with a particular topic teaches me the answers to more and more of these questions.


  1. Topic: What are the keywords?
  2. Service or product: What product or service is involved or might be helpful?
  3. Timeliness: Why is this article timely at its writing/deadline?
  4. Focus: What merits a special focus?
  5. Expert Technical Reviewers: Who can serve as a resource for information and to verify the accuracy of the article?
  6. Communication: What channels do we want to use to get the word out — mass email, newsletter, Web page, fill-in form, press release, FAQ?


  1. Audience: Which target audiences, customers, or prospects are affected?
  2. Assumptions: What does the target audience know? What’s been rumored?
  3. History: What related issues have the audience experienced that may color their motivation or response?
  4. Misconception: What is most likely to cause the target audience to misunderstand or err?


  1. Task: What is the target audience trying to do or accomplish?
  2. Trigger: What situation or case triggers a problem?
  3. Flow: How is it supposed to work?
  4. Solution: What do we want the audience to do? What sequence of steps are recommended in this particular case?
  5. Out of Scope: How do you know if you’re not affected? Are there special cases that merit more in-depth attention?


  1. Benefits: What are the desired outcomes? What does a successful result look like?
  2. Consequences: What are the consequences of errors or inaction?
  3. Alternative: If there are alternative solutions, why wouldn’t you want to use them?
  4. Validation: What case data, evidence, statistics or resources can be used to confirm the veracity of our information?
  5. Illustration: Is there a metaphor, diagram, or image that might attract attention or help understanding?

TIP: With seven really good interview questions, a talkative expert can fill an hour. For the sake of efficiency, I try to get the basic facts out of the way, email my questions ahead of a meeting, and schedule a followup for during draft review to cover the rarer questions.

Posted in illustrating, learning, publishing, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

useful basics on digital images and graphics

Posted by contentgrrl on December 27, 2007

As I was helping a third-party company develop their email marketing material, I passed along these very useful basics on digital images and graphics, from my favorite shareware review site,

How to Convert Graphics Images
GIF, JPG, and PNG files are most used for Web, and other file formats are better for print.

Digital Imaging: The Differences in Raster and Vector Images
Fundamentals, with links to well-reviewed software for each type of image. Vector usually includes shapes or text, and don’t take up as much disk space or bandwidth as raster images.

Digital Imaging Part 2: Lossy Vs. Lossless
Shows how compressing a graphic file down to a smaller size can affect quality. As in everything, you have to balance quality with speed. JPG is a lossy format, and may lose detail, but is the defacto standard for emailing photos. GIF usually has the smallest file size, and is best for emails, even if it’s lossy.

Tucows Complete Image Editor shareware selection

Posted in illustrating, marketing, publishing, tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

vector diagram editing tools compared

Posted by contentgrrl on December 11, 2007

Oh, do I love diagrams.

Especially cross-functional diagrams, where you know exactly who does what at what stage in a process, what decisions are made in order to hand it off to another department. I like a vector diagram editor that makes it easy to drag-and-drop decision diamonds with smart arrow connections. And style the shapes with Web 2.0 goodness. (I know. What a geek!)

When I was at Creative Education Institute, I’d use Visio (now owned by Microsoft) to illustrate the stages of learning, practice, and testing with Mathematical Learning Systems. When I was doing network training at SBC (now AT&T), I’d import network diagrams into PowerPoint to layer and animate the pieces. At ECI², I’ve done a host of cross-functional diagrams to communicate standard operating procedures among departments.

Oh, sure, you can get Visio Professional for about $200 now, and Visio Technical for about $300. And you can get SmartDraw for about $200 too. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here’s a biased comparison.

But if your diagramming needs are more modest, Smashing Magazine site has a List of Nifty Tools and Diagrams, which introduced me to the free Gliffy.

A diagram is often worth a thousand words. is a free web-based diagram editor with some of the same functionality as Visio. You drag-and-drop shapes to create clean yet modern-looking flowcharts, network diagrams, floorplans, user interface designs and other drawings online.You can even upload your own images (logos, icons, specialized shapes etc.) but use the intuitive connection, resizing & rotation tools. You can collaborate via email, or export to:

  • SVG for use in Visio, Illustrator, and Freehand
  • PNG for use with Fireworks or Photoshop
  • JPG for publishing on a Web page or HTML email.

Gliffy Flowchart

In addition to flow charts and entity-relationship diagrams, Gliffy even does Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagrams (object, class, node, aggregation, message, dependency, actor, use case). If you want watermark-free, ad-free, private, unlimited diagrams beyond the basic 2MB limit with tech support, it’s available with a Premium account for about $30 a year.

Posted in illustrating, tools, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »