Friday, 25 May 2018

Our favourite Excel training feedback

If you're a customer, or having been reading our blog for a while, you'll probably know that Naturally Spreadsheets is a brand name of Navanter - a specialist communication skills, sales and leadership training company based in London. Naturally Spreadsheets came about a long time ago, when a client asked whether I knew anyone who could do Excel training, and I decided to take on the challenge myself. Since then, our Excel training has gone from strength to strength, and accounts for about 40% of what we do.
Our USP (Unique Selling Point) is that we deliver our training in a soft-skills style, which we find really engages learners in a way that most IT training does not. In today's blog post, we're unashamedly going to blow our own trumpet and show you why you should be using Naturally Spreadsheets for your Excel training - by using some of our favourite feedback quotes from satisfied clients.
"This course was really valuable and taught me new things. Not only new formulas and how to use them but how to use the concept of putting formulas together." Lucy Cooper, The Key Support Services Ltd, London, UK
"Exceptional at explaining Excel simply." Nastassja Beaton, Venture Trust, Edinburgh, UK
"This was by far the best Excel course I have taken, because the pacing was great. I could keep up with everything that was presented and so really learned from and enjoyed the course." Deborah Jeanfavre, Citeline, New York, NY, USA
"Very easy to follow. Walking through the provided examples was really helpful and I liked how the finished examples could be saved for future reference." Michael Haydock, Datamonitor Healthcare, London, UK
"Really made the content come to life, didn’t waffle, was clear and concise and made new concepts easy to understand." Dave Newton, Spectrum Brands, Manchester, UK
"It’s the small 'nuggets' that are absolutely invaluable." Sara Gallagher, Bath Cats & Dogs Home, Bath, UK
"Very clear and comprehensive yet simple enough to not be bombarded with information." Romany Luckcock, IFF, London, UK
"Excellent instructor - one of the main reasons why this class is popular/well-attended/successful." Dominique Fontanilla, Datamonitor Healthcare, London, UK
"This was a fantastic course and I really got on with Neil's clear, logical teaching style. Looking forward to putting this into practice!" Amy Booth, IBI, London, UK
"Managed to establish a classroom vibe although we were all remote." Tamara Makoni, IBI Central, London, UK
 So there you go - don't just take our word for it - try it out for yourself at today!

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

How do I present complex data in an engaging way?

Data presentation is one of those topics which gets poor presenters excited, and which makes audiences groan before the presentation’s even got going! Presenting complex information in PowerPoint™ in a way that truly engages the audience is a skill that very few people have. But it’s something many people want to learn, and which should be learnt to prevent the sort of death-by-PowerPoint™ presentations which are commonplace in boardrooms and lecture theatres around the world.

The combined expertise of Navanter (experts in presentation skills) and Naturally Spreadsheets (our other brand – experts in Excel™) brings you these 5 tips from the audience’s point-of-view to liven up even the dullest data on the big screen…

1: Think about the purpose of your presentation

Why are you presenting this data? Is it to inform, insist or influence? What’s the difference? Let’s see…

Inform: You’re sharing information with me.

Really? Is there any point in giving a presentation? Just send an email...

Insist: You’re telling me to do something.

That would be great, but unless you’re my boss then I’m unlikely to do what you ask…

Influence: You’re trying to persuade me to do something.

Most presentations fall into this category – you’d like me to do something, you’re justifying it with facts and data, and you hope that will persuade me to take action.

2: Don't tell everything

Assuming your purpose falls into the third category above, you want to influence me through the data you’re going to present. Now I don’t need to know everything in your data – some of it really isn’t relevant to me, nor to anyone else in the room. Only present the key points which I need to know in order to convince me of a course of action.

3: Think about the story

To give an influential presentation, there needs to be a story. You might love your data, but I don’t – yet I do love a good story to get me thinking. What story is your data telling? How can you engage my emotions? How can you influence my actions?

4: Don’t show me everything

Excel™ is a great piece of software for calculating answers, presenting things clearly and using visuals (i.e. charts) to communicate a message. Use these things as intended, rather than just showing me a screen-shot of a data table.

5: Make attractive slides

Just like Excel™ is great for data, so PowerPoint™ is great for presenting. Make sure the key points are big enough on the slide, dim or fade the areas which don’t matter to make my eye go straight to the heart of your message. Don’t over-clutter – less is more.

6: Present with the audience in mind

You know your data, I don’t. If you stick something complicated on the screen, I’ll be trying to decipher it myself rather than listening to you. As soon as you show some data, tell me in max 15 seconds what I’m looking at. Use your hands to indicate key areas. Remove the confusion for me so that I don’t have to work it out myself, then you’ll have my attention and can tell me want the data means rather than just what it is.

Next steps

If you’d like to learn to present data like a professional, sign up for our brand new live e-learning course: Presenting Excel™ Data in PowerPoint™.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Playing with dates in Excel

There are occasions for all of us when Excel's dates don't perform as we'd like them to. By understanding a little more about how Excel processes dates, we're better-equipped to solve any problems we might find.

When you see a date in Excel, what you're actually seeing is just a number, formatted to look like a date. The number represents the number of days since 31st December 1899 - it seems that spreadsheets were invented by the Victorians! If you re-format a date cell as "General" or "Number", you'll see the date changes to a 5-digit number, probably beginning with a 4. Today is 41281 - that's the number of days which have elapsed since the turn of the last century!

That dates are stored as numbers is both a help and a hindrance to us as users - it means we can add or subtract dates as we would any other number, which allows us to measure results over time. It also means that although we see, for example, a year in the date, we can't just change the formatting to get at this information accurately - even if we format as year only, Excel is seeing the exact date.

Fortunately, there are functions we can use to extract information from a date. They are:

=DAY(cell ref) - gives the day within a month

=MONTH(cell ref) - gives the month number within a year

=YEAR(cell ref) - gives the year

Using these functions, we can extract anything we want from a date.

Exercise: have a play with the WEEKDAY function and see what it does - any questions, leave a comment below, and why not take a look at our training courses on the Naturally Spreadsheets website?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Keyboard shortcuts

By .

To achieve things more quickly, keyboard shortcuts are an alternative to clicking the mouse. You might know that you can use Enter to move down a cell, and Tab to move to the right. Did you also know that Shift+Enter will move your selection up and Shift+Tab will move it left.

We look at this in more detail in Introduction to Microsoft Excel in the classroom, or Excel Level 1 - The Basics online.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Two useful little functions for tidying data

By .

Here are two useful functions plus a light-hearted one which my wife discovered...

The first is great for anyone dealing with manually-entered data which might be a little untidy... The TRIM function will remove any preceding or training spaces. You could create a new column after a column of data (for example, names or addresses) and enter the following formula: =TRIM(cell ref). For example if A1 contains " Hello ", and you enter =TRIM(A1), the result will be "Hello". This is an important little step towards cleaner data.

You're probably familiar with using MAX and MIN to display the largest and smallest values in a list. But what if you want the third smallest? We can use SMALL to do this. Imagine D1:D5 contains 8, 5, 6, 1, 3 and you want to know the third smallest number. Use =SMALL(D1:D5,3) to show this.

Why not have a play with LARGE? It works in exactly the same way.

And a fun one to close: try entering =ROMAN(2018) into Excel and see what you get...

Friday, 29 September 2017

Adding comments within formulas using the “N” function


As you’re getting more advanced with Excel, you’re probably finding that you’re not quite sure what a formula does if you look back at it after a few days or weeks.

Did you know that you can add a description within your formula and not affect the result? The “N” function turns non-numbers into numbers (dates to serial numbers, for example) and anything else to zero (i.e. text). So you can add a comment by using the “N” function to replace your text with zero without affecting the formula itself. Confused? Try this and see what happens:

=7*4+N("Number of days in 4 weeks")

You should see that everything within the “N” brackets is ignored, therefore allowing you to add your own notes to formulas and better remember what they do!

Neil Shorney is director of Navanter, which owns the Naturally Spreadsheets brand - Excel training in person or via live e-learning to professionals around the world.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

In part 2 of our trilogy about trailing spaces (part 1 is just here) we look at how to identify trailing spaces if you have them in your data sets. As discussed in part 1, they're hard to spot, as we can't see spaces with the naked eye at the end of a cell. In this post, we'll look at how to identify them using Conditional Formatting.

First, I have some "raw" data, which contains some trailing spaces which I can't currently see:

Now, click on Conditional Formatting on the Home tab:

In the drop-down, choose Highlight Cells Rules then More Rules:

Then, in the Conditional Formatting dialogue, choose the second option: Format only cells that contain then specific text, ending with and then insert a space in the text box:

Then click the Format button and format these highlighted cells as you like. For me, the finished data then looks like this:

If you'd like to have a go at this yourself, you can download an Excel file with the completed example, and a raw data set for you to try yourself. Click here to download the file.