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Using OneNote 2007 for Interactive Meetings

One of my goals is to be more effective in client design meetings. For some of my customers we have whiteboard sessions where we sketch out a potential user interface for a new feature or function. In the past my process has been to go to the whiteboard, sketch the UI and any notes as we discuss it, adding and removing things as we decide on better approaches. When we are satisfied with the results, I use a camera to take a picture, and I erase the board so that we can move on to the next page or feature. This has a few limitations:

  • A pain to move things around – you basically have to erase the section and recreate it.
  • If you want to refer back to it during the same meeting, you are out of luck, except to have someone run and print copies from your camera’s memory card.
  • There is always a fear that the camera didn’t capture the photo sufficiently. The tiny digital screen on my camera doesn’t really clearly show the results. However, I’ve never had a problem with the actual picture once I transferred it to a computer. It is a somewhat irrational anxiety.

Over the weekend, Loren and I did some experimenting with OneNote. While I use OneNote 2007 for simple note taking during meetings, I rarely take advantage of some of its many features. In fact, I occasionally abandon OneNote in some scenarios. The above design situation is one. Another is when I am doing some kind of software demo or presentation and I need to take notes on the feedback I get. In this situation I usually revert back to paper.

As we experimented with the projector and the laptop, here are some tips we came up with.

  • Set up the project to extend the desktop. In that way, you can display things that everyone can see, and also have a private area for note taking.
  • Switch the laptop to tablet mode so that you can continue to take notes via handwriting.
  • Bring an external mouse and keyboard for controlling the demo software, since you won’t have easy access to your touch pad/keyboard in tablet mode. Loren has a small wireless mouse and a very compact wired keyboard that worked very well in our experiments. (Don’t plug them in at the exact same time; give the computer a bit of time to recognize the first one before plugging in the second one.)
  • For the interactive sketching I described above, we stumbled onto something pretty cool. I created a new OneNote side note, and moved the side note onto the projector’s display. Then I opened the side note within the full OneNote software. I could edit the side note within OneNote, and it automatically updated the display for my users. That way, if I wanted to also take some notes that were private, I could just switch to a different note within OneNote, and they wouldn’t see what I was writing (because the projector would still be showing the side note.)
  • Record the sessions within OneNote. There is no reason not to – it is easy to do, and you never know when you might need it.

Something else we experimented with was resizing the sketches. Our idea was that you could sketch something, then grab the entire sketch and make it smaller and move it to a corner on the page – available but out of the way. We had mixed results with this. Sometimes it would work and sometimes it would jumble the various components of the sketch. I haven’t quite figured out how to best address this, but one thing is certain: use the lasso tool for selecting the items. Most of the time it seemed to work when I tried that.

If you know of any other tips for using OneNote while presenting, please add a comment!

Posted by Avonelle on Monday, March 23, 2009.

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