Archive for the 'Other Articles' Category

The key to unlocking how we learn is our memory

A memory like a sieve…It’s a relatable phrase describing how we forget things we’ve just learnt. So, how do we retain information and improve how we learn?

The word learn is interesting because it can evoke a variety of feelings. There may be the fear of failing and ambivalence towards a tedious and frustrating process in the early days. Still, there’s also a lot of excitement and pride in learning a new skill as it shows that we are developing and investing in ourselves.

We live in an instant world with so much information accessible at the press of a button or even through a voice command. If we are interested in starting a new hobby, there will doubtless be numerous articles, guides, classes, apps and youtube videos to get us started. 

Technology has given us the expectation of immediacy, but learning is biological, with no shortcuts or fast-tracking.

It takes effort and repetition to use the information and then apply it. But, learning to learn can improve multiple aspects of our life, such as academic performance, mental health and physical capabilities.

So, how do we learn?

Let’s start with biology!

A large part of learning is our ability to remember.

When we learn something, our brains create new brain cells that form connections. The more we repeat an activity and reencounter or recite a fact, the stronger brain cell connections get and the faster we can recall the action or information.

However, there’s also a time element at play.

Connections get stronger with repetition, but if what we’ve learnt is not reused within a specific time window, the associated brain cells and connections break down. What we’ve learnt is forgotten.

To our utter dismay and consternation, we’re back to square one.

Why? Despite what our desktop files might imply, our brains have evolved to be very efficient at decluttering.

It keeps what it deems useful and prunes the rest; use it or lose it. What isn’t repeated isn’t worth keeping.

Therefore, at the beginning of learning something new, frequently practising and repeating the activity is key to strengthening cell connections. This prevents the connections and cells from breaking down. However, as connections become stronger, the action doesn’t need to be repeated as frequently.

For example, we may need to practice something daily before it has entirely been committed to memory and then weekly to maintain it and then monthly and yearly to continually refresh the connections. Although, even after this, if we spend years without repeating the activity, it still won’t stand the test of time.

What’s the best way to learn?

What's the best way to learn?

Now we understand the link between memory and learning, what’s the most efficient way to learn and build a new skill? Spaced repetition is thought to be the answer.

During school, university, and work, we are asked to take in lots of information about a subject over a few months and tested on it. We reach a level of competency and then may never use this information again.

Or, even worse, be expected to recall it a few years later. In this case, it is likely the skill will need to be completely revisited and relearned entirely, which is time-consuming and frustrating.

We often ‘cram’ information, using our short-term memories and not learning to retain it in the long run. In a way, our brains our like muscles. Expecting to do a month’s worth of training to run a 5k in one day is impossible.

Spaced repetition

Spaced repetition

Instead of overloading and tiring our brains, the spaced repetition technique builds strong memories using active recall over optimally spaced intervals.

At the start of learning something new, we can recall information nearly perfectly. As time goes by, it will all be forgotten. Spaced repetition addresses this by recalling information again before it is completely forgotten.

Additionally, each time the information is recalled and some is partially forgotten, the memory becomes even stronger and the interval between needing to recall the information becomes shorter.

The number of repetitions and time intervals depend on the complexity of what is being learned and the individual. The idea is to store the information as long as possible and reduce memory decay.

It is a technique that improves long-term memory, unlike rote learning and cramming. Spaced repetition also encourages our brains to contextualise information and connect with something we already know.

Therefore, memorisation techniques are at the forefront of getting the most out of what we have learnt. It’s time-consuming and requires patience, but worth it in the long term!

At Infero Training, education and self-development are at the heart of what we do. Our courses have been developed and designed to optimise learning. We offer post-course support and further tools so you can revisit what you have learnt (a bit of spaced repetition, anyone?).

Excel Tips and Tricks: How to Use the Excel Freeze Function

How frustrating is it when you scroll across a spreadsheet, and all the useful information disappears? Give your memory a break with the excel freeze function!

Excel Tips and Tricks: Freeze Function

Excel is an incredible tool for storing and managing data. However, scrolling across or down a spreadsheet is inevitable when dealing with magnitudes of cells. It would be ever so helpful to see the column and/or row titles while navigating other areas of the spreadsheet to make sense of and compare data.

BAM! In walks the Excel freeze function to save us all from repetitive strain injury.

Excel Freeze Function

So where can you find this handy tool?

From the open spreadsheet, select the ‘View‘ tab and then the ‘Freeze Panes‘ function, which is found in the ‘Window’ group of the View tab (Select View > Freeze Panes).

From here, you can see three options:

  1. Freeze Panes
  2. Freeze Top Row
  3. Freeze First Column
Step 1. Select View
Step 2. Select Freeze Panes
Freeze Pane Options

To get to grips with how to use the different Freeze options, check out the examples below!

1. Freeze Top Row

From freeze panes, select ‘freeze top row’.

Excel will automatically freeze the first row of the spreadsheet, which is indicated by a dark grey horizontal line beneath the first row.

2. Freeze First Column

From freeze panes, select ‘freeze first column’.

Again, Excel automatically freezes the first column of the spreadsheet, which is indicated by a dark grey vertical line to the right of the first column.

3. Freeze Panes

The above are extremely straightforward but don’t allow much flexibility. Freeze panes is slightly more complicated but gives more freedom.

For example, you can freeze multiple rows, multiple columns or multiple rows and columns. 

3.1 Freezing multiple rows

If you were looking to freeze a certain number of rows, select the row below the last row you want to remain visible and select freeze panes.

For example, if you want the first three rows to remain visible, select row four and freeze panes.

A dark grey horizontal line above row four and below row three indicates that these first three rows will remain visible whether you scroll up or down.

3.2 Freezing multiple columns

Freezing multiple columns is similar to the above example of freezing multiple rows.

Select the column to the right of the columns you want to remain visible and select freeze panes.

For example, if you want the first three columns to remain visible, select column four and freeze panes.

A dark grey vertical line to the left of column four and the right of column three indicates that these first three columns will remain visible whether you scroll left or right.

3.3 Freezing rows and columns

But what do we do when we want to freeze columns and rows?

Instead of selecting an entire row or column, we set one cell that controls which columns to the left and rows above are visible.

For example, if we want to freeze the first row and column, select the cell two rows down and two columns across (B2).

A dark grey vertical line to the left of the cell and a dark grey horizontal line above the cell indicates that the first row and column will remain visible whether we scroll across or down the spreadsheet.

4. Unfreeze Panes

After applying one of the three Freeze Pane options, the top Freeze Pane option will be replaced with ‘Unfreeze Panes‘. Simply select this to remove all columns and rows that have been frozen.

Unfreeze Panes

Thanks for reading, and we hope this helped! For more tips and tricks, check out our other blogs here!

Want more hands-on training? Infero also offers multiple Excel courses that will take you from beginner to pro. Get in touch for more information, book a course or receive a free consultation using the details below!

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How to Deliver Fantastic Presentations With These Top Tips

Unsurprisingly, presentations are a commonly dreaded method of communication, but it’s just a case of understanding the basics and putting them into practice.


Presentations are the default communication tool in the business world; more than 25% of people see at least one presentation daily. Nevertheless, if the thought of delivering a presentation gives you nightmares, don’t worry; that’s completely normal. Public speaking may seem daunting, but there are many strategies you can use to deliver a successful and engaging presentation.

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” 

Lee Iacocca

Good presentations start with the content. It doesn’t matter what your message is; if it can’t be communicated, it just won’t work. Every audience is different, but if you research your topic and practice, practice, practice, you will connect with them successfully.

1. Qualities of Great Presentations

Some of the things that audiences appreciate in a presentation are:

  • Relevant content and well-organised content
  • Creativity
  • Audience involvement
  • Relevant examples
  • Time for questions
  • Reasonable duration 
  • Interesting visuals
  • Humour
  • Clear and understandable language

2. Worries When Giving presentations

The most common worries people have in business presentations include the following:

  • Not being able to speak.
  • Forgetting your subject matter.
  • Having a heckler or know-it-all in the audience.
  • Having people notice your anxiety.
  • Not being able to answer an audience question.

But these concerns are all surmountable! The more presentations you deliver, the more you will know how to handle these issues.

3. Delivering an Effective Presentation

Effective Presentations

If you want to get your message across with impact, remember that how you deliver your presentation is as important as its content. Here are some tips to help with your next presentation and hopefully eliminate stress. Using these strategies, the audience will fully engage and leave positively, not feeling they have just endured another ‘Death by PowerPoint’.

Keep Presentations simple

Your presentation’s ideas must be accessible and easy to follow; simplicity is vital. Less is more, and you should try to keep the amount of text on any slide to an absolute minimum. Ensure you are clear on the key information you want people to take away. Keep your main ideas to three or fewer points, and repeat these at the start and end of your presentation so that your audience remembers the most important message.

Start Strong

A strong beginning draws people in, just as in a book or movie and a solid, entertaining opening makes it much more likely that your presentation will be well-received. Some ways to achieve this include:

  • Showing a video as the introduction to your presentation
  • Making a statement that surprises your audience
  • Posing an interesting question or problem
  • Using an interesting or thought-provoking quote
  • Having an unexpected statistic or image.

Remember, again, that whatever you use to start your presentation needs to be relevant and support the core message you are trying to convey.

Create an Easy-To-Follow Structure

A logical, easy-to-follow structure seems obvious, but we sometimes lose this when putting a presentation together. Try to put yourself in the position of an audience member who knows little or nothing about the subject. Make sure there is an organised flow and logic to the presentation. The best and simplest structure is to break your presentation into three sections: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

  1. Introduction – states your core message and explain why it’s useful or relevant to your audience.
  2. Main body – provides the facts, quotes, and evidence to back up your main points.
  3. Conclusion – reiterates your core message and tells the audience how they can put into practice what they’ve just learned.

Remember to be brutal with your material. Cut everything you don’t need and rearrange the presentation’s structure if necessary.

Use Visuals in Presentations

Visual Presentations

Integrating colours, images, graphs, video clips, photographs and infographics will add life to your presentation. If concepts can be better supported or explained using a visual aid, then use them in your presentation. You can often use a visual instead of a block of text. But don’t overload your slides with visuals or use them if they are irrelevant. Simplicity is key; if visuals make things more complex, leave them out. And, as a rule of thumb, avoid animations in slides.

Use Simple and Effective Slide Design

Good slide design can distinguish between a good presentation and one that fails. Simple considerations will improve your design:

  • Use colour sparingly and stick with one or two colours, so your presentation has a consistent look and feel.
  • Font consistently is key! Don’t switch between caps and lowercase. Stick with one font and size throughout your slide deck, although you can vary the size (sparingly) for emphasis.
  • Take time to format. Ensure your text is aligned and neat and that images are placed and spaced appropriately. And once again, keep it simple.

Tell Stories During Presentations

Telling a life story or some other anecdote makes you more relatable. Your audience will feel more connected and comfortable with you. This will also have the benefit of making you feel more relaxed. Stories add context and help the audience understand the points in the presentation, but ensure you only tell stories that support your main ideas.

Tailor it to Your Audience.

What do you know about your audience? The more you know, the better. What is their level of knowledge on the subject? Are they interested or involved in it? The key to landing a successful presentation is knowing ‘What’s In It For Them’. Many presenters seem to forget that the presentation is for the audience. It is not to showcase the presenter. Put your audience first, middle and last in everything when preparing your material.

Practice and Prepare Presentations

Practising a presentation may not be the most natural thing, but it is very helpful. You can try running through the presentation in front of a mirror or a small audience. Ask for honest feedback and take any comments on the board positively.

Try to run through the presentation a few times, at least once in the space where you will deliver it, if possible. Knowing the structure and content of the material will significantly benefit the delivery. Don’t try to memorise your speech verbatim, however. It is very easy to get hung up on getting a presentation word-for-word perfect, and forgetting something can throw you off track. Practice, as with everything, will make your presentation better.

Did you know that Steve Jobs used to take two days to prepare a 20-minute presentation?

Be Passionate About the Topic


Suppose you show you are genuinely excited about the subject and display your interest. In that case, this will engage the audience and capture their attention. People like to listen to presenters who are excited about sharing their knowledge.

Maintaining eye contact during your delivery also strengthens your connection with the audience. And smile. It will go a long, long way.

Take A Breath and Slow Things Down

When we are nervous, we tend to rush. If this happens, pause, take a breath and force yourself to go slower. It’s far better to go slower and take more time to get across everything you want to instead of leaving your audience more confused.

Be honest and authentic during your delivery, and be conversational with your audience. Always talk “to” your audience instead of “at” them.

Use a Remote

Using a remote will mean you can face the audience and not have to keep returning to your laptop to advance slides. It also helps you keep control of the pace of delivery.

Have Backup Material

You may need to fill in extra time or an activity if equipment goes wrong. You may find that your audience already knows some of the things you were going to tell them or that the material is irrelevant. Always prepare something extra to fall back on. Preparing for all eventualities will help soothe your nerves and allow you to feel more in control.

Be Yourself

People will quickly spot a lack of authenticity. Don’t attempt to impress the audience or be something you are not. Get the point across as you see it, simply and honestly. That is the whole point of the presentation.

If you can, use humour. Telling a funny story really makes a presentation work. It makes people remember your message, but if that’s not you or it is not working, then avoid this.

Finish Presentations on a High


Wrap up your presentation by focusing on the feeling you want the audience to take home.

“They might forget what you said, but they’ll never forget the way they made you feel”

Maya Angelou

If there is a message you want the audience to remember, then say it slowly and leave a pause at the end. Silence and pauses are much more powerful than you realise and make what you have said meaningful.

Also, using a call-to-action ends your presentation with strength and impact. Let your audience know precisely what you want them to do next.

Infero offers an Effective Presentations course that covers all you need to know to help you give the best presentations possible. For more tips and tricks on presentations, look at our blogs below!

6 Presentation Types: Choose the Best to Increase Success | (

Why Presentation Skills Are THE Number One Soft Skill | (

4 Work-Life Balance Signs You Should Look Out For

Most adults struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance at some point in their lifetime, but how can you tell if your scales are uneven?

Work-Life Balance

Think about your hobbies. When was the last time you committed time or effort to them? Do you frequently feel like you can’t afford the time or energy to enjoy the rest of the day after work?

You’re not alone. Many of us struggle with this feeling; how did we ever have time for anything other than the mundane?? 

Time for ourselves seems fleeting with the growing responsibility as we get older and further in our careers. But how do we know if this is a natural realignment with changing values or a sign that something could be wrong?

What is a healthy work-life balance?

A healthy work-life balance is more than giving equal weight to our careers and the fun parts of our personal lives.

It’s about finding the balance between everything that constitutes a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle which includes;

  • adequate sleep and rest,
  • balanced, nutritional meals,
  • regular exercise,
  • social interactions,
  • good hygiene and personal care,
  • a positive and self-supportive attitude.

However, this isn’t likely new or groundbreaking information.

We can all list the things that constitute a healthy lifestyle, but juggling this and work can be challenging.

This is especially true if you struggle with perfectionism, time management, health problems, or a demanding work environment/employer.

However, to have balance, we should give equal importance to the essential aspects of our lives, not investing all our energy in one thing and neglecting other significant parts.

It is also essential to understand that equal importance does not mean equal time.

It’s about dedicating enough time to each essential activity so that we feel we are content and achieving our goals.

A healthy work-life balance is, therefore, highly individual as it will vary from person to person depending on their responsibilities and ideals.

So how do you know if you have one?

What are the red flags you should be aware of

An excellent exercise to gauge your work-life balance is taking a step back and allowing time to pause, reflect and assess your current emotional, physical and mental well-being.

Do you feel content and that you’re leading a fulfilling life that aligns with your values, or do you relate more to the statements below?

1. Often experiencing emotional, physical and mental exhaustion.

2. Finding yourself increasingly negative, irritable and resentful.

3. Frequently feel overwhelmed, trapped, or pulled in different directions.

4. Struggling to or unable to maintain healthy relationships.

If the answer is a resounding yes, it might be time to explore whether you could improve your work-life balance and the quality of your life.

First Step: Realise to prioritise 

If you relate strongly to the above statements, reflect further and envision your ideal life.

How does this look? What are you doing less of or more of? What values, experiences, interactions, or activities have you identified that contribute to your fulfilment?

Bare in mind that this is different to fantasising about what you would do if you won the lottery. It’s about reflecting on your life and the changes you can make that are achievable and within your means.

The next step is to analyse the list of things you find fulfilling and identify the ones that are essential and have the most significant value to you. 

Once you understand what contributes to your ideal lifestyle, it is easier to prioritise how you spend your free time and the steps you can take to create a daily, monthly and yearly routine that fulfils your goals.

If you want more tips about achieving a healthy work-life balance, keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs discussing this and a deeper dive into why we can get trapped in the cycle of working too many hours.

For those who frequently suffer from burnout and feel like they want to make a change, we offer time and stress management courses that train you to support you in balancing life and work.

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Access vs Excel: How To Choose The Right One For You

Data is a major part of life, but how do we manage it? Most use Excel, some use Access. Both have their similarities. So Access vs Excel, which should we choose?

Microsoft Access vs Microsoft Excel


To jump right in, both programs can store large amounts of data, run powerful queries and perform sophisticated calculations to return the desired results.

To put things extremely simply, you use Excel for data analysis and Access for data management.

Still, if we want to know which piece of software, specifically, might be helpful for our particular needs, it’s useful to look at the benefits of both programmes.

(Note: All Microsoft Office suites include Excel, but not all suites include Access.)

1. Access vs Excel: Advantages

1.1 Advantages of Excel

Excel is a spreadsheet programme and one of the most used applications in the world, with many benefits of use:

1. Easy to Learn: Excel takes relatively little time and effort to learn. Although Excel has many advanced functions that take longer to master, you can quickly pick up the fundamentals.

2. Data Visualisation Capabilities: Excel has an incredible number of options for visualising data, including PivotTables, graphs and charts, which you can customise however you wish. 

3. Formulas and Functions: Excel formulas can do almost anything, from simple numeric calculations to very complex analyses.

4. Flexibility: Although designed for Data analysis, Excel can be (and has been) used for almost any task

(Follow this link for our beginner’s guide to Excel)

1.2 Advantages of Access:

Access is a Microsoft database management system (DBMS) used for both small and large databases.

1. Relational Database: Access allows you to relate data in one table to data in different tables. Information can be stored in one table and referenced in another.

(NB: It is also possible to have a relational database model in Excel, but this involves using Excel’s more advanced functionality.)

2. Reporting Capabilities: Access has possibly the best report-generating capabilities of any of the members of the Microsoft Office suite.

3. Storage Capacity: Access is built to handle enormous amounts of data as a database system. It can also differentiate between different types of data.

4. Data Validation: Access allows you to check or validate data in your databases as you enter it by using validation rules.

To decide if Access or Excel is best for your needs, you can consider the following questions:

5. Flat versus relational data: Is your data relational? Data contained in a single table or worksheet is called flat or nonrelational data. In a relational database, you organise your information into multiple tables.

6. Local versus external data: You can use Access to connect to data from various external data sources to view, query, and edit that data without having to import it. You can also use Excel to connect to multiple data sources (including Access), but you cannot edit the source data through the Excel user interface.

7. Data integrity versus flexibility: Access requires unique identifiers within any Table, which help preserve the integrity of your data and which are used to relate records in one table to records in another. Excel lets you enter data more freely, although it is possible to control data entry using the Data Validation command.

8. Multi-user collaboration: Access lets multiple users open a single database simultaneously because it locks only the data that another user is editing. In Excel, you can share a workbook with other users, but collaboration works best when users work on data at different times, not simultaneously.

You can also ask which data analysis tools would best suit your purpose:

9. Querying: Access allows the creation of complex queries to view your data in various ways, retrieving only the rows and columns of data you want, whether the data is contained in one or many tables.

10. Modelling? Excel has what-if analysis tools that allow you to run different scenarios on your data, such as best-case and worst-case scenarios. No similar feature is available in Access.

11. Pivoting and charting? Excel provides PivotTable reporting and advanced charting features. Although Access can produce pivoted (Crosstab) reports and has some charts available, they are not as sophisticated as those in Excel.

(Follow this link for our beginner’s guide to Access)

2. Access vs Excel: When to Use Them

2.1 When to use Excel

Excel is incredibly flexible and can store data like Access, but is optimised for data analysis and calculation. Use Excel when you:

  • Only need a flat or nonrelational view of your data.
  • Run calculations and statistical analysis.
  • Want to use PivotTable reports.
  • Create charts regularly.
  • Want options to emphasise your data, like conditional formatting icons, data bars, and colour scales.

2.2 When to use Access

Very generally, Access is the best choice when you track and record data regularly, and need to export or produce reports for subsets of that data. Use Access when you:

  • Have multiple users.
  • Will be adding more tables to a data set.
  • Want to run complex queries.
  • Want the ability to produce complex reports.

3. Using Access and Excel together

Of course, it is not necessarily an either/or choice. There may be times when it makes sense to take advantage of both programs’ benefits. It does not matter which program you have used first. There are built-in tools to bring data into Access from Excel (and vice versa) by copying, importing, or exporting it.

If you use Access to store your data and Excel to analyse it, you can benefit from both of these excellent pieces of software.

If you would like to learn more about either software, we provide certified training courses tailored to you and your requirements. Get in touch with us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Microsoft Access: Introducing You to the Database(ics)

Microsoft Access arguably doesn’t share the same fame as other Microsoft products. However, it still packs a punch. Read on to find out what it can do.

Microsoft Access

Data, data, data. It’s what most businesses boil down to; it holds the secrets to success, but if improperly managed, it is the cause of problems. It needs to be stored effectively and efficiently to keep this rich source of insight and strategy working in your favour.

The solution? Databases.

This leads us to today’s menu of discussion as one of the first mass-market database programs for Windows, Microsoft Access.

What is Microsoft Access:

Microsoft Acess is a data management system (DBMS) produced by Microsoft and part of the Microsoft 365 Office Suite.

It uses a graphic user interface (GUI) and software development tools. It’s suitable for people with and without coding experience and is used to store, manage and visualise large quantities of data.

Microsoft Access is an excellent database software solution for individuals and small to medium businesses. 

Applications of Microsoft Access:

  • Creating forms for data entry 
  • Importing data from other databases (such as Excel)
  • Creating reports that you can save in a PDF format for printing and sharing
  • Designing forms for data entry and viewing

Components of Microsoft Access:


The backbone of all databases is the tables, which hold the data and information. Like Excel, you can build tables of rows and columns, each with a field name and the rows representing a record.

Creating all the necessary subject-based tables for the data required is the first step of creating a database in Microsoft Access.


In Microsoft Acess, you can use queries to apply conditions that will sort, search, and filter the data into relevant views, so specific information in the database is easier and quicker to find.

You can also use Queries to calculate, summarise and combine data, and create automations with no code.

The database query language is SQL (Structured Query Language). However, you only need to learn SQL if you wish to be an advanced Microsoft Access user.


You use Relationships to create a connection between different tables with related fields. The result of building a Relationship between tables is one table with common fields that have their relationships with other tables defined.

Relationships are essential when creating Microsoft Access databases. They reduce redundancies and repeating data.


Forms are a fundamental Microsoft Access component as it controls how the user interacts with and operates the database. For example, people can enter, edit and display data using them.

You can also design and revise forms to reflect their purpose.


Reports are a way to format, summarise and show the results and information given by the database. Once you have created the report, Microsoft Access saves it in an uneditable format, such as a PDF.


Microsoft Access Macros allow the database to carry out actions automatically. It is essentially a simplified version of coding where, instead, you select a list of actions from a drop-down list to create the automation.

The order of actions given in your list will be the order in which the automation performs the steps and doesn’t require code in a Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) module.


Modules are where user-defined actions, functions and global variables created using VBA are written, stored and accessed in Microsoft Access.

VBA is more powerful and versatile than Macros, but it is more complex to add functionality to the database and is usually the choice of advanced Microsoft Access users.

Interested in improving your Microsoft Macros mastery by learning how to use VBA? Click here to find out more about our extremely popular VBA course.

If you want to learn more about Microsoft Acces, check out some of our Tips and Tricks here!

Your needs are at the heart of our enterprise. We look forward to hearing what your training requirements are and how we can help you or your company reach your goals every step of the way.

Microsoft Power Automate: How to Get Down With the Flow

Want to stop wasting time on tedious, repetitive tasks? Maybe it’s time to try Power Automate! Read on for our guided tour and an example to get you started.

Microsoft Power Automate does what it says on the tin. It lets you automate things. It even enables you to automate almost anything without coding, making it far easier to pick up and learn. Moreover, it’s free for all windows 10 and 11 users!

It can use your favourite applications to synchronise files, collect data, send reminders and emails or anything else that tempts your imagination. It even has pre-built automation templates for standard processes that are customisable to suit your needs better.

Power Automate was previously known as Microsoft Flow, and it comes in two types:

  1. Part of Office 365 – accessible if you have an Office subscription.
  2. Power Automate Desktop – a desktop application that integrates with Office 365 and is accessible even if you do not have a paid Office subscription.

Paid subscription or non-paid subscription, you won’t be missing out on what Microsoft Power Automate has to offer.

Taking just a little time to learn how to automate business processes using this app will save you time, speed up work and reduce costs.

Power Automate

There are two main components for Power Automate; the Console and the Flow Designer

Power Automate Console

The Console is the first thing you will see when you open Microsoft Power Automate Desktop. To start with, it will be empty, but new flows will be stored and accessed here.

There are options here to change settings and to access Help and documentation, but most important are the options to manage existing flows and add a new flow.

Power Automate Console
Power Automate Console

Power Automate Flow Designer

The flow designer will appear when you are creating a new flow or editing an existing flow.

You can think of flows as a series of actions that run sequentially in the order you supply. They can be programmed to make decisions using conditionals or loops that will repeat the same actions several times.

Power Automate Flow Designer
Power Automate Flow Designer

Flow Designer: Actions

At the top left-hand corner of the Flow Designer, you will see a bar named ‘Actions’.

This area lists all the actions that Power Automate can perform, including working with files and folders, text, emails and even specific applications such as Excel.

Power Automate Actions List
Power Automate Actions List

Power Automate has the actions in categories, which expand by clicking the arrow next to each category, or it’s possible to search for a specific action in the search bar at the top of the action pane.

To add an action to your flow, you can either double-click it or drag and drop it onto the main working area.

Power Automate can automate highly complex sets of actions, but it is also quick and straightforward to create these automations.

For instance, we can create a flow to open Excel, display a box with a custom message and close Excel with minimal effort, as shown in the example below.

Example: Open Excel, display a box with a custom message and close Excel

1. Download and install Power Automate

The first step is downloading and installing Power Automate, which can be found here.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid creating a Microsoft account, you may need to sign up for one before getting started. However, this is free, and you can use a preexisting email account. For example, an,,, or account should work.

2. Create a New Flow in the Power Automate Console

To create a new flow, simply click on the “+ New Flow” button at the top left of the screen.

Create new flow in the Automate Console

Power Automate will ask you to provide a name for the flow.

New flow naming window

Decide on a name for the new flow and click “Create“. In this case, we have named it “ExcelandMessage“.

3. Launch Excel Action

The next step is to locate the “Excel” actions in the Action list and expand the category.

Expanded Excel action in the Action list

Double-clicking or dragging the “Launch Excel” action to the main working area will launch the dialogue box window with options to open a new, blank Excel document or an existing one.

Launch Excel Window

We can change other options, but we will leave everything in the default setting.

4. Create Dialogue Box After Excel Launches

Next, we can expand the Message Boxes category in Actions and drag the ‘Display Message‘ action into the working area.

Again, a dialogue box is displayed that lets us enter the message box title and the message to display, along with other options.

Display Message window

In this case, we have set the Message box title to “Excel Message“, the message to display to “You just launched Excel with Power Automate“, and save this action

5. Close Excel Action

Similarly to launching Excel, we locate Excel actions and expand the category but this time, select the “Close Excel” action.

Close Excel Window

Again, we have the option of whether or not the document should be saved.

The completed flow looks like this:

Completed flow in the Flow Designer

6. Save and Run the Automation

With all this done, we can save the flow and close it to return to the Power Automate console.

Here we can see our newly created flow (it is possible to run a flow whilst still in the flow designer, at any stage, to test it).

We can run the newly created flow just by clicking on the ‘play’ button. Excel opens, and the message box is displayed.

Excel launching with Excel message displayed

On pressing the ‘OK’ button, Power Automate runs the last action and closes Excel.

In addition to all the built-in actions, Power Automate allows you to record yourself performing any task in Windows and use this as a Flow or use the recording as part of a flow using built-in actions.

Microsoft has an online Learning Path to get you started with Power Automate, and you can find it here.

6 Presentation Types: Choose the Best to Increase Success

The purpose of your presentation will decide the presentation type most suitable for accomplishing your goals. Read on for the six types and when to use them!

We have previously discussed WHY presentation skills are important in business.

(Haven’t read it? Click here to find out more!)

To summarise, a successful presentation relies on a person’s competency in several key skills, which include, but is not limited to, effective communication, stress management and adaptability. 

However, like how ‘presentation skills’ incorporates multiple skills, there are also different types of presentation.

The presentation type depends on the subject matter, speaker’s goals and target audience.

The first step of preparation should involve determining what you wish to achieve with the presentation, which will help identify the most suitable presentation type.

1. Informative Presentation

In business, informative presentations are likely the most used presentations.

Informative presentations aim to provide instructions, present new findings or convey information to a knowledgeable audience. They are concise and a more engaging version of a written report.

Example: A marketing agency sharing and summarising trends and engagement over the past month and how they compare to previous months and competitors.

2. Teaching Presentation

Teaching presentations are similar to informative presentations.

They both share audiences, but teaching presentations actively increase the audience’s own understanding of a specific topic and go into far greater detail.

Example: A company are switching to new computer software, so provide onboarding materials and training sessions to ensure employees can execute new processes, which expedites the transition.

3. Decision-Making Presentation

Decision-making presentations address a problem, the possible solutions and their various outcomes.

The idea is to suitably inform the It’sence and guide them toward a decision on moving forward. It’s an interactive way to fast-track decision-making and discover innovative solutions.

Example: An Operations Manager has found multiple software options to improve workplace efficiency; however, each comes with a trade-off. They compile different options and request the team’s opinions before coming to a conclusion.

4. Persuasive Presentation

Are you selling a product or pitching a business idea to investors?

You’ll likely use a persuasive presentation to convince the audience that they should be interested in what you have to offer and how you can solve their problem using evidence, logic and engaging materials.

Example: An employee meets their manager to invest in better recycling initiatives. They share pollution data and how new recycling bins might help prevent recyclable materials from being thrown into general waste.

5. Motivational Presentation

This presentation style should inspire.

Think YouTube videos and TED Talks. The point is to capture the audience’s imagination and elicit change or a call to action. Those listening should feel connected to and inspired by the subject matter.

Example: A team leader outlining the goals that the business wants to achieve and the fundamental role that team will play as a collective and individual to accomplish these goals.

6. Progress Presentation

Again, this presentation is similar to informative because it shares information but focuses more on timelines.

The objective is to share with colleagues how a project is progressing, are the deadlines being met, the status updates, or if there have been any obstacles or new avenues that should be explored. 

Example:  A freelance software developer is creating a new website for a company. They set up a meeting with the stakeholders to discuss a recent problem they’ve encountered, the cost it will incur, how they intend to mitigate it and the impact on the project’s timeline.

If you are interested in developing your presentation skills further, follow the link to learn more about our hands-on, comprehensive Effective Presentations Skills Course led by one of our certified instructors.

We would love to learn more about your training requirements, so please get in touch with us today at 0115 958 6699 or email us at for more information and a free, no-obligation consultation.

Why Presentation Skills Are THE Number One Soft Skill

Although ‘presentation’ or ‘public speaking’ strikes fear into the hearts of many, it’s a skill worth investing in to elevate your career. Read on to learn why.

What are presentation skills?

To begin, a presentation is:

A speech or talk in which a new product, idea, or piece of work is shown and explained to an audience.

Online dictionary

However, a person’s presentation skills are their ability to engage their audience in a compelling, engaging, educational and informative way. To do this, they must communicate clearly and effectively to various audiences. 

It involves time management, body language, tone of voice, presentation materials and providing the opportunity for participation.

It’s a multi-tiered competency built on numerous abilities with one aim; to get the point across.

But why are presentation skills so important?

How would you answer if we were to ask you which careers you thought would require outstanding presentation skills?

The apparent answers may be high-flying entrepreneurs, politicians and TV presenters (or any profession with the word ‘presenter’ in the name).

The answer?

It’s closer to ALL of them. 

Excellent presentation skills are essential, from nailing the interview for your dream job to leading a progress report to key stakeholders.

There is a good reason it’s ‘presentation skills’ plural. To successfully present, you are demonstrating to would-be employers, managers and colleagues an all-round competency in several skills:

1. Effective Communication 

This is a given. A great presenter will be clear to prevent miscommunication and impart messages quickly and effectively to keep the audience engaged.

In this modern world, attention spans are short, so every word is a commodity.

2. Interpersonal Relationships

A presentation aims to build a good rapport and a two-way connection with the audience. Interpersonal skills are vital to establishing and managing relationships with people.

Understanding your audience will allow them to feel as if you are talking to them as an individual.

3. Organisation and Time management

A lot of work and preparation goes into preparing a presentation. You can achieve the output required faster by utilising a systematic approach without compromising quality.

A well-prepared presentation is more likely to captivate the audience’s attention and comprehension of the subject matter while staying within time constraints.

4. Research

During a presentation, you are trying to convince an audience why what you have to say is important.

An extensively researched presentation backed up with facts and figures to support your points is far more impactful and compelling.

5. Professionalism 

A business relies on individual people to represent the company values. How you address people, whether during a conference or speaking to a customer, will create an impression of the business.

It is also a way to showcase yourself, your experience and your expertise.

6. Adaptability

Presentations involve an audience, and people are, by default, extremely unpredictable.

Responding to and improvising given unforeseen circumstances shows you can think on your feet when being addressed with an unfamiliar situation.

7. Stress management

There’s no getting away from it. We don’t all naturally have a gift for the gab, so presentations are one of the most dreaded business scenarios.

Getting past this and portraying yourself as calm and controlled shows you can manage stress and deliver under pressure which is an essential skill to have in the working world.

8. Resilience

You will not often hit the nail on the head with your first presentation, and it’s likely a skill you will develop over time. Listening to feedback and criticism will allow you to identify and overcome problems.

Resilience shows your ability to overcome challenges and treat setbacks as a learning opportunity to improve for the future.

The array of expertise required to present effectively is why it is the forefront soft skill essential to your career growth.

If you are interested in developing your presentation skills further, follow the link to learn more about our hands-on, comprehensive Effective Presentations Skills Course led by one of our certified instructors.

We would love to learn more about your training requirements, so please get in touch with us today at 0115 958 6699 or email us at for more information and a free, no-obligation consultation.

How to Reduce Plastic Waste in the Workplace

In 2019, 20 companies alone were responsible for producing over HALF of the global single-use plastic waste.

Given the current environmental crisis, this is not a top 20 list that any company wants to find itself. This article discusses how to rank at the bottom of this undesirable list and why you’d want to.

Don’t Let Plastic-Free July Pass You By

Plastic-Free July is an annual global campaign initiated by the Plastic Free Foundation, an organisation dedicated to creating a world free of plastic waste. Throughout July, millions are refusing single-use plastics in a bid to decrease the quantity of plastic waste occupying landfill sites and polluting our natural world.

Before we jump into what you as an employee or business can do to minimise plastic waste, it is essential to understand why this is so important.

(Or, if you’re already up to date, click here to see the steps that you as a business can take to reduce plastic waste)

The Problem With Plastic Production and Plastic Waste

1. Green House Gas Emissions

This July, the UK reached a temperature of 40.3 degrees Celsius. The highest temperature ever recorded in the UK, and the first time it exceeded 40 degrees Celcius.

With only around 0.5% of homes in the UK having air-con, it was a very physical reminder of global warming and climate change.

Global warming and climate change result from greenhouse gas emissions blanketing the Earth and preventing heat produced by the sun from dissipating into space. The primary source of this phenomenon is the carbon dioxide and other gases released from burning fossil fuels. 

Although it isn’t widely known, fossil fuels are the building blocks of 98% of plastics.

From start to finish, plastics increase greenhouse emissions: 

  • Extracting and transporting fossil fuels to create plastics 
  • The process of refining and manufacturing plastic 
  • Incinerating plastic waste and unmanaged plastic waste degraded by the sun

In total, plastics contribute to around 3.4% of worldwide greenhouse gases.

As well as contributing to greenhouse gases, plastic waste is one of the most damaging environmental pollutants.

2. Environmental Impact of Plastic Waste

Since 1950, humans have manufactured an estimated 9 billion tons of plastic. However, of this, we have only ever recycled 9%. 

Recycling rates have improved over the last couple of years, but they’re still far from ideal. Of the 360 million tons of plastic produced annually (roughly the weight of the entire human population!):

  • 16% is recycled
  • 19% is mismanaged
  • 25% is incinerated 
  • 40% goes to landfills 

Waste which is mismanaged and goes to landfill sites uncontrollably leaks into the environment, causing catastrophic damage to wildlife and their habitats.

At least 14 million tons of plastic waste enter our oceans yearly, causing immense harm to marine life and vital ecosystems.

For wildlife, if consumed directly, plastics can gather inside their bodies and cause health issues such as fatal intestinal blockages. Animals have also been trapped and asphyxiated by plastic packaging with rings designed to hold food and drink cans together.

Without help, plastics also do not break down; they only break up, degrading over time, becoming microplastic fragments, less than 5 millimetres in length or roughly the diameter of a pencil eraser. 

Tiny and inoffensive, microplastics are easily mistaken for food by wildlife and eaten. In this way, microplastics become a part of our food chain and diets. They are also found in the air we breathe and in our drinking water.

There is little evidence available for the risk to human health from microplastics; however, we do know that plastics contain chemicals that can cause hormonal imbalances, reproductive problems and cancer.

Given the association with the climate crisis and the environmental impact, does plastic use warrant planetary abuse?  

3. Single-Use Plastics

Around 50% of the 360 million tons of plastic produced is for single-use items. Companies design them for the sole purpose of being used once and then promptly discarded.

Single-use plastics can serve practical and essential purposes. For example, in healthcare, single-use plastics assist by preventing cross-contamination and infection. However, this only accounts for around 4% of plastic waste. 

Packaging accounts for 40%—easily the most significant contributor.

Single-use plastics are a symptom of convenience and waste culture. It’s a versatile, lightweight, moldable, and moisture-resistant material perfect for storing and transporting goods. Inexpensive and disposable, we see them everywhere. It shouldn’t be surprising that packaging is the greatest cause of plastic waste. 

Our reliance on plastics is entirely unsustainable, which is why the awareness created by campaigns like plastic-free July is so important.

The use of plastic is a large part of company culture and ingrained into processes, but there are small steps a business can take to minimise its plastic footprints.

The Solutions for Plastic Production and Plastic Waste

1. Plastic Waste and Consumption Postmortem 

While demand for plastic still exists, production will not decrease, and the expansion of petrochemical industries. 

The pathway by which plastic flows through your company should be known and quantifiable, so cost-effective alternatives that serve the same purpose and reduce planetary impact can begin replacing or minimising the need for plastics.

It is also worth researching new and current suppliers before making further purchases or partnerships to ensure that your sustainability values align. 

Requesting sustainable alternatives encourages other companies to adapt to meet consumer requirements and contribute to the total reduction of plastic production and waste.

In terms of physical company waste, don’t worry; deep dustbin diving isn’t required. However, knowing the main contributors to company plastic waste is helpful.

For example, are they supplied internally, such as eating utensils and plastic cups? Ask whether or not any single-use items are essential or if a more sustainable option could replace them. How much waste is packaging, and could items be purchased without it, or would bulk buying reduce plastic packaging.

Not only will this help the environment, but it may also save money. 

Reusable items reduce the need to replace or buy new stock continually. Cutting down on the amount of waste created may also lessen the cost of disposing of plastic at recycling or landfill sites.

2. Educate, Inspire and Persuade

For new sustainable policies to work, they must be adopted and embraced by all staff members.

Outside training and courses are a great way for people to learn and understand why new initiatives are so important to combat sustainability issues and how, as an individual, they are contributing to reducing the company’s plastic footprint.

Monthly challenges are a fun way of creating a more eco-friendly workplace.

It could become a team-building exercise where different facilities face off to reduce their plastic waste or a reward for achieving new sustainability targets – anything from a small prize to a bonus to celebrate their success.

It is also an opportunity for everyone to get involved, and people should be encouraged to participate, think and voice their suggestions.

Creating eco-habits and awareness in the workplace may also come with the added benefit of taking sustainable behaviours and commitments home, leading to the reduction of single-use plastics in day-to-day lives. 

Concern over plastic pollution is only growing with consumers beginning to favour businesses taking an active stance to minimise waste. Sustainable practices will only raise business social and PR profiles and recognition among new audiences.

3. Provide the Right Recycling Utilities and Materials

A significant source of plastic waste is plastic bottles and food packaging. 

Many informative posters and resources are readily available on the internet that perfectly summarises and raises awareness of waste and how small changes could not only help the environment but also save money by investing a little time and money into alternatives.

For example, infographics that show the statistics for the average number of water bottles per person that enter the sea every year, and the cumulative cost, compared to swapping to reusable water bottles.

Or how much single-use packaging is created from shop-bought meals, which could be avoided or at least controlled by bringing in homemade lunches.

Recycling bins should also be readily accessible and easy to use.

Posters and signs are a great way to continually reinforce sustainable workplace habits. You can use signposts to show where the nearest recycling points are to avoid rubbish ending up in general waste or getting rid of individually placed waste bins altogether.

Many people know that recycling plastics is important, but a lot of confusion still exists because not all plastics are recyclable. The outcome? Improper use of bins and recyclable materials still finding their way into incinerators and landfills. 

Posters at keys location are helpful resources to show what can or can’t be recycled. Providing pictures and information about the correct bins to use helps prevent any uncertainty and more efficient use of recycling initiatives.

A Final Note

Although the facts and figures are alarming, we hope this blog leaves you feeling encouraged. 

Environmental problems, global warming and climate change can feel like impossible crises.

Like anything, tackling the issue head-on and breaking it into smaller, achievable parts is the key to success.

There are small proactive things we can all do personally and professionally that will make a massive impact on the planet.

Times of change are also times of ingenuity, growth and opportunity. Lead the way and pave a better future instead of waiting and following in its wake.