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Archive for the ‘Organizing’ Category

Being organized when planning a meeting is not an easy thing.  The bigger the event, the more moving parts there are.  When planning our annual meeting, I often feel like the guy at the circus who comes out with his spinning plates and his skinny sticks on which to balance them.

I have found a few things, though, that have been incredibly helpful tools to keeping all those plates in the air. (more…)

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I’m a perfectionist.  I’m also a procrastinator.  Anyone willing to admit they’re just like me?

Well, thanks!  I’m glad to know I’m not alone.  And, I’m happy to tell you that I’ve been getting help for my perfectly procrastinating ways.  I have some tips for you, my friends! (more…)

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Being organized saves time.  (Duh.)  And yet, so many of us are NOT organized.  We fear the effort it takes to become organized, or we dread the amount of time it will take, or we simply don’t know where to start.

Well, to be efficient meeting planners, we have to be organized.  That’s all there is to it.  Don’t dread the process.  Don’t fear the time commitment.  Don’t worry about where  to start.  I’m going to walk you through all of it.  Slowly.  Using small words. (more…)

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One of the cool online tools I’ve raved about has completed their beta testing phase, and has begun charging for their services. (more…)

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It’s the last Thursday in May, and to end my series of onsite nuggets, I’m writing about packing up your meetings for the return trip.

When you’re shipping items back to the office, do you take the time to organize your shipment as well as you do when you’re sending it to show site?  You should!  It will make it that much easier for you to return your supplies to their proper storage areas, as well as speed up the process of closing the meeting once you’re back home.

Here are some quick and easy things you can do to ensure your return shipment doesn’t cause you headaches!

  1. Toss damaged items onsite.  Don’t pay to ship damaged or sub-par pieces (pens without caps, broken pencils, dried out highlighters, crumpled copier paper) back to the office, when you’ll only end up throwing them away as you unpack.
  2. Pack like items together.  If some items will be returned to your marketing department, pack all of their stuff together.  Same with office supplies, registration supplies, education materials, etc.
  3. Use small boxes in good condition.  Larger boxes get heavy and tend to be placed on the bottom of all shipments (often damaging contents).  Smaller boxes are easier to move, require fewer packing peanuts (yay, environment!), and don’t get damaged as often.  They have the added benefit of helping you limit the number of different types of items you pack in one box.
  4. Remove old shipping labels.  Use scissors to peel off any old labels (don’t just cross them out with your Sharpie), as automated routing machines may pick up on the wrong bar code and misdirect your whole shipment!
  5. Create a shipping manifest.  Note the contents of each box on a shipping manifest, and then number each box to track what’s where.  This becomes so much easier when you pack like items together.

Finally, be sure you make a copy of all of the tracking numbers for your return shipment, in case anything does go missing (or in case you’re bored at the airport and want to see where your highlighters are).

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I have found my new favorite onsite tool. It’s called Jott, and it’s a web resource meant to help you remember everything you need to remember, when you need to remember it.

The premise is… you’re at the grocery store and you see the display of spray starch. That triggers you to think about the shirt you need to pick up at the dry cleaners tomorrow. Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day, though, so how will you ever remember to go to the cleaners? You call Jott, leave yourself a message, and the fine folks at Jott transcribe the phone call into a reminder. If you state the date and time you want it done, it will even remind you at that specific time. So, at 5:15 the next day as you’re getting in the car to head home for the day (haha, yeah right), your phone beeps with a new text message saying “Remember to pick up the dry cleaning on your way home!”, and you DO remember!

So, how does this translate into being my favorite new onsite tool (because, yes, I did mean onsite, not online)? Well, imagine this scenario:

You’re running down the hall at a conference, putting out the proverbial fire, when someone stops you to ask you to email them some important information when you’re done with “whatever you’re doing”. You don’t have time to write anything down. Call Jott as you’re running and tell yourself to send that email in 10 minutes, or 15 minutes, or whenever you think you’ll be done with your original task.

Jott will email or text you (you can tell it what you want it to do), and as you’re finishing up with the first fire, you will get a reminder to send the email to your colleague. It’s brilliant! No more forgotten requests, no more stress about forgetting something.

The super-cool thing about Jott is that it interfaces with Remember the Milk (RTM), another online tool that I’ve written about before. Jott adds a phone-in or text-in way to input things into your to-do list, which RTM doesn’t have on its own.

So, you can use Jott all by itself, or you can use it with RTM – you can even use it with other popular online organization tools. Jott calls them “links”. In any case, you’ll be more able to do your job when your job needs doing with these tools.

Jott is a free service, and is available at www.jott.com.

Click on “Comments” below to share your favorite onsite tool!

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My number one technology tip for meeting planners (truly, for anyone who works in an office)? Get to know Microsoft Office Suite really, really well. Honestly, you can save so much time on everyday business tasks simply by learning how to use this software to its fullest.

Personalized Emails
Do you need to send an email to a bunch of people, but want them all to feel like you wrote them a personal note? It’s a snap when you use the Mail Merge feature in Word and Excel or your Outlooks Contacts list. I use this feature to send confirmations for housing reservations I make on a rooming list, and to send e-receipts for discounted tickets we offer to attendees.

Automated Badge Runs
How about printing badges? Mail Merge to the rescue, again (please tell me you already knew this one)! This time, track registrants in any database management tool (you can even use a third party vendor, so long as they can export the list to a .csv file) and merge it with a badge template in Word. For small meetings, a badge template and a portable printer is a life-saving duo onsite.

Assignments/Tasks
Do you need to track assignments you’ve given to others in your office? Use the Tasks feature in Outlook – it lets you assign a task to another person in your company, and allows them to update you on their progress!

Team Meetings
How about scheduling internal meetings? Use Outlook’s calendar feature to schedule a meeting, and include the meeting’s agenda (and any other important documents) right there so everyone can come prepared to discuss the topics at issue, and you won’t have to search for the files you’ll need!

Calendar Organization
Outlook’s Calendar is a great scheduling tool. I’ve gone so far as to customize the Labels in the Calendar so that I can see at a glance whether the meetings I have scheduled are internal, external, require travel, include a meal, or are of a personal nature.

Meeting Space
If you’re in charge of your company’s meeting space, add an Outlook Calendar and Email account for each of the meeting rooms so employees can “book” the space when they schedule their meeting. Just invite the meeting room as a Resource, and Outlook does the rest! No more double-booked meeting space!

I could give you a hundred such examples of ways to make MS Office work for you. And, given enough time, I probably will. Let me know if you want step-by-step instructions for any of the above – I’ll post them separately for all to see…

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Just how many steps are there in planning a meeting, anyway? There must be thousands, right? Well, maybe only hundreds. OK, it depends on the meeting. My point is, it can be tough to follow all the steps if you don’t keep track of them in a reliable way.

I have recently started tracking all my tasks online using a cool website called Remember the Milk (www.rememberthemilk.com). This site allows you to upload entire to-do lists via email, so if you’re planning more than one meeting at a time, you can have separate lists for each meeting. Or, you can group tasks together in other ways, such as listing each step you’ll need to take to compile a rooming list (create housing form, email form to Board Members, collect completed forms, enter data into rooming list).

The really cool thing about this site is that it’s free. There is an upgraded version available for $25 for a one-year subscription. The upgrade allows you to sync your list with your iPhone or other Microsoft Windows Mobile supported device.

I already feel more confident that I won’t miss anything, since all the steps I need to take have been gathered in once place. Oh, sure, I’ve had to-do lists for years, but this one actually reminds me to do things (it will send you an email or a text message on your mobile phone on or before the due date of each task!). This has given me a sense of peace-of-mind that I haven’t had in a very long while.

Give it a shot – it only takes a few minutes to set up, and can save you hours of fire-fighting later on!

Update 4/22/08 – Get even more functionality out of RTM by using Jott – an excellent, free service also available on the web.  Read about it here.

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