Archive for the ‘Business/Work’ Category

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Conference presentation annoyances

September 1, 2014

I’ve just returned from a great little conference in Sydney — a conference with an audience that was well out of my comfort zone, but they were all very friendly and welcoming and the feedback on my sessions was very positive. As it was the first non-techie conference I’ve been to in many years, it was interesting to find no-one live blogging or live tweeting the sessions ;-).

It was also interesting to observe different speaker styles, and to be reminded of some things you should and shouldn’t do when presenting at a conference:

  • Don’t use ALL CAPS in your slides. And especially don’t use ALL CAPS in a tiny font. These are impossible to read on screen and nearly as impossible to read in the conference notes.
  • Don’t go over your allocated time, especially not 10 or more minutes over. You know the time constraints some months beforehand so practice and hone your presentation until it fits, with a 5-minute buffer for questions. A presentation that goes over time either creeps into the breaks, or worse, you’re setting up the next speaker to fail as they now have to cut their presentation to fit into the remaining time if they are speaking immediately after you with no breaks between. That’s just not fair to the other presenter or the audience. Your failure to stick to the time shouldn’t be the reason the next speaker fails! (Note: I’ll own up to going a couple of minutes over my allocated time for my first presentation at this conference, but it was hard to gauge how long I was over as I started about 5 minutes late because there was no gap between the previous presentation and mine, audience questions to the previous presenter had to be dealt with, a minute or so was spent introducing me, and I had to close the previous presentation on the laptop and find and open mine. Fortunately, there was a 30-minute break immediately after my presentation, but that’s still no excuse for me going over time, and I take full responsibility for that.)
  • Be on time with everything asked of you and honor your commitments. If you’ve been asked to submit your presentations by a certain date for printing and loading onto a laptop prior to the conference, then follow those instructions without fail — and don’t change your presentation after you’ve submitted it otherwise there’s a disconnection between what the audience sees in the printed book and what they see on screen. Gee, here’s a thought… submit your presentation early and maybe you’ll be asked back in following years as you’ve proven you’re reliable! The presentations were all printed in a bound book for this conference. The organizer had booked a printing company for printing and binding on a certain date, and if the slides weren’t in on time, either the organizer and/or printer were now running short of time, or the slides were left out. One presentation had ‘slides to follow’ as the presenters didn’t have them to the organizers on time for printing. I also heard that another scheduled speaker, who was confirmed and listed in the conference promotional material, decided at the last minute that he didn’t want to do it for whatever reason (he had ample opportunity to tell the organizer in the weeks and months before the conference) and a new presenter and presentation on a different topic had to be added at the last minute (Aside: This new presentation was EXCELLENT, but if an attendee had made the decision to register based on the advertised speaker and/or his topic, they wouldn’t have been happy, and rightly so).
  • Watch for idiosyncrasies in your speech. One speaker said ‘actually’ at least 100 times. In one sentence I counted three instances! When you have an idiosyncrasy like this, and the audience picks up on it, then they start counting those words and that’s all they hear, not your message.
  • Triple check your slides. Look for spelling errors, typos, repeated slides (yep, one instance of that too), inconsistent font families, inconsistent graphical elements, etc. And if you’re too close to your slides, get someone else to look them over with fresh eyes (these people are called ‘editors’, and many of them do little jobs like this). Or get your slides ready early, then leave them alone for a few weeks before checking them again.
  • Make sure you have good contrast between the slide background colors and the text. It’s hard to read white text on a dusky blue background, especially from the back of the room. These slides also don’t print well in black and white. There’s an option in PowerPoint to show the slides in grayscale — use it to check for adequate contrast.
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SOEWA Winter Seminar

August 19, 2014

I attended (and spoke at) the Society of Editors (WA) [SOEWA] Winter Seminar on Saturday. It was a day packed with good information and a variety of speakers and topics. Here’s my summary of the sessions (not including mine on the pros and cons of telecommuting).

These are my note and opinions, and do not reflect anyone else’s experience.

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Dr Hilary Cadman: PerfectIt and other editing tools

Hilary had two sessions at this seminar.

The first was on PerfectIt (http://www.intelligentediting.com), which I use. This was a hands-on demo, and considering the time she had and the number of people in the room (about 27) and the varying levels of comfort with PerfectIt (from those who’ve never heard of it to those who are users of the software), she did well in covering as much as she did. Even though I’m a PerfectIt user, I still learnt something in this session, like how to add customizations to a style as you go (I’d been doing it the manual way). She also mentioned the free style sheets available from PerfectIt such as those that covert UK to US spelling and vice versa, and the Australian Government style sheet.

Her other session later in the day covered other editing tools that can automate some of the repetitive processes we do.

Takeaways:

  • embrace technology
  • start somewhere
  • get connected

Advantages of tools:

  • save time
  • save sanity
  •  improve quality
  •  decrease RSI
  • look more professional — improved image, better client confidence in you
  • add value to client (e.g. offering client a PerfectIt style sheet for their future docs); can go beyond the client’s expectations

Disadvantages:

  • over reliance on tools
  • can mess things up (e.g. beware of replace all, fix all)
  • cost of the tools and time learning program
  • employer resistance to installing unknown applications on their systems
  • potential overlap with functions in tools

Hilary’s ‘can’t live without it’ recommendations — PerfectIt, Editor’s Toolkit, and PhraseExpress (http://www.phraseexpress.com).

Editor’s Toolkit (http://www.editorium.com) — looks overwhelming, not user friendly, but once installed and start using saves lots of time; has about 48 shortcuts, but don’t need to use them all. Many are very useful. ~$70 (Jack Lyon’s program)

EndNote (http://www.endnote.com) — for managing citations/references.

EdiFix (http://edifix.com) — online search tool for citations/references that you can use to find references that can then go into Endnote.

John Denton: Business systems

Essential to have systems for your business:

  • Process: flow of work — start, do, end; Flow charts can map about the business flow (e.g. how to respond to an enquiry)
  • System: how the process is recorded, executed, and communicated to be consistent every time

Process: what needs to be done; System: how it needs to be done

Where do you start?

  • what are the areas of greatest frustration in my business?
  • how do these frustrations impact my business?
  • what results am I NOT getting due to these areas?
  • how is that impacting me personally, emotionally, financially, health, time etc.?

Systemization gives you time to document etc. the system! Need to make time to ‘sharpen the saw’ (Steven Covey)

  • ‘The real problem is that my business lacks a system to….’
  • What will be the benefits to the business of implementing a system?
  • What will be the benefits to me personally?

Map out business aspects/processes (production [do the work], admin [e.g. invoicing], people, entrepreneurship, sales and marketing)

Need for:

  • Contact Management System
  • Document Management System

Can change Windows folder icons to help identify where files are (http://www.foldermarker.com), and/or use a consistent numbered system for folder names (e.g 01Admin)

Benefits of having systems:

  • prevent or minimize errors
  • reduce need for and cost of rework
  • easier to train/employ staff
  • can use temporary staff/outsource when you have a system
  • frees up owner to work on the business — or have time off! (e.g. holidays)
  • things get done consistently and in a timely manner
  • business is not ‘owner-centric’

Challenges of systems: Business personalities:

  • The analyzer — loves detail, analysis, problem solving (left-brain dominant)
  • The safekeeper — works to a structure, systems, checklists, plans (left-brain dominant)
  • The carer — people person, counseling, making sure people are OK (right-brain dominant)
  • The player — entrepreneur, doesn’t organize anything, risk taker (right-brain dominant)

In a perfect business, need all those elements. most have all traits in some degree or another, but some personalities will dominate. Various personalities will drive each other crazy!!

What do Boeing and David Lee Roth have in common? Van Halen were first band to take 18+ trucks of gear on the road, so had to use systems to make sure everything worked. Roth developed a process for setting up everything so that it was done right and wasn’t a hazard. His contract stipulated removing the brown M&Ms from the artists’ room as a test to see if the system had been followed. Boeing – created checklists for aircraft back in the 1930s(?)

Don’t need to produce manuals to document processes — can produce videos, use diagrams and pictures, flow charts, swimlane diagrams, checklists

Improve system:

  • continuous improvement — act, plan, check, do
  • put a QA process in to see that keeping on track

Procrastination and perfectionism are your worst enemies in putting systems in place!

John uses Trello (http://www.trello/com) for collaborating on projects and Fiverr (http://www.fiverr.com) for outsourcing some tasks.

Margaret McNally: How many P’s exist in ‘publication’?

Margaret was managing editor for a university (print) publications team and described the complex workflow in getting documents from concept to publication.

‘P’ aspects of publication:

  • pen
  • paper
  • process
  • production
  • patience
  • persistence
  • PANIC!
  • print
  • pleasure.

Implications of digital for print publications that are competing with online environment:

  • length of stories
  • design and imagery.

Managing Editor – person in charge of managing all aspects of the editorial process of publications including staff, budget,and production schedules (copy editing, design, imagery, print, compliance [Competition and Consumer Act 2010], budget, staff)

Adobe InCopy — Lets copywriters and editors style text, track changes, and make simple layout modifications to a document while designers can be working simultaneously on the same document using InDesign — all without overwriting each others’ contributions. (from http://www.adobe.com) ~$AU382, part of Adobe Creative Suite 6 (Creative Cloud)

Takeaways:

  • know your company/organization
  • familiarize yourself with latest trends — publication,  print, online
  • develop ideas.

Georgina Wilson: Editing for the web — same, same but different

Case study of shifting the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) from print to web publications/communications.

Website wasn’t a resource priority for a long time – frustrating to use, poor navigation, lack of current material, thousands of pages getting no views, no incentive to upload new material.

Had to start from scratch — back end and front end.

BUT developers were employed before they did any user analysis!!

Chose DRUPAL as their content management system. Long process in agreeing on architecture.

Needed to comply with accessibility guidelines, large team of authors and approvers, training in writing for a new system (huge number of writers and reviewers funneling into 10 content approvers).

Arguments about where content belongs — e..g whether bees were ‘pests and diseases’ or ‘livestock’!! (they decided on livestock as bees are not a pest).

New website has 8 main headings (was 13). As 90% of visitors came in via websites, was the navigation that important?

Aims:

  • more visual, with good images
  • responsive design for different platforms
  • tag relevant topics for search
  • content review date of one year (default)
  • links to other articles on site
  • links to other relevant sites
  • contact details for further info.

Process was slower than expected to get website up… few extra resources were allocated outside the web development team.

Old website was 13,000 pages (mostly PDFs), but so far only about 2000 on new site, so still a long way to go, though some content may not get migrated as out of date.

Two approval stages:

  • author to project approver
  • directorate approver/publisher

Editing for the web:

  • need to follow the style guide
  • look for missing tags, links, quality of images
  • think scanning rather than reading; think of the reader NOT the writer
  • plain English
  • try to grab and hold attention
  • multiple screens examples (we all have multiple screens on at the same time — e.g. TV, laptop, tablet, phone)
  • must be accessible — add alt text to images

Audit trail and process:

  • usually draft text in Word where track changes are easy
  • theory is that author will consult with others but doesn’t always happens
  • some external editors have been employed
  • still waiting for pages that don’t need edits
  • audit trail of every change remains available

Writing basics:

  • reverse pyramid approach– big picture first, then drilling down
  • plain English
  • short titles (6 to 8 words)
  • one deck if possible [she didn’t explain what this meant]
  • keyword in title are the first and last words
  • short paragraphs (40-70 words, though may still be too long)
  • short sentences (15-20 words)
  • replace semicolons with separate sentences, or bullet points
  • lots of headings, bullet points
  • links to other useful sites
  • 10-second rule (lose reader if they don’t find answer in 10 secs)
  • no underlining except web and email addresses
  • no italics except scientific names
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Honoring a customer service promise

May 6, 2013

I was hunting for something on the internet… as you do. One of the potential suppliers didn’t have the exact item I was looking for, so I thought I’d contact them. One of their contact options was ‘live chat’ available ’24/7/365, no waiting’. So I clicked on the link. And got this:

live_chat

If you’re going to make a statement that someone is available for ‘live chat’ 24/7/365, then honor it. If you can’t honor it, don’t make that promise!

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Telstra to T-Mobile settings on phone

March 21, 2013

This post is for me, in case I ever lose the notebook in which this information is jotted down! And for anyone else in Australia who has a Telstra HTC Sensation phone who is going to the US and wants to purchase a US SIM card from T-Mobile so they can use their own phone while away.

For the past two years, I have purchased a ‘pay per day’ SIM from T-Mobile for the short trips I’ve made to the US (see http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/pay-by-the-day-cell-phone-plans for these plans). For just $2 or $3 per day, I get unlimited calls, texts, and internet while in the US. A 14-day US trip at $3 per day costs me less than $50, compared to potentially $1000 or more if I use my Telstra SIM and global roaming in the US. (See this horror story of a $12,000 Telstra global roaming bill for 13 days in Thailand: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/victorian-man-hit-with-12k-roaming-bill-after-thailand-holiday/story-e6frfkp9-1226618187589)

The biggest disadvantage is that I ‘lose’ my own phone number for the time I’m away (I get allocated a new US number each visit), and I have to find a T-Mobile store. Finding a T-Mobile store is not difficult as there are many of them. I believe you can get the ‘pay per day’ SIM activation kit from other locations, such as supermarkets, but I choose to get it direct from a T-Mobile store so that the store person can set everything up and test it all before I leave the store. A supermarket is unlikely to give you that sort of assistance.

Here’s what will happen in the T-Mobile store

After you’ve purchased the ‘pay per day’ kit (just ask for it — it’s not a box on the shelf), the store assistant will take out your HTC battery and Telstra SIM (DO NOT LOSE YOUR SIM!!! You’ll need it when you get back to Australia, so store it in a safe place, such as in a little zip lock bag placed near your passport or in your wallet). They will then insert the T-Mobile SIM and replace your battery and turn on the phone. They may also have to call a T-Mobile head office number and give/get a code to activate the phone.

Test that your phone can call out by calling the store’s landline number from your phone, then get the assistant to use the landline to call your new number. That’s all pretty straightforward and should work straight away. Likewise, you should get a text message or two from T-Mobile within minutes, welcoming you to their service and telling you how much balance you have on your plan. To test that you can send texts, SMS a US friend or the T-Mobile assistant who is serving you. Your phone and SMS are now working — so far, so good…

The final test is to see if you can get internet connection, so open the browser on your phone and do a search. However, if my experience is anything to go by, it’s unlikely you’ll connect as there are a couple of things you/the assistant may still have to do (see below), and because it can take a couple of hours for the internet connection to work properly (or so I’ve been told at two different T-Mobile locations in two different states in two different years; my experience has been that after the settings are entered, I can usually get internet connection within a minute or so).

If you can get a connection straight away, you’re done and don’t need to read any further. Enjoy your cheap US phone/text/internet time in the US, and don’t forget you can now use your ‘US’ HTC/Android phone as a tethered modem to avoid exorbitant hotel charges for internet access (these only seem to occur in the expensive hotels — most mid-range hotels in the US have free internet/WiFi).

If you can’t get internet connection, make sure the assistant enters the information below into your phone (or do it yourself if you’ve already left the store).

HTC/Android settings for internet connection via T-Mobile

  1. Turn off WiFi for now (Settings > WiFi > Off).
  2. Go to: Settings > Mobile Network > Access Point Names.
  3. Tap the menu icon on the APNs screen then tap New APN. Complete the following details:
  4. Name: tmobile (NO hyphen) (see notes below if this doesn’t work)
  5. APN: epc.tmobile.com (see notes below if this doesn’t work)
  6. Proxy: 216.155.165.050
  7. Port: 8080
  8. MMSC: http://mms.msg.eng.t-mobile.com/mms/wapenc
  9. MMSC proxy (you may not need this one): 216.155.165.050
  10. MMS port (you may not need this one either): 8080
  11. Save the settings. Your internet connection should now work (though it may take a few minutes or up to an hour to do so, according to T-Mobile)

NOTE: If these settings don’t work, try changing:

  • the APN to fast.T-mobile.com and removing the proxy and port numbers
  • the name to T-Mobile US LTE
  • If you can’t get it to work, call 611 in the US to speak to a T-Mobile support person.

Changing back to your Telstra settings

  1. Before the plane takes off for Australia, switch your phone to Airplane mode, then turn it off as required by the FAA. By putting it into Airplane mode before you leave, when you turn it back on it won’t try to make any sort of connection to T-Mobile (or to Telstra once you’ve got their SIM back in).
  2. Once you’re in the air (or on the ground when you arrive if you forgot to put your Telstra SIM into your carry-on luggage!), remove the cover from your phone and flip out the battery.
  3. Remove the T-Mobile SIM and replace it with your Telstra SIM. (You can throw the T-Mobile SIM away when you get home as it’s useless unless activated and you’ve probably only purchased and activated enough days for your trip.)
  4. When you arrive back in Australia, turn the phone back on and switch off Airplane mode. It should all work as normal, as the Telstra APN settings are the default and should reset automatically once your phone picks up that you’re in Australia. At least, that’s how it’s been for me for the past two years — even though I wrote down all the Telstra APN settings, I’ve never had to change them back as they’ve automatically reset themselves.

Happy travelling!

See also:

[Links last checked April 2013]

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Presentation: Remote working: Telecommuting from the trenches

November 7, 2012

I delivered this presentation on remote working to the ASTC(NSW) 2012 annual conference on 3 November 2012. (Resources list: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/resources-for-remote-working-presentation/)

This presentation focused on my experiences over the past six years that I’ve worked entirely from home, and highlighted:

  • the positives and negatives of working from home
  • some technologies that will allow you to work from home
  • home office essentials.

The audience was technical writers and communicators — an audience whose occupation is well-suited to working from home at least a part of the time.

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Resources for ‘Remote Working’ presentation

November 3, 2012

For those who attended my presentations on telecommuting/remote working/working away from the office etc. at various conferences since 2012, here is a list of some of the MANY internet resources/articles available:

[Links last checked and updated January 2015]
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I love my work colleagues!

September 27, 2012

This email (slightly modified to remove references to people, companies etc.) was sent to the entire team last week. I love working for these people!

Hi guys,

Just a quick reminder to not alter the formatting of the [ABC] document. This includes things like inserting new headers and footers (including for landscape pages), altering text styles and altering page numbers, etc. We have Rhonda as a great resource to make these changes and assist us with other formatting and authoring-based IT issues, not just the tech writing reviews she also does.

It’s not the best use of time as it takes us much longer to fiddle around in the formatting and styles than it will take Rhonda. Also often our best efforts to solve something in the document can cause more work for Rhonda to fix than the original issue.

Another way to think of it is, we have been hired for our technical expertise in environmental assessment, and Rhonda has been hired for her expertise in technical writing, document formatting and styles, etc.

Nice!