How to solve those hotel booking ‘facepalm’ moments

Office Managers and PA’s across the world are using Roomex to save time and money on their work-related hotel bookings.

This innovative tool comes at no cost and with no contract but saves on average 21% on hotel bookings.  In the words of the Office Manager at Keystone Group, “The booking system is flawless and so easy and quick to use.  We have saved precious minutes and sometimes even hours by not having to shop around to find best prices.  Any queries are answered in minutes and with exceptional levels of customer service.” 

Take a look at how Roomex can help you save time, money, and of course solve those face-palm moments.

Seven tips: What to look for in an event supplier

Seven tips: What to look for in an event supplier

Recently, the OpenMeet team had the pleasure of participating in the annual Practically Perfect PA Assist Conference 2017, where we ran a few workshops. The discussions amongst our workshop participants were so interesting that we decided it would be a shame to restrict the knowledge we gained for the people in the room!

Instead, we are going to share what we learned over the next few OpenMeet blogs, so stay tuned!

We used a combination of iPads and Post-it notes to ask our workshop attendees questions about what makes an event supplier great, and what makes them not-so-great…

What does a good event supplier do?

  • Excellent communication skills, keep in touch with their clients
  • Upfront about service costs, no hidden fees
  • Client-focused service, listen to client needs
  • Professional, fulfils agreed expectations

What is frustrating from an event supplier?

  • Lack of appreciation for the client relationship, e.g. Not understanding the client’s needs, or not rewarding repeat business
  • Issues with deadline management, e.g. Meeting deadlines or having unclear invoice deadlines
  • Poor service, being unreliable and not communicating

Event supplier ‘Red Lines’ – things to avoid!

  • Asking for the full payment before providing their services
  • The supplier can’t prove previous successful services
  • The supplier won’t accept feedback

In summary, our 7 key tips for choosing a great event supplier are to make sure that your supplier:

  1. Has strong communication skills, keeps in regular contact with their clients and provides prompt updates
  2. Is upfront about what their services cost
  3. Will respond to your needs and provide solutions
  4. Will meet deadlines
  5. Can demonstrate their past successful services (for instance, they can refer you to other clients)
  6. Does not demand full payment up front (a deposit is reasonable)
  7. Accepts feedback, including criticism. Bonus points if they display this feedback somewhere prominent for prospective clients to read!

In terms of ensuring that you are choosing a supplier who will do these things, a certain amount can be determined by internet research and by preliminary meetings with the supplier. However, sometimes nothing is better than experience and word-of-mouth, so take advantage of PA networks as much as possible!

Our next few blogs will be based on the insightful information we gathered from our workshop participants at the Assist Conference, covering topics such as how to ensure career development is central to the PA role, and how to ensure organisations value the work PAs do.

For more information on OpenMeet technology, please contact us here, or visit our blog to read more tips and advice about how to improve audience engagement at your meetings and events.

Creating Powerful Presentations

At the Assist Conference a few weeks ago I did a session entitled ‘creating powerful presentations’. I wanted to share the slides and notes with you guys today… Here you go!

At some point in an assistant’s career they will be asked to put together a slide deck for their Executive.

This could be for a presentation in front of the board, for other members of staff or a pitch to win new clients. Whatever the occasion it is really important that the slides reflect the key points that your Executive is delivering.

In the past, I’ve been given scraps of paper and been asked to turn them into something visually stunning – it isn’t easy getting into the mind of someone else and trying to creatively design a slide that evokes their key points (that’s if they even have a key point!)

Nevertheless, creating slides for your Executive can be a real creative outlet. It is a piece of your work that other people will see and appreciate, something that doesn’t always happen for assistants. So it is well worth spending time and ensuring you create a really memorable slide deck for your Executive.

With that in mind, I’m going to give you my four top tips when creating presentations and then I will show you some tools that will help you create something a little different.

Firstly, I love a quote on a slide deck to help you explain your point – why not draw from other people’s knowledge!

Before you start to put a presentation together, it is worth considering if your boss even needs slides? This is the first question to ask. The best presentations I’ve seen are based around the speaker telling a story and interweaving it with the points they need to cover. If your boss is a good speaker they should rely very little on slides.

Slides should be one of the last things that your Executive focuses on when creating a presentation. Without a key message and structured supporting points you can’t really develop a slide deck for them. Make sure they have thought this through before you begin to produce the slides.

Has your boss written a script? If so, make sure you have a copy so that you can create an interesting set of slides around their key points.

Once you start working on the slides.

Each slide should contain one point. That point should be on the screen while your Executive is making it. If you are using bullet points set up an animation so that each bullet point appears one at a time. If your presentation contains charts make sure every chart is on a separate slide and is up on the screen when your manager refers to it.

Slides should support your point – not make them. Do not add paragraphs worth of text, this is a sure fire way of sending your audience to sleep or overwhelming them with information.

Slides are there to reinforce the speaker’s point not distract the audience. If you do have additional information to share with the audience use a handout or send them more detailed documents later.

Your Executive has to control the flow of information so that the audience is in sync with what they are saying. Each slide should help with this rather than hinder it.

Images that are thought provoking will make a presentation more memorable.  Don’t whatever you do use WordArt or Clipart – yuck!

Get creative. This is your chance to add a really creative touch to your work so do take the time to make the slides, visual, appealing to the eye and different to the bog standard slide packs. Creative slides will make your boss’s presentation more memorable and this will reflect well on you.

Make sure you use good high quality images. Blurred images are not going to make the presentation look very professional so it is always better to use high-res images. Remember the image will be bigger on the screen so it really is worth investing in good quality images.

Don’t use words, unless you really, really have to. Images are much more visually interesting and can be used to emphasise a point just as well as text. If you are using text make sure it is readable, particularly for those at the back of the room.

Keep the slides simple. As most assistants are advanced users of PowerPoint the temptation to use all of the features can be high. However, this should be avoided in favour of a simple effective design.

Keep decorative fonts to a minimum and only use animation when it helps make key points stand out. Do not have too much clutter on one slide. It is better to use more slides which are simple, readable and easily understood than squeezing everything onto a smaller number of slides.

Use bullet points sparingly. I often find it really useful to speak through my key points and then use one round up slide that lists what I have said. This keeps the audience on track and in sync with my thoughts. Does your slide even need bullet points, can you create a list with a little bit of spacing around each sentence? This tends to look a bit more modern than the standard bullet point image.

Stick to one type of alignment for the text. A centred heading and left-aligned text doesn’t look too good so I always prefer left alignment even with the slide heading.

If you have very little time to put a presentation together here is a simple trick – use white text on a plain black background. It looks modern and projects well on the screen. Simple but different and it will help the presentation stand out.

Ensure the slides have a consistent feel throughout the deck. Avoid using different themes, fonts and colours. Each slide should feel like a new chapter in the same book. If your organisation does not have standard themes there are lots that you can use online and via PowerPoint.

Do, however, think outside the presentation theme – it can be a little boring if you are just using your Organisation’s theme on every slide. Can the company theme just be used on the first and last page? Yes, themes look professional and consistent, but they also limit your creativity.

Try to think about your organisation’s brand in a more creative way – if for example the company colour is green do a Google search for ‘green’ and see what images appear and then use them for your slide backgrounds.  This is more creative than having a green font or a green sidebar.

If your Executive has a number of topics to cover during the presentation to ensure you have a transition slide that indicates to the audience that your Executive is moving on to the next topic. This slide should look slightly different to the rest of the deck.

Do start with a really great cover page that will pull your audience in from the first moment the slides are on the screen.

So lets have a look at a few alternatives to standard Power Point…

First off we have Prezi which is a really popular alternative to PowerPoint. Here are the key points

  1. It is a free if you allow access to the presentation otherwise you have to pay – it is from $9 per month
  2. The website is easy to use, you can share the presentations easily, download or collaborate with other member of staff.
  3. The zoom in technology is different from PowerPoint and if you haven’t seen a Prezi presentation before it looks pretty cool, although I do know people talk a lot about Prezi overload.

Haiku Deck

I used to use haiku deck all the time when it was free. They now have a freemium model in place which costs from $9.99. Just to say the best thing about this presentation builder is the link to stock free images.

Slides

To finish off the list, slides.com, is a cloud based presentation software that allows for easy collaboration. The advantages: Full editing capabilities; can present from anywhere; cloud based; comes with analytics; incorporate html and css in the presentations

Slide bean

Slidebean has a dynamic means of creating slides for presentation givers.  Their USP is that they have slides that design themselves. You add the content, and the slides create themselves. The software is easy to use, quick to develop presentations and there are plenty of templates to choose from.

Google Slides

Google Slides has all of the elements you would expect from a google product. It is free, there are plenty of templates and if used with Google Docs you can collaborate in real time. This is helpful if you are reviewing the slides remotely with your Exec.

Last but not least is Projeqt

Again this is a freemium model. You can create a presentation from scratch or upload it from a PDF. You can then weave in other elements such as website content, YouTube clips, PDFS, charts or social media – such as recent tweets.

Lastly, I’d like to run through a quick and dirty list of tools that will help you with your slide creation and also some useful resources in general for slides.

Canva

Designing graphics for websites, social media platforms, presentations, and brochures can be a tricky business. It can be expensive to hire a professional and painstakingly difficult to do with inadequate tools and software. Canva is an online platform and app that allows users to drag and drop images and text into a number of different templates which are available for free or a minimal cost (usually $1). Canva have also launched Canva For Work which will provide many more templates specifically for businesses.

Free stock images

Stocksnap.io

The images on Stocksnap.io may look familiar as this is my go to website for the images I use on Practically Perfect PA. I love the easy search function, the images are always beautiful and compliment my website.

Pixabay

Pixabay has loads of free images and some that you have to pay for. You can also search for illustrations, videos and vectors on this one. I use this website when I need to find an image that matches certain words rather than general business images.

Gratisography

The images on Gratisography are pretty random, but generally good fun. New images are added weekly and you can sign up to receive them via email.

FindA.Photo

I like FindA.Photo because you can search images by colour. So if you are putting a presentation together and want to use images that reference your corporate branding and colours this is the website for you.

Im Free

I use Im Free for free templates, icons and button makers. The website also has lots of free images too.

Picjumbo

Again, Picjumbo is a website you sign up for and receive free photos via email. You can also search on the website for images they have already released.

UnSplash

The pictures on Unsplash are really vibrant and quite different from your usual stock images. I find the collections of photos quite useful if I am working on a particular newsletter or presentation. For example, they have a great collection of autumn photos on the website at the moment.

FancyCrave

I use FancyCrave mostly for their tech and food images. The website is easy to navigate and they have loads of other high quality images on there.

Screen-o-Matic

So it is a screen and webcam recorder that can record on-screen activity for short tutorials, visual presentations, and communicate while you demonstrate! The free features include:

  • 15 minute recordings
  • screen and webcam recording
  • Instant publication to YouTube
  • Ability to save the recording as a video file.

The pro version has a load of other features including editing tools and this is only $15 per year. There are also plenty of tutorials on the website to get you started.

Rocketium

Turns your slides into a moving video. Can add voice over, music and some animation

Present.me

Present.me is a free piece of software that, instead of editing/creating presentations, presents slides you’ve already built.

Once you’ve made a presentation with other software, you can easily upload it to Present.me and then optionally add webcam footage to show yourself explaining the slides.

Slideshare

Is the world’s largest presentation sharing platform. It has over 60 million unique visitors per month, so is a really useful platform to promote your presentations. If your Executive is doing a brilliant presentation that will help promote your organisation, it is well worth encouraging them to upload it to Slideshare.

Speaker deck

Speaker Deck is the best way to share presentations online. Simply upload your slides as a PDF, and the website turns them into an online deck that you can embed on a website or share on social media via the URL.

Slidedog

SlideDog is software built specifically for presenting already made presentation files. The idea is to use media files to create a playlist and then use SlideDog to present it to an audience.

There are numerous features that make it a pleasant choice for presenting files to a live audience, whether they’re in the room with your or accessing your presentation from a remote browser.

Presentation Assistant

This piece  of software is just under $50. It adds features to your computer that lets you write on the screen and zoom into certain portions for a quick explanation. With the screen annotation tools, you can draw all kinds of lines, rectangles, circles, or add text marks or picture marks on the screen. You can use the software to zoom into something on your screen or highlight certain text.

All work and some play: the rise of the ‘Bleisure’ travellers

When you’re one half of a couple, frequent business travel can take its toll on your relationship.

Often you find yourself miles away from family on special occasions, missing birthdays, parties and anniversaries. There’s also something particularly poignant about sitting down to a table set for one in an unfamiliar restaurant amid the sound of strange accents and clinking glasses.

Read More

The Practically Perfect Business Traveller’s guide to Boston

The Practically Perfect Business Traveller's guide to Boston

Founded in 1630, Boston is one of the oldest and most illustrious cities in the U.S. It’s where the pilgrims landed and the Red Sox play and with its many educational institutions, stands as a modern-day Athens. Culturally and historically rich, this enchanting metropolis is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and stands as a crossroads, where colonial history meets contemporary innovation.

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The Future of Business Travel and the Millennial Traveller

At the recent Assist Travel event we were lucky to have Tae Lee, the founder and CEO of Travo talk to our delegates about the future of business travel and the millennial traveller. He covered a lot of interesting points and I thought it would be useful to share his video with you today. I just want to give you a bit more of an introduction to the video.. .here is what Tae covered in his session:

A new generation of business travellers are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. The Millennials, the generation of tech savvy digital natives currently in their twenties and early thirties, will account for nearly half of the workforce by 2020. In this session a true Millennial will look at how the travel industry is already gearing up for this new cohort. Tae will also look at how individual Assistants can prepare as increasingly their Executives travel habits and expectations start to change. So how should Assistants react to their Executives:

  • Travelling more often
  • Loving gadgets
  • Increasing their expenses
  • Spontaneous nature and
  • Ease in voicing dissatisfaction

A bit more about Travo

Our Motto: “TIME IS MONEY”

We believe that time is money. Time can be exchanged for money by working, but it can also be spent curing a disease or spending time with your nine-month old son. Admins and travel planners spend way too much time planning and booking trips. Travellers dread planning their trips until the very last minute because it’s time consuming to not only find flights, hotels, and ground transport, but also to figure out if all the arrangements are timed correctly. It’s hard. TRAVO makes it easy.

Go play, invent, study, love. Let TRAVO do the hard work.

https://www.travo.com

This post is sponsored by Travo. Follow the link for more information about Practically Perfect PA’s sponsored posts.

So, Assist Travel happened… again!

On Friday 9th September we held our second Assist Travel event at The Grange Tower Bridge and from the feedback we received it looks like everyone had a thoroughly good day. After spending quite a bit of time shaping the programme and finding the right speakers I was really pleased with the content which gave lots of practical support for assistants booking business travel. I thought the exhibition space worked well with lots of great suppliers who all contributed to the sessions during the day. The speakers were great and really informative. For those of you that couldn’t make it, here are some of the slides from the morning sessions… I will post the slides from the afternoon later this week!

Stress Free Speedy Travel

Lara Morgan, Serial Entrepreneur and extensive business traveller

How to get the most out of your Travel Management Company

Lyndsey Atkins, Marketing Director, Reed & Mackay

Peter Navickas, Team Leader, Flight Centre Business Travel

We are looking at our event programme for next year and I will keep you up to date on all of the developments. In the meantime, we do have the Assist Conference taking place on Friday 24th February 2017. The conference programme, speakers and registration details can be found on the website.

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8 Easy Contract Changes to Make for More Sustainable Events

8 Easy Contract Changes to Make for More Sustainable Events

It is our responsibility to make the changes we can to be more sustainable but naturally we cannot all chain ourselves to an oil rig and declare to stop flying places. We can however use the events industry to make small but significant changes. We can review our venue contracts and make conscious decisions to ask the questions about waste and sustainable resources.

Here are 5 easy changes that can be made today.

1. Food wastage

Think of the amount of food waste during any one event. Whether it is a corporate dinner, a lunch buffet or a mass participation sporting event.

Catering is greatly wasted and not only is it environmentally really bad it is ethically heartbreaking.

Ensure your venue has special measures in place for its food waste. Healthy and safety laws make it much more difficult now with food leaving premises but with the right disclaimers and pre planning you can have local food kitchens collect the unused food or at the very least packaged up for crew to take home.

2. Buy local

Wherever you are planning your event ask your venue to ensure they buy local food and drink product and wherever possible use local suppliers. We are able to dramatically reduce carbon emissions by reducing our import levels and more importantly we are supporting our local workers. This notion is true of whatever city you are in.
If you are buying wine in France, buy French wine.

3. Recycle

I’m not saying you have to go paperless. Sometimes we just need things written down and all we really want is an agenda on a piece of paper! But make sure the venue has suitable recycling facilities available and put confidential recycling bins all around your event.

It is not the use of paper that causes the problems, it is the lack of correct disposal facilities meaning paper goes into the regular bin, then to the regular dump and then into good old regular landfill.

4. Reduce washing

Ask your venue what its policy is on towel and bedding washing. Then also explain to your delegates that this is the case. Most people know that a towel in the bath means wash me, but if people thought about the frivolous waste of detergents and water that washing towels and bedding once a day creates they might think twice. After all, do you wash your towels every day at home? Unlikely.

5. Utilise Students

Developing our future event professionals is key to ethical sustainability. Ask your venue what their policy is on work experience and graduates and if they don’t have something in place bring in your own! The University of Greenwich run a great placement programme for corporates and agencies looking for interns and event students. They may also be your most enthusiastic and dynamic employees and are perfect for registration and hospitality support.

6. Arrange arrival and departure transfers

Commuting accounts for a third of all car travel and events are a great opportunity to reduce that. Make sure you have provided in advance adequate group transport instructions and also utilise coaches to reduce individual cars. Organise arrival transfers from the station, from the office, from a convenient location. Just don’t leave it up to all attendees to “hop in a taxi.” It affects both carbon emissions and the amount of expense receipts coming through!

7. Save energy

Have your venue put in writing that they will turn off all lights and air conditioning when meeting spaces are not in use and make sure they stick to it. Have your event manager walk around the venue an hour after the meeting and turn off all switches and electricity outputs. If you are at an offsite dinner you do not need the air conditioning on in your meeting room!

8. Communicate

Let your delegates know that you are making these changes. Do not just call your event “green” and hope that does the job. It is not enough and it will not resonate with people. Outline the exact changes you have made and what they can do. It also reduces resistance if they are prepared in advance that towels are not being washed daily!

Sustainability is not just about being “paperless” but it is easier than you think to bring sustainable measures into your programme. No event manager really wants to see food go to waste when someone is in need and every successful event professional was given their break by someone, so pay it forward and get event students on board!

Chances are your venue and suppliers are willing to make all these changes, they just need to be asked the right questions!

Hannah Luffman
@hannahluffman

Hannah very kindly spoke at Assist Travel which took place in London on 9th September.

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