Technology of the week: iTranslate

Technology of the week: iTranslate

What is iTranslate

iTranslate enables travellers, students, business professionals, employers and medical staff to read, write and speak in 90 languages, anywhere in the world.

What does it do?

With iTranslate you can translate text or websites, start voice conversations or look up words, meanings and even verb conjugations in over 90 languages. No training needed. Just start speaking and iTranslate recognises your voice, converts your words to text and translates them into another language. The app can also be used offline to save on any roaming charges. With the safari extension users can also translate whole website and pages.

Technology of the week: iTranslate

Why does it benefit assistants?

This is a great app for Executive’s to have on their phone when they travel aboard. Who doesn’t need a quick translation every now and again? The browser extension also let’s assistants translate documents and websites really easily. The translation may not be completely accurate, but with iTranslate you certainly get the gist of the language.

Why is it Practically Perfect PA tech of the week?

Living in Spain I’m sure you can imagine how heavily I rely on a translation app! This is my favourite app and I would really recommend it for business travellers.

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.

Technology of the week: Any.do

What is Any.do?

Any.do is a productivity app that helps organise every aspect of your life. It is available for free on most platforms, including Apple and Android, web and desktop.

What does it do?

Like most ‘life management’ apps Any.do helps users organise their tasks, set reminders and make to-do lists. It also has a calendar function that synchronises with your lists. You can send tasks to other people, it synchronises with other calendars (iCal, Google Calendar etc.) and you can capture tasks with voice recognition. Here are a few more details from the Any.do folks…

Any.do is available anytime, anywhere, on any device. It’s always ready to take your notes or remind you what you need to be doing.

  • Keep all events, tasks, lists and reminders in one place
  • Lightning fast sync across Android, iOS, web and desktop
  • Share lists and assign tasks to get more done, faster
  • Smart widgets keep it all at your fingertips

Technology of the week: Any.do

Why does it benefit assistants?

There are loads of productivity / life management tools on the market and each assistant should pick one that works for them. Overall, they do benefit assistants enormously and I like Any.do because it is pretty simple to use, it looks clean and modern and it is available on a number of platforms. I like the voice recognition element. This might come in handy during meetings with your boss, or when taking minutes, or when someone randomly stops you in the middle of a corridor to ask for something.

Why is it Practically Perfect PA’s tech of the week?

Assistants have to remember a lot of stuff… Stuff for us, stuff for other people, important stuff! Unless we have some kind of superhuman power (which we do, but that’s another blog) we need tools to help us remember all the stuff.

The Industry Snapshot: The Office of the Future

Thanks again to everyone who completed the Practically Perfect PA Industry Snapshot survey. We had some really interesting feedback and I want to share some of that with you today. We asked you a few questions regarding the environment you currently find yourself working in and what your offices might look like in the future. Here are some of your thoughts…

Has the design of your office changed in the last five years?

  • We are working towards a paperless office within the next two years
  • Yes, we now have an open plan office with hot desks and more people working from home
  • We have had a total office renovation with modern furniture – office desks for standing or sitting. Updates on all of our hardware & software, including touch screen telephones with face-view and better communication system. We also have live chat with our IT support desk
  • Yes with health being a focus so think office gym equipment, stand up desks etc.
  • Our office is much more eco-friendly
  • Agile working is the way forward for our office
  • The meeting rooms in our offices are much more flexible with movable walls, digital whiteboards etc.
  • We’ve reduced the amount of storage space to encourage staff to go digital
  • We have more informal meeting spaces
  • I now work from home
  • We have consolidated people into less space to save money on office rent
  • We now have a zero tolerance policy for paper left on desks over night
  • We moved buildings and all of the assistants were assigned desks next to each other

Do you work in the same location as your Executive?

I asked this question to see whether assistants were working more remotely from their Executives but the answer was a resounding no, with 87% of you still working in the same location. I would imagine that most assistants still sit outside their Executive’s office or pretty close by and I can’t imagine this changing any time soon!

Are you able to work remotely (from home or out of the office)?

64% of you answered yes to this question which is slightly higher than previous years. It looks like organisations finally understand that assistants can work very productively while out of the office!

On average, how often does your Executive travel for business?

I asked this as the number of people travelling on business continues to rise and many Executive’s now spend more time on the road than they do in the office. Your answers certainly seem to reflect this trend with 70% of you saying your Executive travels at least once per month. This will certainly change how assistants work with their Executive’s particularly around the use of technology.

Some of your favourite technology

Here is some of the technology you use on a regular basis…

  • Google docs
  • SharePoint
  • Scannable
  • Bloomberg & Reuters
  • Jabber
  • DocuSign
  • Huddle, Doodle, Prezi, Sway
  • Zoom
  • Telepresence rooms
  • WebEx
  • Evernote
  • Blackboard
  • Travo
  • Echo Smartpen
  • Slido
  • Box.com
  • Google Hangout
  • Skype

In a typical month, which types of apps do you use on your smartphone for work?

I was surprised at the mixture of responses for this question with many of you happily listing your favourite apps while others said they did not or were not allowed to use their smartphones for work purposes. Many organisations, for security reasons, do not allow staff to use their own devices for work including access to emails etc. I wonder what effect this has on work life balance for assistants within these types of organisations? It would certainly stop you checking emails at ungodly hours, which can only be a good thing!

For those of you who do use your smartphones, here are some of your preferred apps:

  • Whatsapp
  • National Rail, TFL, Hotels.com
  • Banking apps, maps, stocks, Uber, restaurant apps
  • Travel Apps: Tripit / flight apps / Hotel apps / City guides etc.
  • Concur for expenses
  • Trello
  • The Calculator – all the time!
  • Skyscanner
  • Outlook mail & calendar, Yammer, OneNote, OneDrive, Google, MSN Weather, Office Lens, Skype for Business
  • MobileDay, Waze, Amazon, Concur, Uber, WhatsApp, Skype and Amex
  • American Airlines, FlightStats, Open Table, Google Maps, Weather Channel, CNN, Apple Notes, FaceTime, InstaCart, Uber, Curb, Amazon, WhatsApp (International Texting when my Executive is travelling abroad), Facebook, Twitter, Marriott, Goodreads, Transit Tracker
  • Citymapper
  • The Trainline
  • XE

We have also put together a handy infographic with all of the information, please feel free to share this with your colleagues and network!

The Industry Snapshot: The Office of the Future

Top websites for free images

Today’s blog post is a down and dirty list of my favourite websites for free images. As you can imagine, I use loads of these websites for Practically Perfect PA and I wish I had known about them while I was an assistant. They are much easier to navigate than Google Images. In no particular order, here are my favs…

Stocksnap.io

Read More

Tech of the week: Seat Guru

What is Seat Guru

In October 2001, frequent flyer Matthew Daimler launched SeatGuru.com with a single colour-coded interactive airplane seating chart. Having experienced firsthand the vast differences between airline seats, he was determined to collect this useful information and share it with other travellers.  In 2007, SeatGuru was purchased by TripAdvisor, and they now have seating charts for practically every airline. Seat Guru is a website and you can also download their app.

Tech of the week: Seat Guru

What does it do?

Basically, Seat Guru is a database which allows travellers to check which is the best seat on the plane. The database is made up of recommendations from frequent flyers.

Why does it benefit assistants?

This is great if your manager is fussy with their airline seat! You can type the airline, the flight number and the date and the app will tell you which is the best seat on the plane.

Why is it Practically Perfect PA’s tech of the week?

I’ve been using this app for a few years now. I had a particularly fussy Executive who liked to have a specific seat. If he travelled anything other than British Airways he would get a bit panicky. Seat Guru helped me reassure him that he still had a good seat!

Assist Travel

For more tips on business travel please do take a look at our Assist Travel Conference. Taking place on Friday 9th September in London. This is the only business travel event exclusively for assistants. If you book complex trips this is a must attend!

Tech of the week: Seat Guru

Using Instagram for business

I’ve been using Instagram for a few years now and I love it! Although since I’ve had kids, I don’t feel the urge to Instagram my life as much as I used to (who needs to see me covered in milk, pureed vegetables and goodness knows what else!) Anyhoo… I’ve been looking into how I can use Instagram for the blog and have found a few really good tips that I thought I would share with you today. Firstly, you may need to explain to your Executive why Instagram is a good social media platform to use for business but once you get over that hurdle there are a lot of benefits. Let me give you a few reasons you can fire at them…

  • There are over 500 million users on Instagram (more than Twitter) and the majority are active on the platform
  • 70% of users have at some point looked up a brand on Instagram and 62% follow a brand because they like the content being posted
  • There is no hard sell required on Instagram. If users like the images being posted they will soak up the sales messages.
  • Here is a quote from Mike Hayes, Digital Marketing Manager of Ben & Jerry’s: “Since its launch, Instagram has provided us with an amazing platform to connect with our fans and tell our story visually.” 

So where do we start with Instagram..?

Here is a great overview of how to set up your Instagram account for business. There are the obvious tips like – set up a separate business account rather than a personal account, connect all of your social media channels so that your followers can see all of your content and ensure you have the Instagram Analytics available to track your progress.

Once you have your business account set up the next step is to create a clear strategy. These are my Instagram goals for Practically Perfect PA:

  • To showcase our events
  • To raise awareness of the blog
  • To build the Practically Perfect PA community
  • Share news and updates

I would image your business would have similar goals for their marketing activities. If you are looking after your business social media or your Executive’s it is important that you come up with objectives for using the platform, what you want your Instagram account to look like and the content you will publish. It is also really important that you understand the type of audience you will attract on Instagram. For example, roughly half of internet-using young adults ages 18-29 (53%) use Instagram and 25% of 30-49 year olds use it. That is a young audience – but one that might stick with your brand for years to come if they like what they see.

Instagram tips

After lots of reading, this is what I have learnt about Instagram for business and how to make the most of the platform:

  • Like any social media platform your biography / description is the first introduction to the brand so make the most of this space. Most business’s include their slogan and a brief description.
  • Your profile picture should make it very obvious who you are. Most business’s use their logo. I would suggest you do the same.
  • You are only allowed to use one link on Instagram so that tends to be the business homepage. You can change this if you have a big campaign or product you are promoting.
  • What should you post about? This is the tricky part of Instagram and it really depends on your Organisation and its culture. Some brands focus solely on their products, others like to include pictures of their staff and activities within the business. This will have to be decided by you and your Executive. I’ve noticed the brands that use Instagram really well post a mixture of content including: behind the scenes images, product demos, fun images and inspirational quotes, visuals showing the human side of the business, customer stories and testimonials.
  • What should your pictures look like? The best thing about Instagram is that you can add filters, play around with the composition and generally make a picture look much better than the original. In everything I’ve read the general advice is – don’t post rubbish pictures. Try to make them look as good as possible and ensure your audience can see what you have actually taken a picture of!
  • You can add a caption with every image that you post on Instagram so again this is a space that can connect you with your audience. You can use 2,200 characters. But, most marketing experts suggest no more than three lines.
  • Instagram use hashtags in the same way that Twitter does. You can search for any subject via a hashtag and you will see all of the content related to that subject. Do your research on this one. What hashtags are your competitors using?
  • With everything social media related, consistency is key. Include information on how many times you are going to post into Instagram in your content plan. You can now use Hootsuite to schedule your posts in advance.
  • Remember to follow others, your clients, customers and colleagues. Following other people and liking their content is the key to increasing your followers.
  • You can also post short videos on Instagram. Having a mixture of visuals will help keep your audience engaged.

So these are the tips that I have picked up while sorting out my Instagram platform. I will let everyone know once I go live with it! In the meantime if you would like to know about Instagram for business, check out this great article from Social Media Examiner.