28 February 2010

We did it Canada!

Canada has a world record for gold medals in the Olympics, a record for medals for Canada, we won gold in hockey -- Woo hoo!  National pride -- all time high.  What a blast the last two weeks have been, but I don't think I could have taken any more late nights staying up to watch the Olympics in Eastern Standard Time.

I can just hear the conversation at the office tomorrow...

27 February 2010

Where's the remote thingy for the PowerPoint?

Some people in the office were trying to get the remote working as we had a PowerPoint presentation coming up and were calling it things like remote thingyremote slide clicker, wireless mouse so I finally asked, "Does anyone know what the official name for that thing is?"  Here we were, professional assistants talking about the thingy for the PowerPoint.  So I did what I normally do when I want an answer -- I Googled it! And guess what?  Nobody seems to really know what its called, but Powerpoint Remote was given as a common name.  Great! Now at least I will have a name that most people will know what I mean.  Technically I think it is a remote mouse with Powerpoint clicker capabilities, but PowerPoint Remote works just fine for me.  Although thingy will work in a crunch...

20 February 2010

Minute taking made easier...

Minute taking definitely isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be stressful. In its simplest form minutes are a record of discussion, decisions and actions to be taken and the date by when it needs to be completed. Below are a few tips so the task is not as daunting:

Filling in the blanks
I take minutes on a laptop so it is easy to make a template ahead of time which is based on the agenda. I put the items from the agenda on the template in the same order and with a space to put the discussion and decisions/actions from the meeting. Putting it in table format is the easiest, then it is just a matter of filling in the blanks. I use four columns with the headings: Item#, Discussion, Decision/Action, By when.

Going in cold
When you don't know the subject matter and are asked to take minutes, preparation is the key. Read three or four of the previous minutes to get familiar with the language of the meeting and the subjects that are discussed. If you can meet with the regular minute taker that is ideal or schedule a meeting with the Chair.

Putting it in context
You need to summarize the discussion around each agenda item and then write the action or decision that comes out of it. For instance, if you put the action down as Finance Director to pay invoice by January 31st, you need to put what was discussed or later on you will never remember what prompted that action. To put it in context you could say that Discussion ensued regarding the invoice received for the installation of the swing set. The team members were pleased with the work and it was agreed that the Finance Director should pay the invoice from the Recreation Account. Then the action makes perfect sense.

The language of minutes
Discussion and questions ensued -- The team members agreed -- It was decided -- The following points were made. Having some key phrases at your fingertips really helps when taking minutes. A simple phrase such as "Discussion ensued" can summarize 20 minutes of heated debate. Minutes are not a he said/she said kind of record. People at the meeting don't want to be singled out. The decision made is always recorded as a group decision.

If the Chair says this part of the meeting is in-camera, take your fingers off the keyboard, or put your pen down. The meeting participants want to be assured nothing is being recorded. Sometimes the minute taker is even asked to leave the room. At our board meetings I do not attend the in-camera part of the meeting, but when I return to the meeting they tell me the decision that came out of the discussion and I record that for the minutes such as "An in-camera session was held with the following decision made..."

Time is of the essence
Pay attention to the time the meeting starts and the time it ends. If you don't get the exact time, don't panic, but you should get in the habit of checking the time. On my minute template I put [insert time] at the beginning and also after the final item, just to remind myself to check the time.

Being part of the team
I am a valuable member of the team I take minutes for. They rely on me to know the ins and outs of the meeting. They come to me to give me agenda items, ask about certain actions, check back in past minutes and other meeting related things. I feel part of the team and to be as effective as possible you really need to see yourself as more than just the minute taker. I don't know the subject matter as well as they do because that is not my expertise, but I know how to take minutes. It has been said that if proper minutes are not taken it is just as if the meeting never happened. The team has to be able to rely on the minute taker to take accurate minutes and keep good records. The minute taker is important to the success of the meeting.

Meeting adjourned
Don't wait too long after the meeting to type the minutes. I like to complete them by the following day. The discussion is still fresh on my mind and I find it easier to make sense of my notes. The longer I wait to record the minutes, the harder it is to complete. A friend of mine recommends doing them within two hours after the meeting. I find I cannot always do that, but within 12 hours works for me.

13 February 2010

Dealing in real time...

I like to work with fixed dates. If I know something is due on February 23rd, then I can work towards the date and prioritize all my work accordingly. The way I like to do that is by creating a timeline to-do list of everything I need to do to get everything done by the required date. If it is a big project I use a calendar and write down all my required to-dos on the dates I need to get them done to make my deadline. I’m a visual person so it really helps me to plan my way to my goal. There are different styles of to-do lists and you can use the one that suits your work style and the type of project you are doing, but the main thing is to have one.

By the same token, I appreciate it when someone lets me know by when they will have something for me and if they can’t have it done by that date, then I like it when they get back to me to say when I can expect it. That way I can do a proper tracking as I have a date to work with.

So that is what I like, but it isn’t always what I get. If I am told that I should have it in the next few weeks, or can expect to receive it in a couple of months, that doesn’t really help me with my follow up as it is not a definite date. I can only guess when I might get it. I would prefer they say you will have it by March 4th. That I can track.

Dates are important. Once I have a date I can put it in my Tasks and run with it. I use my Tasks extensively and when I receive an e-mail telling me they will have something to me or if I make a request of someone, I drag the e-mail in my Tasks and set a reminder when I need to follow up.

Think about it the next time you give someone a timeline. Are you vague or exact? It will be appeciated if you are firm and take responsibility for your timelines.

7 February 2010

When your voicemail goes awry...

I'm sure I'm not the only one this has happened to -- you are leaving a voicemail and make a mistake and then try to fix it, but the voicemail becomes longer and longer and depending on who you are leaving the message with, it can get more and more embarrassing. 

A good tip if you flub up your voicemail is to press # and it should give you prompts to get out of it.  I have never used this escape route, but was reminded about it at a webinar I participated in recently and will keep these instructions close at hand.  They said it works with most phone services.

I thought I would pass this tip along in the event you find yourself wishing you could take your words back.