Learning with TBOE

Debbie Mayo-Smith at The Business of Events conference

Six tips to help you work smarter

Posted on June 7th, 2019 in Event News, Leadership, Productivity Hacks

Events are incredibly time-consuming to create, but with some handy tricks up your sleeve, you could find yourself shaving off a few hours on repetitive tasks that you could put to better use. Debbie Mayo-Smith, an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, shared her top tips that have shaped her working life and can improve yours too.

Debbie’s life-changing moment

Debbie started her own business when her three eldest children started school, leaving ‘only’ her triplets at home with her. With a marketing database in her possession, she set to work on a spreadsheet to get organised for a newsletter when her partner noticed that she was doing things the hard way.

She said, “I’m sitting in the living room at ten o’clock at night, tap-tap-tapping on an Excel spreadsheet. My hubby Steve walked in, he looks over my shoulder and he goes ‘Oh my god, Debbie, what are you doing?'”

“I had stupidly put everyone’s name in one column, so I was doing that copy-paste-delete-delete dance separating out the first and last names. He goes ‘Don’t do that, do text to columns.’ He showed me that hidden in the menu was a little trick that didn’t matter if you had 20 or 20,000 names, they would be a split apart with a click.”

“It was completely lifechanging because it set me on a course that said there’s magic behind those menus. From that very first day, I’ve been trying to find smarter, faster, better ways.”

Setting up email rules/filters

A messy inbox can be a real bane on productivity and there are many theories for how to best manage this distraction. For Debbie, it comes down to organisation, which can be automated with rules (Outlook) or filters (Gmail). Essentially, these providers can automatically divert emails from your inbox into folders based on your needs.

Debbie went through an example with the audience, showing that you can create a rule that filters new emails based on the sender’s address (or part of the address, if you want everything from one organisation in one place), by subject line (for web forms, for example) or by emails that contain certain words or phrases.

By doing this, you can make things more manageable and focus on specific tasks more easily.

Replying with templates

Once you’ve set up your inbox to divert certain messages, you can also get it to reply with a template message. This is useful when you want to let someone know you’ve received their email and, if it’s come from a form or in response to a campaign, you can often guide them in the right direction without interacting directly.

Avoiding typing the same thing repeatedly

For event organisers, there are often a lot of similar questions that you have to field. Whether it’s about directions to the venue, how to pay invoices or information about running orders, answering these queries can be tiresome and repetitive (and definitely not the best use of your time).

In Outlook, you can do this using Quick Parts and AutoText to save and recall regularly shared information. In Gmail, you can use Canned Responses by enabling it in the Labs section. Rather than typing out the same paragraphs, you can make them appear with just a couple of clicks.

Text shortcuts

It’s not just your email providers and on your laptop that you can save time with sneaky shortcuts, your mobile phone has another easy way to do this. By using text replacement strategically, you can save yourself time by creating shorthand codes for things you want to regularly type.

On most phones, acronyms like OMW are extended to ‘on my way’ and people often use them to autocorrect typos and common misspellings. Debbie recommended using them to save time when you’re on social media by saving regularly used hashtags so that these almost auto-populate when you need them.

She said, “I think where you can take this idea and make it really fantastic is for hashtags. You can save a bunch of hashtags and instead of having to type them all out, you can just type ‘htg’ and it will populate them all on Instagram or Facebook or wherever you want it.”

Google Maps

If you have a Google account, you can use their maps feature to create a custom display for yourself. By dropping pins on a map – which you can do with a spreadsheet upload – you can quickly see locations of key stakeholders. That could be venues, customers, potential customers or whatever data you have that you want to see visualised. These maps can be private or public, giving you flexibility over data sharing.

Free office software and surveys

Many businesses have made the shift from the Microsoft Office package to the free cloud-based solutions offered by Microsoft and Google. Whether you use OneDrive or Google Drive, there’s an often underutilised function: survey forms.

This can be used at a stand, to hear from event attendees or anything you want to hear feedback about. Best of all? You get the answers straight away, they’re filed nicely in a spreadsheet and you get to keep all the data, not the platform provider.

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