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  • feedwordpress 21:14:43 on 2019/11/19 Permalink

    SURROUND yourself with a team of experts to make you and your organization SHINE! 

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     A meeting planner by MY definition is the go-to person within an organization – be it corporate, association or otherwise – charged with the responsibility of planning and executing a meeting or special event. 

    Not all people who plan meetings are “meeting planners,” nor do all meeting planners start out their careers as meeting planners. I for one started out on a clerical/administrative career path with absolutely no knowledge at the time that a career in meeting planning even existed (and at the time it probably didn’t). Truth be told, I had no intention when I first returned to the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom of working for the rest of my life or until heaven forbid, retirement. But as it turns out, that’s exactly what I did. 

    The first time I became involved in planning meetings was in my role as an office manager/prospect donor researcher in the Grants and Development Office of a state university. Our office reported to a Board of Trustees and was responsible for planning and executing quarterly board meetings and eventually group informational meetings with corporate CEOs to educate them on a major development campaign the university was embarking on. Not only did I set the meetings up, but I also took notes (in shorthand no less), transcribed the notes and prepared final reports for dissemination. Did I think of this as meeting planning? I did not. Did I know the difference between a board room or conference room set and a classroom set? I did not. BUT, I learned and I learned quickly by making some mistakes early on. 

    What I also learned was that I liked what I was doing and that I was good at it – or had the potential to be. I believe meeting planners and administrative professionals possess similar skills/traits that enable them to be good at what they do. They typically are leaders (even though they may not realize this at first). They also tend to be strategic, analytical, solution-oriented and disciplined. They have a logical way of looking at a project and understanding what needs to be done to ensure success, They have an innate ability to see the big picture — to take a look at a project and break it down action item by action item, and create a systematic/timely order for meeting goals. Most importantly, their attention to detail is second to none

    However, planning meetings also requires one to know and understand the hospitality industry and how it works, how to determine which venue and what destinations will work best for the types of meetings you’re asked to plan, the ins and outs of contracts and contract negotiations, budget prep and oh so much more. It’s a full-time job and then some and for the administrative professional who is asked to plan a meeting over and above (or even as part of) their normal day-to-day responsibilities. Maintaining balance and keeping priorities straight can be quite challenging. They need to make sure the administrative needs of the person they support are met, while still making sure the meetings they are charged with, go off without a hitch. This is where the word “team” comes into play. 

    I learned long ago that I could not do it all by myself, that I couldn’t possibly know it all or have enough time or talent to do everything that was requested of me – BUT I did know what I needed to accomplish and who the experts were that could help me get it done and those people became my unofficial “team” of sorts. Here are some of the areas of expertise to consider when putting together your team. 

    Program Content/Agenda 

    Most of the program content for our meetings was developed within the confines of individual business units that had communications, marketing and HR staff responsible for this component of the planning process. These business units had many different reasons for conducting meetings. They conveyed their needs to me; I found them the venues/destination that would best help them accomplish their goals and objectives. Oftentimes, I found myself working in tandem with a business unit’s admin to pull a project together. If/when there was resistance to my assistance, I worked hard to let them know that I was there to partner with them to ensure success and not to take anything away from them and/or diminish their role – and it seemed to work just fine. 


    Online Registration 

    I was not tech-savvy but knew I needed an on-line registration system that would provide meeting participants with a means of registering for a meeting while also giving them all the details they needed to make their trip plans. So I found a company that had a registration system already in place that could handle all back-of-the-house technical details which freed me up to create the fields required on the registration form that would allow me to capture the information that was needed to track sleeping room and travel requirements, recreational activity requests, food allergies, etc. I wrote copy for the communication that went along with the registration form so people would know where they needed to be and when, appropriate attire, the type of weather to expect, safety and security issues they needed to be aware of and so forth. 

    Graphic Design

    I needed a graphics design expert to design logos, save-the-date cards, invitations, menu cards, signage, etc. I knew how I wanted something to look: colors; font styles; formal or informal, the layout; but, I needed someone with graphic design expertise to make it come alive. 

    Audio-Visual and IT Support 

    I knew enough about AV equipment and computers to know that I needed both an AV and computer tech on MY team. The last thing you want during a meeting is equipment malfunction. Ugh! And, when you and your team are on-site at a meeting, you want someone that can set up the computers, printers and copy machines to make sure they are running correctly; to troubleshoot when they’re not. If your meeting requires full-scale production, you may also need to add a production company representative to your team. 

    Procurement and Legal

    I looked to our Procurement and Legal staff to review all contracts to make sure I wasn’t missing something that could cause us financial harm. 

    Site Selection

    One of the tasks that I liked best as a meeting planner was the site selection/research process. However, it’s a very timely process and when you’re handling multiple meetings, it’s nearly impossible to keep everything moving if you suddenly have to stop what you’re doing and start looking for space for yet another meeting. This is when what I call a “sourcing” or “third party” comes into play and can become a very important member of your team. I found that if I could give these people the basics of what I was looking for and let them do the initial legwork, I could continue finalizing details on whatever project I was working on while they were putting out requests for proposals with hoteliers and/or other vendors on my behalf. 

    Other good resources to help you with your site selection process that shouldn’t be overlooked would be national hotel sales reps and/or CVBs (convention & visitors bureaus). CVBs know their cities very well and have many contacts within the cities and counties they represent. 

    Safety and Security

    Much too important to be overlooked, it is imperative you include someone on your team with expertise in safety and security and that you have a Medical Risk Management and a Crisis Management Plan in place. 

    DMC (Destination Management Company)

    I looked to DMCs to assist with coordination of airport and other ground transportation needs, off-site event venues, team activities to name a few. I found them to be valuable assets not only because of their knowledge and well-established relationships with suppliers but their buying power as well. I would maybe work with suppliers in any given city once or twice, while a DMC worked with these same suppliers many times over. 

    I think you get the idea. Planning meetings is very involved. Becoming proficient at it takes time. It takes patience, and it takes practice. It also takes making mistakes along the way which ultimately you will learn from and become better and quicker at resolving. There are numerous components/moving parts to the process and a proper sequence for completing tasks to ensure that a meeting or event is executed successfully. Everyone on your team, whether they are employees of the company you work for or external vendors and consultants has an important role to play utilizing their special areas of expertise to ensure the success of your meetings to make you and your organization SHINE. With your leadership and the partnerships you create, you can make this happen. 

    Prepared by Mary Jo Wiseman, CMP | Author, The Meeting Planning Process: A Guide to Planning Successful Meetings| November 2019 

    Get Your Copy Today!

    The post SURROUND yourself with a team of experts to make you and your organization SHINE! appeared first on Office Dynamics - Executive And Administrative Assistant Training.

  • feedwordpress 16:21:06 on 2019/11/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , understand   

    Asking someone ‘How are you?’ doesn’t go far enough 

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    I’ve often wondered the true meaning of the words “how are you”? When someone says, “how are you”, do they really care how you are or are they just being polite?

    For example, I received an email from an acquaintance that started with “how are you”, then went right into her request. I don’t think she really cares how I am.

    As a contrast, I ran into someone in the supermarket who asked me how I was. Then she followed up with questions about work, summer plans, and made me promise to give regards to my family. I think she actually cares about how I am.

    The phrase “how are you” was first recorded in the late 18th century, when it was used to mean ‘something very small and insignificant’. According to Psychology Today, whether or not you are actually interested in someone depends on a number of factors:

    • How well do you know this person?
    • Does the individual seem ill or have a history of being ill?
    • Are you aware that something has been troubling this person?

    As an example, every day I grab a cup of coffee at a local shop. Over the past year, I noticed the normally chatty checkout woman seemed unhappy. Her typical contagious smile was replaced with a silent frown. I didn’t know her well enough to ask if something was wrong.

    Fast forward about a year, her personality changed back again. She also looked different; lighter, happier and was sporting a new hair style. So, I said “you look great, I love your hair. How have you been?” I was truly interested.

    That’s when she told me she had been ill but was doing much better now. The hair wasn’t hers, but she was glad I liked it.

    Many people are private. Some don’t want to burden you with their problems. Others don’t follow up with questions to indicate that they are truly interested in what you’re saying.

    I wondered how this translates to our work lives and two very different situations came to mind.

    Situation One: We were providing leadership communications coaching at an automotive company where the sales director felt disrespected. He said he was tired of playing therapist and didn’t want employees coming to him with their personal problems. Sales were down and he blamed his subordinates. During role-playing which was videotaped, he was gruff, failed to make eye contact and was often multi-tasking instead of listening. When he spoke, he barked orders and rarely asked questions. He didn’t appear to value the opinions of others and told me, he was the boss so they should do what he says and not question his authority. Wow.

    What was apparent to me, but not to him, is that his employees didn’t like him. More importantly, they didn’t trust him. Trust and communication are centerpieces of all relationships whether professional or personal. If employees don’t trust leadership, it affects productivity and morale. When communication is one-sided, employees are less engaged which typically leads to poor performance and job dissatisfaction.

    Situation Two: I work with a global CEO I greatly admire. He’s a people person. He says all business is personal and the more interest he takes in his employees, the more committed and productive they are. Even though he can’t personally interact with 600 employees, he tries to meet with as many as possible. He said their opinions drive innovation and change. He makes it a point to have lunch in the employee cafeterias when visiting different job sites and invites employees to join him. His company boasts very low employee turnover.

    Back to the sales director. After the role-playing, I played back the tape. At first, he was defensive. Defensiveness turned into embarrassment. He said he knew he cut people off, but never realized how negative he looked and sounded. He asked how he could improve. These are the tips I shared with him.

    Tip #1: Be empathetic. It’s important to recognize that employees have personal lives and personal problems can spill over to the workplace. If it’s serious like a health condition, divorce or death of a loved one, cut them some slack and choose your words carefully. Ask them if they help, a temporary schedule adjustment or time off.

    Tip #2: Listen to understand. If someone disagrees with you, instead of shutting them down, ask questions to better understand their perspective. Perhaps they were passed over for a promotion or they’re upset over the way a project is being managed. You don’t have to change your decision but listening signals respect. You may also gain insight that could be helpful moving forward.

    Tip #3: Be present. While your responsibilities may prevent you from being present in person, the more visible you are, the more connected people will feel to you. Technology such as video conferencing has made interacting remotely easier than ever. Look for ways to engage your employees face-to-face.

    So, the next time you’re about ask someone “how are you”, think about what those words really mean. If you genuinely care, then be fully present and listen to their response. If it’s simply a nicety or expression, perhaps a simple hello will do.

  • feedwordpress 14:30:00 on 2019/11/15 Permalink
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    7 Ways Executives Can Improve Communicating with Their Assistants 

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    I have been fortunate to gain a three-dimensional view of communication between executives and assistants:

    I was an assistant for 20 years thus understanding what I needed from my executive so I could be effective. I worked with a variety of managers and executives, each with different personalities and communication styles.

    Since 1990, I have been the CEO of my own company and have worked with several of my own assistants. I have noticed the impact my communication (or lack of) has on my assistant’s ability to do a great job.

    Since 1990, I have been teaching executives and assistants how to improve their communications with each other. While technology is a wonderful tool to use, it creates much confusion and depending on the sender, many details can be left out.

    As an executive, if you want better results from your assistant, you need to be a better communicator. Here are 7 tips I highly advise.

      1. Be precise with the details of a project. When you provide more information about a project to your assistant, your assistant can put the pieces of the puzzle together. Your assistant will be more proactive and able to schedule the timing for the project. Plus, your assistant will be less inclined to waste time going down the wrong path.
      2. Assistants often tell me they want more direction from their executives. Yes, a rock star assistant should not need much direction but in reality, they do need direction.
      3. Clarify your expectations when it comes to tasks. What do you expect your assistant to do? Do you expect your assistant to write that thank you card? Or schedule personal appoints? Do you expect your assistant to be the lead assistant for the department? What about doing research on topics for an upcoming meeting? Many executives think assistants are mind readers. You and your assistant should have sporadic conversations throughout the year to discuss who handles what.
      4. Communicate the future. As an executive, I often have ideas in my head as to what I want to do or what is coming up in the next 3 to 6 months. Instead of waiting until we are on the heels of that particular thing, I have quarterly meetings with my assistant. In the quarterly meetings, I share what I see on the horizon over the next 3 months. We discuss these items in detail and identify the who, what, when, and where. I determine if we have the bandwidth to even do what I want to do. This list then becomes our monthly and weekly Action Item list. In our quarterly meeting, we also set priorities.
      5. Open communication is a must if you want to build a strategic partnership with your assistant. Your assistant should feel comfortable in being able to express his or her ideas and thoughts. You should be comfortable discussing areas your assistant needs to improve or if you were not satisfied with something your assistant did. You know you have a strategic partnership when you are “comfortable with the uncomfortable” conversations.
      6. Keep your assistant in the loop. I’ve always said, “The more in the loop an assistant is, the better job the assistant can do.” Your assistant needs to know what is going on. This is very difficult today as more and more executives handle their own emails, schedule their own appointments, and make their own plans. Be sure to copy your assistant on emails. Talk to your assistant about the outcomes of a meeting. Make assistant aware of special projects you will be involved in.
      7. Be interested in your assistant as a person. Do you know about their family? Hobbies? Their favorite color or food? Is your assistant dealing with a family crisis that may affect your assistant’s ability to be focused at work? There are ways to learn about your assistant as a person, without getting personal.

    There is no greater relationship in the workplace than that of an executive and an assistant. They can be a powerhouse team that impacts the business. Like any good relationship, it takes time, effort, and a desire to create that dynamic. Communicating more effectively will ensure that happens.

    Joan Burge

    Founder and CEO

    Office Dynamics International

    executives and assistants working in partnership

    The post 7 Ways Executives Can Improve Communicating with Their Assistants appeared first on Office Dynamics - Executive And Administrative Assistant Training.

  • feedwordpress 18:00:52 on 2019/11/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , Telephone   

    Telephone Screening and Etiquette Skills for Administrative Assistants 

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    Top-notch telephone screening and etiquette skills are paramount regardless of industry, company size, or geographic location. Their importance hasn’t diminished in our modern world of text messages, e-mails, and online chats. What exactly am I talking about? Necessary telephone skills for assistants include how to answer the phone, take accurate messages, carefully screen calls, protect corporate and personal information, seamlessly transfer callers, use a polite and proper tone of voice, and know-how to tactfully handle difficult callers.


    Every time you answer the phone, you are accepting responsibility for the relevant interests of others. You are entrusted by them to use good judgment when responding to the caller’s requests for information. As a telephone gatekeeper, you are a keeper of information. It is a role of extremely high importance and one that absolutely cannot be taken lightly. As you grow and your role evolves over time, the telephone skills you develop will become increasingly vital. A gatekeeper has an incredibly high level of responsibility to ensure that they:


    1. Gather accurate information from the caller
    2. Clearly understand the nature of the call
    3. Recognize when a call is truly urgent
    4. Build a rapport and goodwill with the caller
    5. Use good judgment in determining what and how much information should be divulged to the caller
    6. Use tact and professionalism in all dealings


    At Office Dynamics, we believe this is one area where you should never stop improving. Your telephone skills have the power to either create and build or diminish and destroy valuable relationships. They can show you represent your leader with intelligence, professionalism, and courtesy. You must protect the personal privacy, security, and safety of others. There is a fine line between building rapport with the caller and guarding employee and company information.


    Every stellar assistant must learn to be an excellent gatekeeper for their executive and company. Accurate and efficient screening will benefit your managers, co-workers, and their families. Joan’s revolutionary new eBook, The Gatekeeper’s Guide: How to Effectively Screen Calls, will get you where you need to be. Click here to get your copy!

    The post Telephone Screening and Etiquette Skills for Administrative Assistants appeared first on Office Dynamics - Executive And Administrative Assistant Training.

  • feedwordpress 16:39:13 on 2019/11/07 Permalink

    Does Word Order Matter? Think “Short to Long” 

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    grammar_tipsWhen polishing your sentences, pay attention to the nuances of word order. To my eye (and ear), placing “short” before “long” works best. This applies to both sentences and lists.

    Here’s a simple example: “He was well respected and loved in the academic community.” I changed it to: “He was loved and well respected in the academic community.”

    Because “loved” is 5 letters and “well respected” is 13, it makes for a smoother read if the longer phrase follows the shorter word. See if you agree.

    Another example: “Good leaders don’t waste time, effort, financial resources, or opportunities.” This becomes: “Good leaders don’t waste time, effort, opportunities, or financial resources.” The shift creates a tidy parade of words from short to long. Easier to follow!

    Pay Attention to Lists, Too

    In addition, a list is visually easier to follow when the line length goes from short to long. This example comes from a leadership newsletter:

    It would be counterproductive if you:

    • Take the time to plan your day, but you don’t follow the plan.
    • Hire people to do a job but don’t take the time training them to do that job.
    • Have slow-moving products in your inventory that generate low margins.
    • Conduct an employee engagement survey and do nothing with the results.
    • Attend a trade show to network with customers but spend your time on the phone.

    Key message: Better writing means paying attention to the best use of word order!

    For even more tips, go to http://barbaramcnichol.com/2016/03/06/5-writing-tips-to-improve-your-readability/

    Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping administrative professionals add power to their pen. To assist in this mission, she has created a Word Trippers Tips resource to quickly find the right word when it matters most. It allows you to improve your writing through excellent resources in your inbox, including a webinar, crossword puzzles, and a Word Tripper of the Week for 52 weeks. Enjoy a $30 discount at checkout with the code ODI at www.wordtrippers.com/odi.

    You can also pick up a copy of my Word Trippers eBook or my 18 Days to Become a Better Writer eBook

    The post Does Word Order Matter? Think “Short to Long” appeared first on Office Dynamics - Executive And Administrative Assistant Training.

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