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Op/Ed

“Next year” is now: Why your conference still needs to be virtual

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) “This time next year” is now next week. What does this mean for conference organizers and attendees, and what preparations can we do?

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Remember last year when we started looking at this whole… Pandemic thing as very temporary for some reason? All the jokes about mutant sourdough starters taking over the planet, and toilet paper forts before the very real toll set in and settled in?

Toilet paper earrings being sold on Etsy.com

(These are still cool, I don’t care what anyone else says.)

It’s not 100% our fault for being optimistic. Humans straight up aren’t wired to be on high alert for extended periods of time, and burning all our clothes after every outing is cost prohibitive anyway. So the hosts, organizers, and venue overlords amongst us figured: “Run extra cleaning crews, close an hour early, watch out for the few elderly we care to acknowledge, apply for that sweet sweet assistance grant money, and we’ll be all set in… 6 weeks maybe”. It had all the simplicity of a Simon Pegg zombie survival plan, if less of the fun.

And then time marched on, and we weren’t set in the least.

Now everyone who placed their multi-attendee, in-person event bets on ‘This time next year’, is about to see why the house always wins. But the National Association of Realtors gambled correctly… Or rather, they checked their history and hedged their bets.

“One of NAR’s core values is to put members first, and with that the health and safety of America’s 1.4 million Realtors® remains our top priority,” says NAR president Charles Oppler. Lovely sentiment.

But this is what pricked up my ‘heartless pragmatist’ ears:

“NAR leadership and staff had hoped we could gather in person for our 2021 Legislative Meetings, but after the success and record registration we witnessed last May, we are confident that more Realtors® will be better served by holding this year’s conference virtually.” Emphasis mine, as usual.

The takeaway here is that heavy investment in the digital infrastructure and spreadsheet-savvy personnel so instrumental to online conference migration wasn’t just a dumpster fire 2020 contingency plan— this is officially the soundest strategy for the next year. At least.

For everyone with planned showings, conferences, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ shenanigans, and so forth that you thought would be happening in Q3 and 4 of this year… You’ll want to follow NAR’s lead.

You’re going to want:

  • Lesson plans for speakers or speaker assistants in the delicate art of digital presentation (ie, do you know how to mute your audience for the presentation and UNmute them for Q&A yet).
  • The premium plans of whatever group communication software it is you’re putting off. It’s time.
  • A letter written to your legal representatives emphasizing the importance of aid for the venue-staff that won’t be getting you and your attendees’ conference business for another year in a row.

Remember folks, as much as we want to innovate (re: tantrum) our way out of following winning examples from larger entities… Sometimes it needs to be a game of following the thought leaders.

Stay safe, stay sane, stay speakers muted.

You can't spell "Together" without TGOT: That Goth Over There. Staff Writer, April Bingham, is that goth; and she's all about building bridges— both metaphorically between artistry and entrepreneurship, and literally with tools she probably shouldn't be allowed to learn how to use.

Op/Ed

How to go about delegation to *actually* bring about peak productivity

(OPINION) Delegation is well, a delicate subject, and can end up creating more work for yourself if it isn’t done well. Here’s how to fix that.

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Man talking on virtual meeting, using delegation to get more work done.

Delegating work is a logical step in the process of attaining peak efficiency. It’s also a step that, when executed incorrectly, leads to a huge headache and a lot of extra work for whomever is delegating tasks—not to mention frustration on the part of those asked to complete said tasks. Here is how you can assign work with the confidence that it will be done quickly and effectively.

Firstly, realizing that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work can be a bit of a blow. It’s certainly easier to assign tasks across the board and wait for them to be completed; however, when you consider how much clean-up work you have to do when those tasks don’t end the way you expect them to, it’s actually simpler to assign tasks according to employees’ strengths and weaknesses, providing appropriate supports along the way.

In education, this process is called “differentiation”, and it’s the same idea: If you assign 30 students the exact same work, you’ll see pretty close to 30 different answers. Assigning that same piece with the accommodations each student needs to succeed—or giving them different parameters according to their strengths—means more consistency overall. You can apply that same concept to your delegation.

Another weak point in many people’s management models revolves around how employees see their superiors. In part, this isn’t your fault; American authority paradigms mandate that employees fear their bosses, bend over backward to impress them, and refrain from communicating concerns. However, it is ultimately your job to make sure that your employees feel both supported and capable.

To wit, assign your employees open-ended questions and thought-provoking problems early on to allow them to foster critical thinking skills. The more you solve their problems for them, the more they will begin to rely on you in a crisis—and the more work you’ll take home despite all of your delegation efforts. Molding employees into problem-solvers can certainly take time, but it’s worth the wait.

Finally, your employees may lack strength in the areas of quality and initiative. That sounds a lot worse than it actually is—basically, employees may not know what you expect, and in the absence of certainty, they will flounder. You can solve this by providing employees with the aforementioned supports; in this case, those look like a list of things to avoid, a bulleted list of priorities for a given project, or even a demo of how to complete their work.

Again, this sounds like a lot of effort upfront for your delegation, but you’ll find your patience rewarded come deadline time.

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Op/Ed

5 ways consumer behavior has changed due to the pandemic

(EDITORIAL) The pandemic has changed the way a lot of people look at and act in the new world. These are the biggest 5 changes you should be aware of.

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5 cards showing what people think is most important due to the pandemic.

COVID is still affecting businesses in multiple ways, all dependent on the industry. One thing that affects every business, regardless of industry, is customer behavior. It’s no surprise that customers are changing their behavior to meet the challenges of the pandemic. Near the start of the pandemic, Google released a playbook of information regarding behavior that may help your business. Use this information to help you shift your marketing efforts going forward.

  1. Consumers are using multiple devices more than ever before.
    With kids home trying to do school, parents who are working from, and people who are still searching for their next job opportunity, content is being consumed at record rates. According to Google, Americans are watching 12 hours of media content each day.
  2. Increases in search for critical information.
    Online grocery shopping and cooking videos are top searches these days while more Americans are staying home. Telemedicine is another hot search topic. People are looking for ways to stay to themselves and be protected.
  3. Consumers want to stay connected online.
    Google announced that in April 2020, Google Meet hosted over 3 billion minutes of video meetings. YouTube has seen an increase in “with me” videos. People are filming themselves going about their day to connect with their friends and family. Virtual events have changed how people meet up.
  4. Routines are changing to be “internet-first.”
    Telecommuting is a top search these days as consumers try to find ways to work from home. People are looking for exercise options that can be managed at home. Consumers are using the internet to find options that keep them socially-distanced but connected to their routine.
  5. Self-care is taking a higher priority.
    Meditation videos are being consumed at a higher percentage than before. People are looking for books, games, and puzzles to stay occupied at home.

Consider your business against consumer behavior: COVID restrictions may be easing, but consumer behavior will forever be changed. Your business can use this information to change your marketing to meet consumers at their point of need.

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Op/Ed

Redoing your home office for the new year? Get rid of these 5 things

(EDITORIAL) Since many of us are working entirely from home now, we are probably getting annoyed at our home office, so let’s take a crack at minimalism!

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Home office set up with monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

The pandemic has changed human behaviors. As more people stay home, they’re seeing (and having to deal with) the clutter in their homes. Many people are turning to minimalism to reduce clutter and find more joy in their own space, including their home office. There are many ways to define minimalism. Some people define it as the number of items you own. Others think of it as only owning items that you actually need.

I prefer to think of minimalism as the intentionality of possessions. I have a couple of dishes that are not practical, nor do I use them very often. But they belonged to my grandma, and out of sentimentality, I keep them. Most minimalists probably wouldn’t.

They say a messy desk is a sign of creativity. Unfortunately, that same messy desk limits productivity. Harvard Business Review reports that cluttered spaces have negative effects on us. Keep your messy desk, but get rid of the clutter. Take a minimalistic approach to your home office. Here are 5 things to clean up:

  1. Old technology – When was the last time you printed something for work? Most of us don’t print much anymore. Get rid of the old printers, computer parts, and other pieces of hardware that are collecting dust.
  2. Papers and documents – Go digital, or just save the documents that absolutely matter. Of course, this may vary by industry, but take a hard look at the paper you’ve saved over the past month or so. Then ask yourself whether you will really ever look at it again.
  3. Filing cabinets – If you’re not saving paper, you don’t need filing cabinets.
  4. Trade magazines and journals – Go digital, and keep your magazines on your Kindle, or pass down the print versions to colleagues who may be interested.
  5. Anything unrelated to work – Ok, save the picture of your family and coffee mug, but clean off your desk of things that aren’t required for work. It’s easy for home and work to get mixed up when you’re working and living in one place. Keep it separate for your own peace of mind and better workflow. If space is tight and you’re sharing a dining room table with work, get a laundry basket or box. At the start of the workday, remove home items and put them in the box. Transfer work items to another box at the end of the day.

This might seem like a little more work, but all these practices will give you some boundaries.

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