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Working from Home Efficiently, As Told by Event Pros

The transition from working full-time in the office to working exclusively from home has not been without speed bumps for some. Carving out a productive place in your home free of noise and distractions is one thing, but staying organized and working efficiently is another. It can be a daunting task, especially when managing a team from afar and continuing communication with your clients.

However, technology has been a great tool to help us stay in touch and streamline our workflow throughout this uncertain process. In addition to this, it’s important to navigate the implementation of boundaries, self-care, real connections, and other strategies that will help us to perform at our best.

To help overcome some of the obstacles that may stand in the way of this, industry experts from the recent NACE webinar on “Working from Home Efficiently and with Style” offered their solutions.

Client boundaries

Oftentimes, we can get caught up in wanting to tackle every task as it’s thrown our way in order to meet the needs of our clients. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t sustainable, but it can be tough as natural people-pleasers to stand our ground.

“What I have suggested to some other business owners is to really sit down and say, ‘What are my expectations as a business owner and as a person that I need to set? I need to set my expectations and my boundaries, so what do I expect from myself?’” advised Jennifer Taylor of Jen Taylor Consulting.

“Then the next step is telling your clients, ‘Here are my expectations and here are my boundaries. Let me know yours.’ Because they’re going to be in the same boat, and I don’t want everybody up until 10 o’clock at night answering emails. So if you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to do that.

You need to take time for yourself as well. You might have a house full of people and you have no time, and all this information [from clients] is coming at you. You may be at a point where you’re taking the sheet of paper and ripping it up and throwing it out the window, because you’re so stressed. You also need to make sure you have your time to decompress. And if your clients keep going past those boundaries – then you just need to let them know, and say, ‘Either I’m not the right person for you, or you really need to take a step back.’”

Client Boundaries Sample

Effective email management

One of the top issues that comes along with balancing a business and a new work setup is trying to stay ahead of a never-ending influx of emails.

Elizabeth Sheils of Rock Paper Coin noted: “A lot of us got into the wedding or event industry because we wanted to bring our clients’ visions to life. We like playing with flowers, we like baking cakes. But we’re finding that – especially today – there’s no meetings taking place. We’re just sitting at our computers, and it’s really hard, because then your inbox and email becomes more of a triage process instead of staying on top of it. Gen Z is coming up. A lot of those weddings that are taking place and are going to be taking place, clients have this immediate communication expectation. And if you’re drowning, it’s really hard to stay on top of that.

So, the overarching rule is that you want to leave your inbox as clean as possible. By creating a folder structure within your inbox, it’s really going to allow you to free up that inbox. I personally start with larger folders, and I work well with chronological folders. So I have 2019, 2020, then from all of those larger folders – I then break them down into sub folders, based off of client names or projects.

From there, I also do have a couple of admin folders sprinkled in, like payroll and taxes – whatever it is that you’re going to name the folders, just commit to using it. Because the folder structure is only good if you actually implement it. The other thing is to just remember how you refer to your clients. If you refer to your clients based off of an event date or their last name or their first name, make sure you’re labeling the folder using that title.

Then, I work well with first in/first out. I go to the bottom of my email, and the rule of thumb is – as you’re opening up the email, if you can respond to it within 5 minutes, respond right then and there. So open it, if you can respond – great, do it – and then file that email away. If you come to an email and you cannot respond to it within 5 minutes, then you can hop over to your calendar and create a space to answer that email.”

Managing Your Email Effectively

Tips for virtual communication

We’re now having to connect with clients virtually in ways we never did before – meaning, the bulk (if not all) of consultations and meetings are done from afar. This is a tough feat for those that aren’t as technologically literate, or even those of us that are used to in-person interactions.

According to Renée Dalo, owner of Moxie Bright Events, “The number one tech tip for connecting on camera is to actually look at the camera. [When I’m] looking at the camera, it feels like I’m looking at you. I think so many of us get freaked out about doing stuff on camera, because we don’t want to look at ourselves but you’re not supposed to be looking at yourself. I know it’s not an innate skill, and it’s not something that you want to do because it feels impersonal. But it’s actually the opposite of that!

Good lighting makes a big difference. In order to connect, we need to see each other’s eyes, generally speaking. And so, if you are a victim of bad lighting, you’re going to lose that connection, and it’s subconsciously going to put you in a negative head space. Ideally you want to put your desk and your computer in front of a giant window in your house, but you may not have that kind of setup. You want the brightest light source in front of you, never behind you, and the ring light is the best thing to have.

Active listening is so important. The good news is that you can pick up on physical cues, which is better than a phone call. I use [client] names a lot in the conversation. Also, think about ways you can affirm the person you’re talking to – do a lot of nodding and thumbs up. You would never do that in a real conversation in real life, but virtually it helps to edge [the client] on like, ‘Oh yes, I like what you’re saying – keep going.’ When you’re talking about a sales call, there has to be a point where you’re referencing back something they’ve already spoken about, so that they know that you’re actively listening.”

How to Connect Authentically on Camera – Text ONCAMERA to 55-444

Top tech apps for working from home

Fortunately, tech is on our side when it comes to working from home. This is how we stay connected and organized, but how can we spring-clean and sort out the old from the new updates we need?

  “During this time, try and delete your unused apps. A lot of times we’ll add an app to our phone or to our iPad, and then all of a sudden, we don’t ever use it again. You’re just taking up unnecessary space. So, now is kind of a good time to go through and purge. I would encourage you to do it on your iPad, do it on your phone – and even on your laptop or your desktop computer. Go through and kind of get rid of the software and the items that you’re not using right now,” said Kevin Dennis, editor-in-chief of WeddingIQ.

“Organization is key. We’re using Dropbox and Google Drive, because my staff is at home, and we’re all here. For file storage, we have something internally called ‘Cloud Station’ that we use, and we keep all our own personal, secure documents on there. Anything that we’re sharing out there with the world or with clients, we put on Dropbox and or Google Drive.

I could probably talk a whole hour about how much I love Evernote. The biggest thing for me when it comes to apps is how they function from phone to iPad to laptop – and then across forms. And so, this is one that I use with all my staff. We have different notebooks, and I share different files that I scan into Evernote. One of my biggest loves of Evernote is that whether I’m on my phone, my iPad or on my laptop, it functions exactly the same.

PhotoCircle is a fun little app that we have been using for a very long time for our events. So our staff can’t leave an event once they’ve set it up, until they’ve taken multiple photos of it – and they have to upload it to PhotoCircle. A manager has to look at the wedding or the event and make sure it’s up to par. Some of our friends and vendors are actually using it right now as a way to keep in touch with furloughed employees and to try and keep morale up.”

Kevin’s Favorite 2020 Tech Apps

Utilizing these tips and tricks will not only help you to elevate your game during this period of working remotely, but you’ll be able to carry them over into your work routine once we can get back to the office. Use this time wisely to audit your systems and processes, including how you can better connect with those that are relying on you.

 

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

 

 

 

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Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

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