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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 10 Tasks That Aren’t Automated but Should Be

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 10 Tasks That Aren’t Automated but Should Be
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Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What task isn’t automated (yet!) that you wish would be in your business?

1. Industry Research

Andrew Schrage

    A significant portion of my day involves researching what is going on in my industry, as well as what the competition is writing about. I wish there was a way to automate this process. I know of a few apps that help with this, but I’ve yet to incorporate them into my workday.

    Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

    2. Meetings

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    Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer

      I want a universally accepted ability to automatically schedule meetings and then send confirmation reminders the day before. Ideally, this smart piece of software would intelligently categorize your existing meetings so that you can look at the data to see what you are focusing on versus what you should be focusing on. In fact, if you do this, I’ll happily introduce you to VCs!

      Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, AirPR

      3. Partnerships

      Liam Martin

        Right now we run partnerships in a completely manual way, and it takes up quite a lot of our time to investigate them, explore possible avenues and run pilots with possibly companies. I would love to automate this process, but since it’s so dependent upon people, I don’t see how we could figure this out while still respecting the fantastic companies that contact us to work together.

        Liam Martin, Staff.com

        4. Searchable Libraries of Content

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        Alexandra Levit 2

          I’d love to have all of the content I’ve ever published housed in one place with easy search capabilities. I’ve probably written over a million words in the last several years, and to be able to automatically pull ideas for use in current projects would be invaluable.

          Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work

          5. Hiring

          Brett Farmiloe

            Hiring good people takes a significant amount of time. I’m not sure if you could ever automate the process of finding the perfect person for a role, but I’d love it if the right candidate magically appeared in an automated fashion.

            Brett Farmiloe, Digital Marketing Agency

            6. Inventory Management

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            Aaron Schwartz

              We have a ton of inventory — at least 100 units across 150 unique styles! On a monthly basis, we need to count this inventory, which is a major pain. A bigger issue, however, is that the lack of insight into our inventory means that we sometimes miscalculate when we need to reorder products, which creates rush fees from our factory.

              Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

              7. Reports and Proposals

              Phil-Laboon

                One of the most tedious tasks for our business is creating unique, enticing proposals with valuable insights. It would be extremely advantageous to have an all-inclusive reporting solution — an all-in-one tool that provides all the insights we need instead of having to use multiple tracking tools, chart generators, image editors, document layout tools, etc. to generate reports.

                Phil Laboon, Eyeflow Internet Marketing

                8. Client Background Research

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                Patrick Conley

                  We like to have a solid background report of clients so that we can speak intelligently on discovery calls. The Internet delivers tons of data, but sifting through and finding the pieces that are relevant and accurate can be a tedious process. It would be great to have a more automated solution, but there’s some serious automated intelligence that needs to be developed first!

                  Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

                  9. Follow-up Reminders

                  doreen-bloch

                    I wish there would be a reliable tool for automated reminders to follow up with clients and partners. Right now, I use Boomerang and other email plugins to set reminders, but it’s not fully automated, so it takes time to set up. An automated system would free up time for setting up reminders and enable us to focus on just doing the follow-ups that drive business value.

                    Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

                    10. Task Management

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                    Manpreet Singh

                      If my team and I weren’t so busy recording what we’ve accomplished, we’d definitely accomplish more. Basecamp currently gives summaries of on-platform updates, which is nice. But it’s not organized. So, team members manually go to one of several Excel sheets and update it with details of their tasks. That could be automated with a “record” button syncing computer or mobile activities to Excel.

                      Manpreet Singh, Seva Call

                      More by this author

                      9 No-Brainer Ways to Track Employee Time Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Things Entrepreneurs Should Stop Doing Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Best Note Taking Tools Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Tasks You Should be Outsourcing

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                      Published on July 27, 2021

                      15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

                      15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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                      During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

                      But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

                      Put the Pro in Professional

                      After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

                      1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

                      The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

                      Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

                      2. Dress the Part

                      While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

                      Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

                      For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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                      Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

                      3. Stage Your Workspace

                      Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

                      Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

                      4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

                      Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

                      Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

                      Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

                      Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

                      5. Arrive on Time

                      In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

                      Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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                      6. Turn on Your Video

                      Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

                      If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

                      Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

                      7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

                      Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

                      Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

                      Attend to the Pesky Details

                      8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

                      With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

                      Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

                      9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

                      Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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                      Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

                      10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

                      As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

                      Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

                      Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

                      Talking Has a Time and a Place

                      11. Chat Appropriately

                      Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

                      At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

                      12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

                      The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

                      Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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                      13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

                      In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

                      Manage Yourself

                      14. Minimize Distractions

                      While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

                      Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

                      15. Save Snacking for Later

                      Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

                      However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

                      Final Thoughts

                      Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

                      Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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