Infographic: Be a Productive Powerhouse

Lets face it. is all about effective and efficient collaboration. We pride ourselves on helping you to work better, so when we came across this info-graphic, naturally we had to share it.

Sure we’ve all had the occasional food-induced coma that comes after a giant burger at lunch, but we had no idea that what we eat has such a profound effect on how we focus and on our productivity. So put down that pizza and pick up some blueberries and barramundi so you can hunker down and focus on this great afternoon.


Let’s discuss: Ice breakers for virtual meetings

Hey, we’ve all been there.  Whether it’s the start of a new job or the beginning of a new project, there comes a time for the icebreaker. You know, the “go around the room and tell everyone…” It could be your favorite book, the best place you’ve ever traveled to or, my personal favorite, “something unique about yourself.” (That one always drives me crazy – I never know what to say).

Now that more and more people are working remotely, sometimes these icebreakers need to happen in our virtual meetings, too. Because we use free screen sharing to collaborate with the people we work with, we use icebreakers, too. So, let’s discuss: If you are starting a new project with a group of people you don’t know very well, what are your favorite virtual icebreakers to use? Which ones do you find work the best? Which ones don’t work?

Let us know in the comments.


“ is the light in the darkness”: a true story from

Everyone has their own story. And in the name of collaboration, we’d like to share these stories with you. Check out Tom’s story:

“I work for a small but growing service-oriented business with seven sales representatives around the country. Our company also has several other employees who work remotely from time to time. Part of my duties include supporting them all with help-desk type issues. And most whom I support have only novice computing abilities which several years ago made helping them very difficult. What used to be done over the phone between two people speaking different “languages,” skilled and un-skilled, caused much frustration for all involved. Now with, those same type sessions are turning into teaching opportunities instead of headaches. is the light in the darkness. I am now able to guide the users and let them learn in the process which in the long run will lessen the help needed.

Another cute story: I shared with my 73 year-old mother who is highly skilled herself. She has been helping her 97 year-old mother, Grandma to me, learn how to use a computer. Grandma loves to read and play cards, and now she is learning how to send emails to her nieces, nephews, grand and great-grand children. As you can imagine, there are times when the computer is a bit mysterious to Grandma, but now Mom has installed the icon on Granny’s desktop so that Mom is only a click and a phone call away. Very cool! is truly one of the simplest, most useful applications that I use on nearly a daily basis. Thank you!”

– Tom Mappin

Want to share your own story? Email me at


Make Your Presentation a Gift – a #smallbiz post by @ZaneSafrit

Good presentations are about giving. They are a gift. They are a personal gift from the speaker…to the audience.

Like all meaningful gifts, they are rare and precious. We share them and rave about them long after the meeting hall or conference call has ended.

Here are seven ways to make your presentation a gift to your audience.

Practice, Practice, Practice

One of the many ironies of social media’s rise is that as we are allowed more spontaneity in real-time connections, as we share in its power…then the power of preparation goes ignored. And by default its power rises as well.

The best presentations, the ones where the speaker seems casual and conversational and passionately engaging, are the presentations that have been practiced over and over and over again.

Give them Today

Give them a solution for today. No one expects a speaker to solve all of our problems right now. But leave them with a solution, a step to take, a tactic to use, a decision they can make that can solve one challenge …today.

Give Them Fun

We’re in short supply here for laughs, smiles, fun. Fun is the start of creativity and ideas. Fun starts engagement and participation. Fun is the gateway to memorable. And if you practice, practice, practice in order to give them a solution for today and in the process give them that added personal touch, you can have fun, give fun and be professional, too.

Give Them a Story

We all love stories. We are hard-wired to embrace stories. Stories connect a message with its teller and audience, our hearts and minds and journeys. Give them a story.

Give Them More PowerPoint Slides


No. No one needs more powerpoint slides with more points in more 10-pt type. Nor do we need speakers who read those points and in effect give the presentation to the screen.


Give Them Time to Engage

Leave time at the end for questions and answers. Their questions and answers.  Your audience should have questions if you have inspired and pushed and opened their vistas to more possibilities. They should be excited and agitated to connect their insights from your presentation with their needs.

Give Them You

You are the special sauce, the one-of-a-kind creation that connects with them and their special sauce…their one-of-a-kind creation. Mix it up with your preparation and solution – it’s a very tasty gumbo. Rare and one of a kind. Something they will savor and rave about later.

Package all these up. Give your audience the gift of an unique experience, an experience worthy of their time, with a gift of knowledge to take home and unwrap to bring a solution for their challenge. And you’ll be invited back again and again.

To learn more about Zane Safrit and what he’s up to, check out his website.


Conference Call or Meeting? by @MeetingBoy

While I complain a lot about meetings and conference calls, there is no escaping them. They are the death and taxes of corporate life. Sometimes people need to get together to decide or discuss things, and so in the interest of being constructive, I’ve made a list of when to call a meeting versus a conference call, because sometimes the wrong venue is the problem, not the agenda.

So if you’re someone who needs to get his team together, how do you decide whether to have your employees sleep at the conference table or their desks?

Rule #1: A pointless meeting handled via conference call is still a waste of time. It’s just a waste of less time. During the corporate vs. independent debates, consultants said they hated going in for pointless meetings because they didn’t like unbillable travel time. A meeting people have to go to that wastes their time will waste less time on a call, but let’s just stop wasting each other’s time.

In fact, maybe this should be the new Golden Rule of Office Life: Respect others’ time as you would have them respect yours, regardless of their rank in the organization.

So the following shouldn’t happen whether in person or on the phone:

  • Status meeting or any other meeting where people only care when they are the one talking. A status meeting is really a series of two-person meetings where one person reports their item to the manager. No one listens to another person’s status. No one cares. So in a 12-person department meeting, 10 people are having their time wasted at all times! That’s 84%.

Can we stop doing status meetings and just start doing these via email. Or text. Or never. Yes, let’s try never.

  • A meeting without an agenda. If the meeting has no purpose, nothing will be accomplished. Fact.
  • A meeting where all you’re doing is reading something word-for-word.

Read my lips: I C-A-N R-E-A-D. So tell me something not already in this slide or shut up.

Rule #2: Never use the phone for a group discussion when everyone can meet in person in less than 5 minutes. The whole point of working in an office is proximity, so take advantage of it. Once you go to the phone, people feel less self-conscious about checking Twitter or playing Angry Birds, just as they do when the lights go down in a meeting.

Rule #3: Any time more than two people will do most of the talking, you need to meet in person. Because once a lot of people need to talk, the phone becomes very confusing as to who is talking and who’s turn it is. I covered this point in a previous post.

An exception when the phone would work is when multiple people in one room need to ask one remote person questions, because then the local people can keep from cutting each other off. This comes up plenty when a key decision maker is traveling and the show must go on.

Rule #4: Any time you are disseminating information to a dispersed group, use the phone. Earnings, briefings, instructions, overviews, kickoffs– these things are all perfect for conference calls because one person will do all the talking.

Never make me travel to a lecture. I can ignore you fine from over here.

Rule #5: Any uncomfortable conversation, brainstorm, or debate needs to happen in person. If you’re pulling the team together to figure out what went wrong, you’re going to need people to look each other in the eye and take responsibility. On the phone, people feel no compunction about blaming others and dodging their own share of the disaster, but that’s harder to do in person. Of course that’s not to say that there aren’t some sociopaths in the workplace who can look you in the eye and lie about anything; it’s just that there is no solution for sociopaths.

Of course my boss doesn’t consider himself a liar. When he looks you in the eye and tells you something that’s not true, he’s being honest about believing that rules don’t apply to him and that he’s better than you.

When you’re trying to incubate an idea or build a consensus, people are going to all chime in, and only in person can this work because on the phone they will all talk over each other, and no one knows what’s going on. In the end they will agree to anything because they will be frustrated at not being heard and just want to move on.

Why does the project suck, boss? Well, it was confusing when everyone kept interrupting each other, so I caught up on Words With Friends and then just agreed to everything.

Rule #6: If there’s a language barrier, it will be worse on the phone. So meet in person. If you struggle to make yourself understood over the phone, the person on the other end is also frustrated. If this happens in person, people are often more sympathetic and more patient. Also there will be non-verbal or even written things that can be done to make it go better.

And if you can’t meet in person, then get someone who can talk for you to join you on the phone so they can help.

We struggled for a half hour on that call because of a language barrier, but we met in person and got it solved. But there’s no solution for a stupidity barrier.

So there you go. Six rules and one golden rule. As soon as someone chisels these onto stone tablets for me, maybe we can change the office world for the better.
Any to add? Let me know in the comments.

Offer Free Resources the Right Way – a #smallbiz post by @BeckyMcCray

Every small business owner runs into people asking for free help. They play twenty questions, trying to figure out how to do it themselves without hiring you. Handling them the right way can mean more paying customers. Handling them the wrong way will drive you crazy and hurt your bottom line.

You need ways to offer them something helpful, without cutting into your paid work time. Invest a little in educating them, because some will ultimately choose to hire you, or they may refer others to you in the future.

So how can you educate in a way that respects your time? Here are three ideas you can use.

Look through your blog archives. Create a single post with links and resources that can act as your educational tool. Then you can send people to it with a short, standard email, or you could even print it on business cards to hand out in person.

Publish yourself on paper. If you have an in-person business, paper makes more sense than electronic. Put together a simple handout or a booklet of information that you can give away. This could be the same information you’d put in the resource blog post.

Set up a regular workshop or seminar, maybe created with a local career and technical center. When the next person asks for free help, hand them the flyer for the upcoming workshop.

For example, I get lots of requests from local people wanting to start nonprofits. (Many times they are hoping I can get them some of that magical “grant money” they’ve heard about.) I created a list of links to non-profit startup resources that I can share with them. I keep it in Evernote, so I can paste it in emails or refer to it during phone calls. It gives these new non-profits some help, and it lets me get on with the business at hand.

Key point: Keep the focus on education, not selling. Let your great information do the talking in this case.

The bonus to this technique is that you don’t have to turn non-paying clients away empty handed. You can give them some assistance, without giving away your sanity at the same time.

Becky McCray is a small business owner from rural Oklahoma. She recently developed a toolkit with more instruction on how to draw the line between free and paid, with six steps to draw the line, worksheets to complete and a short audio demonstration.  She runs a liquor store and cattle ranch, and she does consulting with small town governments on special projects. She and Sheila Scarborough co-founded Tourism Currents to help tourism professionals learn to market more effectively online. She also publishes the popular blog, Small Biz Survival, about small town business.


Brainstorm with @MeetingBoy – Why Conference Calls Suck

Our good friend @MeetingBoy is back, and he’s talking conference calls – probably a favorite subject of working people everywhere (hint: that was filled with sarcasm.) Check out his latest event below. We’ll see you there.

Now is the portion of the day known as the conference call. I call it talk radio time. You listen to idiots out in the boonies spouting off. —@BlondHousewife

Conference calls suck. I’m working on a new post about the things people do on them. I want to go beyond my original post Stop Wasting My Time – Conference Call Edition, and get a list of what you see people doing that is counterproductive and needs to stop. I’ll give away a few calendars to people with helpful suggestions. Please leave a comment here, or join me at on Monday, 1/17, at 3PM EST.


Jingle: 12 Days of Meetings

In case you missed the online brainstorm with MeetingBoy, he posted the lyrics to his new song “12 days of Meetings.” Be one of the first to sing this song on YouTube and MeetingBoy will gladly send you one of this 2011 calendars (they are hilarious, by the way.)

Here’s his original post:

On the first day of meetings, my office gave to me: a status call in Conference room B!

On the twelfth day of meetings, my office gave to me

12 salesman lying
11 angry clients
10 stupid buzzwords
9 bad ideas
8 urgent emails
7 copiers jamming
6 bosses yelling
5 conference calls
4 budget cuts
3 Reply Alls
2 PowerPoints
And a status call in Conference room B
contributors: @mr_anthropist@discoverpiano, and @leo_g_ash

And between now and Christmas Eve, I will give away up to 5 @MeetingBoy calendars to anyone who records themselves singing it and posts to YouTube. If I get more than 5 people singing, I’ll pick my favorites. So start caroling!

– MeetingBoy


12 Days of Meetings – a brainstorm with @MeetingBoy

It’s that time of year again. You know, that certain atmosphere your office gets around the holidays. Maybe it’s all the chocolates floating around your office from various vendors, or the vacation days people are trying to use up before they lose them… anyway, you get the idea.

We wanted to celebrate this special time in the office with @MeetingBoy by creating a special song to the tune of “12 Days of Christmas” – but office-style. Here’s what he’s got so far, but he needs your help at 2 pm EST on Friday at to come up with a great tune. Bonus: He’ll post the final lyrics on Saturday, and do a giveaway for up to 5 people who post themselves singing the lyrics on YouTube before Christmas. What’s he giving away? You’ll have to ask him on Thursday.

On the twelfth day of meetings, my office gave to me:

12 salesman lying

11 workers blaming

10 bosses yelling…

He wants your help to finish it, so start brainstorming and join him at 2 pm EST on Friday at


Five Meetings To Avoid – @MeetingBoy

Oh, @MeetingBoy. What an expert. After his session, we were discussing one of the questions that came up: Have you ever been to a good meetings? What’s that like? It got us talking about the topic of meetings that should be banned from the office (and that’s a nice way of putting it. I am a lady, after all). Here’s his top five meetings to avoid – if you can help it.

Five Meetings To Avoid

By @MeetingBoy

Many meetings are ruined by people – the attendees, the meeting holder – but some meetings are just doomed no matter what.

1. Weekly Status Meeting. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Status meetings should go the way of the dodo. No one can make a status meeting interesting, because the whole premise is flawed. Instead of holding status meetings, the project manager (or some poor stooge who reports to them that they delegate all their boring tasks to) should go from person to person to get their updates. Or the project manager could make each member of the team stop by their office for five minutes to catch them up. Either way, the total amount of time wasted would be greatly reduced. Do the math:

12 member team in status, each has 5 minutes of updates:

Status meeting = 12 people for 1 hour + 1 hour for project manager = 13 hours

Individual updates to project manager = 5 minutes for 12 people + 1 hour for project manager = 2 hours

Either way the project manager only spends one hour, but everyone else on the team saves 55 minutes. Why doesn’t this happen? Why?!!!!

#joinmetip: You can use to collaborate quickly with other team members or project managers – without wasting anyone’s time. Time is money, people.

2. False brainstorms. These are brainstorms for projects with tiny budgets and narrow room to operate. Lately, I have these all the time. What they really want is what we did last quarter…but in green. A different shade of green. You don’t need a room full of creative people coming up with ideas when you don’t really want ideas! It’s not really a brainstorm at all.

3. Meetings to plan other meetings. Because it’s a planning meeting, people feel they don’t need an agenda, so it becomes hour after hour of flailing.

The true agenda of a meeting to plan another meeting:

  • Remind everyone what a big shot they are and that their meeting is super-important. Not like all those other meetings.
  • Keep people from working on other projects, making them more dependent on this one.

Meetings to plan other meetings aren’t to make the meeting more efficient, but to prepare people for the boredom in the later meeting. It’s supposed to be a boredom vaccine.”

#joinmetip: As we like to say, get your people together without getting your people together. What does that mean? It means instantly collaborating with exactly who you need to meet with – without ever moving from your seat. Or having a “meeting” to plan other meetings.

4. All-company meetings, especially annual recap ones. The ratio of actual information dissemination to VIP preening and bragging is criminally low. In fact often the whole thing could have been accomplished with a 2-sentence email:

Raises–only 2%, bonuses canceled. Company financial health poor.

5. All other meetings*.

*except raises, bonuses

And of course this list isn’t comprehensive. I could go all day:

  • Any meeting where it’s unacceptable to say “that’s what she said”.
  • Any meeting where Ralph Wiggum would be in the 50th percentile.
  • After a popular celebrity dies. No work will be done or discussed.
  • When the boss is in a bad mood.

Although these didn’t make the top 5, can you make a case for any one of these meetings? Do you have any of your own to add?