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Why have we stopped talking to people?

Why don’t we talk anymore?

Most of us have mobile phones so why don’t we use them to talk to people? Has mobile phone technology caused us to take a step backwards?

What’s the best way for me to contact you?

When I begin to work with someone new, I ask how they’d like to communicate and the best way to get in touch. Most say email works best and a text if something is urgent. Very few say phone me.

That is why I am baffled? Most of us have a mobile phone but don’t use them to talk?

Going back a bit, when Bell patented the telephone in 1876, the fastest way to get a message someone was by telegraph or telegram.

Imagine being around 140 years ago. Wouldn’t it have been so exciting to speak to another person when before you’d only be able to write a letter?

The first mobile phone call

When Martin Cooper (Motorola) made the first cell phone call in 1973, his only reason for doing so was to upset AT&T who were about to unveil their prototype cell phone at a press conference. Cooper later admits in a 2015 interview: “The issue at the time wasn’t about creating a revolution, although that was what happened. It was about stopping At&T.”

This historic moment completely changed the telecommunications industry as they envisaged a complete culture change in the way people talk to each other.

And change did happen. Now we now speak less.


Losing my voice

Two things happened this month which led me to think about this. First, I was struck down with laryngitis and lost my voice. I could not speak or even whisper, so writing became my only option. Second, I work with someone who likes to use WhatsApp which got me trying to work out how many mobile phone apps we use to do the same thing – text and in which case, why do we still call them mobile phones when we do not use them to make calls.

My customers all have their preferred ways to get in touch: It could be email, text, what’s app Messenger, or other collaboration apps like DropBox, SharePoint, OneDrive. I am happy with whichever way they choose, as long as it is easy for them to work with me and everything feels seamless for them.

The art of conversation

Here’s the thing. Because we now write or text everything, have we lost the art of talking and conversation. Although based on some SMS texts and posts I have seen, some would benefit from learning the art of writing, but that is probably another blog post.

Going back to laryngitis, when the doctor explained recovery would be like repairing a muscle, and it could take 6-8 weeks for my voice to return, I was quite shocked. Then I thought, if our voices are muscles, what happens if we do not use them?

How did we get to this point because I am not sure when we stopped talking on the phone and if we ever even noticed it happening? Perhaps email is to blame, or open plan offices where people may prefer to send an email to avoid of being overheard on the phone.

As someone who works alone most of the time, the opportunity to talk is a lovely part of my day.

A generation of phonophobes

Are we becoming phonophobic? How will we bring back the art of conversation? Does it matter, or am I missing the point? Has the fact we can now text, write and share images revolutionised our communication in such a way we will not need our voices?

Now you’ve got me thinking about the lost art of handwriting so watch this space.

Go ahead, make my day. Ask me to create your next presentation

Clients often tell me the thought of putting together a presentation fills them with dread. Even when they block out a chunk of time to get it done, procrastination sets in, focus goes out the window, pressure builds up, and they find themselves racing against the clock to get it ready on time.

When a client asks for help with a presentation, I jump for joy. My background in corporate communications means compiling presentations is a particular strength and I just love to get stuck into PowerPoint or Prezi; it’s always of my favourite jobs.

I know how to structure a presentation so it flows beautifully, engages the audience and supports the presenter to get a point across. I’ve got strong visualisation, grasp concepts quickly and usually, as soon a I get the brief, I can picture how I will bring it all together and how it will look.

No time to lose

Recently, a client asked for my help to interpret research findings into a customer presentation.  Pushed for time and having travelled all week, she simply didn’t have the time to get it prepared. Because we’d worked together many times , she felt confident to hand over the project and let me work my presentation magic.

“I wondered if you might have time to spend 2-3 hours working up a presentation for me today and Monday? It’s a word document of recommendations following some fact finding for a client, and I want to put it into a nice visual format for a presentation to them on Tuesday mid-afternoon…”

Who, why and when?

I may not have prior knowledge of your sector or industry but I’ll always research the topic area. What I first need to know who the presentation is for, the outcome you want and when you need it by.

Then, I ask about the format. For example, will you show the presentation on a wide-screen 16:9? How large is the screen? The size of the room, auditorium, audience and if the presentation is to be printed?

Unless there’s a preferred template, my clients tend to leave the design up to me; trusting my judgement that comes with many years’ experience creating presentations. I definitely prefer to design something unique for my clients rather than the built-in Microsoft templates.

Let’s get this presentation started

With the document printed, cup of tea poured and highlighter pen at the ready, I read everything thoroughly from start to finish to understand the concept and can draw out the relevant points.

I believe slides are there to support the presenter, not the other way around. I prefer not to clutter slides with too much meaningless text or pointless visuals. The images you use must emphasise the point being made, should not detract from the speaker and convey the appropriate sentiment.  Nothing’s worse than a cartoon when you’re talking about a serious or emotive topic.

The power of three

Do you know about the power of three?  it’s the basis of story-telling and I use it multiple times within my presentations. Often, it’s so subtle; you wouldn’t know.  One way to think about it is the beginning, middle and end, but using more sections of three within the presentation will help the content flow. Essentially it boils down to: Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you just told them.

The end result

This client’s presentation took around three hours to complete and was structured like this:

Introduction –Why they’re here, what this is about or the problem we’re about to solve
Principles – The purpose, aims, and what’s in, or out of scope.
Research – How we went about finding out and who was involved

• Findings – Broken down into 5 sections, each covering 3 main points
Recommendations – again 5 sections addressing the main points
Implementation – How will we do this project and what could get in the way.

Timing – When could it start
Budget – How much it will cost
Next – What needs to happen next

The benefit

What I was gave my client was not just a presentation to edit, polish and add her own stamp on but more importantly, some valuable time back, some head space over the weekend and a head start for her working week.

If you would like to make my day; ask me to create your presentation.

10 things you need to host the perfect webinar

What is a webinar moderator?

Someone who works behind the scenes, supporting the host and taking care of practicalities; the logistics and technical side of things.

If you’re a presenter, having your moderator alongside lets you focus and frees your mind to deliver an engaging, live presentation without worrying about technical issues.

I recently moderated a series of NLP4Kids live training webinars, delivered by NLP Coach, Lisa Birtles.

Having worked with Lisa on the content, I already knew how the presentation would flow and exactly how I could support her during the live events.  After the final webinar, we reflected on what went well and came up our top 10 tips for hosting great live webinars:

Top webinar tips

  1. Rehearse 

    Give yourself plenty of time to practice timing and make any changes.

  2. Check

    Ask someone to proofread every slide.  Check for consistency across slide titles, font sizes, colour combinations and if you have to have them, bullet points.

  3. Roles

    Agree who’s doing what.  What the moderator will handle and what the host presenter will do. For example, who will start the recording and who will run the polls?

  4. Audience

    Let your moderator know what you need from the audience. Should they be in listen only mode?  Will they be participating in a poll? How will they ask questions?

  5. Sound

    There’s nothing worse for an audience than poor quality audio.  Invest in a high quality headset and microphone – don’t rely on your laptop microphone.

  6. Prepare

    Set up and join 15 minutes before the start. Is everything is working? Are the slides visible? Is presenter’s voice clear?

  7. Noise

    It’s always worth sticking a “do not disturb” sign on your door.  Also clear your desk of clutter to avoid any paper rustling in the background and turn off mobile phones.

  8. Plan B

    Have a back-up plan in case something goes wrong. If there’s a power cut the show can still go on if your presenter has dialled in with a landline and the moderator is set up to take control of the presentation.

  9. Privacy

    If recording your webinar, let your audience know at the start.

  10. Follow up

    Leave your last slide on screen to tell your audience where to go to find more information.

“I was so grateful to have you online and in my corner last Thursday – you’ll never know how much of a difference it made to me.”

Lisa Birtles, NLP4Kids, Coaching & Therapy for Kids & Teens

A few good things to know about freelance websites

Thinking about joining a freelance or crowdsource website to boost your customer base? Have a read of this article from Rachael Chiverton.

Rachael’s expertise lies in small business contract writing and bespoke terms and conditions. In her blog, she talks about pros and cons of freelance websites and summarises some of the main things to look out for.

Choose Wisely

Says Rachael, “if you choose your work wisely, look for high value, tangible projects where you know your skills and expertise meet the buyer’s expectations, it can be very rewarding.

Receiving great feedback is very motivating, and the higher your rating as a freelancer, the greater your visibility becomes.”

It worked for me

When I first started my business I joined People Per Hour and it was a good experience.  I approached it in the way Rachael describes in her article; being choosy about the type of jobs I pitched for, that I could meet the buyer’s deadline without underselling my services.

Is it right for me?

If you think crowdsourcing is right for you then my advice is to read the small print and make sure you understand any restrictions and most importantly, how and when you get paid.

How much to charge?

Another great piece of advice from Rachael is about setting your rate.

Rachael says, “Don’t bid below your usual hourly rate and be realistic with the time estimate.” ….”If your rate for the job comes in above the buyer’s budget, then explain why in detail. Chances are you thought it through and included aspects of the work the customer didn’t think of.”

Read Rachael’s full article here:

Should I join a crowdsourcing website to get new clients?


What’s it like to be a Virtual Assistant

It seems a bizarre title especially when you realise the term “virtual assistant” now means something completely different to a lot of people.  , compared to a few years ago before Siri and Alexa arrived on the scene.

Nowadays, virtual working is fast becoming a way of life for many businesses and employees.  I’ve noticed companies like PwC actively recruit virtual assistants as permanent company employees.  They obviously realise the value of the virtual worker.

To be successful at virtual working, it’s all about the attitude you bring to work, being competent in your field, responsive to customers, adaptable to situations and giving each client your absolute best every time you work together.

For me, it’s the variety I enjoy.  Throughout the course of the day, I wear a lot of hats, work with a diverse bunch of customers from a range of business sectors.

Early Bird

My day begins at 06.00 with coffee (or three).  I check for email which arrived overnight,  review today’s meetings and appointments, look at the news feeds and jot down a few notes.

With sufficient caffeine, I walk my two dogs. It’s a lovely way to begin the day and just that hour outside gives me some valuable thinking and planning time.

At 08:00 it’s off to my home office to begin work.  Today, I’ll put the final touches on a workshop presentation and email the link in time for our one o’clock Skype meeting when my client will be calling in from the USA.

With the presentation done, I’ve got an hour to finish the transcription I started last night.  I plug in my headset, open the control deck on my transcription software and pick up where I left off.  The deadline is 17:00 today so I have time to proofread the transcript after the Skype meeting.

Skype call complete, I confirm actions and schedule time to complete the new task my client wants; researching books for her delegate reading list.  Then, back to transcription.

At 13:00 I Skype meet the next customer.  We’re working on a rolling content calendar for his business blog.  We review current topics together, add in any new ones and decide on categories and links for week’s blog posts.

Working Lunch

Time for a quick lunch.  I’m taking meeting minutes this evening, so while I’m eating a sandwich, I check for any apologies received from the team.  I see they’ve asked to borrow my large screen monitor to preview the club’s new website.  I’ll need to leave time to dismantle it from my office.

Still munching, I check news feeds for topics of interest to send to my clients should they wish to work them into social media posts.

Could you just …

Ping! 13:45 and I get an email asking if I can “write a quick blog post” on one of the topics I just sent over.  Can I fit it in in one hour?  After some quick research, fact-finding and statistic checking, I begin writing.  Luckily for me today, the stars were all aligned and I found a super fact to include for context.  It’s great to be able to help someone out.

At 14:30, I close all computer programs and allow myself some  uninterrupted time to proofread the transcription.  It’s all about listening – one missing word or misplaced piece of punctuation can change the entire context of the transcript, so I listen to the entire recording.

15:30 Two emails come in sending apologies for this evening’s meeting, so I update the meeting agenda document and grab a cup of tea.

Phew, it’s 16:00 already.  Delighted to hear my customer has approved the blog piece I wrote earlier.  I create a nice blog image banner and log on to the customer’s website to publish the new content.  It looks great.

Finally, I check all today’s time has been allocated correctly, check my to-do list and tomorrow’s diary, pack up my bag and head to the meeting.