Productivity

5 Tech Products I Use To Make My Consulting Calls Run Smoothly


As a business consultant in the wedding industry, I often work with big-box retailers to fine-tune their bridal registry experience or with hotels to revamp their outdated wedding sales programming. Some of my favorite challenges to tackle, though, are the short-term projects that I get to work on with wedding pros via phone or in-person consulting. Small creative businesses are the backbone of the wedding industry and I love seeing people change the course of their business relatively quickly through focused strategy.

Over the years (and through a lot of trial and error), I've created a system that's allowed me to streamline both the behind-the-scenes and client experience of these consulting calls. While the process for ongoing projects looks a little different, here are five technology products that have made my phone consulting process run much more smoothly:
 

1. Calendly

Calendly is hands down the best program for scheduling calls and meetings. No more emailing back and forth, meaning you can say goodbye to the, “Oh wait, never mind, that time is no longer available, what about Tuesday instead?” email chains that slowly drive each of us crazy.

It has both free and paid plans and is super customizable, allowing you to opt for a different availability schedule each day. This lets me take things like random school breaks or half-days into account as I plan out my month. I've embedded mine on a dedicated page on my site so that I can include more info along with it. 
 

2. UberConference

I switched to using UberConference for all my consulting calls and it is one of the best tech decisions I’ve made. I upgraded to a dedicated area code and phone number that I got to choose, but there are also free options. 

UberConference works similarly to several conference call products and includes a screensharing option. It also allows my international clients to connect to the call online via their earbuds or computer's mic and speakers so that they don't have to incur expensive long distance phone bills. 

The aspect that won my loyalty, though, was the quality and reliability of its recording feature. Since I record consulting calls for clients to keep and listen back to later on, I need it to work every time, without fail. In the past I’ve dealt with the nightmare of services and apps not working the way they should: recording with subpar audio quality, or recording and then not playing back, or not turning on at all when they were supposed to. With UberConference I never have to think about this. It just works. Automatically. Every time.


3. Squarespace

I have admittedly not always been the biggest fan of Squarespace, but giving credit where it is due: they saw where they needed to improve and improved – a practice I think we all try to incorporate in our own lives and companies.

I view the annual fee (also payable as a monthly fee) as paying for ongoing tech support. Whenever Apple, Google, Samsung, or some obscure company I've never heard of releases a new phone with new sizing ratios, or new standards are introduced in responsive design, Squarespace's engineers automatically implement the changes. This means that my site works on every device, anywhere in the world, all the time.

Their sites are also designed with digital behavioral psychology in mind, meaning they don't just look pretty, they are set up based on how people actually navigate the web. They may not be the ideal solution for everyone, but one of my priorities is not having to worry about the above issues, ever.

One of Squarespace's features is the ability to create password protected sections. I use these to create a Splendid Dashboard for each phone consulting client. This is where the recordings of each call are housed so they can access them forever, as well as other client-specific documents and information. It also has info on upcoming consulting sessions, etc. 
 

4. Dropbox

Each client gets their own folder in Dropbox and everything is stored in the cloud via their Smart Sync feature. I keep everything about a client in their Dropbox file: my notes and research, PDFs and files they share with me, photos, videos, etc. Pretty standard practice for most of us these days, but as someone who has previously lost hours and hours worth of work because of hard drive crashes, it's well worth the monthly fee. 


5. TurboScan Pro

I'm old school in that I still take notes by hand, always in cursive. Whether on legal pads, in notebooks, or in the margins of my Day Designer, whenever an idea hits, I prefer to get it out of my head and onto actual paper. I also often take notes during my calls by hand.

Part of my workflow checklist for consulting calls includes using TurboScan Pro to immediately digitize my notes afterwards. It literally takes less than a minute to scan my notes, name the file, and export as a PDF to the client's folder in Dropbox. Everything is readable online and I never have to worry about not having access to certain notes when I'm out of town because they're in a filing cabinet in my office back home. 

I don't remember what the free version offers, but I paid $5.99 to upgrade to the pro version and use it daily. The app currently has around 132k reviews with a 4.9 star rating, so clearly I'm not the only one who loves it.
 

I'm not someone who loves to use a million complicated tech tools to accomplish a task. The five products above may seem pretty basic, but in my opinion, what actually gets used is what works best, and for me, the less bells and whistles, the better.

The Small Things That Hinder Success

Over the past two decades, I've been fortunate to spend time developing curriculum for orphanages and teaching in various countries overseas. Part of living and working in a developing nation requires getting used to things not working properly or reliably. A faucet may or not pour out water when the knob is turned and electrical brown-outs (localized black-outs) are common. While learning to not be dependent on these things is a valuable lesson on its own, a side effect of these experiences is that people often develop a habit of not fixing things that are broken or overlooking things that really should be paid some attention.

I remember an instance where this struck me clearly. I was working at a non-profit and my computer mouse would frequently stick. I put up with it and didn’t try to fix it. After all, it was a small annoyance, and the time spent overseas had trained me to overlook these little annoyances. In truth, however, these things were slowing me down and should have been fixed. One day, the IT guy was in my office trying to fix my computer and mentioned that the mouse was sticking.

"I know," I replied.

"How long have you put up with this?" he asked.

"Maybe a few months."

"A few months! Why?! We can fix this in two minutes. Why didn't you say something?"

"I don't know. There are bigger problems in the world and complaining about a computer mouse seems dumb."

"Liene, living with a sticky mouse has no effect on famine or war. You don’t have to put up with small things like this."

Trivial? Perhaps. It’s easy, though, for people to become conditioned to overlooking things in favor of the bigger picture – from not dressing appropriately for an appointment ("this client’s seen me a thousand times, they don’t care if I wear yoga pants and a top knot"), to putting up with a workspace that drains us more than inspires us creatively, to bigger things like allowing toxic, emotionally abusive colleagues to live rent-free in our minds – and all in the name of not complaining.

I’m not an advocate of complaining, but I am suggesting that you take stock of the areas in your life and business that you may overlook. De-clutter, literally and figuratively. Fix the seemingly insignificant things that may be slowing you down, limiting productivity, or hindering your growth. Your business will be better for it.
 


Originally published May 2011

5 Things to Make 2018 More Productive and Less Stressful

At the beginning of this year, I shared five things that make my life a little easier to navigate. As we head into 2018, here are some other apps and products that make my workday run more smoothly and allow me to get more done in the same amount of time:
 

1. FREEDOM

I’m newish to this app and I love it. L-O-V-E it. Freedom can block not just Internet access and social media sites, but also apps that are meant to make you more productive but often end up being super distracting instead (looking at you, Slack).

You can choose the sites or apps you’d like to block (anything from Instagram to Whatsapp to Twitter to Net-a-Porter) and then set it for a certain amount of time. You can also schedule custom time blocks, so if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get better sleep, you can set it from 9:30pm - 5:30am.

One of my favorite pieces of work-life balance wisdom was shared by my friend Carley Roney a few years ago at an Engage conference: “Don’t check social media until after your kids go to school.” Freedom is a great way to make that habit a reality.

My fave feature: Freedom can sync across all your devices, so you can’t just pick up your phone and mindlessly scroll Facebook while blocked on your laptop. 
 

2. THE DAY DESIGNER

This one made both lists because I love it so much. I’ve tried a zillion day planners, goal and to-do apps, and calendars. The Day Designer is the most in line with how my brain works. Created by Whitney English with the aim to help you create a well-designed life, this planner makes annual goals doable by breaking them out in quarterly, monthly, and daily to-dos. The daily pages include the day's top three so you can prioritize (these are the "rocks" in the well-known jar analogy), as well as both a time schedule and to-do checklist (for the pebbles/sand).

My fave feature: it’s pretty and well-made. As someone who loves form but needs it to function, finding products that combine both with excellence is the best.
 

3. CLICKUP

While I love the Day Designer for prioritizing the day’s top three, ClickUp ensures every single step and to-do within those projects gets done. It is project management software that allows you to collaborate with others or work on your own. 

I personally like ClickUp better than Asana, Trello, or Basecamp. I’ve tried countless product management tools over the years, and this one is the most intuitive for me. The design is also very clean and, as a visual person, this means I actually enjoy using it. 

My fave feature: one-click template creation for projects that have the same core workflow and checklists.
 

4. CALENDLY

Calendly is hands down the best program for scheduling calls and meetings. No more emailing back and forth, meaning you can say goodbye to the “Oh wait, never mind, that time is no longer available, what about Tuesday instead?” email chains that slowly drive each of us crazy. It is also super customizable, allowing you to opt for a different availability schedule each day.

My fave feature: it shows all times in each person’s time zone, so they know they are selecting a time that truly works for them.
 

5. UBERCONFERENCE

I switched to using UberConference for all my consulting calls and it is one of the best tech decisions I’ve made. I upgraded to an area code and phone number that I got to choose, but there are also free options. 

UberConference works similarly to several conference call products and includes a screensharing option, but the aspect that won my loyalty was the quality and reliability of its recording feature. Since I record consulting calls for clients to keep and listen back to later on, I need it to work every time, without fail. In the past I’ve dealt with the nightmare of services and apps not working the way they should: recording with subpar audio quality, or recording and then not playing back, or not turning on at all when they were supposed to. With UberConference I never have to think about this. It just works. Automatically. Every time.

My fave feature: Aside from reliable recording, the post-call summary includes a break down of how long each participant spoke for.


If you have a favorite product that makes your life a little easier, I'd love to hear about it. You can tweet it to me here.


*None of these products are affiliate links, just things I enjoy and think you might, too.