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We all love to hate meetings!  And with good reason — they clog up our days, making it hard to achieve the work we have in-between the meetings, and so many of them feel like a waste of time.

Below are some ideas that will assist you to ensure your meetings are productive and precise.

1. “Keep the meeting as small as possible. No more than seven people.”

Of course, there is no magic number. Though research does not point to a precise number, “there is evidence to suggest that keeping the meeting small is beneficial”. For one, you’re better able to pick up on body language, and if you want people to have the opportunity to contribute, you need to limit attendance. By limiting it to four or five people is the only way to make sure everyone has the chance to talk in a 60-minute meeting.

The challenge with large meetings isn’t just that everyone won’t have a chance to talk, but many of them won’t feel the need to. This isn’t to say that a 20-person meeting is doomed for failure. You just need to plan much more carefully.  You need to be more thoughtful about getting input from the group and reading people in the room. “You need someone who is masterful at managing the conversation.”

2.“Ban devices.”

This is a great idea, for two reasons.

First, devices distract us.

The second reason to ban devices is that they distract others.

Still, there are some good reasons to use technology in a meeting, for note taking or retrieval of reference material.

3. “Keep it as short as possible — no longer than an hour.”

The advantages for keeping it shorter are that attendees stay more focused.

Once people realise you’re tight on time, they stop asking questions or talking and focus on getting the work done.

This doesn’t mean you should try to cram every meeting into 30 minutes. This doesn’t mean that you should rush over topics but you need ascertain the outcome of your meeting early on so that the time is used wisely. This will give people time to voice their opinions, build on ideas and reach a conclusion.

4. “Make sure everyone participates and cold-call those who don’t.”

Some people may want to speak up but don’t feel like they can unless they’re asked, this may be due to “cultural reasons, or language barriers, or general disposition.” The people who hold back often have the best viewpoint on the conversation and definitely need to be drawn out.

Having everyone contribute isn’t just good for the end result of your meeting but for the participants themselves as well. People like to know that their opinions are being heard and considered.

For people who feel too put on the spot, you can talk to them ahead of time and tell them that you’re hoping they’ll contribute. That way, they’ll have time to plan what they’ll say. Then in the meeting, you may still need to ask for their perspective but they’ll be primed to do so.

5. “Never hold a meeting just to update people.”

If you’re already meeting for worthwhile topics, you can do a quick update.  You might say at the end, Is there anything that the group needs to be aware of before we leave? Is there something going on in your department that others need to be know about? “But if you’re only meeting to transfer information, rethink your approach. Why take up valuable time saying something you can just email?

6. “Always set an agenda out ahead of time – and be clear about the purpose of the meeting.”

It’s hard to imagine more sound advice about meetings. Designing the meeting and setting the agenda ahead of time critical. You should explain what’s going to happen so participants come knowing what they’re going to do. If you lack a clear plan of action that is often the reason why groups get derailed in decision-making. Having a plan gives us the opportunity to clarify our intentions and think through the influences that could make it difficult for us to accomplish your goals.

Next time you need to bring a group together, do the best you can to make it a good use of everyone’s time—including your own.

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You’ve recently reviewed your marketing plan for the year and decided to run a seminar to attract more clients to your business… so where do you start?

Here are seven top tips to ensure you have covered off on the planning and preparation required for a successful seminar series.

  • Clarify who your target market are and do some research on how you are going to reach them. Look at why you want to hold the seminar and what you would like to achieve out of it. Eg. If you are running a financial services seminar and are looking for small business clients to attend, where are you going to find them?
  • List all the places you can find to freely advertise your seminar and contact some of your key networks to see if you can advertise the seminar with each group.
  • Consider the date, venue and budget you have available for the event. Include things like venue hire, equipment hire if you need projectors, lead time needed to plan and promote the seminars, advertising costs, printing of brochures, flyers or business, cards, and consider if other speakers would also add value. Also think about if the seminar should be free or as a paid event. (A paid event secures your attendees and your attendance levels are usually much higher)
  • Begin an 8 week email campaign to your current database promoting the seminar. You can use newsletter and email programs such as mailchimp and aweber to set these up and set up recurring campaigns to occur fortnightly for the next eight weeks. (Remember one key marketing component is that people need to hear things or see things at least five times before they buy…)
  • What type of content are you going to give your attendees and how are you going to present it? Do you need time to prepare handouts and product forms? Are you going to sell anything at the event? If so do you have enough product in stock or do you need to order more?
  • Who is going to do the follow up after the event? This is an area where most people forget about and let themselves down. Plan ahead for the day after the event to call people and check if they need further details, book face to face meetings to give more information and also if the seminar is small (under 50) people a personal hand written note is a great way to say thanks and keep your potential clients keen on learning more.

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To grow your business you need to build a database of potential clients that you can promote your services/products to. One of the easiest way to do this is to have a free offering with a “call to action” on your website. A free offering could take the form of an article, sample product, white paper, blog, first few chapters of your book, discount for your products and services and the list goes on.

A “call to action” is something that encourages people to want to learn more about you, your business or your services. Potential customers come to your website to learn more about you, so if you have something that is “free” that will give them further knowledge about your experience or skills in that particular field, you will find that they may download your offering to feel confident in their purchase or to get further details about you.

When you put a “call to action” on your website it is usually done in the format of a contact form. This form can be integrated into Mailchimp. Mailchimp is a free program (yeh!) that assists you in being able to keep all your contacts in one spot. You can build your list up to 2000 contacts, and once your list hits this amount of people there is a monthly fee charged. For most small to medium sized businesses this is a program they can use for years without a fee which is a great marketing tool.

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Once you have the person’s name and email address, their details go straight into Mailchimp and this sets up a list of people that are potentially interested in your product or services. With this list you can then send further information to your potential clients through Mailchimp. Mailchimp asks potential clients to verify that they would like to be added to the list and this way you have asked for permission to send them further details about your services. This means that your marketing to them is verified and not seen as spam. Your potential clients can opt out at any time after this.

The first step that you would do is to set up a list in Mailchimp that links to your website. Your website administrator would use a Mailchimp plugin and can set this up in your website. Other administrators who have experience in this area using WordPress and Mailchimp Integration, can also set this up for you (often at a cheaper rate). Once your list is set up you can then integrate the form into your website.

The second step in setting up Mailchimp, is to choose templates that you can use to set up regular communication with clients. These templates can be customised to include your logo, business details and further information for potential clients…..oh gosh there is so much to tell you about this area!

Stay tuned to hear more in my next post on Mailchimp Templates – how to create templates that add credibility to your business.

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If you want your business to work smarter and faster, cloud accounting software is a wise investment. Working in the cloud will give you a better overview of your finances, and improve collaboration with your team.

Xero Blog ImageAccounting software shouldn’t be a chore to use
Small business accounting software that’s not available via the cloud can be tedious. Traditionally, it can suck up far too much of your business’ time and effort. This doesn’t add value, and takes the fun out of being in business. Cloud software can save your company time and money. Xero uses the cloud to make doing your accounting a breeze.
So what is this thing called the cloud?
Think about when you use internet banking. Every time you access this data, you’re using the cloud. The cloud is a platform to make data and software accessible online anytime, anywhere, from any device. Your hard drive is no longer the central hub. This means you can have multiple people in multiple locations looking after your finances- no more messy paperwork and bulky storage.

OTHER FEATURES OF XERO:
1. Live bank feeds
Do you think it’s important for a small business owner to know how much money they have in their business bank account? Does your desktop software or spreadsheet(s) allow you to do that?

2. Automatic Bank Reconciliation
Over the course of a month how much time do you spend doing your bank rec?

3. Online Invoicing
Have you ever sent an invoice to someone that owes you money and they’ve turned around and said ‘I didn’t get your invoice.’

4. Files (Online Storage Management)
Has your accountant or bookkeeper ever asked for one of the following documents: receipts, invoices, memorandums?

5. Automatic Super payments, Streamline Payroll
How long does it take you to process the super payments of all your employees?
*The major differences between Xero and other cloud accounting software, are that it increases efficient workflow and saves you time via our Bank Reconciliation, Online Invoicing and Payroll.
FIVE WAYS XERO CAN BENEFIT YOUR BUSINESS:
1. You have a clear overview of your current financial position, in real time.

2. Multi-user access makes it easy to collaborate online with your team
and advisors.Xero

3. Worry-free maintenance means you can spend more time doing what you love.

4. Everything is run online, so there’s nothing to install and everything is backed up automatically. Updates are free and instantly available.

5. Upfront business costs are reduced – version upgrades, maintenance, system administration costs and server failures are no longer issues. Instead, they are managed by the cloud service provider.

If you would like to know more about Xero please contact us on 03 9271 8222

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Do you know what Pinterest is? It is another one of those social media applications that you should think about using for business…. yes it is….here are some of the stats to consider when looking at the Pinterest medium….and whether it would be right for your business.

PintPinterest Imageerest has produced recent stats that have said that it can increase traffic, leads and sales by reaching more than 11 million people….now wouldn’t that be beneficial to your business….it is said to be one of the largest traffic referral sites and potentially more powerful than Google +

According to Wikipedia “Pinterest is a pin board style photo sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme- based image collections such as events, interests, hobbies and more. Users can browse other pin boards for inspiration, re-pin images to their own collections or ‘like’ photos. Pinterest’s mission is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting via global platform sharing”

If you have a lot of facebook followers you will find that over 60% of these followers will also have a Pinterest account so it is worthwhile connecting with them..if you are not with facebook then of course you really should have some sort of presence on facebook as well as Pinterest…

Retail companies have taken advantage of Pinterest for advertising and style trending, as have other industry sectors. It is a way for your clients to easily visualise your products or services and is fast becoming a new way to develop relationships.

So how can you use Pinterest for your business:

1. Look at other users on Pinterest that have similar businesses or ideologies that your business also aligns with

2. If your business has content but it is not images that certainly doesn’t matter as there are ways to convert facts, stats and statistical information info through using infographics or other digital marketing resources

3. Focus on providing quality content that relates to your business and develop your brand through perhaps developing an online brochure that leads people to your website

4. Offer a call to action by describing the benefits of your products and services giving them samples of how it can be used….therefore encouraging people to potentially go to your website to look further or even make an enquiry or purchase .

Pinterest now has the option of business pages so if you are posting images and text on facebook, replicate this across to your Pinterest business page and you will attract a lot more people… it is great for creative agencies to showcase some of their own work as well as retailers to promote products…

These are just a few ways of how Pinterest could be beneficial for your business….will you be the only business without a presence?

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