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  • Feeling Demotived? Can't keep focused each day? This might help... Mar 30, 2019

    Do you ever find yourself demotivated during the working day?

    There is plenty of work to do, yet you just don't feel like doing it. You find yourself browsing the Internet, following up with friends on Facebook, replying to non-work related emails?

    We all have times when, despite knowing what we SHOULD be doing, we find ourselves wasting time doing non-productive things instead.

    Here's my solution, and perhaps it will help you:

    GET 100 POINTS A DAY

    As it sounds, you try and get 100 points a day.

    So, go through all the things you would do in your working day and assign a point score to each. For example, spending 25% of the day on client work, or your own admin, gets 25 points, 50% of the day get 50 points, etc. Then there are things like promoting your business with social media, letters, phone calls, etc. Again these should be assigned a score.

    Now for the real biggie though: time-wasting. If you find yourself on social media, answering emails, - all of which have nothing to do with work (and are non emergency) - take 25 OFF your score for each incident.

    To give a better idea of what I'm talking about, here is my working day, broken-down with points assigned to the relevant areas:

    WORK (either client work or admin)
    25% of day = 25 points
    50% of day = 50 points
    75% of day = 75 points
    100% of day = 100 points

    PROMOTION OF SERVICE
    Social media = 5 points
    Intro letter/email = 10 points
    Replies = 15 points
    Networking = 25 points
    Quotes = 50 points
    Sign up new client = 100 points

    TIME WASTING

    (Anything done during office hours not related to work)
    -25 points per each incident

    So, using the above, my day might consist of 75% of client work (75 points), doing three work-related posts on social media (5 points each = 15), sending an introductory letter or email (10 points each = 10). So, 100 points in total.
  • Can you REALLY afford to employ someone? Mar 21, 2019

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    You may be considering taking on a member of staff to help with admin tasks and duties.

    You may have calculated that you can afford their salary, but have you taken into consideration ALL the costs:

    £ - Employer's National Insurance
    £ - Statutory holiday allowance
    £ - Sick leave
    £ - Training
    £ - Employer's Liability Insurance
    £ - Additional equipment and furniture
    £ - Possible Maternity/Paternity leave
    £ - Possible Pension contributions...

    All these £s are ON TOP of what you pay the employee. And then there's the non-productive time (like visiting the loo, brewing coffee, surfing the internet, socialising...).

    So, taking on a member of staff can cost you from half to the full salary again, on top of what you pay them!

    Whereas if you hire a Virtual PA, you ONLY pay for the time we actually work for you.

    It makes sense to outsource whenever you can. It SAVES you money and it helps you become more efficient.
  • Is Being Outside Your Comfort Zone Always the Best Thing... Mar 20, 2019

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    Is being outside your comfort zone always the best thing to do?

    We're often hear or read that your business will only be a success once you get out of your comfort zone.

    Okay, new things are often scary the first time we do them, that's natural, and we usually do feel better once we've done them for a while.

    But what if you step outside of your comfort zone, and you actually find, no matter how much you try, you still hate what you're having to do?

    Instead of getting better, you are actually still paralysed with fear and cannot focus.

    Would it not be better to let someone else do those things, and you concentrate on what you're best at?

    And even if it's not something that you fear, it's just a boring, mundane task, you shouldn't have to be doing it, especially if it can be outsourced.
  • AGREE OR NOT? Emails and phone calls Mar 12, 2019

    Should you only answer emails and phone calls at certain times of the day?

    There is a time-saving tip that suggests you should only check and reply to emails and phone calls at certain times during the working day. The idea being that the rest of the time you are focused on your business.

    However, does this really save you time... or does it LOSE YOU MONEY?

    So, the idea is, especially for emails, that you check and respond to them, say twice a day, for example at 10am and 3pm. You also set up an auto-reply to let the email sender that you will be answering them at those set times.

    For phone calls, you let the calls go to voicemail and again, respond to them at set times.

    However, while this may seem sensible to you, how do you think the person emailing or calling will feel? What if they are client needing to let you know something urgently, but now have to wait for up to four or five hours before you respond? What if they are a potential customer looking to place an order, or hire your service?

    On at least two occasions I have won business precisely because I got back to the enquirer so quickly. In both cases they said I was the only one to respond. It might actually be that others did get back to them, but not until several hours later, by which time it was too late. There have also been countless times when I have been praised for the speed in which I have responded to a client's or prospect's email.

    And as for letting phone calls go to voicemail (unless there is a very good reason), I used to own and run a call answering service, and I did a survey of over 100 people, asking "If you phoned a business during normal working hours and got answered by voicemail, what would you do?" Over 90% of the responses were "Hang up and phone another firm."

    What people actually need, is the discipline to only deal with those emails or calls that are work-related. It is far too easy to get into a conversation about a non-work matter (e.g. arranging a child's birthday party, or sorting out where you and your friends are going on your night out). Those are the emails or calls that should be left until set times.

    Anything work-related should be dealt with as quickly as possible. Okay, a customer or client might be asking a question for which the answer needs time to put together, but even then, the customer should be informed that you have received their communication and you will be sending them the answer as quickly as you can (and give a likely time frame).

    DO YOU AGREE OR NOT (and why)? Comment below
  • Every Friday, Do this one thing... Mar 8, 2019

    It's Friday.

    By the end of the day you should to do this one thing: look back at your week, and consider how much time you LOST!

    ❌ Lost to doing admin
    ❌ Lost to typing letters, quotes, reports, etc.
    ❌ Lost to answering general phone calls
    ❌ Lost to answering general emails
    ❌ Lost to research or fact-finding
    ❌ Lost to getting quotes or estimates
    ❌ Lost to searching for a product or service to buy or use...

    ... and to the hundreds of other little tasks which, while important, take you away from the main focus of your business.

    Now, if all those tasks were done for you, how much time would you save? An hour? Two? Three? Four...?

    So, every Friday, you will go back through your week, to see where you can stop doing tasks which take you away from what you should be doing.

    Come Monday you will cut these tasks out of your work and you are going hand them to someone else.

    ✔️ The most successful and efficient people know how to leverage another person's time, so they can then focus on WHAT REALLY matters.
  • Ensure your recordings cannot be disputed. Feb 6, 2018

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    Occasionally audio recordings of interviews or meetings are made because there is the possibility they will be used in legal proceedings. When this is the case, you need to make sure that, as far as possible, the recording cannot be disputed.

    Therefore, when you hold the interview, here are seven tips to follow to ensure that the resultant recording cannot be discredited.

    1/ At the start of the interview and recording, state the date, time and, if important, the location of the interview. This means there will be definite time-line for the interview, which can be useful if there are any breaks or pauses.

    2/ Each person in the room should announce their own name, title and any other relevant information. It should go without saying that only those people who are involved in the interview should be in the room (believe it or not, we heard a recording of disciplinary meetings held in a cafe!).

    3/ Get the subject(s) of the interview to confirm that there is no one present who hasn't introduced themselves. You don't want anyone trying to suggest there was another person in the room, but who didn't speak.

    4/ Get the subject(s) to confirm that nothing about the topic of the meeting was discussed before the recording started. That way, no one can say at a later date, that certain verbal facts or evidence was provided, yet there was no record of them.

    5/ If there needs to be a break or pause in the meeting for any reason, make sure you give the time the interview was paused, and then the time it is was restarted. Again, get the subject(s) to confirm nothing was discussed during the break.

    6/ If anyone has to leave the room, then announce this. If they then re-enter, again state it. Similarly, if someone else joins the interview, announce their arrival and get them to introduce themselves. It is also good practice to ask the subject(s) to confirm only the only person who introduced themselves came in.

    7/ When the interview is finished, state the time again. This again gives an accurate indication of how long the interview was, preventing arguments of "Oh, they only interviewed me for five minutes."

    These seven tips take very little time, but could save a lot of problems later on. You don't want to be discredited and your interview(s) disputed in a legal case, which could then cost your company a lot of money in settlement.

    Ashley Price is the Proprietor of The Audio Typing Service, which, for over 21 years, has been providing a fast, accurate and confidential service to companies needing transcription services, both in the UK and round the world (including Australia, Abu Dhabi and the Netherlands).
  • Tips for recording telephone meeting or conference calls Jan 29, 2018

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    Although you need to hold a meeting with one, or more, people, sometimes getting together in the same location simply isn't possible, and you have to resort to the telephone (or Skype).

    You may be doing research and need to interview individuals, or you want to hold a conference call with multiple participants. So, you want to make you get the opinions and views of everyone and decide to make an audio recording of the call. However, there is more to it than just sticking your phone on hands-free and placing the recording device next to it.

    (And just to cover the legality of recording a telephone conversation, you don't have to inform the other parties you are recording the call if the recording it purely for your own use, and no one else will hear it. However, it is only polite and always good practice to inform everyone.)

    Here are my top five tips for recording telephone meetings or conference calls to ensure you get the best results possible.

    1/ Going hands-free makes things "echoy"

    While the simplest method for recording a call is to put the phone on hands-free and placing the microphone next to it, if the other participants are also on hands-free, this will make them very echoy, meaning they are much harder to understand. Ideally, it would be best if you could request the others don't go to hands-free, but this may not be possible, or may seem impolite.

    2/ Keep still and don't make a noise

    If you are recording the call, you need to make sure you sit as still as possible. It is tempting to do other things, or fiddle with an item while the other person is talking, but if that is picked up on the recording, it will lead to disappointment that vital and important information was missed. We have had recordings where the person has been making notes on their laptop while the discussion has been taking place and, unfortunately, the only sound we could hear for most of the one hour recording was the researcher tapping away at their keyboard (so, it's a good idea, to not use the laptop or PC for recording the conversation, unless you are not going to be using it for anything else at the time).

    I know with a long interview or meeting, you may want to have something to eat or drink, but again, the packaging or cup and saucer, etc., can make a lot of noise, so try to either hold off until after the meeting, or have the items placed some distance from the microphone. When you listen to the recording you want to hear what the other person said, not the scrunching of the packet of biscuits you were eating from, or the stirring of your tea.

    3/ Find a quiet environment

    Pretty obvious, but we have still transcribed telephone interviews where the person doing the recording was in a noisy environment, or was sat next to an open window which looked onto a busy main road, meaning the noise of the traffic and roadworks were picked up on the recording and making the other participants hard to hear.

    Try and find a quiet room and either close the windows, or sit as far from them as possible. It may also be a good idea if you have been able to find an empty room to use, that you put a note on the outside of the door saying you are recording a telephone conversation. This should stop people just wondering in and chatting without realising (again, something we have had to deal with on many occasions).

    4/ Don't interrupt or speak over the other participants

    Although we never intend to do it, it is all to easy to suddenly jump in with a comment or point about what someone is saying, while they are still speaking. Of course, with recording a telephone conversation, your voice is going to be louder, drowning out what is said by others.

    Let the person finish what they are saying, and give them an extra second or two, just in case they are only pausing before carrying on.

    5/ Make sure notification sounds are switched off on your PC, laptop and mobile phone

    This is especially important if you doing a Skype call and are using the PC/laptop/phone for recording the conversation. There are lots of audio alerts that can be set up to remind you of different events: when you receive a new email, if someone sends you a message on social media, reminders from your electronic calendar, someone texts you, etc. While the occasional beep isn't much of a problem, if you are someone who gets a lot of these, then you may find not only does it affect the recording of the conversation, but, if heard by the other participants, it puts them off what they are saying and interrupts their flow, as they wonder if there is a problem.

    So, where possible, switch your phone to silent, and turn off all other notifications on your PC or laptop. It will save you having to keep explaining every couple of minutes.

    Following the above tips will help to ensure that when you record a telephone conversation, what is said by the participants is recorded, and not drowned out by noises that would have avoided easily with a little forethought.

    Ashley Price is the Proprietor of The Audio Typing Service, which, for over 21 years, has been providing a fast, accurate and confidential service to companies needing transcription services, both in the UK and round the world (including Australia, Abu Dhabi and the Netherlands).
  • Voice Recognition for audio transcription Jan 22, 2018

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    When VR will work and when it won't...

    It sounds so simple: get some voice recognition (or, more accurately, voice-to-text) software, get it set up, then play your audio recordings of dictation, interviews, meetings, focus groups, seminars, etc., into the microphone and let the computer do all the hard work of the actual transcription...

    Ah, if only life were that simple.

    Sadly, computers aren't at the stage where they can do all the typing for you. Yes, there are instances where they can be a big help, but we are still a long way off before you can let the computer do all the hard work.

    Dictation is probably the one area where using voice recognition software will save you a lot of time, but you still have to dictate direct into the computer, or if recording the dictation in advance, make sure you do all the punctuation, layout commands etc.

    If you have a modern smart phone, with either Android or Apple operating systems, then you may already have played around with voice recognition with their respective virtual assistants ("Ok Google" for Android and "Siri" for Apple), however, you may not have yet tried dictating using your phone. Now, when I send texts or post messages to social media, most of the time I have dictated what I want to say instead of tapping away at a virtual keyboard. And this same technology can be used for dictation of letters, reports, etc.

    Admittedly, it takes some getting used to if you have never done dictation before (and not everyone is comfortable with it), remembering to say "comma", "full stop" (or "period"), "new paragraph", and so on, takes time. Admittedly, these could be inserted after you have dictated the text, but that only works for relatively short pieces. If you had a 10-page report, that you had to go back through and put in all the punctuation, layout etc., then it will become time-consuming and may have been quicker to type it manually in the first place.

    You also have to understand that the software won't be 100% accurate, and does take some training. Although you can speak at pretty much your normal speed, it does help to say the words clearly. And it may still get punctuation wrong, e.g. you want a comma inserted and instead the software puts the word "comma" in. But, aside from these problems, it can save a lot of time.

    However, where voice recognition doesn't work is when it comes to recordings of interviews, meetings, focus groups, etc. Even the producer of the top-selling voice recognition software, Dragon Naturally Speaking, admit their software isn't designed for multiple participant recordings.

    Voice recognition software isn't trained to recognise more than one voice for dictation and, even if it could, the resulting document would be very hard to read. There'd be no punctuation or formatting either, so a simple piece like:

    John: Hello, Jane, how are you? I hear you won a big contract yesterday. Well done!

    Jane: Hi, John. I am very well thank you. Yes, I did. I was surprised the contract came in to be honest, but I had been working on it for months...

    If you played that into voice recognition software and it could understand what was being said, it will come out as:

    Hello Jane how are you I hear you won a big contract yesterday well done hi John I am very well thank you yes I did I was surprised the contract came in to be honest but I had been working on it for months...

    Again, this isn't so much of a problem with the above, but imagine if that interview had gone on for an hour. You'd have lots of pages made up of one long sentence, which would then need extensive work to get the formatting and punctuation correct. Now think how much worse it would be if it was a five-person focus group?

    So, if you have recordings of interviews, focus groups, etc., you are still going to have to transcribe them manually for now. Or, better still, save your time (and tired fingers), and hire someone else to do the transcription work for you.

    Ashley Price is the Proprietor of The Audio Typing Service, which, for over 21 years, has been providing a fast, accurate and confidential service to companies needing transcription services, both in the UK and round the world (including Australia, Abu Dhabi and the Netherlands).
  • 5 Tips when recording meetings Jan 15, 2018

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    Having someone taking Minutes during a meeting is fine, however, sometimes the meeting is far too important to rely on the notes or memory of the Minute-taker. For more on this, see my previous article: Why You Should No Longer Takes Minutes During Meetings.

    This is where an audio (or, even better, video) recording can be far more beneficial, but how do you ensure you get the best recording possible?

    You need to do more than just stick the recording device or microphone on the table. A little forethought and preparation will make the difference between being able to hear every word, or finding people were too quiet or drowned out by background noise.

    Follow these tips and you won't need any specialist equipment, even a smartphone with a decent audio recording app (check it's not one that only records for a few minutes) will be fine.

    1/ CHOOSE THE ENVIRONMENT CAREFULLY

    The first rule is to try and ensure you have a quiet atmosphere to hold the meeting. Obviously, an empty room is going to be better than a busy café, but, whatever the location, there are things to take note of.

    You have booked an empty room, but at the time of the meeting you find it is really warm, so windows are opened meaning the noise from the road floods in. Heavy traffic, blaring horns, roadworks, people shouting all may be picked up by the recorder and possibly drown out what is being said by participants.

    If possible do some tests in the room beforehand. Rather than opening windows, get a couple of fans in the room (but place them far from the position of the interview). If windows are likely to be open, arrange the seating so it is the other side of the room. Even then, some higher pitched noises (like a pneumatic drills) can carry quite a distance so still may be picked up.

    If the interviewee has decided the venue, for example, a café or tea-room, arrive at least 15 minutes early, so you can check out the location before they turn up. Almost all cafés have the coffee machines that make a lot of noise, especially when the server (or "barista") bangs out the old coffee from the filter. Find seating as far from the counter or bar. The same goes for other venues serving food, etc., you don't want the recording drowned out by the clinking of plates as they are stacked up, or the clash of cutlery and its thrown into a tray.

    Another tip for a bar, café, etc.: pick seating up against the wall (and away from the doors leading to the kitchen or toilets). This will lessen the chances of other customers or the staff needing to get past you regularly and ensures interruptions are kept to a minimum.

    2/ CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT (AND CARRY SPARES)

    There can't be anything more embarrassing as when your equipment stops functioning (oo-er).

    You need to be certain you will be ready for anything - especially if the interview runs for significantly longer than planned. Up to now, interviews have lasted 30 minutes to an hour, but what if the next one goes for twice as long? You don't want to miss the last 15 minutes, which also turns out to be all the most important information.

    Make sure you carry spare batteries, and maybe even a spare recording device. Most smart phones have voice recorder apps so, if you have a smart phone, download one of these and perhaps have it recording as well as the main device, just in case there's a problem. If using rechargeable batteries then ensure they are at 100% charge just before the interview. (We did have one recording to transcribe where the final 20 minutes got ever s.l..o...w....e.....r as the last bit of charge seeped away.)

    Do a test run just before the meeting to ensure you have everything set up correctly. When you come to play back the recording, you don't want to find nothing had been recorded because the microphone plug has been put into the speaker socket by mistake.

    3/ KEEP BACKGROUND NOISE TO A MINIMUM

    Similar to the first tip, but you want to make sure you do not unwittingly introduce any noises that could drown out what is being said.

    It's a warm day and you put a fan on half way through the meeting. Although positioned a short distance away, you don't realise every few seconds the fan blows air across the microphone.

    Perhaps you have decided to lay on drinks and maybe even a snack. There will be the sound of cups scraping on saucers, the stirring of teaspoons in the cups, knives and forks clinking on cutlery, even the scrunching or rustling of a biscuit packet. All of these noises, even if not that close to the microphone, will drown out what is being said. If you are using the clip-on microphones, they can pick up the sound of the wearer chewing their food (not a pleasant sound to listen to).

    It is far better to ensure everything is kept far from the microphones. Perhaps have the food and drink set up at a different table. You can get the drink and snack before the start, or put the biscuits on a plate. If the interview is going to be long, perhaps have a scheduled break.

    If you have gone to someone's office or other area to record them, try and make sure that device is kept away from computer fans, telephones etc. (although, admittedly, the "tower" unit of a PC is far less likely to be on the person's desk these days). Just do a quick test before you start the interview proper to ensure the recorder isn't picking up a noise that you're not aware of.

    Remember, our brains are amazing at filtering out noises we don't need to be aware - but a microphone will pick them all up. The last thing you want it to find the recording is useless because of a sound you hadn't even noticed.

    4/ PUT THE MICROPHONE CLOSE TO THE PARTICIPANT(S)

    Obviously, the most important information is going to come from the interviewee(s), so you want to make sure what they say is picked up. You don't need to worry about recording the questions you ask, as you probably have a note of them anyway. It sounds obvious, but you will be surprised at the number of people who, when recording a meeting, click the "record" button on their device and then place it in front of them - sometimes several feet from the person they're interviewing!

    Therefore, especially if in a noisy environment, make sure you get the microphone as close to the interviewee as possible. Perhaps invest in clip-on microphones.

    Don't assume that because the microphone is sensitive, it doesn't matter if the interviewee is a little far away, remember Tip 3. For example, what if you're in a café and the waitress, asking the people at the table next to yours, what they would like to order, is closer to the microphone than the interviewee? How will you feel if, when you play the recording back, you find yourself listening to someone ordering "the full English with extra toast and a mug of tea" rather than the information you had been waiting to hear for months?

    So, make sure the microphone is as close to the interviewee as possible.

    5/ LAY DOWN GROUND RULES - ESPECIALLY FOR MULTIPLE-PARTICIPANT INTERVIEWS

    If several people are involved in the meeting, then it will be best if you lay down some ground rules for everyone to follow from the start. Otherwise, it is far too easy for the loud participants to dominate, and the quieter, shyer ones get missed, or even some members of the group start having separate conversations.

    When taking part in a meeting, some participants are so eager to have their say they will interrupt and speak over the top of others. This means it will be their voice dominating the recording, and any thoughts, opinions or views of the others will get lost. (And, with over 21 years' experience transcribing focus groups and brain storming sessions, we know that, if the quieter participants keep being interrupted. they will soon stop bothering to contribute at all.)

    In larger groups you may even find occasions where participants will have conversations between themselves while the main meeting still goes on. If these "side conversations" are happening close to the microphone they can drown out what is being said by others. These conversations may have nothing to do with the point of the interview and so will be completely useless. (We transcribed a focus group where all that could be heard on part of the recording were two people discussing how they had travelled to the venue that morning!)

    Depending on the subject of the meeting, you may find two (or more) participants vehemently disagree with each other and start arguing. Again, this can then dominate the recording, so should be stopped quickly. (In one meeting about the effect of climate change, an older male disagreed completely with a young woman's ascertain that trees "take in" carbon dioxide and "give out" oxygen - which is true. The older male kept referring to it several times during the focus group, with sarcastic statements like "If we are to believe that trees..." )

    So, before the start, it is probably a good idea to state something like "Obviously, we want to hear from all of you and everyone's opinions are important to this interview. Therefore, please respect each other, do not interrupt or talk over people, let people finish what they are saying." If you then find people are starting to forget the rules, it doesn't hurt to remind them.

    Finally, again, do your best to have the microphone in the middle of the group, so you have the best chance of picking up what the quiet ones say. If you are involved in doing a lot of focus groups, or interviews with a large number of participants, it might be worth investing in more expensive recording equipment, which can handle two microphones.

    REMEMBER: If it is important enough to be recorded, then it's important to ensure that what is said is picked up on the recording. A few minutes following the above tips will give you the best opportunity to ensure that happens.

    Ashley Price is the Proprietor of The Audio Typing Service, which, for over 21 years, has been providing a fast, accurate and confidential service to companies needing transcription services, both in the UK and round the world (including Australia, Abu Dhabi and the Netherlands).
    JEREMY HAWKE likes this.
  • Why you should no longer take Minutes in a meeting Jan 8, 2018

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    For some interviews or meetings, taking Minutes (or making notes) is fine. However, there are certain times when having an audio recording would be far more beneficial. It ensures accuracy and, should the need arise, it can be used to ascertain exactly who said what. And you don't have to find someone who will take on the onerous task of taking Minutes.

    The main types of interviews to consider recording are:
    • Work/performance related meetings
    • Disciplinary and grievance interviews
    • Termination of Employment interviews
    • Focus groups
    • Brain-storming sessions
    If you, or someone else, is taking handwritten notes of what is said and by whom, there is the chance information can be missed, especially if there are several participants or the interview becomes heated. If the note-taker is also involved in the meeting, then the task becomes even harder.

    It is far better to have an audio recording of the interview ensuring that every word that is spoken (and by whom) is picked up. This means all participants are involved fully and can forget about needing to capture any salient points. If the plan is to have a transcript, then the recording also ensures the resulting document will be accurate.

    Certain meetings, like disciplinary or grievance interviews can be highly emotional and people do forget what they have said. With handwritten notes there's no proof as to accuracy. If a recording is made, it can be played back to check.

    In a follow up meeting we transcribed, the subject of the disciplinary action complained that the transcript of the previous meeting hadn't recorded accurately what they had said. They were determined to prove the process was biased and even the typist of the transcript was against them. The interviewer was able to access the audio recording of the previous meeting and the relevant sections were played back to the person. The interviewer also went on to explain the transcripts were typed up by an outside agency, not connected with the company, precisely to ensure there was no bias. Had the company not been able to do this, it could have led to a lot of time and money being used to redo the relevant meeting.

    Focus groups and brain-storming sessions should also be recorded. You have a large number of participants who will, at times, interrupt and speak over each other. While, admittedly, listening to the recording and trying to hear all that was said in these situations would be hard, attempting to take handwritten notes at the time of the meeting would be almost impossible.

    So, making an audio recording ensures you have the best chance of capturing all the ideas that come out of the brain-storming or focus group.

    So, don't rely on notes or Minutes, have the meeting recorded to ensure you capture everything you need.

    Ashley Price is the Proprietor of The Audio Typing Service, which, for over 21 years, has been providing a fast, accurate and confidential service to companies needing transcription services, both in the UK and round the world (including Australia, Abu Dhabi and the Netherlands).
  • Starting a business? Don't expect friends to buy from you Dec 9, 2015

    So you decide you're going to start a firm that does a B2B product or service. You get all set up and decide you should let all your business friends and associates know. They've known you for a long time, so are likely to put some work your way and possibly refer others.

    So, you call, or send a personalised email, to each of them and let them know about your new venture and... you get little more than a trickle of interest. Most will say they'll have your information, but few actually start to buy from or hire you.

    After a month or so, you think "Hmm, some friends they are."

    But in business there's no such thing as "friends"

    Those people you meet up with regularly, maybe put work or sales their way, always find time to chat with them, etc., become a different person once business is involved. Even offering them "mates rates" or other incentives won't necessarily work.

    As soon as you start a new business you should consider yourself back to square one with everyone.

    Anyone in business is only interested in what a product or service will do for them, how it will help them, get them more profits, lower their outgoings, reduce waste, cut down on completion times, etc. They are very unlikely to start using your business just because it's you, you still need to show them how your business will help them.

    However, as these people know you, they are more likely to meet up with you and give you time to present your service or product.

    So, if you start a business, by all means let everyone know about it, but don't expect all your friends to immediately switch over to using you. It is down to you to show why they should use you.
  • Ink and toner cartridges: Which you should use and why it matters Oct 28, 2015

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    Original, compatible, imitation, re-manufactured...

    There are so many different types of cartridge out there for both ink and laser printers that it can all become confusing. So here's some definitions:

    Original
    As it sounds, this is the genuine, original brand from the maker of the printer (e.g. HP, Epson, Brother, Canon) and is guaranteed to work in the relevant printer. If there is a problem with the cartridge then you should be able to speak to your supplier or the maker of the cartridge for assistance and advice.

    One complaint often made about original cartridges is how expensive they are. However, this is like many products where the main unit uses consumables (e.g. razors with replaceable blades). The unit itself was very cheap, but the consumables are expensive to replace. Often the unit is made at a loss and the company gets the profit from the replaceable parts.

    However, be aware and look out for the term "remanufactured original" or similar. These are not the same. See below for more detail

    Compatible
    Compatible cartridges have been made by a third party for printers and are often much cheaper than the originals while, at the same time, having little noticeable difference in print quality.

    You can save a significant amount of money by purchasing these compatibles as long as you buy from a respectable company or dealer.

    At Pavilion our two compatible brands are guaranteed to work in the printers they are designed for. Therefore, if a customer has a problem they can just contact us and it will be dealt with.

    Imitation
    This sounds similar to "compatible" and some use the two terms interchangeably, but there is a big difference.

    Imitation cartridges are usually very cheap (even compared to compatibles) and poor quality. At best you will not get the same print quality as an original or compatible, at worst they can damage the print head or even the whole printer if they leak!

    Some of these are also illegal as they break copyright laws of the original manufacturer.

    If you have any problems it is very unlikely you will have anyone to complain to, as many places that sell these have no proper (any?) customer service.

    Remanufactured Original
    Some retailers offer these and occasionally people fall into the trap of seeing the word "original" and not realising that these are not.

    Basically, a remanfactured cartridge has had the original casing replaced or refilled (possibly with third party ink or toner).

    They should work in the relevant printer, but you will need to check what the terms and conditions are if there is a problem.

    "Which should I use?"
    From the above definitions, it should be clear that you should stick to either original or compatible (if buying from a respectable source), especially if you care about your printer being damaged.

    Unfortunately, there is still a big trade in the imitation cartridges, especially on auction websites and similar. You might be saving yourself a few pounds by purchasing the cheapest cartridges possible, but what happens if the print quality is below what you would expect, or, a month later, a cartridge leaks and you have to replace the printer?

    If you would like a price comparison on ink and toner cartridges, do not hesitate to contact me direct, or see the Pavilion Office Products website.
  • The best day to cold call Sep 28, 2015

    So when is it? Which day is the best day to ring a prospective customer? When are you most likely to find the contact in, get their attention and arrange an appointment or make a sale?

    There are those people out there who hate cold calling and they will find any excuse to not do it, including saying which days are the worst. But if you listen to them, you'll notice that by the time they've finished their list, there's no days left...

    Those who hate cold calling say "Don't call on a..."

    Monday: People have just come back from the weekend. They will be fed up and tired, they will have all their emails and post that has come in over the weekend, to catch up on. If I phone them on that day they'll be angry and probably won't even talk to me.

    Tuesday: You know, I read somewhere that Tuesday is the most productive day of the week. So, who wants to disturb people then? They'll be wanting to get on with their work, they're not going to want to speak to me.

    Wednesday: I would never think of calling on a Wednesday. It's the worst day, people are going to be depressed about it being half way between the two weekends. Best to let them just get on with their work.

    Thursday: No, you must not call people today. They're really busy now, the weekend is coming into view and they're starting to realise how much they have still to do for the next two days. They're not going to speak to anyone.

    Friday: Almost as bad as Monday, people are going to be super busy in the run up to the weekend, they simply won't take calls, and they won't be interested even if they do speak to you...

    I know these excuses because I used to use them myself. Now, however, I have got over my fear of cold calling. Okay, I'm not going to say I enjoy it, I don't, but I don't find excuses for not doing it. I simply take a deep breath, put on a smile, grab the handset and get on with it. I phone from 9:30am until my list of calls is done and that's Monday to Friday inclusive.

    So the answer is...

    The best day to cold call is ANY DAY!

    As long as you are polite, not pushy and accept that if the person says "No", you should get off the phone quickly, then you'll be fine no matter what day or time (although, I almost guarantee you won't get a good response at 3am on a Sunday).

    And rarely does "no" mean "never" - it just means "not at this time". People are busy, they won't remember your call a day, a week or a month later. If you get a "no" today, leave it a month and try again. However, people will remember you and vow never to buy from you if you keep phoning and being aggressive, and that's when "no" will mean "never".

    Don't bother referencing your previous call, by saying something like "You may remember I called you back in..." almost certainly they won't remember. Treat them as a brand new call. Leave it to them, if they do remember you, all well and good, but don't assume they will.
  • Recording a Meeting? Here's 5 tips Jan 22, 2014

    Recording an important meeting or interview can be the best way to ensure you capture what is said and by whom.

    There are certain meetings that should always be recorded. If you are not sure which ones, see the blog post When to record & transcribe a meeting for more information.

    However, there is no point recording the meeting or interview (I will just use "meeting" from now on) if no one can be heard on the resultant audio file.

    So here's five tips to ensure you get the best quality recording.

    Before the meeting
    Check all your equipment works and have spares to hand. Try to have time to set up the recorder and do a test run in advance, you want to iron out any problems. Ten minutes of testing now can save a lot of anger and disappointment later if it's only after the meeting you find out the microphone wasn't switched on.

    Have a quiet environment
    Obviously a meeting that is important enough to be recorded, should be held in a quiet area - a separate room for example. But noise from machinery or from outside (if windows are open) should also be considered, all of which can be picked up by the microphone if it is particularly sensitive. You don't want to end up with half of what's said drowned out by the workmen digging up the pavement.

    Position of microphone and other objects

    Our brains are remarkable at filtering out noise that we don't want or need to hear. We quickly get used to the hum of the fan, the chink of cups on saucers, the shuffling of paper, the crinkling of the packet as someone takes another biscuit. Soon, we don't even notice these background noises. Yet a microphone will pick up all of them.

    Make sure there is nothing near the microphone that makes a noise loud enough to drown out people on the resultant recording. Some microphones are so sensitive they can even pick up the sounds of someone chewing and swallowing (which, while it may not be too loud, is, nevertheless, very unpleasant to listen to).

    While you cannot dictate what participants wear, someone with a lot of metal bangles or bracelets can affect the quality of the recording if they move their hands a lot in front of the mic, the jingling from the bangles will again make it hard to hear what was said.

    So try to keep everything that may make a noise away from microphones. If it is to be a long meeting then why not schedule a break period for people to have drinks and a bite to eat.

    One more thing, even silenced or switched off mobiles can cause interference on the recording. Ask people to make sure their phones are kept some distance from the equipment.

    Set some "ground rules"

    At the start of the meeting ask people not to interrupt or speak over each other, otherwise what is said by both participants will be difficult to hear. This is especially useful if you have a dominant, loud speaker, and other, quieter people. Some people are shy and don't like to be interrupted and, if it keeps happening, will eventually just stop contributing to the conversation. Everyone's views are important (or why else would they be there?) and you want to capture what they all say.

    If it starts to happen, don't let it go on too much. Maybe even stop the people and ask who was speaking first to finish what they were saying. Doing this a couple of times, will remind people not to interrupt.

    Make sure you follow the same ground rules. We've done recordings where the person conducting the interview or chairing the meeting, seems to think the "no interruption" rule was for everyone else, but not themselves.

    Get everyone to introduce themselves

    If you are going to get a third party (someone not involved in the meeting) to transcribe the recording, then help them out by getting all the participants to do a brief introduction. They should state their name, job title, and any other information that maybe relevant to the meeting (length of service, number of staff under them, etc.) This is especially useful if there are several in the meeting. It allows the transcriber to get used to each person's voice and makes for easier identification when typing.

    Following the above tips will ensure the recording of the meeting or interview is the best it can be. You don't need to have high-end, expensive kit to get a good result. We've had very poor digital recordings, but excellent, very clear ones on audio tape.

    If you are on Twitter, you can follow @AudioRecordingTip for regular tips and advice on getting better recordings.
  • Recording an Interview? Quiet Please! Sep 10, 2013

    You've finally got the interview you've been trying to arrange for months. You've sat the person down, set the recorder going and hold the interview.

    You rush back to your computer to transcribe what was said. You hit PLAY and... your face drops as you realise the recording is useless.

    So many things can seriously affect the quality of the recording. The biggest one being background noise.

    Obviously, it's best to hold the interview in a quiet room rather than a noisy cafe, but even small noises, if they happen near the microphone, can drown out what is said. Someone stirring their tea, taking a biscuit from a packet, shuffling papers, picking up or putting down a cup on its saucer, the clatter of cutlery... all can make it very difficult, if not impossible, to hear the participants in a recording (and possibly temporarily deafen the typist if they are wearing headphones).

    If the interview is really important It is worthwhile doing a test run for a minute before properly starting the interview, then you can playback the recording and check everything is clear. You might pick up the fact that the fan, that is slowly moving side to side, blows air straight into the microphone every few seconds drowning out everything that is said.

    Very good quality microphones can even pick up the sound of someone eating or drinking. Not only can this make what is spoken difficult to hear, it's not very pleasant for the typist having to listen to someone chewing and swallowing.

    So, if at all possible, try to ensure that noise is reduced to a minimum. Sometimes a quiet atmosphere can change quickly. What was a quiet room suddenly becomes noisy because a door or window is opened and the microphone then picks up all the new noises.

    Just a few simple checks can mean the difference between an accurate transcript and one that has lots of gaps because of noise on the recording.