Re-entry Following Vacation

Returning to work following a vacation can be a challenge. A few steps taken before you leave and immediately following your return can help make the return to the workplace less stressful.

Totem: Most of us are a different, more relaxed person when we are on vacation. I aspire to that state year-round, but, of course, it doesn’t happen. However, when I bring back a small souvenir of my trip and place it on my desk or make my computer background a photo from the trip, I am reminded of that serene person. It helps on frantic days.

Emails: I always turn on my out-of-office reply a day before I leave. This way I can have a day where I am able to handle the projects that I had planned to clear instead of addressing new ones.

Goals: Before I leave I pull out my goals so that on my return I can look at those and focus my energy for the week. Sometimes upon returning it’s too easy to get distracted by the unimportant.

Clear your calendar: I block my calendar the morning of my return to the office. This provides me a window to touch base with my team and review the status of projects. I also use the time to handle pressing emails.

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Graduate Advice Good to Follow

Give yourself the permission of time is the advice that Gale Goodson Butler, executive vice president and creative content leader of Meredith Corporation’s National Media group and editor-in-chief of the Better Homes and Gardens brand, told graduates at the University of Richmond earlier this month.

She was advising students to seek their purpose, whether it is fighting for the environment or making a difference in the world. “For most of us, a sense of purpose develops over time,” she said.

Butler’s advice, while intended for graduates, is a good reminder for all of us.

She also told graduates:

  • Find your voice and own your bold.
  • Keep getting smarter. In today’s world that means keeping up with technology and being smarter about collaboration.
  • Keep connected. Reaching out to others – whether it’s texts, phone calls or face-to-face – is critical in today’s world, whether for career networking or for personal connections.
  • Stay whole.

She encouraged the graduates to write down the elements that allow them to function in a healthy state. “Think of it as a written selfie,” she said. “This will help you rebalance.”

I particularly like the last one. When I taught media ethics, one assignment I gave students was to develop their personal mission statement. Knowing who you are and what is important to you helps to guide you in your life decisions. It’s also good to go back and review it occasionally because sometimes we all need to recalibrate.

Instead of taking a selfie today, why not create your written selfie?

Shooting Better Videos

The best way to become a better videographer is to carefully look at your footage when you are done.

That’s the advice of videographer John Romeo. “It’s how you know what works and what doesn’t.”

John Romeo provides an overview about video storytelling.

John Romeo provides an overview about video storytelling. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

When you create a video, he say, you are trying to capture the spirit of the event or place.”

“Think of it like a moving photo album,” he says. If you are videotaping a meeting, for example, you would videotape not only the people meeting, but the snacks, the flip charts and anything else that might be relevant.

Video gives you motion and time whereas with a photograph you only get a snapshot. John recommends, for example, slowly moving across the flip charts that have been hung on the wall, giving the viewer time to see them.

It’s also important when you create a video to record for a few seconds before fully engaging in the scene. This provides the time needed to blend footage together.

He also recommends shooting an establishing shot, which provides context to the viewer. “It’s a welcome shot,” he said.

The same is true of a closing shot, which is a final pull-away from the scene. “How do you want to end the video,” he asked.

A common mistake of those new to videography is trying to shoot everything. The audience needs to be told what to look at so start by establishing the scene and then focusing in one thing just as your eyes would do.

The two ways to zoom in are by using the camera lens or by physically moving closer to the object on which you want the viewer to focus.

When shooting, John recommends shooting with perspective. “You can get low, you can get high,” he said. “It gives a different shape to things.”

If you get down at the level of participants gathered around a table, it will look as if you are at the table. Getting low is especially helpful when videotaping children because you see life as they do.

By changing the perspective, you make for a much more interesting shot. “We’re so used to seeing at eye level,” he said.

If you are interviewing someone, he recommends scheduling plenty of time with the person you are interviewing. This prevents the person from feeling rushed. It’s also important to have the person answer in a complete sentence because the audience won’t necessarily hear the question.

Microphones are good, but he discourages placing them directly on a table because the sound will bounce. Instead place the microphone on something soft.

How to Manage Expectations

Have you been asked to organize a big event or a conference? Are you starting a new job or venture?

If so, then a key part of your success will be managing expectations. If you focus on four key areas, not only will you manage expectations, but you can also be assured to deliver success.

The four key areas to focus on include:

Wins. If you deliver a few wins early in the process, everyone who is working with you will have a greater level of confidence that you will deliver the final project. They also will be more willing to trust you. As soon as you start your new job or take the helm of a project, find out what is needed quickly and deliver it.

Delivery. Delivery is another focus area. You want to deliver some wins early. But don’t overpromise. Set reasonable deadlines and then meet them. Nothing is worse than agreeing to do something and then not delivering. In a former job, I often had to review materials from other people. I always planned to do so by day’s end. What I didn’t account for was the other five or six or seven requests that also would come in before the day was out. I quickly learned to state that it would be a few days before I could finish the review. That way, people weren’t disappointed if I couldn’t deliver by day’s end. If I was able to complete the review in a day, it was all the better. It’s better to under promise and over deliver.

Clarity. Be sure to understand what the assignment truly entails. I had a boss who could tell me what he didn’t like. He wasn’t as good at telling me what he wanted. I quickly learned that I was better off meeting regularly and reviewing the progress of a project or publication early and often so I could get better clarity from him. Doing so kept the project or publication on track and allowed me to meet deadlines. It also meant my boss was pleased with the final result. If I hadn’t consulted frequently with him, I may not have understood what the desired outcome was.

Communications. Communicate often. I serve on many committees (some virtually), and the first thing I’ve learned to do if I’m chairing the committee is to send a welcome note to everyone. This provides for inclusiveness and ensures I have the correct contact details. With the group, we establish how often we will meet, what are deadlines are and how we will manage tasks. Sending out an agenda and high-level notes (at a minimum, the task list) keeps everyone focused. Sometimes it’s good to over communicate.

By focusing on these areas, you can better manage expectations.

Rework Your Network

Have you recently changed jobs or are you thinking about doing so? Then you should spend some time reworking your network.

I’m not suggesting that you abandon everyone within your network, but you may need to add some new people and switch the types of meetings you attend.

Connections: Be sure to add people to your network who can counsel you about the field in which you are working or can give you straightforward advice about how you are performing.

Publications: You should also reconsider the publications you read. It doesn’t mean you have to give them all up, but you need to spend time reading those that are relevant to your current job or the position you are striving to get. When I worked for the Federal Reserve Bank, I read The Wall Street Journal every day. I still read the occasional article online, but when I moved into law enforcement, I needed to focus on the latest trends in policing.

Conferences: When I moved from law enforcement communications to international development communications, I stopped attending conferences for public safety public information officers and began attending the InterAction Forum, which focused on organizations within the development space.

Professional Groups: You will also want to reach out to other professional groups on LinkedIn. My work for some time has included a focus on crisis communications so I am a member of a group with that focus. However, if you are changing sectors, you may want to change the groups to which you belong.

Don’t Call Me

Please don’t think I’m rude, but if you call me, I’m not likely to answer the phone unless I was expecting your call.

PhoneI’m not going to answer because often you are calling when I am in the middle of something, but there is no way for you to know that.

So rather than sounding irritated when I answer the phone, I simply don’t answer and let it go to voice mail. I find this quite helpful.

If you are a reporter, I want to hear your message so I can identify the information you require. I have even set my voice mail message to include my email address to make it easier for reporters to make their request.

Emails work better for me because if I am in a meeting and there is a break, I can quickly check my emails and usually respond. Otherwise, it might be another hour or two until I return to my desk, and the person who is calling might need something much more quickly.

If you are a salesperson, once I have listened to the message I can determine if I am interested in the product and schedule a convenient time for both of us to talk.

If you are relaying information, then once I hear the message, I have the information and I can finish the project that required the information.

What are your thoughts on telephone interruptions?

Bringing Trends to Life

Knowing about the next big trend is not enough.

Instead you need to look at the trends and how they converge with consumer behavior, technology and the business landscape.

DeeDee Gordon, president of Sterling Brands, shared how you can imagine a future you can act on today at a recent American Marketing Association meeting in Richmond, Va.

Gordon is a renowned consumer insight and trends expert who has been at the leading edge of trend research for more than 15 years. “I have a problem,” she told the audience. “I am a trends junkie. I love to bring them to life.”

One trend she identified is metromorphis, the future of how we live and play. “It’s a fancy way of saying urbanization,” she said.

With more people living in a crowded environment, there is an emphasis on how individuals can have access to clean, healthy air. (Slide from DeeDee Gordon presentation)

With more people living in a crowded environment, there is an emphasis on how individuals can have access to clean, healthy air. (Slide from DeeDee Gordon presentation)

With more people living in a crowded environment, for example, there is an emphasis on how individuals can have access to clean, healthy air.

Because trends often don’t feel tangible, Gordon said her company embarks on a vigorous process to identify the trends. That includes placing the trend against a set of criteria. Trends must percolate within the culture for three to five years and must happen in both suburbs and rural locations, she said.

To show a trend’s true value, she said, you have to contextualize it within a business environment.

Looking at the intersections of cultural and global trends, consumer insights, new technology and the business landscape, her company is able to find opportunity spaces, which she said leads to big ideas.

In studying urban wellness for a client, for example, her company identified several opportunities, including a refresher box, which is similar to a phone booth, but when a person enters it the filtered air is fortified with essential nutrients.

Gordon said trends are always better supported by business technology and consumer insights. She also stressed, “It’s important to learn from others and to collaborate. Think big but keep yourself grounded.”