Most talk of trade shows on the COW is related to NAB, CineExpo, IBC and the like - trade shows for our trade - media production tools and techniques. Attending these shows helps media professionals do their jobs better and offer their clients excellent services.
I am in a unique position at Cine-Med, in that I occasionally attend such an industry trade show. However I regularly attend trade shows in the industry in which Cine-Med does business - healthcare.
You see, we do work for clients in the medical industry. There is not better place to network with current and potential clients that at a trade show like the ones we attend. Think of it this way - if you shoot videos about race cars you may go to NAB to pick out a new camera, but you also should go to racing shows to find prospects for your services. Same concept with us.
We also have a number of product lines - DVD's, CD-ROM's and our ever-growing series of textbooks - all designed for sales to individual medical practitioners as well as to hospitals, medical libraries and residency programs. Again, representatives from these groups are in great supply at medical trade shows.
At the meeting we are attending next week in Washington DC we have a number of functions:
1. Traditional trade show booth.
This year we have reconfigured slightly to include an LCD monitor playing a promo loop, video store style DVD racks and our selection of books, including the debut of nearly half a dozen new titles.
As mentioned previously, our booth location serves as a meeting point for both pre-arranged and on the fly meetings with current customers, industry partners, new contacts and the regular stream of people checking out the exhibits.
3. Lead generation
Every name badge has a bar code that can be scanned. We can instantly print out a thermal paper slip with contact details, and we also get a thumb drive at the end of the meeting with the contacts. Of course you only get the lead if you have engaged someone in a conversation and they either purchase something, sign up for a catalog or ask to be added to your mailing list. We cannot just go around playing Lazer Tag with peoples' name badges!
4. Audiovisual support
While the meeting has its own A/V support vendor, we manage the surgical video library. Over the past few months we have received and formatted nearly 200 10-12 minute procedure videos which will be shown over 4 days of the meeting. We work closely with the audiovisual vendor to stay organized, format all videos appropriately and digitally transfer the appropriate files to each meeting room over the convention center network.
5. Preparing for future meetings
One good trade show deserves another. Most large meetings are planned years in advance. I can tell you the city and dates of at least two shows per year for the next 4 years. Makes it easy to arrange vacations and surprise parties!
Thus, we promote our own future courses and meetings, and make contacts with those we will interact with during the planning process.
Sometimes we take advantage of the gathering of minds to get other goals accomplished. We may schedule a meeting or dinner with a group of faculty for an upcoming project. In the past we have rented tv studios or hotel meeting rooms to do multicamera focus group video shoots. I have done some light video editing with a doctor either at a coffee shop or in my hotel room. Actually, a quiet hotel room in the middle of the day makes a decent voice over booth.
As a company, we attend 2-4 large shows each year, and individuals go to another dozen smaller meetings as well. Some of the smaller meetings double as distance learning continuing education courses. Some of these courses we administer and/or provide CME or Continuing Medical Education credits. In addition to a media production and publishing company, we are also meeting and event planners and we are accredited to sponsor courses for physicians, nurses and pharmacists.
Do not discount the value of attending a trade show for the industries in which you do business. If you have a plan and realistic goals it can be good for business.
Thanks for attending.
Although I recently watched Lord of the Rings in HD, I am not talking about the Battle of Helm's Deep.
No, I mean to say, Given a large list of things to do, rather than trying to do more work than is humanly possible, simply pick and choose tasks until you can start knocking things off the list.
When I first started this blog, I used to talk a lot about workflow, project management and organization. I have not written about these subjects for a while, perhaps because I am more organized than I used to be. However, many of the principles still apply.
Make a List
This list can be daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or simply as often is necessary. Do it in Excel, MS Project, a whiteboard, a blackboard if you like chalk dust everywhere, scraps of paper, sticky notes or the back of an envelope.
If this list is something others need to see, I suggest a large markerboard in a hall or common area. I have both. The smaller board in the hall lists hot projects and shoot scheduling. The larger board in my office has a 3.5 month calendar and a column for each person including myself.
I keep a personal list as well on a running page after page legal pad (we will call this the LPad - take that Steve Jobs!).
Crossing off an item gives some gratification.
As for organizing not simply tasks or projects, one must often organize assets - media files, document version control, quality assurance and the like. An Excel file works, however this can result in a lot of file versions being emailed around. One file on a server that can be updated by anyone helps. A web-based spreadsheet that always appears in a browser tab can be even better. There are web-based services for this sort of thing like Basecamp and Dot Project - but you can get so wrapped up in managing the online service that it becomes a job unto itself (see "Balance" below).
Check it Twice
This is one reason I keep multiple lists - to make sure priorities are accounted for, to resolve conflicts and to make sure that we are not forgetting anything.
Periodically discussing the to do items with the people to whom they are assigned is another important function. And don't just say "do this, then this" - be sure to get feedback as to the realism of timelines and dependent tasks.
What is a dependent task? Why, it is a task that cannot be done until something else has been completed first. This can be a challenge.
As already mentioned, one must list items in order, or at least indicate somehow the order of completion that should be followed.
In our shop, we have a standing rule about prioritizing work should someone need to make a decision. In the case of a conflict, ask me. In case I cannot resolve a conflict, go to the boss. But the boss has better things to do than to do my job, so as a manager I need to maintain control over priorities, resolve conflicts, and stay organized.
Occasionally, a hot job comes through the door, or something on hold becomes active again. Thus, reprioritization can become a..um...priority all its own. No client should be told they are not the priority, as there is always a priority given to jobs that a client is expecting to be completed in a timely manner. And as soon a we can complete a client job, the sooner we can send an invoice!
This goes right back to the last two items. Find a way to balance everything that needs doing without resorting to multitasking or excessive overtime. You do this by delegating the right job to the right person in the right order, and evaluating the progress on a regular basis.
Easier said than done - management of jobs, schedules and priorities is a dynamic process requiring daily progress reports. It can be a simple "how's XYZ going? Do you think 2 weeks is still enough time?" or as complex as "attached is an excel listing the current status of XYZPDQ - we will update this at the end of the week and reevaluate the completion schedule if anything new happens this week, etc."
Balance can also mean, balancing the project tasks with the organization of the projects. Don't let whatever system you use become another project to manager. Being a project manager means you manage the project, not that you manage the managing of the project.
You have to manage the managing of the project, but not to the detriment of the project.
Do What Must Be Done
This does not mean working 80 hour weeks. It might, but it mostly means being focused on the tasks at hand, trying to stick to time lines, and being diligent in everything you do.
Think of the Big Picture
This big picture is your bottom line - profit. This bottom line is fed by successfully completed work, which keeps your clients happy. Simple really, but getting there is half the fun.
It's 1AM - do you know where your clients are?
Hopefully in bed dreaming of the latest hernia surgery DVD - but what if the client is:
A) On the opposite coast and it is only 10pm.
B) In Europe or China and it is...well...some time in the near future.
C) In a crisis
I. Crisis = Something that is a matter of life and death
II. Crisis = Someone has lost their USB thumb drive and has a 7am presentation
III. Crisis = Something in between I & II.
D) Working on the same project as you and assumes you are still awake.
E) A doctor who, apparently, does not sleep.
If you are like me, you have experienced all of the above.
During the day, phone calls, emails and meetings are the norm. The sun is up. But when the sun goes down, anything can happen. Most of the time, you go home, watch some tv and chill out. Sometimes.
If you are an independent contractor, a small business owner, a large business owner, not the owner but in a position in which you manage projects, or somewhere between the owner and the low man on the totem pole, or the low man on the totem pole, you probably have a set of standards that goes something like this:
Should I Answer the Phone at Any Hour?
A. If the caller ID is from someone I know - let it go to voice mail, then check it and decide what to do.
B. If A + it is someone directly involved in a current deadline, and you are awake, answer the call.
C. If it is someone involved in a deadline and I am awake working on the project, then answer the phone.
D. If the client calls and does not get me, maybe they will send an email or a text. Then I can reply if I want to, need to or would not dare not reply.
But what if YOU initiate contact?
A. You are checking email before bed and you reply to a query or send a new message, assuming the recipient will get the message in the morning.
B. If you sent a message and the recipient is awake, in a different time zone, bored or antsy, perhaps they will get your message instantly, and reply.
C. If B happens, you have the possibility of engaging in conversation either via text, email or phone.
D. If 2 to 5 back and forth cycles of text or email does not seem to make 1 + 1 = 2, then it may be prudent to dial a number, or expect the phone to ring.
E. Assuming you intentionally engage in telephone talking or simply accept a phone call, and it is 1AM, then be sure to get to the point and get off the phone.
F. If you are in an all night edit session or whatever, then phone calls, Skype video chat or whatever may be the norm.
In general, I do not answer the phone after 7pm, unless there is a hot deadline in the works, or if one or more of the following criteria are satisfied:
A. A hot deadline is imminent.
B. A hot client is calling - this is someone you stop what you are doing for, morning, noon or night.
A and B may be mutually exclusive or inclusive to each other.
C. It's the boss.
D. It's the fire department/police/alarm company.
E. It's a co-worker who is out of town on a shoot, or working an all-nighter, or broken down on the side of the road with no one else to call.
F. I'm awake and in need of a surprise.
Note - if you are awoken by a call, clear your throat before you answer. Nothing is worse than answering the phone like Peter Brady going through puberty.
Sure, I could turn off the phone completely and avoid these concerns - but as you can surmise, I have a system of tolerances that if followed lead to sanity as well as the providing of customer service when appropriate.
Here are a few examples from the real world (details have been changed to protect the guilty!):
Call Out of the Blue (aka, I am not expecting it)
9pm (7pm Jackson Hole time)
Woman, "Hold for Dr McDreamy"
McDreamy, "Michael? Derek Shepherd."
Me, after a split second to get my game face on, "Hi, how can I help you?"
McDreamy, "I'm here with Trapper John, Quincy, Dr Quinn, Marcus Welby and Cliff Huxtable. Can you instruct us on how to import DICOM movies into Powerpoint. You're on speakerphone."
I went on to boot up my computer, find some links and send out some emails with instructions. I later got a call from my boss apologizing, who was there also and had no idea what was about to happen until it was already happening.
Expected Call (and one that never seems to arrive)
I was, maybe, going to fly down to East Buttonhole, North Carolina to shoot a new procedure. As of 5pm Friday when I left the office, it was not confirmed. I booked a last minute flight on a puddlejumper out of Raleigh. Saturday - nothing. Sunday AM - nothing. I am leaving voicemails and emails all the while - this was long before smart phones or even regularly used cell phones. Sunday afternoon - nothing. Finally at 10pm Sunday night, with a possible 6am plane the next morning, I finally got the call that we were on.
I initiate the call
Recently, while completing work on a publishing project, with hundreds of images to prepare for the final layout, I happened to be awake at 11:30pm. I had previously texted a doctor, who had just gotten back from vacation, to please text me when he was home. He did, and I replied "thanks, please download the new PDF." He did, then he called me around midnight. This is a scenario outlined above - don't send a message in the wee hours of the night unless you are prepared for an immediate respone.
Me, "Hi, how was your trip?"
notice I did not say "do you know what time it is?" - if you have that attitude you are best not to answer, which is perfectly acceptable behavior.
Doc Brown, "Marty, you'll never believe it. I just realized that the time circuits in the time vehicle are irreparably damaged. I'm afraid you are stuck here with me in 1885."
Me, "Cool, I've always wanted to learn to use a lasso. Hey, what's that noise in the background?"
Doc, "That's my steam powered ice machine. I've just invented Cream Soda!"
It was the middle of the night, but seriously, I engaged in friendly banter for a few moments, just to demonstrate that it was ok to call, because this was a hot deadline. I would not have answered the phone if it was not important.
We took care of the immediate question and said goodnight. But then he called back at 12:30 and again at 1:00am. I was up until 2am my time, and he was in Hill Valley, California 3 hours earlier. No worries - I don't do this every day, but given the time difference during business hours, this actually saved about 6 hours of phone tag the next day. I just hoped I would remember what we discussed in the morning.
Final Example - Opposite of Very Late = Very Early
In a nutshell, my good friend Lando Calrissian had to give a lecture to a conference of tabana gas mine workers on Dantooine (something about blowout preventers - especially important on gas planets), but he was at another conference on Malastair. The hotel he was in did not have a holonet transmission suite, nor could we find a vendor who was available at 3am local time on a weekend without involving the Hutts. Sometimes customer service is a black hole.
Luckily my ship, the Millenium Falcon, has a holonet transmitter. However it costs a lot of Republic credits to use it and it is often not working, so we sometimes use a free service that runs on a subspace carrier beacon. We ran a test the night before and it seemed to work, but one problem, Lando did not have a microphone for his computer, so we worked out a system using two comlinks and a microphone on my end. With Lando up at 2:30am, I awoke at 5:30am, we connected to each other's comlinks, then contacted the conference on Dantooine. The slides were transmitted directly from Lando to the conference, but the audio went to my comlink then into my computer to the conference. It seemed to work ok. At the end we had a good laugh.
For the real story (names still changed, but not quite so geeky) check out this blog, which I should have entitled "Mork Calling Orson, Come in Orson..."
Can you tell I have had a lot of coffee? Which reminds me, I think I'll do a blog about the perfect cup of coffee - that should be good for the COW's Google results!
Seriously - our jobs as media professionals are to provide excellent customer service to our...customers. Whether this takes place during regular working hours, any hour of the day, or if you consider any hour of the day to be regular working hours, likely will depend upon the client and upon the project, and upon YOU. Sometimes, duty calls, sometimes not. But in any case, your job is to get the job done.
Preferably while the sun is up!
Thanks for reading.
PS - If you are reading this after midnight, go to bed!