The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

10 time-saving methods to help you master scheduling — May 6, 2015

10 time-saving methods to help you master scheduling

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This is a post that first appeared on my blog last year.

I think of the last two years I’ve spent in New York as professional finishing school. If there’s anywhere on this planet where people are stupendously busy, it’s this place. It definitely took me a few months to settle into the rhythm. Combine this experience with recently fundraising, and I now feel incredible mindful of everyone’s time. So, without ado, I wanted to share 10 tips on how to win at professional time etiquette:

1) For the love of humankind, be direct with asks

Growing up in England and Australia, I was taught to be the opposite of direct. Skirt around issues, don’t address things head on, be tirelessly polite and pad lots of superfluous info around a lone ask. What I’ve now learnt is that one of the kindest things you can do for someone’s time, is to be as direct as possible. Don’t ask someone for coffee if you can put something in a one-sentence email.

2) Do double opt-in introductions

When I receive an email with the subject line: “Introduction…” my heart sinks. Connecting someone to another without asking the person if they want to opt-in, in a professional context, isn’t a favour to the recipient – it’s often a burden. In the days of overflowing inboxes, managing requests and day-to-day work – we can be plagued with guilt of not being on top of it all. The best referrers understand signal over noise – what each party is looking for. Over time when you build up trust in a professional relationship… use it wisely.

As Fred Wilson writes on AVC:

“When introducing two people who don’t know each other, ask each of them to opt-in to the introduction before making it.”

If you’re the one asking for an intro, include the context and a blurb that the introducer can easily copy across. Make it easy for people to help you.

3) Bcc the introducer post introduction

Once you have that intro, reply! It sounds super obvious but there’s been countless times when someone has sent an intro to me and the requester didn’t reply. Don’t be that person! When you do reply, move the person introducing you to bcc so they see you’re on it but you’re not clogging their inbox. Simply say thanks and that you’re moving the introducer to bcc in the email copy. No more getting stuck on irrelevant back and forths.

4) Don’t ask questions that you can easily google

Please don’t ask what someone’s email address is via social media when you can easily find it on the web. The same goes for other minutiae like addresses. If I’m sending a calendar invite through for a meeting, I’ll find the office address online (if it’s not on the website, look in their email signature, Foursquare/Yelp data and so forth).

If you’re reaching out to someone for advice, make sure you’ve read what’s out there first. Every man and his dog seems to have been interviewed about their journey or write a blog with their thoughts these days. Don’t make people repeat themselves.

5) Don’t abuse Facebook messages

This depends on personal preferences but I’m less of a fan of using Facebook messages for work comms. In a way, I’m glad Facebook is now splitting out the messenger app so I don’t have to install it and can switch off from another inbox to manage. If you want to say something important and have a request, don’t send it via Facebook. It’s likely just going to sit in someone’s ‘Other’ section unnoticed or just annoy them while they’re busy wading through the latest click bait in their feeds!

6) Calendar invites or it’s not happening

If you’ve arranged to meet someone or are hosting an event – calendar invite that thing up! Forget Facebook events invites or group text messages, New Yorkers sendPaperless Post invites that you add straight into your calendar. It often takes weeks to get on people’s schedule here – you’ve got to make sure you’re literally on it. If you’re finding scheduling is taking up a lot of time, check out services like Zirtualor Assistant.to.

7) Do phone calls

I have to admit, I used to hate phone calls… I’d much prefer an email. When I first moved to New York, I was surprised at all the phone call suggestions verse in-person meetings. The thing is, getting around the city takes a lot of time so why spend two hours out of your day commuting then having coffee, when you could fit it in an half-hour phone call. The same goes for email – if you’re forming work relationships, don’t ping emails back and forth, New Yorkers pick up the phone and hustle.

8) Do your background research

Preparation and research beforehand will make your meetings. Don’t spend time asking basic questions – the more you can deep dive, the livelier, more interesting and memorable the conversation will be. If you’re fundraising, for instance, go in knowing what companies/founders someone’s invested in, what their investment thesis is and if you’re at the right stage (e.g. What’s their average check size?). It’s likely not worth both of your time, if these things don’t align.

In terms of insights, Refresh is seriously a great app – it offers a nice (and often a bit too ‘stalkerish’) overview of the people you’re meeting with. It’s actually made it onto my phone’s homescreen it’s been that useful.

9) If you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late

Australians are known, well, for being casual with time. It’s quite okay to ‘rock up’ five to 10 minutes late to a meeting there. I mean, it’s obviously not great manners but most people do it. Fast forward to when I moved to New York, and had a steep learning curve. Over time, I’ve stopped arriving in the nick of time – and now give myself 10-15 minutes before any meeting.

10) Follow through

Pipeline’s Natalia Oberti Noguera recently said at a conference:

“Fortune is in the follow up.”

All of the above tips are nothing if you don’t follow up and follow through. Following up makes it worth it and is the ‘getting stuff done’ part – make sure you get your follow ups done within a few days post-meeting.

The golden rules of meetup etiquette — August 3, 2013

The golden rules of meetup etiquette

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Yes is not a maybe. Yes it not yes until a better offer… Used to the ‘Facebook generation’, organisers will estimate an actual 50% attendance based on RSVPs.

In my hometown of Melbourne, meetups are booming. Particularly in the tech, business and social scenes. A group of people in a room discussing interesting topics can be found on a regular basis at least three nights a week.

Attendances vary from three to 300, with some so inundated with interest they have to constantly move to larger and larger venues. Sponsors are falling over themselves and The Fetch started here which gives an idea of the demand.

So all is well, yes?

With popularity comes more to juggle, prepare and expectations to meet which may exceed the original intention of the group.

Spare a thought for passionate organisers, they undertake a fair amount of unpaid work, organising a venue, sourcing content, promotions and managing a night can be draining, with little acknowledgement.

Here are my golden rules of meetup etiquette:

Keep your RSVP up-to-date

Yes is not a maybe. Yes it not yes until a better offer. Last minute crises come along but generally even a five-minute change of RSVP is enough. Used to the ‘Facebook generation’, many organisers will estimate an actual 50% attendance based on RSVPs. But recently I have been to a few events with 30% or less, with no apologies. Which is disheartening for organisers, looks bad to sponsors and is just plain rude. It can also be expensive if a room has been hired and catering organised based on numbers. Some meetups now run policies to eject constant no-shows from groups, do we really need to get that far?

Don’t expect free food and drink

For meetups that don’t have an ongoing sponsor, it can be a time consuming and sometimes hard undertaking for organisers to constantly be finding and spruiking themselves to potential sponsors. Don’t denigrate a meetup just because there is no free food or drink, attend because of the topics and if you’re really desperate for something, take a long a six-pack, bottle of wine, or some snacks, others will be keen to share.

Consume and Contribute

Organisers are often desperate for content, wanting to avoid the default backup plan of ‘doing it yourself’. If there’s a relevant topic you’d like to see discussed, try to find someone who can present and propose them. Don’t think that you can’t present the topic, even if you’re an amateur or beginner to the topic, you can still bring something valuable to the discussion and your efforts may bring out more expert feedback from the audience.

General courtesy

There have been many discussions around appropriate behaviour in the tech scene that we don’t have space to revisit here, there are many cultures, backgrounds and opinions at meetups, be courteous and open minded.

Stick to the point

If you have a question of a speaker, make it a question, not a lengthy point that doesn’t go anywhere. If you have something more to contribute, do a talk!

Put your phones on silent

No need to turn them off, but please put them on silent, we don’t want to hear your latest clever ringtone.

Keep still and silent during talks

Often presenters are nervous, don’t make it harder by talking excessively, moving around, fidgeting etc.

It’s not your home

Setting up and cleaning up are part and parcel of any event. Lend a hand, it will be appreciated.

For balance, here are some tips for organisers:

It’s not an ego trip

Few organisers are guilty of this, but a meetup isn’t a vehicle for setting forth your own opinions and agendas. By all means, step in to run presentations once in a while (especially when no one else does!) and plug your work as recompense for your time. But it’s not all about you, all the time…

Keep an eye on the time

Meetups are generally after work and people have had a long day, if speakers have been given a time, get them to stick to it and allow for a little breathing/brain resting space between talks.

Keep an eye on the room

This skill can develop over time and sometimes you can be under or over sensitive to it, but try to get a feel for the room and attendees. Are they bored? Is it too hot? Do people look uncomfortable? Are people leaving?

About our contributor // Chris Ward is the cofounder of Green Renters, leads community and education at Go1 agency, and runs three tech meetups. Follow him on Twitter as @chrischinch.

Image credit: Frank Chimero

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