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Meeting Time

Having just received a meeting request in my blackberry, I thought I'd talk about the different meetings you may find yourself in in the multimedia business:

1. The all important kick-off meeting.

When you get a new project, the first order of business should be a kickoff meeting. You may have already defined the scope of work, or SOW (aka, statement of work) but you are well advised to get all interested parties together, either by phone or in person (or by Skype or Cisco Telepresence Suite (according to 24, these are commonplace)) as you want to make sure the known scope = the actual scope. This is also a good time to define roles and responsibilities, timelines and any details that you or your clients need to know.

2. The also important sales call.

Really these first two items are reversed as you need a sale to have a kickoff. Occasionally the two meetings are the same. You may have a client under retainer, and you periodically have a meeting to start a new project or a new phase of something already in progress.

But if this is the initial sales pitch, this is your chance to learn about the client's products and services, try to find out their current marketing strategy, and come up with your creative pitch on the fly, or if you have done your homework, you already know what you are going to say. But if the client has some new top secret world domination plan in the works, you may go in cold.

Next you may be asked for a price. For custom work, you need a custom bid. Tell them you can have a proposal later that day or in the morning. Assuming they like what they see, proceed to step 1.

3. The "hey, come on down for no particular reason" meeting

If this is an existing client, you should know what it is about, what it could be about or if you have no idea, you can assume it is to talk about new opportunities or worst case scenario talk about a project once it is finished.

4. Internal meeting 1 - staff meeting

These should be limited in time and scope to one important issue and have an agenda.

5. Internal meeting - business planning or brainstorming

Important - try to find a time that is convenient for everyone and rather than going on all day, a few shorter meetings may be better.

6. Internal project meeting - this could be an internal project kickoff, or an on-going project status update, or a combination of the above. In any case, stick to the agenda and keep it as short as possible.

In general, a meeting should have a clear purpose. You should know who is involved and what the goal is. If you get invited to one and you think it could be accomplished by phone, say so in a tactful way. It of course helps, as in any situation, to know your client. Some folks say "let's have a meeting" you know it is something that can't be done on the phone, or maybe it can. Not sure if I said this already...know your client.

Thanks for meeting.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Nov 24, 2009 at 5:25:05 pm business communication

MBWA: Managing By Walking Around

In this entry I'll take you on my daily walk around the office. Maybe you'll pick up some business advice along the way.

8am - finish breakfast, feed the cats, make some ham sandwiches and make my wife a hot cocoa. Hey, it's getting chilly. Managing the home is just as important as managing my work responsibilities. Looking after my family is the most important task of all.

8:30am - Knowing Waterbury, CT I'm stuck in traffic. In the 1960's a huge interchange between I84 and Rt 8, colloquially known as the Mixmaster, was built. Almost instantly, gridlock was the result. A 100 million dollar highway widening project a few years ago appears to have done nothing to ease congestion - in fact it may have made it worse. A big local scandal emerged after they completed the work. It seems the contractor bought after market storm drains and did not actually attach the drains to underground concrete pipes in some cases. So the work had to be redone at great expense to the state.

8:45am - arrive in the office. Boot up the laptop. Since I am a blackberry-addict, there are few surprises in the inbox anymore - actually more efficient because I spend exactly no time doing e-mail in the morning. Check voice mail. I don't get too much voicemail anymore, but occasionally. Maybe I will add my e-mail address to my outgoing message. Anything to help customers get in contact seems like a good move. Next stop the coffee machine. Those little plastic cup single portions are a great invention. I keep a fresh half and half carton in the fridge. It has become a nice routine, and it gets me out of the office early in the day. The only good line from Indiana Jones IV was when Indy said to a student, "If you wanna be a good archaeologist, you've gotta get out of the library."

So after the coffee brews I take my morning walk around. Say hello to everyone you know - you never know who might need help with something.

Customer Service - a chat with our customer service person updates me as to any concerns or requests of our customers. That is, people who buy our products. Unlike a traditional production company, we have a catalog of nearly 2,000 products. Direct mail, e-marketing and website e-commerce generate a dozen or more unique product orders each day. Sometimes the requests are for particular new topics, sometimes a request to host a video on an intranet. Other requests are tech support related or requests for a free trial of the video library. In other words, find out what customers are asking about, and try to respond with a solution. In other words, customer service!

Marketing - Next door down, we discuss marketing plans that may be afoot. We have been managing e-mail lists for our different product lines, made up of past customers and folks who sign up via our website or at events or tradeshows. The best part about a new e-mail campaign is viewing the open and click results. We can actually see who clicked a link, and then check that against the orders database to see who made a purchase. A qualified lead who actually completes a transaction is a beautiful thing. While there perhaps I can contribute some copy to a new catalog, postcard or website description, identify stock photos for an ad or get in touch with a publication about advertising. Think the Creative COW Magazine would run an ad for surgical videos? Probably should stick with medical publications.

Speaking of publications, next on to Publications - I have a couple of book projects on the fire, but our in-house expert always has some good advice concerning workflow and the press schedule, paper choices and pricing. Our designers work very well independently, but constant communication and attention to detail are vital. All work in progress is posted to various secure servers. In summary, seek advice and input from people who have a different set of skills and knowledge than you do. Teamwork is not only about like minded people working together, but it is also people with different backgrounds helping one another accomplish their goals.

Operations - Here I can check if my vendors' invoices have been paid or more importantly if our invoices have gotten paid! Submitting timely expense reports helps keep records orderly. And when it comes time for employee performance reviews, make sure a copy goes in the file.

Administrative Assistant - I try to have a fresh list of tasks every week. Writing letters, managing mailing lists, transcription of videos and even some basic html layout work are all great tasks for a good admin. Train your assistant to do many of the tasks which keep you from doing what you do best - creating. It is also a good idea to share your travel schedule, as this person may be answering the phone and taking messages. Finally, if you are expecting a call from someone important and you tend to not be at your desk much, make sure someone is on the lookout for you.

Meeting Planning - This is an aspect of our business that often comes as a surprise to people who only know of us as a publisher or production company. But planning and accreditation of medical meetings is a lot of work and we like to think we do it well. Each meeting has a registration website. There is reporting and detailed record keeping. The meeting location needs to be secured, blocks of hotel rooms reserved and catering to order. Participants in the meeting may sometimes be given continuing education credits - there is a whole system of record keeping for this as well. My role in these efforts may range from helping to design a website, basic database maintenance, to serving as AV support during the meeting itself and sometimes even shooting video of the proceedings, or editing a DVD after the fact.

Order Fulfillment - I started in this position right out of college. At the time we basically sold VHS tapes and the occasional monograph. Today, the previously mentioned catalog of DVD and CD-ROM products, along with over 15 textbooks and numerous specialty packages need to be processed each day. Digitizing and rendering along with DVD authoring and package design also happens here. While most of the library is already digitized, one can also find the DVCPRO tapes, or in another undisclosed location, the original 1", Betacam or 3/4" master tapes. Really, order fulfillment is one of the key roles - get the customers what they have purchased in a timely manner, and ensure quality every step of the way.

Back to the Production Department - since I know what each person is working on, my job here is to review works in progress, make suggestions, record temp voice tracks and troubleshoot as requested. But a tenet of lean project teams is "hire good people and let them do their jobs." This frees me up to go back to my office and do my job, which is a lot of coordination, project management, planning and helping others to do their jobs even better.


In other words, customer service. I am not so much managing all of the people with whom I interact. Rather, I am managing my own workflow, and managing to help others with theirs.

11:15am - I don't know about you, but I could go for another cup of Fair Trade Organic Decaf with a splash of cream and some cocoa powder sprinkled on top. You never know who you're going to run into in the break room.

Thanks for walking around.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Nov 6, 2009 at 7:59:01 pm managing, teamwork

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


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