Friday, July 31, 2015

Don’t Short-Change Yourself: Confidence Matters

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “Don’t Hawk What You Can’t Handle: A Lesson In Customer Service.” The article warned against overextending yourself with promises you can’t keep -- still solid advice (I think so anyway).

While it’s certainly important to know what you can and can’t promise your customers, it’s first and foremost important to be confident in your abilities.

Just because you're starting out doesn't mean you have to start small! For instance: as a wedding planner, if you start off with low budget weddings, you may find yourself stuck in that category -- a tale more common than you might think. Now, there's nothing wrong with simple, inexpensive weddings, that's for sure. But if you aspire to do more high-end weddings, then go for it! -- provided that you are confident of your skills. Never limit yourself out of fear of failure.

If you believe you are capable of offering high-end services and you are sensible about your resources, then you're set. The greatest weapon in the event professional’s arsenal is self-confidence. You can handle just about anything if you’re confident in your abilities. Of course, confidence comes from knowing you’ve done the proper prep work, training, and practice that will allow you to succeed. Otherwise, it isn’t confidence, it’s bluster.

Too many event professionals sell themselves short, not because they can’t afford to offer greater services but because they lack the confidence to do so. If you convince yourself that you are not ready for something, or that you are not as skilled as someone else, then you’ve already defeated yourself. Exude confidence even when you’re scared. You’ll be surprised how quickly that confidence becomes real.

Clients notice and respond to your sense of self. If you waver at all, they’ll immediately question your abilities -- and why not? After all, if you’re not sure of yourself, how can they be?

Whatever service you offer, offer it with complete confidence that you are the best person for the job. And once you've taken a look in the mirror and told yourself you're awesome (confidence), take a look at Inspherio, the all-in-one event planning and business management tool (sensibility). Inspherio has the tools to help you to grow your business: you won't have to waste time with a lot of busy work that could be better spent doing fun things like cultivating your business's image, establishing your presence, and connecting with clients. Just sayin'.

One thing's for sure: without a program like Inspherio, you're going to have much more cause for anxiety. Nothing is more confidence-shattering than having to juggle websites, applications, and paperwork trying to stay afloat. Get organized, save time, and make more money with this program! Try our free 30-day trial and see for yourself. Let Inspherio be the spark that ignites your fire!
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Friday, July 24, 2015

Email Etiquette: Get It Right or Pay the Price

Whether by phone or email, event professionals are often in constant correspondence with their clients. As an event professional, a great deal of your job is attracting clients, which is then followed by maintaining those clients.

When you’re communicating with clients, potential or established, it is important to maintain a professional demeanor -- this means dressing nicely when meeting in person and speaking politely when on the phone. Most successful event professionals have these standards down pat. Yet all too often, people forget a crucial component of establishing a professional image -- email etiquette.

Following basic grammatical rules and adjusting your style, tone, and diction to your audience’s expectations is just as important for establishing and maintaining your presence as dressing well or speaking professionally. Like it or not, email etiquette is important if you’re trying to present your business to a client.

We both know you’re neither disorganized nor disinterested, but clients are going to judge, subconsciously or otherwise, the content of your written communication. If it looks like you put zero thought into your correspondence, your clients will feel they are a low priority to you, since you took little care in presenting yourself professionally. Perhaps your email comes off as too serious or confrontational or too personal -- these are the things to look out for.

Even if your clients make mistakes in their responses or inquiries, it’s best to be sure that you maintain a professional demeanor every single time you email anyone regarding your business.

Even the best make mistakes. It is all too easy to send an unpolished email without thinking -- we’ve all been there. But remember that emails are not texts -- there is generally no expectation of an immediate reply, at least not the same swiftness expected of most text conversations. So take a breath, read it over at least once, and then send it.

Finally, everybody has a different style of writing and speaking, and nobody speaks or writes perfect “Standard English” -- there’s no need to worry about following exactly every guideline of the Oxford English Dictionary (though you’re more than welcome to if that’s your style).

“Proper” English is not what we’re talking about; rather, what you have to say and how you go about saying it are what really matters in your messages. So be sure to ask yourself if there are more advantageous ways to phrase your sentences.

The following are a few pointers for drafting a professional email to your clients:

1. Always use “Dear___” when emailing a client for the first time, even if you know them well. This ensures that you view the recipient as worthy of a formal greeting. For the most part, their response will dictate whether or not you continue the formality.

2. For business emails, use at least a semi-formal closing. Generally speaking, sign-offs like “Cheers” or “Later” are to be avoided. A simple “Best” will suffice. There’s always the old stand-by “Sincerely,” or the trustworthy “Regards,” and, perhaps the simplest and most direct, “Thank you.”

Never simply sign your name at the bottom of an initial message without a closing. As the conversation goes on, it may be acceptable to do away with closings, but for first messages ensure you take the time to sign off.

3. Be aware of your tone. We are often told that all business correspondence needs to be direct and concise -- and this is generally a good rule of thumb. However, it is possible to be too direct. Direct language is great for clarity, but its brevity can quickly turn into curtness if you're not careful. There is nothing wrong with padding your sentences a tiny bit in the interest of being at least semi-polite.

4. Know when and when not to use exclamation points. I can't tell you how many times I've received an email littered with exclamation points -- it always feels like I've stumbled into a surprise party, but not the good kind. Exclamation points can be great to emphasize a point or to express excitement, but you can express excitement without having to make every other sentence an exclamation. If you want to sound excited, that's fine -- but not at the expense of your professionalism.

5. This should go without saying, but alas, it needs saying: avoid text talk. As mentioned briefly above, writing an email as if you're texting a friend is a really fast way to annoy your clients. We all get that we are often on-the-go and on our phones, but that's no excuse to stop acting like a professional. Besides, writing clearly and carefully can help you in the event that confusion arises and you need evidence to point to. It's much easier to point to a thought-out sentence than a jumble of unclear letters and numbers.

Keep these pointers in mind when you're drafting email templates. With Inspherio, the all-in-one event and business management program, you can create an unlimited amount of email templates for any situation you can think of. Once you have the perfect message, you can use our email marketing feature to send that message to targeted groups of people. You can even read detailed reports on recipients' various reactions to your email marketing campaign -- a very useful tool for market research. Try our free 30-day trial today and see how easy it is to spread the (well-written) word about your business!
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Friday, July 17, 2015

How To Stay on Task While Working From Home

Event professionals' work hours are rarely spent in an official office environment; instead, they tend to work from home and on-the-go. The work hours of event planners are pretty much 24/7, so learning how to balance business time and off time can be tricky to say the least.

When working from home, the boundaries of "on" and "off" time often blur. Your home is your residence, your shelter, your safe-haven -- and when you spend a great deal of time working in your hearth and home, the risk of losing that sanctuary quality increases quite significantly.

Whether you're just starting out or you're an established event guru, balancing home life and work life can challenging at times. Yet, with a little practice and determination, any event professional can master the art of working from home.

Working from home comes with the perk of having no commute (other than the long walk to the coffee maker), but there are downsides, perhaps the worst of which are the innumerable distractions in your home. No need to worry! Below is some advice on how to stay laser-beam-focused on your business, even when you're at home.

1. Television

Figure out the right amount of television for you. So many times we tell ourselves, “No television while working!” -- but if it helps to watch a little bit in between bursts of work, or to have it on in the background, that's perfectly okay. As long as you’re productive, what does it matter?

However, if you know that you are powerless to the allure of the television, try placing the remote somewhere inconvenient to retrieve; this way it isn’t easy to turn it on and off at will.

2. The Internet

The same goes for the Internet, except that the Internet is trickier than television, precisely because you more often than not need the Internet to do your work -- putting the distraction away becomes infinitely more difficult. As with television, a little bit of time is usually fine. Allow yourself to indulge in Facebook now and then if it helps you to recharge your batteries -- but if you know full well you’ll end up exploring every nook and cranny of your friends’ lives, then it’s best to avoid going there in the first place.

If social media is a huge distraction, a good piece of advice is to remove any bookmarks to social sites, and make yourself type the URL every time you wish to visit. Additionally, make it so that none of your social media accounts remember your login information. You'll have to type in all of your credentials, making it a little bit more annoying to log in. It’s not much, but being forced to expend energy, no matter how small, can help to deter you from mindlessly logging in to these sites. It's just that much more time to remind you that you're wasting time.

3. Break Time

Make sure you take breaks just as you would at an office. Taking a break gives you an excuse for a little distraction (but not too much) without feeling as if you’ve blurred the line between work and home. Set specific break times for yourself and stick to them. Give yourself an hour for lunch -- no more, no less. While you take these breaks, relax! If you’re going to keep that work/home balance you’ve got to be careful to adhere to your set time for each.

4. Work Anywhere but Bed

Keep your workstation(s) separate. First and foremost: don’t work in bed (you know, the place you go to sleep at night). If you stay in bed all day working and then go to sleep, you will have stirred the stress of your work with the peace of your rest. Your bed is sacred; keep it out of your work life.

5. Food and Drink

Eat and drink, but watch yourself. Working at home makes it easy to find food when you’re hungry and drinks when you’re thirsty -- a plus for sure. But if you’re not careful, you’ll find that food and drink often threaten your productivity as much as television, radio, and Internet.

It’s easy to get stressed out over a problem or dilemma, get up, walk to the fridge, and absentmindedly start eating. It’s also dangerous for your health, your weight, and your sanity. Granted, little snacks throughout the day (the healthy kind) can be amazing for your health and for your maintained focus -- just beware of grazing for the sake of grazing.

6. Stretching and Moving

Instead of eating all day, walk it out and talk it out. Speak aloud to yourself. Hearing yourself say something aloud might help you to clarify the murky thoughts of your silent inner dialogue. Do some push-ups or squats. Stretch. Getting your blood flowing can kick-start your brain -- just don’t over do it, as you don’t want to tire yourself out too much.

7. Nix the Outside Conversations

Do your best to keep outside (non-work) conversations at bay. You've heard it before, but it warrants repeating: during work hours your phone is for business only. Put it on "Do Not Disturb" mode, turn off the notifications -- do whatever you need to do to prevent getting sucked into a long drawn-out conversation with a friend (or foe).

As for your family, if they are home while you are working, be sure to (politely) make clear that when you’re working, you’re working. There’s no need to shut yourself up and ignore the world entirely, but it is important that you have space to focus in on your work.

8. A Line In the Sand 

One of the biggest benefits of going to an office is the simple fact that it separates work and home so distinctly -- but this line is less clear when working from home. Ensure that you treat your work hours as if you were at a different office entirely.

When work begins and ends, have something to do to signify to your senses that you have shifted from one direction to another. This can be any number of actions -- if you are able to keep the television off while you work, turning it on when you are finished can operate as a sort of ceremony to indicate you have finished the work day.

There has to be a discernible action that helps you to get in the right mindset for what you’re going to be doing. First cup of coffee down? Time to work. Out of the shower? Time to work. Without these little reminders, you run the risk of your morning spreading a bit too far into your workday -- and vice-versa.

Inspherio, the all-in-one event management program, certainly makes working from home much easier (and much tidier). Because Inspherio is cloud-based, you can work from home, the cafe, the park, the subway -- it's accessible anywhere and everywhere. All of your work can be consolidated into whatever device you prefer, which is a lot neater than file cabinets and drawers full of paper. With Inspherio, it's infinitely easier to switch the work/home gears when needed. Give yourself this convenience -- you've earned it. Try our free 30-day trial today!
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Friday, July 10, 2015

Avoid These Five Phrases When Meeting With Leads

Meeting with potential clients is a crucial step in event planning,  a "make-or-break" moment for the event professional. In-person meetings give you the chance to really make a connection with someone, beyond advertisements or marketing.

While these initial meetings are certainly full of opportunity and possibility for both you and the client, you must remember that your mindsets, demeanors, and approaches are likely to be quite different. Your client may be tentative where you are intent, cautious where you are certain, and static where you are spirited.

Confidence and a strong sense of self go a long way, but don't forget to be aware of and receptive to your audience's needs. For instance: if your client is being tentative, scale back the volume and reduce your movement a bit; if your client displays an eager enthusiasm, be sure to match her energy. Don't get so caught up in the sales pitch and the product that you forget about the reason you're there -- the client.

To help you along, we've collected some sales pitch phrases that you should absolutely avoid when meeting with your client. These phrases can quickly derail your conversation and jeopardize your business, so beware!

1. “We’re much cheaper than they are.” 

Don’t say your product or service is “cheaper” than the competition; sure, it's good to let them know you aren't overly expensive, but this sounds like you are of a lower quality than your competitors. By using the word “cheap,” you run the risk of making your leads feel like you consider them cheap.

Instead: Words like “cost-effective” and phrases like “more value for the money” are infinitely better than “cheaper.” Better still: pitch your product or service so well that they are not even thinking about cost.

2. “I’m not here to sell anything.”

Prefacing with a denial that you’re selling something is a surefire way to communicate to your lead that you are, without a doubt, selling something. Setting up defenses before even pitching your idea immediately places the potential customer in an adversarial position. Needless to say, this is not an ideal tone for a sales pitch. (It’s like a child telling her parents, “I didn’t do anything wrong, but…” -- you know it’s not going to be good news.)

Instead: Just present your service or product in a sincere, authentic way. A straightforward and honest conversation will put your potential customer at ease much more effectively than making denials.

3.“Trust me.”

Again, when a potential customer hears this, a red flag is going to pop up in her mind. She has already given you a degree of trust by listening to what you have to say. Your job is to build on that trust. If you present yourself with honesty and with passion, the trust comes naturally.

Instead: Don't tell me to trust you; show me why I should trust you and your service or product.

4.“Allow me to introduce…”

This phrase sounds very affected and showy. Instead, just go ahead and start talking! As we have seen, a lot of prefaces (well-meaning or otherwise) are damaging to your sales pitch.

Instead: Open with a question. Ask the lead what service or product she has been using. This way you have an “in” and you more organically become part of a two-way conversation. Ditch the cheesy phrases -- let the client tell you what she needs and respond accordingly.

5. “Oh, [the competition]? They’re incompetent fools, just terrible…”

There’s nothing wrong with being confident that your product or service is superior to the competition -- but relying on attacks indicates a lack of faith in your own product. If your product or service is so special (and it is!), there's no need to disparage someone else. Positivity trumps negativity every time.

Instead: Don’t risk coming off as cruel or desperate; instead, just focus on what makes you the best. If the competition comes up, give the facts and speak honestly about why you feel you are the better choice -- but don’t slander your competitors. Be classy!

When you’re ready to meet with your leads, consider keeping track of their details with Inspherio, the all-in-one event management program. Inspherio provides access to everything event professionals need: tools for record keeping, payment, employee payroll, inventory, scheduling, promotion, and planning are all conveniently located in the same place. Try our free 30-day trial today!
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Monday, July 6, 2015

The Do's and Don'ts of Website Design

In today’s business world, having a website for your company or organization is paramount for your success. Websites have been shown to increase sales and exposure at a relatively low cost, and users are more likely to research a product or a company online than anywhere else. And more often than not, your website is your first impression. 

Simply having a website is no longer enough; you need to be sure that your website is accessible, user-friendly, eye-catching, and functional.

We’ve compiled a list of some useful tips for making your website top-notch:

-Make information easy to find.

Don't get so caught up in the look of your site that you forget to make it accessible. There’s no benefit to a chic design if potential customers are unable to find what they need.

-Stay focused.

Don’t give users any headaches. Every page should serve a specific purpose and every page should connect to other pages. If a user arrives at a dead-end page, they’ll have to spend time getting back to where they were before, and you run the risk of annoying them and losing their business.

-Sometimes less is more.

Really flashy, in-your-face websites are rarely taken seriously and are often immediately dismissed as amateur by visiting users. Avoid background clutter, too many colors, dense paragraphs of text, and "busy" images.

Sometimes a very simple and straightforward site is the best way to go. Sometimes a sleeker site is in order. In the end, you will need to gauge what styles are appropriate for your target audience. For instance, a photographer will probably require a more visually-involved site, whereas a tax professional might refrain from using too much imagery.

-Maintain your website. 

Make sure that all of the links, videos, and pictures work. Every so often, go through your website and make sure that everything is working properly. You can’t simply let your website sit and expect it to function perfectly; you’ll need to periodically make updates and check on its functionality.

-Check your spelling.

Make sure you have spelled everything correctly and eliminated any awkward-sounding sentences or phrases. Nobody’s perfect: a mistake or two will probably go unnoticed by most users. However, if your site is loaded with misspelled words, your visitors may take you less seriously.

-Establish and maintain a tone.

Make sure that your site has a somewhat cohesive tone. If you’re going for a fun vibe, stick with that as much as possible. If you’re going with a “down-to-business” vibe, don’t suddenly turn funny. Conflicting tones can be confusing for users, many of whom are visiting your webpage to get a feel for what your company provides. Establish your tone and stick with it!

With, you have complete control over the design of your website. We provide you with the tools to create and to perfect your own site -- and if you need help, we're only a phone call or email away. Try our free 30-day trial and see what we're on about!

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