Ah, the infamous conference call. What was once a technology touted for its ability to connect people without the convenience of distance, now bears the brunt of many jokes, like this gem from McSweeney's Internet Tendency. It sounded like a great concept, but unfortunately, too many conference calls are riddled with confusion caused by people speaking over each other. Being invisible also makes it easier to goof off. According to a 2014 study from Intercall, 65% of respondents have admitted to doing other work while on a conference call. What's even more frightening is 47% have said they've been going to the restroom and 43% were exercising. Without visual cues, it kind of just invites us to zone out. Here are some tips to help making your conference call run a lot smoother.
Get the time right, and confirm with all parties involved.
We can't tell you how many times we've heard of foiled conference call plans, especially when overseas parties are involved. Make sure you've correctly established whether time was in PST, EST, CST, or alien time. The best way to make sure you're right is to send out a calendar invite. At least 24-hours prior to the call, confirm by email.
Get the right number and pin.
It seems pretty hard to mess this up, but we've borne witness to random people joining our conference call because they sent out a conference line that was already in use. If your company uses one or two conference lines, make sure they will be clear before you schedule your call. Dial carefully!
Have an agenda beforehand.
Saying, "We're having a conference call to discuss X" leaves the whole line open to a free-for-all. Instead, designate a leader to prepare an agenda and send it to all parties. This person will then lead the discussion and act as moderator. Divide the agenda by parties who will be speaking on certain topics, and give them a devoted amount of time, like in presidential debates. This will ensure that people know when to talk and are not talking over each other, to much frustration.
Set a time limit.
The best meetings are brief ones. When you have an agenda, there is no room for tangents and diversions. People tend to get carried away when they don't see the bored faces of their compatriots yawning back at them. It's the moderator's job to help move things along and keep efficiency in mind.
Choose your party wisely.
Do you really need the whole 35-person marketing team on the phone? We highly doubt it. Choose only key players that have decision-making power to be included in the meeting. They can then relay the information to others. The more cooks in the kitchen, the more difficult it will be to get your point across.
It's super easy to be doing other things while on a conference call, but we urge you to focus. Close your laptop, even close your eyes if need be. Excess stimuli will make it harder to concentrate and listen to the voice on the phone. Check your social media on your lunch break. You're working now.
Instead of asking a general question to the group, always address people by their names. This will lessen the confusion over who should be speaking at any given time. It's like calling "I got it!" in volley ball. Otherwise, everyone rushes into the ball and ends up on the floor.
If you have something to say, say it. Don't pepper the room with "excuse me"'s and "I'm sorry"'s. Own it. Also, speak loudly and clearly, so you don't have to keep repeating yourself.
Audio conferencing is somewhat a thing of the past, considering the new use of video conferencing at offices. But if you're going old school, do it right.
For more on the best conference call systems, click here.
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As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.