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Conference calling

Conference calling
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First Published: Tue, Mar 29 2011. 09 18 PM IST

Business card: Just take a photo and get the data for your iPhone.
Business card: Just take a photo and get the data for your iPhone.
For the last 10 days, I’ve been scampering around inside a huge exhibition complex in the Swiss city of Basel. Each year around this time, the world watch industry congregates in Basel for the largest and most important watch and jewellery trade show in the world.
For a little over a week, entire days are spent in the company of Rolex Daytonas, Zenith El Primeros and Bulgari Endurers.
Life could be much worse. Or not.
Business card: Just take a photo and get the data for your iPhone.
If you’re not prepared for the relentless onslaught of meetings, presentations and corridor conversations, business events such as Basel can be physical and mental torture. By the end of the first two or three days, your hotel room turns into a collection of haphazard heaps of things: business cards, used socks, sandwich wrappers, press kits. By week’s end, you get a sore shoulder, cramped feet, assorted fungal anomalies and the personality of a stab wound.
But this year I decided to see if I could take the help of contemporary Internet and mobile technology to bring some sanity to the mess. I downloaded several apps, browsed some productivity websites and did some common sense thinking of my own.
Many ideas blew up within moments. But some worked. Here they are:
Scan business cards: Take a photo of each card and let software (or humans) do the transcription for you. I’ve been using a free iPhone app called CardMunch all week. CardMunch, recently purchased by LinkedIn, submits photos of your cards to human operators who type out all the data and then send it back to your phone. Errors are few and far between. And cards are processed in minutes. I was able to scan over 400 cards in just under 30 minutes. You can then add the details to your iPhone address book.
Interview recordings: I’ve almost entirely given up taking notes with a pen and paper during an interview. It gets in the way of sustained eye contact, and often you can’t keep up with fast speakers. Instead, record your conversations on your phone or on a dedicated voice recorder. I use one of two apps on the iPhone: either the built-in Voice Memos application, or popular note-taking app Evernote. Voice Memos is good for the occasional short recording. But for power users, few things can match Evernote’s versatility. In addition to audio, you can also add photos, tags and location to your notes and then categorize them in notebooks. Evernote will sync your notes to the Web and you can seamlessly create and share notes between phone, Web and computer.
Image management: Most of my pictures are either used in blog posts or on social networks. Either way the idea is to share them on the Web. So instead of taking pictures on my phone and then uploading them to the Web via a computer, I use an app called DropPhox that automatically transfers pictures to a public folder in my Dropbox account on the Web. While you keep clicking, DropPhox keeps uploading. Later when you’re ready to blog, Dropbox is ready with the public URLs for your media. Genius. Simple. Fast.
Google Translate: How to tell the kind old lady at the counter that you want a cheese sandwich on brown bread when the only words you know in German are Wolfenstein 3D? On more than one occasion, I shamelessly translated things on my Google Translate app and pointed the screen at them. They usually understand and do the needful. By which I mean, “triple ham and double mayo please”.
Location searching: Carry at least one good quality search app on your phone such as Google Places or AroundMe. Use it to find the nearest train station, coffee shop, Starbucks, beer parlour or barber shop. It may also be worthwhile searching for the city’s Lonely Planet, or equivalent, app.
Transportation: The Swiss Railways has an excellent iPhone app ,
SBB Mobile, that makes commuting and changing trains a breeze (you can also buy tickets on it). If you have to change multiple flights on your trips, carry your airline’s apps if possible. Often these apps let you carry boarding passes on them. I also carried PDFs of the local tram network map and venue layouts.
Hand sanitizer: If you are going to use a Press room or shared computers, carry a small bottle of sanitizer. Conferences are also where flu and other viruses come to share notes and exchange best practices. Also good for quickly cleaning hands after a sandwich and before an interview.
Facial wipes: I have tremendously oily skin. And I didn’t go to Basel to spend half the day bent over a basin rinsing my face. I
always carry jumbo Hindu undivided family-size facial wipes.
Bonus tips: Carry USB pen drives, choose strolleys over carry bags and invest in a small, light laptop. Even an Apple Macbook Air is cheaper than shoulder or hip replacement surgery. And if business cards are in short supply, always have a draft of an email ready on your phone or laptop which has polite salutation and contact details. Fire away rapidly. Leave a positive impression.
Super bonus tip: Business trips suck. Send subordinates.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Mar 29 2011. 09 18 PM IST