Speed Read Your Way To Being More Productive

Business How To’s

11 June 2018

Speed Read Your Way To Being More Productive

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Have you seen the WhatsApp forward that’s been doing the rounds lately? It asks you to gauge your reading speed, ergo your comprehension levels, through a short video where the rate of text on screen gets progressively faster until you’re literally at the edge of your seat trying to keep up (gasp). Most people seem to manage about 500-550 words a minute. The others? They are Speed Readers.

Entertaining forwards apart, the numbers tell a different story. Technical information reading averages at 50-75 words a minute. Let’s find out what makes speed readers do what they do; seemingly effortlessly.

What is speed reading?

Speed reading is the art of assimilating more words and phrases in a shorter time, sometimes even at once. This mind tool has long been touted as a comprehension method used by experts. Let’s break it down a bit, shall we?

We all read visually, taking in words as we see them, moving from left to right, one line at a time. As we improve our reading, we can take in more words, even jumping ahead and making connections to previous words and drawing meaning from what we just read. Speed reading does the same, but at a different level altogether.

-With speed reading, you can read entire phrases at once, unless it’s a new word.

-You can widen your vision to take in more words in a single glance.

-Lastly, you learn to read horizontally as well as vertically. Speed readers can take in not just more words in a single line, but also read and understand different sets of words on two or three different lines. All in a single glance.

You too can learn this previously-mastered-by-a-few skill to enhance productivity in your daily life. Those tedious reports, lengthy case studies and technical white papers that you need to read to stay abreast with your industry; you can skim through them in less time than usual and still retain a good grasp of what you read. Imagine the number of minutes, potentially hours, you can save.

Here’s the science (read: hacks) to make it happen:

#1 Avoid back-skipping

Back-skipping, or regressive eye movement, is a natural eye reading movement. We read in a linear fashion, but the meaning does not always follow that pattern. So unconsciously the eye makes rapid backward movements to re-register a word or to cue memory in this quest for comprehension.

Making a conscious attempt to read the sentence right the first time, giving the words on the page/ screen your complete attention is one way to reduce (if not completely avoid) back-skipping.

#2 Improve the count of the number of words that your mind registers

Begin with determining your current reading speed. For this, take a standard book and figure out how much you read in one minute. That is quite simply your WPM (word per minute) rate.

To improve this speed you need to enlist the help of trackers and pacers. Pick up a book and using a capped pen begin underling each word, while keeping your eyes above the tip of the pen. Read each line in one second; do not worry about comprehension right now. Focus on finishing the line in one second. Try and increase your speed with each subsequent page. Do this for 2 minutes. Now increase your speed to finishing a line in ½ second. Do this for 3 minutes. Practice, practice, practice.

Next, try and improve your peripheral vision. If you stare at the centre of the screen you can still see the sides, right? If you train this peripheral vision to focus more clearly, you can increase your reading speed.

For this, once again pick up a capped pen and underline the words as you read a line in a second. Start from the first words of the sentence and end on the last. Do this for 2 minutes. Next, start at the second word and end two words in. Do this for 2 minutes. Now, start with the third word and end 3 words in. Are you starting to get what is happening here?

With enough practice, you should be able to skip words and still be able to get the meaning of what you just read.

#3 Reduce the duration and number of fixations per word

We’ve already spoken about back-skipping, but there’s another cool term for how we read. It’s called the saccadic movement, a jump. Were you aware that we do not read in a smooth straight line? Close one eyelid and place a finger on it, and slowly scan from left to right. Felt the ‘jumpy’ movement? That is how we receive the world and that is how we read as well.

These jumps end at a fixation, a temporary screenshot of sorts, which captures whatever is in your focus area. Normally a fixation lasts about ¼ to ½ seconds. The above mentioned tracker method should help you improve this speed as well.

#4 Helpful apps: Spreeder and Outread

If all this looks like a lot of hard work to you, check out these two cool apps. The apps will help you get the basics, and maybe more, of speed reading. Download them and watch your speed increase.

Spreeder: This is a Chrome extension which uses the Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) technique to help you overpower the information overload. The app flashes words from your document onto the screen. All you need to do is add the document to the Spreeder cloud library and it does the rest for you.

Outread: Outread uses a variation of meta guiding to give you a crash course in reading. Just like Spreeder, you simply upload the document that you need to read and leave the rest to Outread.

Speed reading has a lot of supporters. However, the question that plagues us today is whether reading fast actually benefits us in any way. Our recommendation is to limit this technique for news stories or your email, ideally not something that requires complete comprehension.

Are you willing to try your hand at speed reading? Share your experience. We’d love to know.

What Steve Jobs Taught Us About Making Stunning Presentations

Business How To’s

15 November 2018

What Steve Jobs Taught Us About Making Stunning Presentations

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Who doesn’t love a good story? A well-delivered narration has the power to keep us enthralled and to inspire us long after the mesmerising session is over.

At some point in our lives we’ve all been witness to talented speakers who have perfected the art of storytelling. And yet no one can really stake claim to the spot that was once occupied by Steve Jobs. One of the world’s greatest corporate storytellers, he has inspired hundreds of thousands of viewers with his spellbinding presentations.

We need more leaders like him, especially when companies are required to launch new variations of their existing products frequently. How can they create a need in an already saturated market?

By inspiring the world; by learning to wow our audiences like Jobs did. (And no, this does not mean imitating his dressing style, although it might help.) This article has handpicked presentation techniques from Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch alone. If you too wish to inspire, entertain and inform your audience, read on:

Express your passion

Steve Jobs was passionate about design. (Anybody who has ever held an Apple device, and there aren’t many who haven’t, knows that.) And his audience saw it too. He came on stage, at the iPhone launch, with a large smile on his face, immediately impressing his audience with his eagerness.

Don’t be afraid of your enthusiasm. If you are excited, your audience will catch on to it and project the same excitement back at you. If you are not passionate about your idea, why would anybody else be?

A twitter-friendly headline

Try the technique that Jobs perfected; create a one-sentence summary of your main message. And use that in every possible place, in every possible way when you talk about your product or idea. When he revealed the first iPhone, Jobs told the audience that ‘Apple will reinvent the phone.’ The same line was carried across news articles and blogs that covered the launch event. The search for this phrase turns up 25,000 links even today.

The rule of three

Time stamp: 1:49 – 2:42

If you observe Jobs’ presentations, you will notice his preference for the number ‘3’. You can see this in his iPhone presentation. Divided into three sections, it even seemed to speak of three different products: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and lastly a breakthrough Internet communications device. And then he revealed that it wasn’t three, but one product.

You’d agree that a list of 3 things is far more captivating than a list of 2, and most certainly easier to remember than one of 20!

Is there a villain?

We all love a villain, especially one that is going to be vanquished. Highlight a problem, and then offer a solution.

Steve Jobs’ presentation in 2007 did just that. How do you create the need for another mobile phone, that too from Apple? Jobs did that by introducing a problem of smartphones that are tough to use. The solution was the iPhone – simpler, smarter than any mobile device till date.

And then bring in the hero

Don’t just sell your product or idea; sell the benefit, your hero. How does the hero make life better for your audience?

The iPhone introduced the revolutionary multi-touch user interface. You didn’t need a stylus, and it was far more accurate and intuitive than anything that had been seen before.

Simple visual slides

Steve Jobs’ iPhone presentation used all of 21 words across 12 slides and that was in the first three minutes of the presentation. Remember, your PowerPoint presentation is just the trigger; you are the actual presentation.

Tell a story

Build up to the actual event. Entertain your audience with a short anecdote. Use it to relax them and make them more receptive to your final big idea. Tell them a story. It could be a personal incident, a customer moment or even a brand story. This will help move things along effortlessly.

Practise. Practise. Practise.

Many people believe that they can never be as smooth as Steve Jobs. Well, guess what! Steve himself wasn’t as smooth. He would spend hours upon hours practicing and rehearsing on stage so that he would appear polished and effortless on the final day. He knew every tiny detail of his iPhone presentation which is what made it flawless.

Do not read from notes

And when you practise relentlessly, you don’t need notes or a teleprompter. The iPhone launch lasted around 80 minutes; not once did Steve Jobs break contact with the audience to look at any cards. The presentation is an actual conversation with your audience, and it is this connection that makes an impact.

Inspire your audience

Leave your audience with an inspiring thought at the end of the presentation. And tie it back to the ethos at your company. At the end of his iPhone presentation, Jobs said, “I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I’ve been so excited about today… There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ We’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very, very beginning. And we always will.”

 

Lastly, have fun!

Don’t take yourself too seriously. When you have fun, your audience relaxes and is more receptive to your ideas. Create fun moments in the presentation, and you will be more memorable. You don’t need to conduct stand-up comedy, but an occasional joke never hurt anyone.

Every presentation is an opportunity to make a stronger connection with your audience. It does require planning, time and some amount of creativity, but the payoff is totally worth the effort.

How Are Businesses Around The World Making Real Applications of AI In The Workplace?

Business How To’s

10 August 2018

How Are Businesses Around The World Making Real Applications of AI In The Workplace?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

There was never any doubt that Artificial Intelligence would have a large role to play in the real world, away from experiments and controlled studies. Till date AI has been seen proving itself in machine-learning solutions, such as understanding language or driving a vehicle.

But just how far AI would get businesses excited was something that no one could predict. We’re in the middle of 2018 now and there are several practical use cases of AI in the digital business space. Let’s look at how AI is dynamically performing beyond what anyone expected.

#1 Digital assistants in the enterprise

Chatbots and virtual assistants liaising between us and our phones and home devices is quite the norm now. So the question arises, can we use the same technology in the workplace setting? Can AI help in business tasks, such as purchasing contracts and collaborating with colleagues?

The idea behind SAP CoPilot is to reduce a worker’s dependence on multiple apps during the course of a working day. This AI application uses artificial intelligence, speech recognition, natural language processing, statistical analysis and machine learning to get the job done faster. Users can make requests and issue commands, and SAP CoPilot will then collate this unstructured speech, analyze it, execute relevant actions and finally present users with answers.

#2 Call and meeting transcriptions

Ever listened to a recorded call or meeting and wished there was a way you could hunt out a specific talking point without having to listen to the entire recording? Well, it seems now you can, thanks to AISense.

Its Ambient Voice Intelligence can offer users the option of making voice conversations searchable. The application can also work with a call-recording smartphone app and, using artificial intelligence, transcribe and curate recorded calls for the future. The technology includes automatic speech recognition, speaker identification and separation, speech-and-text sync, deep content search and natural language processing. You can soon say goodbye to the days of taking notes while also trying to focus on what’s being said.

#3 AI for software training

WalkMe digital adoption platform uses artificial intelligence to help business software learn about user’s individual preferences. The applications are vast; WalkMe can be used in the hospital sector where doctors and nurses can be taught how to use a system through guidance and training. In the sales department, the application can provide individual assistance on how to effectively create a sales opportunity using the CRM system.

#4 Learning slack conversations

AI can work wonders on a collaboration platform, by learning through listening and interaction, and recording conversations for future recall. Niles ‘learns’ answers to commonly-asked questions, like ‘what products do we manufacture?’, ‘what sizes do they come in?’, ‘how much do they cost’, etc. by listening to answers as they are shared.

Users can then ask Niles questions and the application can respond with an answer that’s been ‘heard’ and recorded. In case Niles does not have the answer, users have the option of proving it with the right response, ensuring Niles is always up-to-date.

#5 AI and social media

Imagine a world where AI can take social media content decisions on behalf of you. By using data-driven processes, AI and customised algorithms can actually create and post more effective content all by themselves, without any human intervention.

 

Conclusion:

AI is most certainly a positive addition to the workplace, with the future of automation in businesses looking optimistic. How do you see your business taking advantage of these new capabilities?

Follow These 7 Mantras For Meeting Room Etiquettes

Business How To’s

20 June 2018

Follow These 7 Mantras For Meeting Room Etiquettes

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

A lot has been written about business meeting dos and don’ts. All of us who work in the corporate world understand the importance of putting our phones away, and on the silent mode, before stepping into a meeting room. Everyone instinctively knows that it is bad manners to interrupt someone while they speak, and of course, nothing really needs to be said about the value of punctuality.

Meeting rooms work as collaboration hubs for co-workers. And as with any shared space, there are some dos and don’ts that need to be adhered to. These are unspoken rules, but keeping them in mind can make a tremendous impact on the functioning of a company. It also ensures that shared spaces are used efficiently, and are used by all.

Here are a few mantras to meeting room etiquettes:

#1 Check before you slip into a meeting room

Sometimes all you need are a few minutes for a quick team discussion. You might think it’s alright to call a meeting and step into a room that is unoccupied.

However, what if someone else has a booking and is surprised to find you there already, when you have, in fact, not even reserved that space? It can be a bit awkward for both sides, with you asking for ‘just a few minutes’ while the other group just around doing nothing. Or you have to break up your meeting and go look for some other place to complete the discussion. Either way, the flow and momentum are lost.

Take a few minutes to check if the room you wish to occupy is booked, and if it not, then book it, even if it is for 10 minutes. This is respectful of everyone’s time, including yours.

Some offices also have small collaborative spaces within their premises which need not be booked. These can be a few chairs or bean bags, or even standing meeting areas. These can be utilized for quick discussions on the fly.

#2 Make sure there is no double booking

No one does this deliberately, of course.

In your bid to get a room at the earliest, what you might have done is booked all rooms to see which one gets free faster. And the moment one is, you get your meeting started. The only problem is that you forgot to unbook the others. Which means, they are now booked against your name and no one is using them, while others are scrambling to find a space for their discussions.

The best way to avoid this is to do a quick check before starting your meeting to ensure you cancel any double booking.

#3 Be quick to book (and cancel) rooms

In most offices meeting rooms are in great demand. As soon as you realize that you might need to call for a meeting, book a room. The longer you delay, the tougher it might get to find a slot that suits your needs. And believe us, it is embarrassing to ask co-workers to accommodate you just because you have not been proactive. Imagine if your client is standing with you while you go door to door, looking for a free meeting room. Not a pleasant image, right?

On the flipside, if your meeting gets cancelled, unbook the room right away. This opens it up to other people who might be looking to reserve a room.

#4 Don’t linger

Anticipate how long you will need the room for and book it accordingly. However, as is wont to happen, some discussions can go on for longer. Whether you have covered all the points that were to be discussed or not, leave the room once your allotted time slot is over. You are simply using up someone else’s booking and taking up their meeting time.

#5 Leave behind a clean meeting room

When you leave the meeting room, leave it neat and tidy.

If you came in with a coffee cup, take that with you when you leave or throw it in the bin. If printouts were being passed around the table, take them all with you. If it was a lunch meeting, make sure all traces of food are removed.

Clean the whiteboard, remove all post-its, close all computer applications, put the chairs back neatly, and lastly switch off the lights and air-conditioning.

In a nutshell, leave the room the way you found it, or better.

#6 Close that door

A discussion between a few people need not involve the entire office, right? And the best way to keep it that way is to shut the door while the meeting is in session. Similarly, if you need to enter a meeting room, knock on the door before walking in. This is irrespective of whether you are meant to be a part of the meeting or whether you just wish to have a quick word with someone present in the room. A closed door means you need to ask for permission before you enter.

#7 Be willing to adjust

If your meeting consists of just 2-3 people, and you are in a room meant for a larger group, be willing to change rooms if required. Sometimes other emergencies may crop up and a coworker might ask you to shift or use your room in the middle of your meeting. Be understanding and help your colleagues whenever possible. Someday you might need a room in an emergency, right?

None of these tips are tough to follow. In fact, if all of us climbed aboard the same wagon, everyone will get an equal opportunity to use shared spaces efficiently. Do you have any meeting room etiquettes that you would like to tell us about? Write to us in the comments below.