How to Unplug on Your Summer Vacation

It’s a yearly tradition in our family. We pack up our camping gear and make one last frantic run through the local grocery store before we head into High Sierra Music Festival. Bring your sleeping bag and join our family to disconnect from your 9-5 responsibilities. Oh, and don’t worry about bringing your phone; you won’t need it out here.

I treasure this annual chance to disconnect, but I also understand the hesitation to do so. The business world is more connected than ever before. I know the feeling of not wanting to miss a thing, especially with how face-paced today’s work world can be – “What if I miss a cool marketing opportunity with my team?” It’s like work FOMO.

But the technology that tempts us to constantly connect also gives us the freedom to take a break:

  • Collaboration tools mean that I can trust my team to jump on any time-sensitive opportunities without missing a beat.
  • With the right tools, everything will be waiting for you when you return. Your teams can record meetings with WebEx so you can jump in without missing a beat.
  • With Cisco Spark, everything you need to catch up is in one place. Find where you left off and scroll down – it’s that easy to get up to speed.

It might seem like even if you can step away from work, your mind will always be at the office. Check out these tips to overcome the temptation to take the worries of work with you.

Before you go:

  • Communicate with your team. Let them know when you’ll be heading out and getting back.
  • Recap and fill your teams in on the status of your projects.
  • Leave contact information to connect people who may need to find the right resource.
  • Make a note about your trip in the Cisco Spark space associated with those campaigns. It’ll be easy to pick up where you left off.
  • Set your ‘out of office’ in email and in Cisco Spark. Be sure to include when you’ll return and a contact to answer any immediate questions.

When you get back:

  • Block off an hour of time to get caught up. Reserve time on your own calendar to read emails, scroll through Cisco Spark, and watch any recorded WebEx meetings.
  • Connect with your teams for any high priority messages.
  • Let your Cisco Spark spaces know you’re back and catching up. Use this time to ease back into work.
  • Keep your vacation photos handy! Take breaks during the day to remember the great times with your family.

Being able to relax, recharge and get a new perspective is going to help you a lot more than chiming in on small things during your time off. Be brave and don’t check email; maybe even turn off your phone!

Enjoy the show, enjoy the music. You literally earned it.

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Faster Collaboration for Global Teams

When an opportunity presents itself, great teams know that collaboration is essential to bringing the best work to life. But when your team is located across the globe, staying on the same page can feel like an uphill battle.

Nate Franklin, a product marketing manager, works with an integrated global team on cutting-edge, fast-paced projects. In his Two Minute Take, Nate talks about how the right technology tools keep work-streams moving quickly, and his team’s unique culture alive.

Learn how to bring teams closer together with real-time connections through Cisco Spark and WebEx, so you can work seamlessly with people across the world.

 

Learn more about how Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark work together.

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Small Changes, Big Productivity

If your team needs a big boost in productivity, you don’t have to overhaul all your tools to get results. Finding small changes in the way you collaborate and communicate can make a big impact.

In her Two Minute Take, technical adviser Mackenzie Guy shares simple advice on combining your collaboration apps to keep everything in one place. Instead of spending time learning new skills or replacing entire systems, your team can focus on work and let the app do the heavy-lifting.

A few simple tweaks can go a long way when it comes to productivity. Cisco Spark lets you keep what works, and unify your collaboration experience.

 

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The future of digital teamwork: 5 ways to get ahead

Work teams that once huddled together in conference rooms are now meeting in virtual settings from multiple locations around the world. Employees are also sharing information through various messaging platforms and social media tools. The right unified communications (UC) systems can create real business value for organizations.

The latest team collaboration tools should offer searchability, a well-designed user experience, easy integration with business applications, and easy access to the most relevant information.1

Organizations can gain the type of on-the-go connectivity they need through the use of secure cloud-based business collaboration solutions. Cisco Spark is a cloud-enabled UC service that provides the accessibility and security that teams need to collaborate via a single platform.

Here, we explore five ways Cisco Spark helps businesses maximize the benefits of digital teamwork:

1. Remain in control with end-to-end encryption and security.

Think about all of the data, files and sensitive communications that companies exchange throughout the workday. There’s no question that digital technologies have helped unlock information barriers. But who holds keys to a company’s cloud security? Typical business messaging platforms compromise security by directly accessing an organization’s content. So what’s at stake?

Consider this: 40% of organizations have online team meetings that involve financial data.

In addition, one-third of organizations have meetings where employees share private customer or patient information, and approximately one in five organizations have web meetings that involve trade secrets.3

When it comes to security, companies can’t take shortcuts. Cisco Spark offers several key security features, including:

  • HTTPS to encrypt data in transit between devices and servers, which protects the identities of the senders and receivers of the encrypted content.
  • Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol for all media, such as voice, video, and desktop share.
  • Data that stays encrypted when it’s in transit to cloud servers, when it’s in use, and while it’s in storage.
  • Encryption of all content using dynamic keys from the key management service (KMS).

2. Seek a solution that grows with you.

Why invest in technology if it’s not easily adaptable to your growth or expansion plans?

For example, 66% of executives “have felt that limitations of their software programs have negatively affected their company’s growth.”4

Unfortunately, delivering digital collaboration capabilities using premises-based infrastructure can be very challenging because they lack the flexibility your company needs as it grows. Cisco Spark moves all of this complexity to the cloud, so businesses can quickly connect via phone, video, or messaging wherever they’re located. Cisco Spark also includes customizable plans that allow companies to easily upgrade from plans that offer video calling to plans that also offer video conferencing.

Plans offer the ability to: 

  • Meet with up to 25 people.
  • Instantly initiate meetings with a single click.
  • Join a scheduled meeting from any device.
  • Schedule meetings in Outlook by using @spark or @webex tags.

Video conferencing plans offer the ability to:

  • Meet with up to 200 people.
  • Join on any device, Cisco phones registered to Cisco Spark, Microsoft Skype for Business endpoints, third-party standardsbased video endpoints, and more.
  • Access to a personal room for each user with his or her own meeting URL.
  • Schedule meetings within the platform (no integrated, hybrid system needed).
  • Add @webex to an Outlook invitation to automatically populate the body of the invitation with information to join a WebExpowered meeting or add both @spark and @webex to the location field. A flexible, customizable collaboration solution frees IT resources to work on projects that are more innovative and growth focused.

3. Move quickly between communications tools and devices.

Today’s on-demand economy keeps employees on their toes. They’re constantly moving from one device or communication tool to another.

In fact, 49% of small and midsize businesses say they need to be available at all times to meet the demands of today’s digital economy.5

Having access to multiple communications tools helps team members get better work-life balance, stay on top of project deadlines, and respond quickly to customer needs. How do companies increase accessibility to these collaboration tools?

Cisco Spark acts as a bridge between mobile and the office, freeing the workforce to:

  • Receive calls that are identified as business related. This helps maximize that users are prepared for business calls if they’re answering a phone outside the workplace.
  • Switch quickly from one device to another during a meeting— advantageous for users who need to leave a meeting early, but want to remain connected. With Cisco Spark, users can turn a phone call into a virtual meeting with one tap, or move a video call from a conferencing room to their mobile phone and then to a new meeting room.

4. Consolidate project files and communications in one space.

Anybody who has worked on a project knows how hard-to-find files and miscommunication between team members can impact project goals. Sometimes individual team members choose their own filesharing and collaboration tools without checking in with IT or even each other.

For example, 90% of organizations collaborate using Dropbox, Google, Skype, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networking sites.6

This can create confusion and inefficiencies if key team members miss relevant conversations, messages or document updates. Features to consider in a collaboration suite include the ability to:

Download the messaging app on a phone or tablet to remain connected while away from the office, including access to video calls and shared screens.

  • Create an unlimited number of team work spaces as needed.
  • Name work spaces based on specific projects, teams, or even a specific sales territory.
  • Get creative with whiteboarding or annotate existing documents. These features are particularly valuable for business units or groups within an organization that are working on specific projects. They also ease the pain of new-hire onboarding and training because organizations can keep all of their hiring documents in one easy-to-access place.

Keep existing systems with third-party integrations and support.

If you’ve already invested in a number of tools and communication systems, you may want to know how you can bring everything together and get more value out of your investments.

Your question makes sense: Modern business projects or work tasks that required two or three systems in the past now can take place over five to 10 applications or more today.7

Cisco Spark integrations bring together the tools organizations need—including those they may use outside of Cisco Spark. Other key features to consider include:

  • Self-enabled integrations, bots, and APIs that can be customized to existing processes and work streams.
  • The ability to integrate with Dropbox, Google Drive, Sameroom, and other apps.
  • A system that’s “open” and works with many developers for access to integrations and bots. (Bots can send automated notifications, respond to questions, and even be an in-app assistant.)

To learn more about how Cisco Spark brings together the digital tools organizations need in a secure, mobile environment, visit www.webex.com. If you’re interested in a free trial, visit: https://www.webex.com/pricing/free-trial-DG1.html.

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Why We Love Video Conferencing and You Should Too

 Years ago, there was a TV game show that tapped into its contestants’ deepest fears – snakes, bugs, heights, you name it – and placed them in situations where they had to come face-to-face with them. In the end, they walked away with a bit of cash, making it worth their while. And while most aren’t forced to confront their greatest fears during the work day, there is a one part of it that seems to strike a chord of fear.

Video conferencing. (cue dramatic music)

From worrying about how they look on video to public speaking anxiety, people seem to want to “call it in” more often than they wish to hop on a video conference. But in a 2016 study, Wainhouse Research found that approximately 90% of all respondents had used video conferencing at least once in the prior month. So it’s safe to say it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Though I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t always a video conferencing fan, I’m now proud to say I’m now a full-fledged advocate. But if you find yourself still a bit shy of declaring your love for this platform, then read on to see the top three reasons our team loves video conferencing and you should too.

Reason 1: Face-to-Face Connections Matter

 I work from home at least three days a week and if a meeting falls on one of those days, sure – I could easily call in. But, there’s something a bit disconnected about collaborating with essential team members over the phone. Facial expressions and body language go a long way in communicating, and an audio-only experience means you miss out on big cues from your team.

The face-to-face connections I’m able to establish with my teams when we use WebEx for example, are critical for establishing strong team rapport. Video conferencing encourages engagement and also foster a community of togetherness.

Reason 2: Finding Focus is Easier

Raise your hand if you’ve ever stolen a moment to daydream or multi-task on a conference call! Yes – my hand is up too. But as I’ve embraced video conferencing, I’ve become more focused in my meetings, because I can see my teams and they can see me.

While some people shy away from video conferencing for this exact reason, it’s more of a selling point to me because it encourages everyone to be as focused as possible to accomplish meeting goals.

Reason 3: Because Real-Time Should Be An Option for Everything

At any given point during the day, I can use a variety of apps to change my home thermostat setting, order household essentials or even send flowers to my wife – all in real-time. And when you’re working with others, ideas can fly fast and furious. So why not share those ideas and follow-up details, in real-time too?

With video conferencing, you can.

Instead of a dreaded flurry of emails, presentations and updates in my inbox after a conference call, I take full advantage of Cisco Spark’s real time sharing options. In my team’s own private Spark room, we use real-time messaging to always stay in the loop with each other. And the Cisco Spark Board feature lets us literally sketch out all of our creative ideas – even a stick-figure Picasso like myself – all in real-time.

As I said – I’m a full-fledged video conference meeting fan. And I know I have some fellow ones out there. Leave me a comment and share why you love video conference too.

 

 

 

 

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Presenting Data More Powerfully with 3 Easy Tips

#1 Make your slide title a news headline

Every journalist knows that if your headline doesn’t reflect your story’s juice, readers will surely overlook your article.  Well, the same principal applies for presenting the ‘story’ of your data.  To immediately engage your audience, create a headline that reflects your single most important piece of information.

Elevating your most important message to the headline (a.k.a. the slide title) has two advantages a) it makes your data memorable and b) it makes your audience lean in and want more information. Yes, it’s that simple.

Here is a generic headline. Notice: in order for the audience to learn anything more about the Olympic results, they have to squint their eyes and wade through rows and rows of data. Why make it so difficult?

SLIDE 1

20140122_before02

Here is the same data presented with an active, content-rich headline that tells us upfront what the big news is right away. Unlike the above slide, it doesn’t make us work hard to figure out the message:

SLIDE 2 

20140122_after02

If you’ve ever used the words “comparison” or “overview” as a headline for your charts, we are talking to you! While there might be occasional need for broad language, you are probably missing an opportunity to give power to the message within your data. Try asking yourself: where is my key message? What is this slide about? If you can’t answer this question in the title, then this could be a red flag.

Bonus tip: Whenever possible, the title should include a unit of measurement and a time period to give the audience context.

 

#2 Use callouts to pinpoint your main message

Callouts are simply an added shape that stands apart from the chart but draws attention to the chart’s key message.  Callouts are married to the headline. They work together to illuminate the main message. While the headline tells us the most important nugget of information in the chart, the callout points right to it.

In the example of slide 2 above, the callout is the blue circle to the right of the chart. It points out the exact same message as the headline. Again, both the headline and the callout reinforce each other and the main message of the slide.

 

#3 Color controls eyeballs

Color is the easiest way to differentiate the critical data point (that carries your main message). This is where you want eyeballs to go first. As you see in slide 2 above, it is best to go with a monochromatic color scheme that is clean and simple. When you add a simple contrast color to one data finding, you illuminate it immediately. Your audience will see your main message in one glance.

Although color itself doesn’t add meaning or value to your data, its presence makes a big impact. Consciously or not, when people look at a data display and see visual differences like color, they immediately try to determine the meaning of those differences. Too much color will confuse your message (a very common problem). Used sparingly, color is a great tool in telling your story.

Remember: Your audience will remember 4 slides in a 20-slide presentation. Make them count.

+++

Post originally published on The Presentation Company’s blog here.

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A DON’T-MISS WEBINAR: Using Data Visualization to Tell Your Story

From Salesforce to Hewlett-Packard, The Presentation Company’s Janine Kurnoff has taught some of the world’s biggest brands how to tell more compelling stories through data visualization. After taking a break to care for her newest (and cutest) data wizard Baby Liam, Janine is ready to put on her training hat once again and provide the opportunity to learn her time-tested techniques that will take your data storytelling to entirely new levels.

During a free live WebEx webinar on October 25, we explored including some best practices, including:

  • How to tell a story with data that can be understood in a glance;
  • Clever visual tricks to think “outside the chart” using photography, icons eye-catching text and other visual effects;
  • How to dodge the most common pitfalls with charts and graphs.

Couldn’t make the live session? Watch the WebEx recording by clicking here and entering the password “Webextpc25”. Or, catch some key highlights and takeaways below!

Step 1: Determine Your Story First

There is no understating how important it is to craft your story first. When we are sitting on mounds of data, our inclination is to immediately get charting. After all, doesn’t our data contain all the evidence we need? Doesn’t our data speak for itself? No, it doesn’t. And if you do present your data upfront, without critical analysis and an idea of the story you want to tell, it’s value will evaporate.

Step 2: Write Headlines that Report the News

Insights that you glean from data amount to more than just facts. It helps to see the charts, tables, or graphics you put on each slide as a news story. And doesn’t every news story need a headline? Writing headlines forces you to clearly display your most important data insights. You’ve already determined your story (step 1), so this is kind of like coming up with the chapter headings. And each of these headings must move along the story.

Step 2: Write Headlines that Report the News

Insights that you glean from data amount to more than just facts. It helps to see the charts, tables, or graphics you put on each slide as a news story. And doesn’t every news story need a headline? Writing headlines forces you to clearly display your most important data insights. You’ve already determined your story (step 1), so this is kind of like coming up with the chapter headings. And each of these headings must move along the story.

Generic heading
Heading that reports the news

Step 3: Use callouts to highlight important data insights

Now that you’ve determined your story and created bold news headlines, it’s time to get down to the details of data visualization. We love callouts because they are one of the easiest ways to draw attention to your most important data. During the webinar, we’ll dive into the details about how using color, shapes, and sizes will give your data impact.

No callouts
Callouts identify critical information

Step 4: Get rid of the noise!

Visually, you are doing your audience a huge favor if you minimize or delete any clutter on your slide. Start with any chart labels. Only include labels that are concise, necessary, and informative. Do they make your data easy to read? Are axis labels easy to understand? Do they make sense with the story you are trying to tell?       

Axis labels are unabbreviaited; chart uses heavy gridlines and vertical axis
Axis labels are abbreviated; amount of gridlines has been reduced

Missed any of the previous webinars hosted by Cisco WebEx and The Presentation Company?

WATCH NOW:

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Does Your Team #MeetBrilliant?

Leaders understand their teams better than anyone and that business magic happens when they have the freedom and space to bring their best work to life. When you have great meetings,  brilliant ideas are shared, plans are made, and work moves forward. That’s what we like to call #MeetBrilliant.

Now, we’re pairing WebEx Meeting Center with another powerful tool, empowering your teams to create, share and do more whenever and wherever inspiration may strike.

With the addition of Cisco Spark to WebEx Meeting Center, teams now have access to secure, reliable workspaces in the cloud. With the power to meet in personal workrooms with unique URLs, teams can now join work sessions, message one another, upload files and even engage with interactive “whiteboarding” to visualize new concepts. All while still using the crystal-clear video and audio of WebEx Meeting Center.

Imagine all of the possibilities when work moves at the speed of your team. When ideas can be shared in real-time and feedback can be instantaneous. When you can simply answer a phone to join a meeting without the hassles passwords and access codes. When your teams can count on Cisco security, reliability and service.

It’s time to move beyond imagining and embrace the realities. Take advantage of our 30-day free trial of Cisco Meeting Center with Cisco Spark and give your teams the tools and space they need for brilliant meetings.

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3 work styles that might be hurting your business

The number of available communication and collaboration tools has exploded over recent years, keeping team members connected and working together across city, state and even country. But while nearly half of those recently surveyed by Forrester Consulting reported that they need technology to connect with their colleagues, nearly all of them have had that technology fail them at some point.

Can you say work stall?

For teams to accomplish anything using these online communication tools, reliable, secure and compatible systems that alleviate communication obstacles are an absolute must. Unsure how unreliable, insecure and incompatible systems can derail a team’s progress? Take a look at the checklist in the “3 Work Styles That Might be Hurting Your Business” to identify – and fix – the technology causes that make a team less productive.

 

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#WebExPoll Results: Your Teamwork Habits Revealed

On the third Thursday of each quarter, many businesses observe “Get to Know Your Customers Day.” After realizing that yes, this is an actual thing, the WebEx team grew even more curious about our customers and kicked off our next #WebExPoll Series, dedicated to understanding their meeting and productivity habits.

So what did we discover? Overall, you guys send a lot of emails, get more done in the a.m. versus the midnight hour and are pretty good at juggling the collaboration tools you need to get your work done. Oh – and we love how easy you find it to take meetings from home using WebEx for your video conferences.

Take a colorful look at fun facts we discovered about you and be sure to follow @WebEx on Twitter to join the conversation.

For those early morning meetings across different time zones, 75% of you would hop out of bed and take the meeting from home.

Speaking of starting early, 64% of you shared that morning is your favorite time of day to get the most done.

And you’re all about finding ways to collaborate with your teammates. Because 52% of you use 1-3 collaboration tools daily.

And…Cisco Spark is one of your go-to tools to make things happen. Over half (53%) of you would trust Spark over email to send urgent and confidential documents. We’ve got your back.

We were sorry to hear that most of you are glued to your inbox. 55% said you check email constantly and 49% you send between 50 and 100 emails a day! That’s a lot of typing, folks.

But even when you’re busy, you love finding time to meet with your team face-to-face. For 44% of you, video is your favorite way to meet.

No matter how you like to get things done, finding a way that works for you is what matters most. Learn how Cisco Spark can work for your team.

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Three Ways to Spring Clean Your Digital Life

In spite of the recent winter storms that tagged the country last week, today marks the first official day of spring. In addition to the warmer days that lie ahead, today is also a perfect day to indulge in a bit of spring cleaning – but we’re not talking about a bit of dusting around the house. Today is also the perfect day for you (and your teams) to knock out a bit of digital spring cleaning as well and we’re sharing a few tips to guide you along.

Dust Off Your Digital Work Life

Any one of these tips – or combination of them – will fast track your digital decluttering.

  • Find yourself shifting pass the same apps on smartphone or tablet? If you’ve stopped using them or have turned to other products, then delete them! An added bonus? Eliminating unnecessary apps and files, helps your device could run faster.
  • There have been times I’ve realized I have dozens or even hundreds of unopened email in my inbox. Since selecting all and hitting the delete button is not a reality for many of us, revisit the “Zero Inbox” method to keep your inbox as clutter free as possible.
  • When you’re prompted to change your password for an email account for example, consider changing passwords for all of your work-related accounts. From internal intranet sites to your 401k provider, save yourself some time down the line by taking care of it now.

Get Your Team in the Declutter Game

When everyone gets in on the digital declutter game, your team will already be set to hit the ground running when it’s time to connect and work together.

  • Now that you’ve applied the Zero Inbox method, instead of a starting another long email thread filled with attachments, get the entire team onboard with an app like Cisco Spark to share information, whiteboard, edit documents and screen share.
  • Have your teams look at all of the meetings and invitations currently on their calendar. If there are some they never find themselves attending or are just simply meetings they don’t need to attend, they should delete them to ensure their calendars are as up-to-date as possible.
  • As a leader, do you know what your team members spend their time on each day? Help them optimize their energy and prioritize their day by auditing their time and helping them refocus.

Cultivate Creativity

What does all of this digital decluttering leads to? A fresh new digital environment prime for cultivating the most creative ideas and solutions teams have to offer.

  • One of the easiest ways to cultivate deeper levels of creativity is to welcome new members – and their ideas. Set up a video meeting with Cisco WebEx and tap into the fresh ideas colleagues across town or around the world may have to share.
  • After this deep digital spring cleaning, be sure to keep your digital life nice and tidy. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes each to prioritize your workload, clean out your inbox and check your Cisco Spark work rooms for team updates.

How do you plan on decluttering your digital life today? Share your best tips with us or how these helped you below.

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Case Study: Digitization Equals Empowerment for Open Access College

With just 200 staff members and approximately 2,500 students, Australia’s Open Access College (OAC) may be small in number, but their efforts to educate remote students are mighty.

Largely working with students between five to 18 years old, OAC specializes in connecting those isolated due to illness or distance. While OAC leaders were accustomed to using audio conference technology, it was costly and largely a “one-way” method for teachers to interact with students. Wanting to use a more interactive online platform and expand access to connected learning – all while lowering their costs – OAC used Cisco WebEx to open up new educational doors through digitization.

For a quick look at their challenges and the A+ outcomes WebEx helped make possible, check out this case study.

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Find Success in 2017 with a Message that Matters

As a kid, I dreamed of being a VP at a bank. After all, everyone had a “safe” job in my family and it seemed like the right path to follow. But since I was five years old and made my first $.10 selling a drawing to my neighbor, an entrepreneurial spirit has always lived inside me. Today, I admit to being a bit obsessed with helping entrepreneurs achieve success, which is why I was so honored to take part in a recent WebEx webinar, “Find Success in 2017 with a Message that Matters.”

While that’s a pretty big title, the webinar focused on one thing – discovering the one word that helps entrepreneurs nail down their passion, their purpose and their personal motto for 2017 and beyond.

My one word came to me in a point during my life when I was experiencing a lot of success – but found that something was missing. After a bit of reflection, I discovered that writing down the things that were important to me spoke a lot to my core values and “believe” was the word that popped off the page.  Believe is a huge concept to try to box into one thought and I did consider adding something to it. But regardless of what business I’m running today or where I may be in the next decade, I know I will always believe in what I’m doing and who I’m working with. So believe it was.

In the spirit of helping others, I wanted to create a blue print that would help others find their word and create a more powerful impact on their lives as well as their businesses. On the webinar, I outlined how the one word is not just a resolution for 2017, but it’s about what an entrepreneur is about and who they are. I also shared how to find your “one word” by listing all of the things in the world that make you happy – from songs to books to family and hobbies – and finding the connective tissue between them that helps you find your word.

The webinar was a lot of fun and a great exploration of how to put your one word to work this year. But if you missed it, no worries. Catch the replay here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @EvanCarmichael and tell me your one word and how you’ll use it to make 2017 your best year yet.

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