Go Green – BBQ Tips

Think Green (recycling symbol)

If you’re looking for an article about organic foods, veggie burgers, or where to locate responsibly raised meat, this article isn’t for you.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  No matter how “green” your behavior, it seems like there’s always someone “greener” telling you how you can be more responsible.  Our goal with this article is to help you get a little closer to your “inner environmentalist”, without feeling like you drank the Kool Aid.

Having a “green” barbecue sounds like an oxymoron.  The idea of cooking beef on an open fire that’s billowing smoke doesn’t exactly paint a picture of environmental responsibility.  But let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned barbecue with all the fixin’s?  A hardcore barbecue enthusiast might scoff at a clean burning natural gas or propane grill, but that’s a great place to start.  Leave the charcoal and lighter fluid to the Pit Masters.  The best thing about grilling, is you can grill anything, from fresh fish to vegetables.  Be sure to grill with the barbecue cover closed to maximize efficiency. If you’re like me and your automatic ignition button doesn’t work, recycle your used-up Scripto Multi Purpose Lighters.  You may not be able to light candles with them anymore, but the spark they create works great for lighting your stove or grill.  Also, when it’s time to clean the grill, scrape off any charred remains with a stiff wire brush and cover the grill surface with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and let the grill run on high.  This will concentrate the heat on the grill and burn off all the build-up and avoid the need for any harsh chemical cleaners. (Be sure to regularly clean out the grease tray to prevent grease fires.)

One of the biggest problems with barbecues is the amount of garbage that’s produced.  From disposable items like plates, cups, cans, and bottles, to table clothes, utensils, and decorations, you can just picture the amount of waste.  Some easy and fun ways to deal with this is to get creative with your drink choices.  Instead of filling the cooler with cans of soda and bottles of beer, make a kid-friendly punch for the children and a spiked punch for the adults.  Or see if your liquor store offers beer in a party ball or mini keg.  Some local breweries offer 2 liter glass jars or “growlers” (freshly poured, of course) that are refillable.  Instead of bottles of wine, try making a batch of Sangria.

There’s nothing like the fast and easy clean-up of disposable utensils, plates, and cups, but the guilt of feeding the landfill monster can keep you awake at night.  Is it possible to have the best of both worlds?  Some manufacturers have addressed the issue with disposable plates made out of bamboo called Veneerware.  Yes, single-use bamboo plates.  However, you will pay more and they still end up in the trash.  I recommend investing in some inexpensive durable plates like Corelle, which come in lots of cool colors and patterns.  If that’s not traditional enough for you, check out these melamine plates and cups designed to look like their disposable cousins.  Ikea also has some great inexpensive plates that are durable and reusable.

Let’s face it, the temptation for disposable utensils is huge.  No one wants a piece of their silverware to end up in the sandbox or tossed out with the uneaten casserole.  And who has enough forks for 25 guests for dinner and dessert?  But there are alternatives.  We’ve been buying the real- looking cutlery manufactured by Comet and we ask guests to drop them in the sink or in a container by the trash; then we run them through the dishwasher.  They look so real that they often get mixed up with our “real” silverware.  We also invested in inexpensive cutlery from a catalog.  These are real metal utensils that we use for large parties and keep in a Ziploc bag in the pantry when we’re not using them.

What would a barbecue be without the decorations?  Buy decorations that you can store and use for several parties instead of throwing them away after just one event.Swap decorations with friends when you tire of them, rather than tossing them in the trash. A string of Christmas lights will make any event stand out, especially at night.  Add some color with flowers from your local farmers market.  Best of all, you can plant them in your garden when you’re done, or give them out to guests when they leave your party.  Looking for a way to get rid of larger party theme items?  Go to a second-hand shop or church garage sale and then donate the items for resale when you are done. If your outside tables aren’t presentable for your party, don’t cover them with those cheesy plastic table cloths; use an inexpensive linen table cloth or sheet.  Or try something totally different - paper table cloths.  Choose from a variety of fancy and real-looking covers that are all made from paper.

Being greener may cost you more initially to invest in some of the reusable items, but it won’t take long to recoup your investment.  You’ll be glad you did, and so will your trash collectors.

App of the Month – Layers

Look!  It’s a bird.  No, it’s a plane.  No it’s…  Layar?  This augmented reality app (and browser) may not be the equivalent of Superman, but it is faster than a Google Appssearch and more powerful than a stack of servers.  You might not be able to leap tall buildings, but you will be able to see through them.  That’s the fun and power of this app for iPhone and Droid.

The Layar Reality Browser shows

what is around you by displaying real time digital information on top of the real world as seen through the camera of your mobile phone.  This technology is called “Augmented Reality”.  They augment the real world as seen through your mobile phone, based on your location.

So how does this work? The idea is simple: Layar works by using a combination of the mobile phone’s camera, compass, and GPS data to identify the user’s location and field of view, retrieve data based on those geographical coordinates, and overlay that data on top of the camera view.
layar

From locating restaurants that are all around you to finding a job, the extent of Layar is limitless.  Bored?  Looking for something to do?  Search for fun events and activities like movies, plays, art shows, you name it!  Looking for a golf course or a gym?  Layar will help you find it!  It’s easy and fun to use.

Attention Brand Mangers: You can create your own Layar for free and upload it to their database.  Put a whole new spin on store locators or authorized resellers.  If you have a database, it can be turned into a Layar.  There are no license costs involved with creating a Layer, and the hundreds of content Layers now available have been produced by a large community of developers.  All this content is available to over 1 million end-users.  The community of Layar developers covers everything from individuals to small enterprises to large companies, including publishers, advertising agencies, and major brands.

Google Caffine – Tall? or Venti?

When Google announced their new search index - ”Caffeine” - the other day, I couldn’t help but get excited.  Two of my favorite words mashed together in one sentence.  Immediately I started to wonder, “Is this a Google thing or a coffee thing?”  Either way, I knew I was going to be happy.

In Google’s quest to index the digital landscape, right down to the last milbit, they transformed their search index to generate 50% fresher results.  Okay, that sounds impressive, but what does it really mean?  Well, as they explain it on their recent blog post, “when you search Google, you’re not searching the live web. Instead you’re searching Google’s index of the web which, like the list in the back of a book, helps you pinpoint exactly the information you need.”  (Here’s a good explanation of how it all works.)  For many, it’s hard to imagine there is a web beyond Google.

So why change now?  With all the user-generated content and the pearls that Web 2.0 has brought us, websites are becoming more complex.  According to Google, “searchers want to find the latest relevant content and publishers expect to be found the instant they publish.”  To keep up with demand, Google needed a new faster approach to finding, indexing, and making content available.  Their old system of indexing relied on layers which were refreshed at different rates.  Refreshing a layer required analyzing the entire web, creating a significant delay in finding new content.

As per Google: “With Caffeine, we analyze the web in small portions and update our search index on a continuous basis, globally. As we find new pages, or new information on existing pages, we can add these straight to the index. That means you can find fresher information faster than ever before—no matter when or where it was published.”

For you visual folks, below is a graphic which demonstrates the difference between the old way of indexing and the new Caffeine.

Has Google brewed up a new satisyfing index with Caffeine or will we be drinking decaf and wondering what was the big deal?

Dos & Don’ts for Message On-Hold Programs

The summer is a great time to get to things you’ve been putting off throughout the pencil on white paper with eraserbusy year. And revising your Message-On-Hold script is just what I had in mind for you. Senior Script Consultant Rob Lefever put together a great list of Message-On-hold Dos and Don’ts. Here are a few for you to keep in mind while you review and revise your current script.

DO:

…Promote your online presence.In addition to driving traffic to your organization’s website by talking about its beneficial features, also be sure to mention your social media accounts such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

…Avoid rhetoric such as “Did you know?” questions. Unlike radio or television commercials, Message-On-Hold has the built-in benefit of a pre-captivated audience. So instead of asking questions to get a caller’s attention, just get right to the point and share important information with them.

…Avoid excessive technical terminology, especially if it risks being confusing to your callers. If it is essential to include technical or relatively unfamiliar jargon in your script, be sure to read it out loud, or have someone read it to you. This will give you the best idea of how your information is being presented to your callers.

…Include details about what makes your organization unique.Message-On-Hold is of course an excellent medium to market your products/services/etc, but it’s also a great way to tell your callers what sets you apart from the competition.

DON’T:

…Focus too much on what’s first and last in your script.  Most Message-On-Hold programs play in a continuous loop so that frequent callers, as well as those being placed on hold multiple times during one phone call, aren’t forced to hear the same section of the script repeatedly. Since callers can randomly be placed anywhere in the on-hold message, it’s not essential your most important information appear at the beginning of the script.

…Bombard your callers with too much information. When it comes to Message-On-Hold, less is more. Convoluted, overly detailed verbiage can quickly turn what should be an informative message into a boring message that people stop listening to.

…Assume your callers know everything about your business. Message-On-Hold is a great tool to cross-promote your secondary products and services, which your callers might not be aware of.

…Automatically think your printed marketing materials should be recorded verbatim as your Message-On-Hold. The verbiage on your website, brochures, etc. were written for the eye to read. Such writing may not always translate well into the spoken medium of on-hold messaging. Remember to read your script aloud to yourself so you can determine if that is really what you want your callers to hear.

These are just of the few great tips available for your reference. If you would like to receive the entire Dos and Don’ts reference guide, email newsletter@holdcom.com.And be sure to ask your Script Consultant or Client Relations Representative to send you a copy of your current script, so you can begin putting these tips to work for you.

Cockpit Fire Diverts Plane: Celebs Okay

cockpit

There was more than one Hollywood celebrity aboard the recent United Airlines Flight 27 that was glad a “Holdcom celebrity” played a supporting role extinguishing a fire in the cockpit.   Among the plane’s passengers were Ashley Olsen, the actress and fashion designer; Pamela Adlon, a star on the Showtime series “Californication” and the character voice of Bobby Hill from Fox’s “King of the Hill“; Jarrod Spector, a star of the Broadway show “Jersey Boys“; and Justin Bartha, who appeared in the “The Hangover” and the “National Treasure” movies - but the biggest star of that flight may have been Holdcom’s very own, Jason, who has a dual career of voiceover talent AND flight attendant.

When the fire began on United Airlines Flight 27, and flames and smoke spewed from the cockpit, it was Jason who leapt into action and brought the fire extinguisher to the flight crew before the fire got out of hand.  According to a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, moments later the flight en route from New York to Los Angeles with 112 people aboard made an emergency landing at Dulles International Airport.

“We haven’t narrowed down what the issues are with this incident yet,” said Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board. He added that the board will be investigating whether the cause of the fire was due to “a recurring problem” involved in previous 757 cockpit fires, or a new issue.

Jason has been a featured Voice Talent for HOLDCOM since 2007 and being a flight attendant is actually what steered Jason in the direction of being a professional voiceover – not his degree in broadcast journalism.  As a flight attendant, he realized that public speaking was the norm. “I hated hearing the typical sing-song voice of many of my co-workers and wanted to be different… a voice [passengers] would remember,” Jason explains.  “Throughout the years I found my own voice and I have to give credit to the many passengers who have complimented and encouraged me to look into a voiceover career. Following the obvious signs helped a great deal.”

Jason also credits Tom Brokaw as a professional who inspired him to follow his dreams.  He recalls attending a fundraiser a few years ago in which Tom Brokaw was the speaker. “He commands such respect…when he speaks you must listen,” says Jason. “At that point I realized the power of the voice and what I wanted out of my career.”

All of us at Holdcom appreciate the hard work and professionalism Jason brings to his “other” career.

“See” of Information Creates “Title” Wave

The other day I broke down and started browsing through the July/August issue of AARP Magazine, a temptation that I’ve successfully resisted for several years now.Don’t worry; if you’re not familiar with this publication, it’s most likely because you’re still living the first half-century of your existence.Now that my denial at turning 50 has waned over the years, I’ve become more comfortable with the prospect of living another half-century, or part thereof.Besides, with so many discounts and deals, AARP membership does have its “advantages”.

As one might expect, AARP Magazine’s content is directed toward mature readers, (Buick and Fibromyalgia are often the focus of full page ads).But, after some review, I found that the Magazine is actually loaded with useful, if not age-appropriate, information, articles and tips.One that caught my attention in this particular issue is called (no pun intended), “May I Have My Attention, Please?”…honestly.The piece, by Katy Read, focuses on a very relevant topic, “information overload”, and offers some helpful tips and suggestions as to how the 50-plus generation might deal with all the stimuli they encounter.She also validates the current and ever-increasing overload by citing interesting studies, statistics and behavior…all of which point the finger at our rapidly accelerating technology, including email, blogs, podcasts, tweets, YouTube, etc.One University of California (San Diego) study recently reported that “on average, Americans hear, see, or read 34 giga-bytes worth of information a day – about 100,000 words – from TV, the Internet, books radio, newspapers, and other sources”, a number that has charted upwards more that 5% per year since 1980.

 

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Fathers Day Twittercast

Father’s Day this year will be celebrated on June 20, 2010.  Although some describe it as a “Hallmark Holiday”, how can you not take time out to honor your Dad or enjoy time with your own family?  Besides, it’s a great reason to have a party.

HOLDCOM would like to send Father’s Day wishes to all the Dads.  And as a special treat, check out our Father’s Day original song in the twittercast below.  Feel free to forward it to your favorite Dad.

Click here to listen to this upbeat fun song.

twittercast fathers day greeting