You can now listen to this article
I published about 50 TechTips in 2019. I realize that with the continued flood of email, some of these TechTips may have gotten sent to a “read later” folder and were forgotten. Others may have scanned the issue but didn’t have time to research to see if the tip would help.
I have never promised that every TechTips will be earth-shattering and life-changing. I do hope that there will be a few gems over the course of the year that significantly impact productivity and effectiveness for you individually and for the organization.
In this issue, I am highlighting my top 10 TechTips for 2019, listed in no particular order.
When I first wrote about this service, I had only been using it for a short time. Otter.ai has now become an indispensable tool that allows me to transcribe various kinds of voice to text seamlessly. The Otter service is available on the website as well as apps for both iOS and Android. You can use the phone app to record a meeting and have the transcription converted automatically. You can also use the website interface to upload a previously recorded audio file and have it transcribed. The transcription is not perfect, but the website interface provides an easy interface to allow you to listen to the audio and edit the converted text.
A free version of Otter is available that provides up to 600 minutes (10 hours) of recording transcriptions per month. The Premium Version is $99 per year and provides 6,000 minutes of transcription per month (100 hours). You can sign up here.
QuickJump is a simple utility program that allows you to do one primary thing — navigate to folders quickly using search parameters. It did take a while to break old habits and remember to use it, but now it is the primary way I navigate to a folder location.
You can see in the article’s screenshot that I’ve included my folder structure for organizing each document for this weekly TechTips. Using Windows Explorer to navigate to the “2019 TechTips” folder takes five mouse clicks.
QuickJump is one of those little tools that saves a lot of time and frustration and quickly fades into the background. QuickJump is a fast and easy way to find any folder quickly and easily, especially when you don’t remember where you put it.
3. Using Amazon Polly Web Services
I wrote a series of issues during 2019 describing how any agency can utilize several of the Amazon Web Services to add voice and translation capability to enhance your website. Here is a list with links to the issue where you can find the details on how to set it up.
- Create an Alexa Skill for Your Organization with Alexa for Business Blueprints
- Automatically Add Audio to Your Website with Amazon Polly
- Automatically Translate a Website Page with Amazon Polly
HomeZada is an excellent example of how machine learning will impact your customers. It launched a home inventory video recognition process using the pattern matching capabilities of machine learning to a set of features within its digital home management platform that enables homeowners to use the mobile app to record and upload videos of each room and the exterior spaces of their property. Pictures and videos are a standard way to capture some of the inventory.
The videos are processed through a video recognition AI to detect the inventory items and present the results automatically. The homeowner makes the final confirmation of the inventory items and updates their list of items for that space. The new functionality can detect both personal property objects such as furniture, electronics, collectibles, and decorative items in the home as well as fixed asset items such as appliances, fixtures, equipment, and building materials.
They do have an agent/broker white label solution you should check out.
Handwrytten is a platform that utilizes custom-designed built robots that use a pen to “hand write” the exact text you want on your note. They have a wide variety of pre-designed cards, including birthday, graduation, thank you, thanks for doing business with us, etc. You can also send them your custom-designed notecards. Handwrytten allows you to send handwritten cards in pen at scale.
6. Deluxe eChecks
Deluxe Checks has created a secure process (called Deluxe eChecksPro) that allows you to send a check to anyone with an email address to pay your bills. You may know Deluxe Check as the company that sends the little box of paper checks when you open a bank account. And, yes, you read that correctly. I now send a check as payment to anyone with an email address virtually instantaneously using the Deluxe eCheck platform. Why are you still mailing paper checks?
7. FBI IC3 Cyber Incident Reporting
The mission of the Internet Crime Complaint Center is to provide the public with a reliable and convenient reporting mechanism to submit information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning suspected Internet-facilitated criminal activity and to develop effective alliances with law enforcement and industry partners. Information is analyzed and disseminated for investigative and intelligence purposes to law enforcement and public awareness.
The IC3 accepts online Internet crime complaints from either the actual victim or from a third party to the complainant. They can best process your complaint if they receive accurate and complete information from you.
8. Two New PowerPoint Tools
8a. PowerPoint Design Ideas
The PowerPoint Designer improves slides for Office 365 subscribers by automatically generating design ideas to choose from. While you’re adding content on a slide, the Designer works in the background to match that content to professionally designed layouts. PowerPoint Design Ideas is a subscriber-only, Office 365 feature. If you don’t see the Design Ideas, the PowerPoint Designer toolbar button, or certain features described here, then you might not have access.
8b. PowerPoint Presenter Coach
Microsoft is adding an artificial intelligence-powered assistant to PowerPoint called Presenter Coach. This tool is designed to help improve people’s presentations. The new feature appears during a rehearsal mode for PowerPoint slides and offers feedback on your presentation skills by listening to audio from your computer’s microphone. Presenter Coach’s pop-up tips provide feedback about pacing and filler words, so you’re not muttering or stuttering through a presentation. It also helps presenters be more inclusive with their language, with suggestions like police officer instead of policeman.
9. Google Alerts
I continue to be surprised by how little agency staff — especially producers — use Google Alerts.
Using Google Alerts is like having a personal virtual research assistant spending 100% of their time searching the web to find news, comments, and articles based on keywords and phrases you select. The advantage of this personal assistant is that it doesn’t get tired, nor does it forget to do a search.
And, this service will not cost you anything because it is provided for free by the world’s most popular search engine — Google.
10. ACORD is Changing How You Access Forms
As a reminder, every entity (agency, insurance company, and vendor) that uses ACORD® forms or ACORD data standards is required to have a license to access and use ACORD forms. There are currently about 850 forms in the library. The current ACORD license agreement for vendors that provide ACORD forms in their platforms include a sublicense for agency access to the forms in the platform. The vendor paid the license fee for their clients. This agreement expired on December 31, 2019.
As of January 1, 2020, the vendor providing access to ACORD forms will no longer be able to provide access through sublicensing. Each organization will be required to obtain their license directly from ACORD. It would be best if you read the original article to make sure you understand your options and the process for purchasing your new ACORD license.
Hopefully, one of the above top 10 TechTips from 2019 will help you be more productive and effective. What other tips, tools, and platforms have you found to be especially helpful in your personal or professional life?
What TechTips did you find the most helpful in 2019?