I was an unenthusiastic Brownie who rarely had the required piece of string, pencil and paper and safety pin in the pocket of my uniform. But by the time I became a Planner I was the agency’s go-to girl for a sticking plaster, painkillers or even an actual safety pin. The whole ‘plan for the worst, while hoping for the best’ mindset has served me incredibly well in both agency and freelance life and here’s what I’ve learnt over the years that other agency and strategic types might find useful, particularly when the world eventually goes back to normal-ish:
Assume that your original plan for getting to your meeting won’t work. Know when the next two trains after yours are and if there’s an indirect route by train or car as a fall-back and put every taxi and public transport app for where you’re going on your phone. Russell Davies once wrote in a now-awol piece for the APG that you should plan to get there early enough that you can rewrite the whole thing on a large piece of cardboard found in a stationary cupboard if you need to.
Assume that when you get there, the technology won’t work. Put your deck on a memory stick and email it to yourself as well. Bitter experience suggests that you should pack a multi-adaptor like this that will make your laptop connect to almost any display tech. Do check that there actually is some display tech to connect to in the room you’re using, or you’ll end up with eight clients crowded around your laptop. One agency I used to work with took an IT guy with them to pitches who then sat in the car park in case of tech problems, which is probably taking things a bit too far, even for me.
Have everything to hand in client meetings. In the old days I would just bring my enormous lever arch project file with me, which made a satisfying ‘look how much work I’ve done’ thunk as it landed on the boardroom table. In more recent years this has evolved into having the project folder open on my laptop, but with enthusiastic use of of sub-folders and some file names changed to more helpful titles that will be easier to find in a hurry mid-meeting. One upside of Zoom and Teams is that I can have everything relevant laid out around me just out of sight so that I don’t look like a conspiracy theorist.
Have everything to hand when you’re doing qual research. You never know when respondents might suddenly want to talk about product guarantees or decide that they hate all the creative concepts you’ve shown them. For one memorable project, I quickly learnt that it would save a lot of time if I just took THAT photo of Daniel Craig coming out of the sea with me to every group.
To have everything to hand, you need to continually file as if you’re about to be run over by a bus and someone else will have to pick up your work. Saving *everything* will almost certainly get you out of a hole one day in the future and will certainly save the unfortunate users of Microsoft Outlook hours of fruitless searching for that vital attachment sent last year.
Finally, bring more food than you think you could possibly eat and a phone charger. I can’t wait to get out and about again – I’ll be the one with the huge bag of just-in-cases.