I do a lot of long-distance meetings. I just do – it's part of interviewing missionaries all around the world. At the time I'm writing this, I've talked with people in the US, Thailand, and Peru in the last couple of weeks.

To set all of that up, I need to have good processes and tools. And because I'm running this on a very slim budget, the tools I use need to be inexpensive (free, if possible).

If you are looking to set up meetings, I think the tools I'm about to share will help you. Whether you're contacting prospective clients, meeting with remote team members, or interviewing missionaries all over the world, I think they'll work.

And, every tool I'm going to share with you is either free or can be used for free.

OK, let's get to it.

Gmail

Gmail

Email is the communication hub for what I do. I also use Facebook and Twitter to a lesser degree. But for reaching out to missionaries, I have found that email is usually the best way.

You may or may not like Gmail. I tend to have a love/hate relationship with it. But there's one thing that I find really valuable – the number of add-on applications that integrate with it. In fact, that's one of the reasons I use it.

  • It's free
  • Really good spam filtering
  • Integrates with other applications
  • Allows me to use one account to check others
  • I can access from multiple computers and devices

I use Gmail for my personal email, for some of the stuff that I do for our church, and for Engaging Missions.

Get Gmail

 

Streak for GMail

Streak for Gmail

At any given time I might be in contact with 25 missionaries (or more). As you can imagine, that's too much for me to keep in my head, so I need a tool to remind me of who I've contacted and what we've talked about.

That takes me to the next free tool I use to set up meetings and interviews: Streak for Gmail. It's billed as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool that's fully integrated with Gmail but it's much more powerful than that.

They key strengths as far as I'm concerned are:

  • It's fully integrated with Gmail
  • It has an iPhone app
  • I can set reminders and take notes
  • I can schedule emails to send in the future (useful for meeting reminders)
  • I can design custom communication streams (they're called pipelines)
  • I can tell if my emails have been opened* I can write and save pre-populated messages (think of it as TextExpander but in email)

This means that I can walk missionaries through the process of setting up and preparing for an interview without overwhelming them all at once, regardless of what computer or device I'm on. And I can do it quickly and easily by customizing some emails I've already written.

What I've heard from some of my former guests was that the process was really easy for them and didn't overwhelm them. And Streak for Gmail made it easier on both of us.

Exactly what I was going for.

While there are some things I'd like to have in this tool that simply aren't there (like integration with Facebook messages and the ability to use snippets in the iOS app), it's still very powerful. And it's free.

As we move through the process and people decide that they're interested in being on the Engaging Missions show, we have to schedule some time. That's where the next tool comes in.

Get Streak

 

ScheduleOnce

ScheduleOnce

I don't know about you but one of the things I really wanted to avoid was wasting a missionary's time in setting up an interview. You know the drill:

Me: “Does this time work?”

You: “No.”

Me: “How about this one?”

The cycle continues

On and on it goes. Until you have it booked and then realize that you miscalculated the time zone differences because of Daylight Savings Time.

Well, with ScheduleOnce I don't have to worry about that. Instead I selected some times that I can regularly be available and I simply send out a link that allows people to choose a time and date that works for them.

And, of course, it works for me too. Because I selected the options.

I do leave it open for people to request a different time if I don't have one available that works for them. But that's been pretty uncommon.

I'm using the free version, so it's a little limited. With any of the paid plans I'd also get automatic reminders and follow-up. And with the Professional plan I'd also be able to use custom forms. But for now I use Streak for Gmail to take care of the reminders for me.

After the final reminder, it's time for our remote meeting.

Get ScheduleOnce

 

Skype

SkypeIn my case, that remote meeting is often an interview. I do use some software to record the interview but the foundation for that is still Skype.

I looked at several options to interview and record. In the end, it came down to Skype for two reasons.

  1. Compatibility
  2. Integration

First, compatibility. I'd considered Apple's FaceTime but that is only available to Mac users. So, that was out.

Skype is available for a wide variety of platforms (some I'd never considered) so it seemed like the logical choice. And, I still had another need – recording.

Yes, to record I needed some additional software. In my case, it's Ecamm's Call Recorder for Mac. If I were a Windows user, the software would be different but Skype would still be the foundation.

I mentioned in my last post that I'm paying for a Skype phone number. That's not something I had to do – I could use it free. But I chose to pay for Skype phone number because some of the missionaries I interview don't have access to reliable high-speed internet.

Get Skype

 

It's Not ABOUT the Tools

These are the tools I'm using and they're important to me but not because they're cool. They're important because they help me achieve my goal of scheduling and recording interviews with missionaries.

Question: What tools help you achieve your goals and why did you choose them?

 

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