Things I learned about flying with an injury

As I was recently reminded, we are only ever temporarily not disabled. I was speaking – only slightly ironically – about accessible communication at IABC World Conference in Chicago. I recently flew via British Airways from London Heathrow, and wanted to share my experience.

This entire post is from an exceptional position of privilege. I was able to afford to fly, and also book an upgraded seat (not that I knew how much I needed it at the time). I know plenty of folks for whom flying just isn’t viable for them. But, if you are considering flying while injured, or have a mobility issue, and are thinking about booking passenger support services, here’s what I learned on my recent trip.

This post covers:

  • My experiences of the passenger transport services at London Heathrow, British Airways, and Chicago O’Hare Airport
  • Tips and recommendations if you’re looking at travelling yourself or with another passenger who has mobility issues

Ahead of travel time (and a previous scenario)

I broke my foot around one month before I was due to fly to Chicago. I was able to bear weight on it – it wasn’t as serious a break as last time, where I needed a wheelchair to move any sort of distance.

[If that had been the case, I honestly think travelling alone would not have been an option for me, based on my experience. Despite it being technically possible with the services available. I previously travelled with my husband, who was able to carry my heavy steel wheelchair up an escalator when we were left on the plane at Gatwick. The prospect of being stuck in a terminal still fills me with a bit of dread. But, this time if needed I could walk around, albeit slightly slower than usual.]

This time, I had an Aircast boot, which I can walk on, with or without a crutch. I reflected on whether I’d be able to get myself around in Chicago, and be safe to fly to get there. I had an appointment at the fracture clinic a few days ahead of the trip, where I was able to get a fly / no-fly depending on the state of my foot. There could have been a concern about developing a clot – when I broke my foot previously I had to inject myself with a blood thinner – but this time I didn’t need to do that.

I added my injury to my travel insurance, which nearly doubled my premium. I was asked if I had been given the all-clear to fly from the doctor; the first time I spoke to them, I did not have anything confirmed in writing – which would have made the premium even more expensive – but I suppose travelling to a country where an additional injury could bankrupt an individual does add a considerable risk.

On the day of travel itself

I considered getting the Elizabeth Line to Heathrow as it’s technically accessible, but there’s quite a distance involved either end. Which feels even more significant when you have luggage. A taxi isn’t an available option to everyone, but I was really grateful to have someone drive me to the terminal entrance, and help me get my bags on the trolley when it was available.

Heathrow to Chicago

I would have liked to have received a reminder email nearer the travel time (perhaps on the day itself) about what I needed to do at the airport. What transpired I did need to do at Heathrow (LHR) was head to the terminal (I was travelling from T5) where I was directed to the assistance check-in desk. Then, I was pointed to another assistance desk, where I gave my details and was then directed to wait along with other passengers in a dedicated waiting area.

There were quite a few passengers waiting about. We weren’t given a lot of information – about how the process would work, or what we needed to do. What actually did happen, is that we waited, and were collected broadly in line with our departure time, rather than necessarily the time we arrived. Which makes sense, but also meant that there’s additional waiting, if you get there early as you’re worried about being late, because of all the waiting. Very little movement happened for the first 20 minutes or so. One or two folk got picked up. Then suddenly a procession of staff with brand-new wheelchairs rolled up, ready to move passengers about.

A procession of staff who arrived with pristine wheelchairs
Staff wheeling in the brand new wheelchairs at Heathrow

I wasn’t sure whether to expect a wheelchair or one of those golf-buggy type things. The member of staff wheeling me around said the wheelchair would be better for me as I have more space in it – though the service manager essentially decides on the day depending on what facilities are available.

One passenger I spoke to said their friends had gone ahead to a lounge, but they weren’t able to join them there, as we were told that there’s no way to get a pick-up the other side of security. Which, I suppose, makes sense, as coordinating multiple pick-ups from multiple locations, in an airport as big as LHR, gets complicated and difficult to wrangle. I heard another passenger say they would like to stop in the duty-free shop to pick up a gift; because they asked, they were able to leave a little earlier to do so. Another passenger said he was on a connecting flight and hadn’t eaten all day – so he’d really like to get through security and be able to get some food, despite having plenty of time until his flight. All of this relies on the kindness and helpfulness of staff, and the time to be able to do this.

We went through security fairly easily. We cut in line on one of the desks, to be lightly told off, and that future passengers had to wait in line with everyone else. I didn’t have to remove my shoe or my Aircast, but did have to put all my stuff in the trays to go through X-ray. The security area was busy, and it took a while to be able to get my stuff into trays and across, as those standing up had better purchase and ability to push them over. It felt a bit like we had to wait longer to be able to load the trays. I didn’t have to stand up, but I did get searched as you might expect – and one of those explosive wands was waved around me. I suppose a benefit of using the airport’s wheelchair is they didn’t need to check that too carefully.

We made it through security. I was due to be taken to the next waiting area, but after checking with the assistance folks there, I was wheeled straight to the gate (thankfully via an accessible toilet) as the waiting room was apparently quite warm. I got to board early so I could get settled on the plane.

On board the aircraft

I had bought an upgraded Premium Economy seat in the sale, which had plenty of legroom for me, and I had a comfortable flight. I had to adjust my crutch to make it small enough to fit in the overhead locker, where I also stowed my Aircast boot, as I travelled in trainers and wore compression tights too. Which I’d put on before leaving the house, as trying to put them on on the plane would have been logistically impossible.

I’d asked for an aisle seat (but with my injured side safely tucked in) which meant it’d be easier for me to get up and move about on-board. The person in front of me fully reclined their chair which made that harder – but the flight attendant flipped a secret switch in the arm of the chair which meant I could slide out sideways. A fun tip if you’re ever feeling hemmed in, injury or not!

Landing the other end

When we arrived in Chicago, we passengers needing assistance were advised to remain on board until the aisle was clear around us. That meant I was last off the plane, as I missed a brief early window. That also meant that the wheelchair was waiting for me as soon as I got off the plane. We were all wheeled to passport control; wheelchair users had a completely separate line at Chicago O’Hare airport – and there was a surprisingly long line of at least 20 of us. The queue moved fairly quickly, and all the staff were much younger and chattier than the folks in London, for what that’s worth! I was wheeled over to the taxi queue with all my luggage; without a trolley that was some feat. I had a lovely airconditioned cab all the way to the hotel, and assistance with my luggage the other end, too. Tip your porters!

Chicago to London

On my way back, at Chicago O’Hare airport, I waited nearly an hour for collection. There was no separate assistance check-in desk, although I didn’t have to wait long to be seen at the regular desk. I, and a couple of other passengers, were directed to a small bank of four seats. We were given a paper ticket and a number. My number matched that of the person sitting next to me; we momentarily worried that we’d been given the same number in error. We assumed it was a reference to the flight, as we were on the same one.

I was eventually collected by a supervisor who was apologetic about the length of the wait, and was able to clearly explain the options available to me. We went through security – where I was asked (though they checked if it would be easy enough for me) to remove my Aircast and other trainer, and stood up through the scanning machine.

I was told it would be possible to join my friend in the lounge if I wanted to – as wheelchair pickup was possible from there – but given it was at the other end of the terminal, and the wait I’d already had, I didn’t want to risk it. There was an accessible bar right near the gate in a food court, so I was wheeled up to that, and was able to sit and have a drink. I was out of sight of the boarding screens, so had a brief panic I was suddenly running late despite the flight being delayed. I was able to use the chair to push my hand luggage to the gate, and left the chair by the gate when I was done. That option might not be available to you if you need someone to push you.

When I went to disembark, I took advantage of an earlier window to move out – though it meant I got off the plane before the wheelchair had arrived. I met the assistant on the ramp, and he wheeled me off to a golf-buggy. Which moved about surprisingly quickly, and there are special elevators that they fit in, too. I see what the previous person meant about the space though – it would have been a very tight squeeze for someone else to sit next to me with my hand luggage too, but I am larger than the average passenger; we had four people sitting on a 7 passenger vehicle.

Tips for travelling with an injury

  • Get confirmation from your doctor / clinic that you are ok to fly.
  • Make sure your travel insurance provider is aware of your injury – and you can provide them with that confirmation if required.
  • Book passenger assistance as soon as you know you need it – and at least 48 hours before you are due to fly.
  • Consider the walking distances involved. Despite the Elizabeth Line being largely accessible, there’s a lot of walking either end – and as my friend pointed out, I didn’t want to injure myself at the beginning of the trip!
  • Get to the airport in plenty of time. There’s a lot of waiting around, and services are stretched, so you don’t want to be additionally anxious about missing your flight when so much is out of your control.
  • Advocate for your needs. Ask the questions you need to, speak up if you need the toilet, be clear if you need additional support. There was an expectation we were all ok to get ourselves onwards from the luggage carousel when we got back to England – though in Chicago, the support was right out to the taxi rank.
  • Check in as much luggage as you can, as it’s easier than carrying hand baggage in the wheelchair / buggy. Although you will likely also need to be able to lift it off the carousel yourself, so don’t overpack in one case thinking it’ll be easier to manoeuvre. And keep minimum viable clothing in your hand luggage, as others on my trip had their suitcases join them a few days late.
  • Have a coin in the appropriate currency as some airports require it to unlock a luggage trolley – I ended up going without a trolley at Chicago.
  • Move about on the plane and stay hydrated! My doctor strongly recommended moving about, and I drank plenty of water.
  • Expect your travel to be more expensive. I relied heavily on taxi cabs to get around. I had already upgraded my flight during a sale, so I had enough leg room to manoeuvre with and without the Aircast boot. The public transit options were reasonably good at being accessible but given my specific situation, and amount of luggage, I didn’t feel comfortable getting the blue line to or from the airport.

All of this is written from a pretty high level of privilege; I appreciate that this may not be applicable or accessible to many people. However, I thought documenting my experiences might be useful to those considering whether they want to make that trip. Overall, I had an absolute blast, and was blown away by the level of support and help I had before and during my trip. I think it absolutely depends on your own mobility, confidence and availability of time and money – as it was definitely a[n even] more expensive trip for me than it would have been.

Resources Uncategorised

Accessibility resources

Over the years I’ve collected a number of resources to help make more accessible experiences for everyone. Whether you’re new to content or need some evidence to pass on to stakeholders, hopefully this list of accessibility resources might be useful for you.

Introduction to accessibility

Accessibility audits

Accessibility books and reports

Designing for neurodiversity and inclusion; eConsultancy, Rose Keen et al
Giving a damn about accessibility; UX Collective, Fabricio Teixeira, Caio Braga and Sheri Byrne-Haber
Accessible social media; Accessible Social, Alexa Heinrich

GOV.UK resources:

There are some fantastic resources available across GOV.UK including:

Accessibility-focused orgs

There are lots of organisations and individuals who openly share their accessibility expertise including:

People who share accessible advice

Creating accessible content

Style and readability guidelines

How to write good alt text

Justifying use of Plain Language

Why PDFs are bad

Tools to improve accessibility

Colour contrast

Accessible documents

Accessible social media content

These guides are broadly platform-agnostic guides to improving the accessibility of your social media:

Platforms may publish their own guidance about using the accessibility features which include:

In the absence of – or in addition to – official platform-specific guidance that I’ve found, these are also helpful guides:

Web accessibility

As you can see, this isn’t an exhaustive or complete list but I’ll aim to keep it updated, and you might find it a useful reference. Let me know if there are any accessibility resources you find useful to add to the list!

I also offer accessible communications and content training for teams and organisations – please get in touch on lisa [@] if you’d like to find out more.

Resources Uncategorised

AI resources

If you’re struggling to understand the difference between Large Language Models, GenAI, AGI, machine learning and artificial intelligence, you’re not alone. Use of AI is appearing in almost every conversation for me and I’ve been compiling a reference list of AI resources for communications, technology and generally professional humans.

AI explainers

AI and the future of work

AI governance and ethics

The environmental impact of AI

AI in the news

AI and legal precedents

Roundup Uncategorised

2022 – the international year of many hats

Hi, I’m Lisa and I’m a creative communications professional. I wear a lot of hats. Both literally and metaphorically (and I’m always on the quest for magnificent millinery to fit my sizeable head). 2022 was an interesting year, personally and professionally.

From L:R: 1. Visiting Red Hat Towers 2. Featuring in The Times as part of the Colour Walk 3. My new “press hat” on way back from Australia 4. My QuizMaster hat 5. Wearing my large oversize hat at the Colour Walk 6. Wearing a crown as Queen of Hearts 7. Wearing a sun hat while on a photographer’s walk 8. Wearing a headpiece from Natalie Webb (pic by Danny Jackson)

International travel opened up once again – and I took full advantage. The nature of my work meant I could spend a little more time with friends and family, and I’ve been spending more time hanging out with fellow artists too!

10 highlights from my year include:

  1. Devising the user-centred content strategy for a manufacturing company’s new website – I interviewed a diverse range of users including someone running the lab at a nuclear power plant in Canada!
  2. Contributing to the Clearbox Employee Apps and Employee Experience platform reports, which improved my knowledge of the tech available to help organisations communicate
  3. Spending time with the tribe of wonderful, colourful creative people at the Colour Walks in London and Brighton
  4. Establishing a local meet-up called #ItsPubOClock to help connect others like me who often work from home, but want to meet new people.
  5. Helping a communications team consider what good might look like for their intranet, and unpack their existing governance challenges
  6. Taking part in Dulcie’s creative Sketchfest workshops and Sketchybition and improving my sketching abilities
  7. Being part of the agenda of the fabulous IABC World Conference in New York, and finally finding a membership organisation that feels right for me and my skillset.
  8. Delivering content design training to large organisations with Christine at Crocstar to help people understand about creating accessible content
  9. Attending the Step Two digital employee experience conference in person in Sydney – reconnecting with some wonderful intranerds and meetings others in person for the first time
  10. Co-hosting an episode of the WB-40 podcast as well as getting to meet some of the gang in-person, too

I also visited Red Hat Towers, went out and about solving an immersive puzzle in Swansea, joined a photographer’s walk with photographer extraordinaire Danny Jackson, took part in a fantastic retreat run by Laura Brunton, filled a pub with friends and family for my 40th, ran a Taskmaster-style game event for ~35 people and more.

Independent consultants don’t operate in isolation, and 2022 feels like a year where I’ve properly (re)found my tribes – and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2023 has in store.

L:R 1. With Catherine Grenfell at the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney 2. With the Step Two gang in Sydney 3. At a Colour Walk in Leake Street 4. With Christine Cawthorne 5. With Laura Brunton at the IABC event in London 6. At IABC World Conference in New York 7. With Kurt Kragh Sorenson in London

I help organisations improve the way they communicate. I’m usually the techiest person in a comms team, or the commsiest person in a tech or product team – or am brought in to advise teams on the best way forward.

Over the years I’ve worked in-house, vendor and agency-side, freelance, as a contractor, consultant and associate. I’m often found working in and around intranets and internal comms, as well as managing digital products and projects for large organisations.

I bring an artist’s perspective to visualising business processes and customer journeys and help connect people and ideas. If you’d like to connect with me, drop me a line at lisa [@] or find me on LinkedIn.

Connection Uncategorised

Think like a gamer to level up your lockdown life – embiggen your virtual world with these weird tips

I miss people. I thrive off bouncing ideas off others. I miss having random conversations which then lead to ideas. I miss feeling relaxed in the proximity of actual humans. Video calls can be brilliant, and they can be overwhelming.

There are ways to make video calls not quite so terrible, and in some cases brilliant. I’ve compiled some of my thoughts about what has worked for me during 2020, in the hope there may be a thing that works for you, too.

Talking shapes thinking

We’ve been watching a lot of House recently. I mean the TV show, not the building that we’re watching it in. Although we’ve been watching a lot of that, too.

Greg House needs someone to argue with him. Someone to agree with him, someone to back him up. It reminds me of the fact that talking can help shape thinking. It certainly helps me.

When lockdown-1 lifted, and we met in a socially distanced pub, our conversation led to all sorts of brilliant ideas. Well, at least we thought they were at the time. Maybe it was the beer. But it certainly filled me with joy.

According to constructivist learning theory, people make meaning out of experience.

The reference may be dusty, but is from Bruner’s 1990 book “Acts of Meaningwhich I learned about when I originally trained to become a teacher

While they may not have the same weight as a face to face chat and a hug, it is possible to make meaningful experiences via the interweb.

Time to think a bit differently

Time to talk is important. And making time to pause and think is valuable too.

But if you’ve been spending all your time on back to back work calls (or haven’t spoken to anyone for a while) talking socially can feel daunting.

You could, as we all know, try going for a walk. If that feels like too much, having a lie-down, listening to music, or a podcast, or audio book can help. Particularly if you’ve developed a visual migraine from all that doom-scrolling.

Whenever I’ve listened to any of Mark Williams’ free guided meditations I always feel better. It’s one of my best habits, even though I have to remind myself to do it.

Reach out (and touch faith)

I can’t hear the phrase “reach out” without thinking of this conversation I had with Matt Ballantine:

Lockdown means I’ve finally found a way to listen to podcasts, as I’ve always got my headphones on. I’m enjoying Matt and Chris Weston’s WB-40 podcast. And, the corresponding WhatsApp group, nay, community is brilliant.

When I need to develop my thinking, or decompress, bouncing ideas off other people can be invaluable. Whether it’s via Slack, WhatsApp, a spontaneous call, SMS, or a voicenote.

I’ve also rediscovered a love of letters. Well, digitally-printed postcards. I signed up to Touchnote a while back and have a whole bunch of credits just waiting for me to use them.

Make your lockdown circle a little wider

In the past I have introduced people who may have something in common. Over brunch, at parties, meetings or conferences like Intranet Now.

How about bringing someone new to your next video call, or connect via WhatsApp? Maybe you have friends with kids of a similar age who might get on? Or like reading hard science fiction. Or are fans of imperial stouts. Or live in the same area. Or, well, they know *you*.

I’ve been thinking about the people I’ve not seen for ages. People who live further away – who I can now see more of as distance is meaningless.

People working on similar, but otherwise unrelated projects to me. People who I’d speak to in the office and have a good natter with around the coffee machine. Or even go for a coffee or lunch with, but haven’t been in touch with since. (Hi if you’re reading this!)

And the people who I either forget, or never knew the names of that I’d have a natter with on the way.

Join a virtual meet-up

There are lots of great (currently virtual) events and communities available on web apps like MeetUp and via EventBrite and Twitter. I’ve joined events which boost my creativity and help connect with like-minded people. I’ve particularly enjoyed participating in the NHS Make For Tomorrow programme.

In the game of lockdown life, who are your NPCs?

Who do you miss from the before times? Are there people you forgot you missed, until reading this now?

An NPC (non-player character) is someone who may not feature heavily in a game, but may have an influence in how it turns out. And can take on an important life of their own.

Dog saying Schoenberg-bleedin' seminal
Andy the Talking Dog

Andy the Talking Dog, from a game of Over the Edge I played in a few years ago, is exactly the sort of character I mean. His image weirdly persists in my brain.

Out-of-game, I miss the regulars at the pub (who I may know by face, if not name), I miss the conversations about art exhibitions in the sandwich shop near my old office, I miss chatting about the latest TV shows with people I don’t directly work with.

Some people, like John Callaghan, are brilliant at weaving stories and running RPGs. In his words, “the notes in the [surprisingly detailed] book are the start-point for the group to spring off from, and they change and evolve”. How about providing some notes, or starter questions, for your next call?

Think like a gamer on your next video call

Asking questions – especially ones that don’t highlight how little people have actually been up to recently, can help people escape.

Kinda like playing a role-playing game (RPG). In an RPG you have a group of people, essentially telling a story together, but you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy some good old fashioned storytelling.

Video calls can feel a bit chaotic without someone “in charge” – although often someone will step in. Like a GM (Games Master). 

Assign one or two people as hosts to help bring the best out of your participants!

You cannot overdress on the Orient Express

I recently ran an evening event which ended up lasting 5 hours. Five! It ended up feeling less like an RPG (or terribly long meeting) and more like an informal panel show, like Alan Davies’ “As Yet Untitled”.

I read once that “You cannot overdress on the Orient Express” – what better subject for night of virtual escapism? Can you picture yourself in this scene?

Ahead of the session I provided a short write up and found a video setting I liked to help get people in the mood. You could also prepare a playlist to share with people ahead of time, or during the event.

Me holding a Martini with a janky greenscreen background of the orient express
Me holding a Martini with a janky greenscreen

I found a suitable background image, wrangled with some green towels, a canvas and an easel to make an almost passable green screen on Zoom. (I’m amazed at how much better MS Teams is at substituting background images).

I donned my fave vintage jacket and played hostess, asking a few prompt questions which can also work in less elaborate set-ups.

If we were dining on the Orient Express (and money was obviously no object) what would you order off the menu? Where would we be going next?

Questions to ask in your next Zoom call

Which 3 actors would play you in a film of your life? As a child, younger and older adult. You can pick actors from any age. And if someone gets stuck, others can chip in with their suggestions and look-a-likes.

Desert Island Discs – what songs have a specific meaning for you, and why? We’ve played this within our household casting YouTube to the telly, but you could share playlists remotely.

Are there any films that have a special meaning for you? Are there any that you can personally relate to? What about movies that you go back to again and again?

Snacks! Have you discovered any good biscuits / crisps / snacks recently? Or made any recipes that you’re particularly proud of? Snacks feature heavily in pretty much every channel I’m part of right now, and probably rightly so.

Play actual games!

There are lots of resources available to help you connect with virtual or physical props.

I’ve been enjoying a virtual poker night where we use a combination of the PPPoker App and Jitsi for video calling (other apps are available). We play the game on one device, and see other players’ faces on another.

I’ve also seen (but not tried myself) setting up boardgames to play remotely via an elaborate webcam set-up. Gloomhaven works particularly well for this, apparently.  As the GM, you need your players to print a few things out, and two webcams – one pointing at whoever has ownership of the board, one at your faces. But once set up, it can work as a regular session!

Board Game Arena has lots of licenced digitised boardgames available to play. And there are lots of board games which have great apps available to play on your mobile, too. I particularly like Ticket to Ride (although Splendor and Tokaido work well too).

If you’re lucky enough to live with other people, you could buy some physical boardgames, too. I’ve found that Azul, Roll for the Galaxy and Isle of Cats work particularly well with two players.

Board Game Geek has brilliant reviews of All of The Games (particularly useful if you spot any lurking in The Works and want to see if they’re any good).

My friend Glen runs The Mug and Meeple shop and game cafe in Gravesend, is very knowledgeable about games and gives great advice if you’re not sure what to buy. 

And, If you want to lose several hours of your life / have a filler game then I can recommend the Doctor Who Thirteen game.  It’s browser-based and fiendishly addictive. And you can play while listening to a podcast, too!

These are my experiences, how about yours?

This year, I’ve trained over 1,000 people on Microsoft Teams, played virtual host for ministerial webinars, participated in meet-ups and virtual coffees, and socialised on calls that have gone on for hours.

I’m in an incredibly privileged position in my lockdown set-up and am luckier than lots of people. I’ve also wanted to unplug every device under the sun and tried to shut myself away, only to start crawling the walls.

So, how are you doing? Do you have any tips to share?

Roundup Uncategorised

Content designer, director, speaker, facilitator – 2018 in review

Montage of screenshots of work and pictures of a person on various stages – Lisa Riemers

2018 was a very interesting year indeed. Both in the ‘participation in fascinating projects’ sense, and ‘interesting times’ proverbial way.

I have:

  • Worked with some brilliant organisations as a content designer, making web content easier to access
  • Brought my experience training as a teacher to work – I’ve facilitated workshops for central government departments and edited teaching resources on the British Red Cross website to make them easier to access for teachers
  • Worked on video and web content for a big four professional services firm to help recruit the best young people
  • Ghost-written for (amongst other things) charities, big pharma and an org who supports responsible drinking
  • Photographed, sketch-noted and live-tweeted events and written up post-event reports
  • Proofread some interesting documents including the Step Two #IDWawards which showcase great practice in intranets and digital workplaces
  • Presented to an international audience in Sydney about stakeholder engagement at #DEX2018
  • Participated in panel discussions about content design, branding and intranet technology
  • Helped small businesses improve their web presence
  • Written a byline on how much I love headphones which help me get more work done wherever I’m based,  and commented elsewhere in Voice, the IOIC magazine
  • Co-organised and co-hosted Intranet Now – the best independent conference for comms and intranet people with Wedge Black

Oh, and this is the year I went freelance, did my first ever speaking gig and have been finding my way through it all.

This means I have also:

  • Been delighted at the lack of office politics although I can be an awful boss who has had to learn how to set boundaries with my employee.  Setting up a separate space to work, where I can close the door at the end of the day has been brilliant and long-overdue.
  • Missed having the IT support of a large organisation, having to navigate the joys of selecting your own tech, setting up inboxes and remote working processes, with the pitfalls of having to be the first and second-line support when it goes wrong.
  • Not missed picking up every bug my helpful colleagues bring into the office, but missed the sick pay when rendered immobile with a broken foot.
  • Reminded myself about the power of networks.  Most of my work has been directly or indirectly through recommendations, and people I know. I’ve worked with some brilliant people this year, who have helped me get to where I need to. I’ve long been a fan of finding your allies, inside and outside your organisation but when you’re physically on your own (rather than just feeling that way in a large org) it’s more important than ever.
  • Navigated the minefield of switching registers; there have been times this year when I’ve had three clients at once. Each project comes with its own standards, processes, rules of engagement and controls – switching from one to another has caused a little friction at times.
  • Been surprised at my lower incidental spend, with reduced travel costs, random ‘treats’ at the shops while waiting for my train or spending £10 a day on coffee and lunch.
  • Spent a considerable amount of time questioning my judgement, my sanity, and wondering where the next contract might come. It’s not all flat whites and co-working spaces; keeping your mental health, particularly when you’re working from home and seeing people less often means it can be easy to forget to leave the house for days. It’s been particularly challenging at times when I’ve been unable to get out and about, but I’ve also been delighted by catching up with friends and colleagues at home.

Next year I want to:

  • Do more of the good work. My favourite contract this year, working with Methods for Public Health England’s #everymindmatters campaign, involved content I am passionate about, great colleagues to bounce ideas off (hi Rob Finch), a great team that did Agile really well and  a mix of working on-site and at home.
  • Get better at introducing myself. I wear a few hats, and am a few different things to different people.  A portfolio career makes it more important than ever to know how to say “hello” depending on who you are speaking to. I read a great blog from Rachel Miller featuring Janet Murray – both comms professionals who are brilliant at telling their story. I’m improving how I do this in writing, but when it comes to in-person I’m definitely a work in progress!
  • Put myself forward for more speaking opportunities. I’ve had some really interesting experiences this year and it’s something I’ve enjoyed – and I’m looking forward to what next year has in store.

If I sound like someone you’d like to work with, let me know – lisa [@] or get in touch with me on Twitter.

Communication Uncategorised

Live is dead. RIP chronology

Live tonight, Tomorrow sees the launch, Today we're delighted, Last night saw, 1 hour to go

How do you write in the now when tomorrow already came?

If someone finds a piece of content, is it immediately clear if it is in the past, present or talking about the future?

And with weighted timelines throwing content all over the place, how can you make sure it still makes sense? (I’m looking at you, Instagram and LinkedIn).

It’s particularly relevant if you’re promoting an event or time-specific giveaway.  If readers see your content bumped up their timeline three days later, how do you make it work?

Whether it’s social content, web copy or intranet news, it’s unlikely people will see it right away. How do you make sure your copy stands the test of wibbly wobbly time-y wimey?

A tense situation

Have you ever reached a sign-up page to find the event’s already full? Or worse – has already happened?

Wedge once gave my meet-up an excellent talk featuring a tense discussion about intranet content. If you write in the present where possible, you’re far less likely to confuse or disappoint your readers.

Suggesting something will happen in the near future is a sure-fire way to put a shelf-life on your copy. Unless you’re planning on updating it. And who has the time for that?

At least on a news article, content usually has a date stamp. But it’s not always clearly displayed.  And as pages get reformatted or archived, historic content becomes less easy to navigate. Getting rid of out-of-date content is probably a subject for another post, but less is usually more.

Show me the way to go home

Do you know how people access your web pages? As Sharon O’Dea puts it far more articulately than I, content without context can be a challenge.

  • Is there a link to find out more information?
  • Is the date really obvious? Including the year?
  • What about links to other relevant info if the date has in fact passed?

If users find a web page from search, social or serendipity, make sure it makes sense on its own.

A timely call to arms

It’s communications 101 to give people the information they need, when they need it. If you have a time-specific call-to-action (CTA), be clear about what you want your reader to do, whatever time it is now.

It might be a personal preference, but I find including the day of the week can help too – whatever your official style guide says.

Listen online from 6pm, Thursday 14 September is clear to understand. And reduces the cognitive load for people who need to go find a date of posting, and check whether Available tonight from 6pm has passed.

Keeping your pictures on the shelf

You might find that any graphics you do make have a longer shelf-life on social media, or appear fleetingly, but out of sync. Thanks, algorithms.

Using something that counts in real time is great. But I wouldn’t  waste too much time (and budget) on count-down pictures on social.

Keep that tense-specific context to the surrounding post. That way you can also re-use that image in the future. And can help keep the word count on your pictures down, which is particularly useful on Facebook (not to mention from an accessibility point of view).

Well, here we are

I am here, NOW, writing this. But you are reading this in the future.

I’m not having an existential crisis (I don’t think).

But I DO have some availability for content design, web projects and digital strategy. Or at least I did at 2pm on Friday 12th March 2021.

Lisa Riemers - Freelance Digital Communications Specialist

What about you? If you’ve got a tip to add, bugbear to share or want to meet for a coffee and chat about how I could help your organisation, I’d love to hear from you!

Reflections Uncategorised

What a lovely bunch of experts at Intranetters

Last week I went along to a meet-up called Intranetters, which is an awesome, predominantly London-based way to speak to other people involved in intranets.

We were welcomed by @RichardHare
A strong start from @RichardHare

It’s the first Intranetters meet I’ve been to and it was really rather good. Led by Richard Hare, it was a great opportunity to see a brilliant case study from Barclays and hear from the chaps at Twine.

Barclays LMS case study

A brief snapshot of *some* of what was covered
A brief snapshot of *some* of what was covered

It’s rare to get the chance to get an in-depth review of someone else’s intranet site. I really enjoyed hearing how Iain Trundle and Simon Thompson worked with a crack-squad to create a great-looking learning management system overlay for Barclays.

Sketchnotes of the presentation from Barclays
I also had the opportunity to try out my sketchnote skills again, although this time the presentation was much more in-depth, so these are probably most useful for my own record.

Three themes I took away from the talk:

  1. Bridge the gap rather than build a barrier
    Add value to, rather than seek to replace existing management systems by providing connections and in-document search – SharePoint can be used to create an attractive interface, whilst using the back-end LMS and other systems for administration.
  2. Hone your craft
    Take the best bits from elsewhere online to make user-friendly, engaging style, and take the time to write micro-copy to be as engaging as possible and add real value for your employees.
  3. Deliver nice things and get more money
    Echoing a theme I took from Shaula‘s award-winning lightning speech at Intranet Now, take opportunities for funding that come your way!

If you are interested in finding out more about this case study, you can view an overview presentation delivered recently by Martin Pope at the Intranet Now Conference .

Twine – making Agile work

I was interested to hear about Twine‘s work with graduate scheme participants to create a useful self-service portal for the NHS.

A captive graduate audience demonstrating exemplary agile work
A captive graduate audience demonstrating exemplary agile work

The case study was a fantastic example of working in a truly agile way, with two weeks on, and two weeks “off” for measurement, with fortnightly workshops to get feedback and plan the next sprint.

In my experience, it can be difficult to get that level of commitment from business stakeholders, who may have time to do that for a fixed period of time – say 3-4 weeks, but are unlikely to be able to commit for a longer period of time.

I am sure that this work on the portal had a positive impact also to the graduates’ experience of their learning scheme. With a defined reason to regroup, the discussion forums then become a natural extension to, and way to solidify and expand on conversations that have happened offline.

I have had similar success stories for much smaller projects or sub-groups; the successful use of a team site to cope through an enormous business change process with the implementation of a new finance system springs to mind.

Having a defined, discrete audience of interested stakeholders looking to solve a similar problem will definitely help drive better adoption. Which sounds entirely like common sense now I’ve written it, but finding a team that actually *wants* your help is one of the best ways I’ve found to generate success stories for my intranet.

It was also good to discuss just how integrated you should aim to be with other systems – depending on how often your data updates, a manual upload/download of data should suffice.


Making a successful ideation scheme
Making a successful ideation scheme

We also looked at an interesting case study of Shell’s Ideation project. With a robust process in place to receive, feed back and develop ideas, it was a great example of how well ideation programmes can work when the appropriate systems (as in business processes, not necessarily IT) are in place.

In the pub

So one of the best parts of these sorts of events took place in the pub next door. I got some great advice from industry experts (and hopefully was able to share some of my learnings too). I’d definitely recommend going along to the next event – find out more @Intranetters!

Reflections Uncategorised

43-101 things I heard at #IntranetNow

In the week or so that’s followed the wonder that was the 2015 Intranet Now Conference I have been mulling over my notes.

I have enjoyed going back through the presentations, trying not to forget the many things I heard, digesting things to become things I’ve learned and connecting with attendees over on the Twitter and on LinkedIn

I already wrote about 42ish things I heard there – with a morning full of lightning-quick talks and some longer debates, there are obviously MANY more than that – here’s a few more!

43-47ish We, like He-Man, have the POWER

While at times it may feel like our business systems are terrible aren’t up to the standard that we would like them to be, we as digital communicators, intranet managers, enablers of change, webmasters and/or portal wizards play a vital role in the success (or failure) of the projects we are part of.

My take on James Robertson's talk @James_Steptwo
James Robertson on being the conduit for sharing good stuff, well.

48-52 Design adds value

It’s not about making things look “pretty”, but great design can be the difference between users loving, or grudgingly tolerating your site. Worry less about the technology and more about what you’re trying to achieve, make sure it works, and remember: good design saves lives*

*accidentally revealing sensitive user data

James Robertson on adding value through design
I have to be honest, this “Show Pay” CSS button, showing how payroll data can be linked, but then hidden/revealed, was one of my favourite take-aways from the day, and is specifically what prompted me this afternoon to go back through my notes and get the rest of this post written.

53-58 Work together with other stakeholders to make a trustworthy intranet

For me, a common theme of the day was making sure you get the right stakeholders involved at the right time – I think it can be easy to retreat behind a PID/backlog/*insert other projecty term here* without getting out and building your gang.


59 – 64 – Do not build unless they bang on

Possibly the most beautiful story of agile I’ve ever heard, Shaula’s award-winning intranet shows what happens when you prioritise only what is wanted, and delight people by keeping their expectations low but delivering wonders!

My take on @Shaulinaz's presentation
@Shaulinaz on making an intranet to delight, on a shoestring budget

65-70 The further from base, the less they comply

A great talk on the challenges of dealing with hard to reach workers. As well as discussing the ways of building a perfect business case, which hits the needs of employees at all levels of your organisation, Sara discussed an interesting study about compliance. The further away an office is from HQ, the less likely they are to comply with your rules. So make the time to get out there and see the outliers!

Sara Redin’s talk on building the perfect biz case, and compliance

Reasons to be cheerful – Seventy One, Two, Three

Tailor your use-cases for the types of adopter to build your advocates network and drive adoption at all levels throughout your organisation.

Kevin Cody on not falling down the adoption chasm
Kevin Cody on not falling down the adoption chasm

74-78 Be more like Taylor Swift*

There will always be doubters, so getting your advocates on side is vital. There will be a point where you become curators, rather than curators of the majority of content on your site.

Jen Hayward on doubters and reaching the tipping point
Jen Hayward on doubters and reaching the tipping point * Jen did NOT mention Taylor Swift at ANY POINT

79-84 – Fortune favours the bold – turn off legacy sites

Assumptions, like cooked frozen peas, rise to the surface pretty quickly – make sure you identify the real pain points. Tom did a great presentation on the many tools available to help make your intranet a success…. be bold, and turn off old tools to get users on your site!

Tom Gillaman on the tools you need to make you BOLD
Tom Gillaman on the tools you need to make you BOLD

85-89 – Get thee behind me, satan team

It can feel like a pretty lonely job, where you’re constantly writing your own job description, trying to deliver change in the face of adversity. Susan Quain gave some excellent advice about making the project yours, and demonstrating its value and importance to the organisation you are in.

Susan Quain on OWNING your project

90 – Enter the UNconference – it’s ok to ask your peers how they cope

I found Susan’s speech so inspiring that I ventured up on stage to ask an audience comprised of friends, peers and complete strangers about THEIR coping mechanisms, for the unconference break-out sessions.

Check out this and all of the other wonderful photographs on the day on Flickr – don’t forget to ask Wedge if you want to use them.

Seriously though

Woman on the edge
Look. At. The. Fear. Captured beautifully by Antonio Salgado, Capturise, via the Intranet Now Conference.

91-98ish Governance, training, workflows, find your family, wine

There were so many things we covered in the afternoon sessions, though my top takeaways:

  • have a governance policy, but actually a process to follow it up, with people that are empowered to do it.
  • make connections with people in and outside of your organisation and see them often, to remind yourself why you’re doing this
  • try and get someone to have a look at your search logs and make some recommendations
  • steal lovingly from other people – most intranet-types are happy to share what they can to help you
  • one word search doesn’t have to be a problem
  • always make time for wine

99-100 – Have the wisdom to know the difference

Now James Robertson is a pretty inspirational chap, and gave me some great advice in the bar afterwards. I managed to reel off a list of challenges, many of which are completely outside of my control, and he pointed this out and reminded me that there are things I DO have power over, and that we can achieve great things when we focus.

101 – Sketchnotes are a thing

Thanks again to Wedge and Brian for my prize copy of Jane McConnell’s The Organization in the Digital Age, largely for my tweet of Paul Zimmerman‘s talk on the Intranet of Things.

I hadn’t realised, until my first write-up was retweeted by Francis Rowland, that there’s an official term – sketchnotes – for scrawling visual notes.

I’ve seen them around, usually created by skilled illustrators, but didn’t realise they were, in themselves, a medium. So there’s an unexpected takeaway too.

Phew. Thanks for reading this far! I found the day was probably one of the most valuable conference/events I’ve ever been to, albeit packed with so many top-level learnings that I’m still compiling my own internal code of it all.

All of the things are available on the Intranet Now website – I’m going home to make use of #98!

Reflections Uncategorised

42 things I heard at the #IntranetNow Conference

This week I had the joy of going to an event filled with a very specific kind of geek.  Whether your term of choice is the digital workplace,  intranet, portal, gateway, hub or dumping ground, I got to speak, listen and learn with people inordinately passionate about improving the way people communicate online at the Intranet Now conference.

Now, I’ve been told off in the past that doodling in my notepad doesn’t look all that professional, but I actually find it’s a great way of retaining knowledge.  For example, I can still tell you that Jerome Bruner, that great educational constructivist type (ok, that’s getting a little rusty) wrote at length about scaffolding childrens’ learning, as I once drew his name into a large wall, covered in scaffolding poles.

Anyhoo. I digress. Everyone loves a listicle, so here’s some of what I heard at #IntranetNow, in no particular order…

1-6ish. Don’t hover/bother, do bribe.

Get people involved in your testing, but don’t get too involved – sit on your hands if you have to – you have to see how people will use your systems without intervention.

A round-up of @Cal444's wonderful lightning talk on proper testing.
A round-up of @Cal444‘s wonderful lightning talk on proper testing.


7-13ish: Get others to invest in your wonder.

Be inclusive, make heavyweight allies to help negotiate office politics and gain adoption and acceptance of your site.

Francis Rowland's insights into UX and adoption
@FrancisRowland‘s tips on sewing the seeds of UX and getting people involved


14-19: Strong UX + Bitesize Content = Award-winning LMS

How do you eat an elephant? One bitesize piece of learning and development content,  delivered just in time, at a time.

Martin Pope's ace presentation on delivering useful content
Martin Pope‘s ace presentation on delivering useful content


20-24: Start small, but scaleable to make loveable content

Or why iterative, cloud-based development may in fact be our future.  I also love cranes and lego.
Dan Thomsen at Webtop on making bricks, not building sites


25-30: Remember the ubiquitous laws of the interweb.

In my humble experience of managing online communities, the biggest challenge for a workplace social network can be to get people to participate in the first place; once you DO have that critical mass of people using the site, remembering these four rules will stand you in great stead for building a positive network!


Luke Mepham's rules of the interweb
Luke Mepham‘s rules of the interweb

  •  Don’t draw unnecessarily large levels of attention to things that would otherwise go unnoticed
  • Step in where necessary so debates don’t descend into anarchy
  • Take time to understand your audience – tone doesn’t travel
  • Anonymity transcends all moral decency – make promises not threats to deal with dissidence appropriately.

31-35ish: If you succeed, you’re a statistical anomaly

Apart from following the above rules, transparency is key. Listen to your community, make sure there are clear rules for governance and ownership.

Richard Hare on how many ways can YOU mess up an online community...
Richard Hare on how many ways can YOU mess up an online community…


36-42: Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the RFID-enabled candlestick

There’s a beautiful, connected future at our fingertips. Imagine that you could use YOUR intranet to play a massive, multi-player game of Cluedo, using your building information management system, RFID tags, wifi beacons and smartphones. Invotra, I’m looking at YOU to make. this.happen.


Paul Zimmerman's intranet of things
Paul Zimmerman’s marvellous intranet of things

Or, perhaps you’d find it more useful to know if a meeting room was available, or who turned up to a training session, or where in the building hotdesking Fred is sitting today.

Either way, there are practical ways to connect our online and physical worlds – I’m sure Paul would love to talk to you more about it.

Such learn. So doodles. So wow. Hopefully more to come…

I’ve been wrangling with whether to create a separate “work” and “play” Twitter account, but there’s often so much crossover between the two. If you found this, you may already follow me on the Twitter. Come and join the puns…