Web Conferencing Terminology

Last month, we rolled out our completely revamped web conferencing software. If you read our blog post about the announcement, you know we’re very excited about it. If not, you should, it’s a great introduction to the web conference system.

Since more of our new and current customers are calling us to ask about the program, I’ve noticed that we all have different ways of explaining things. I put together a useful tool to help you understand the terms that we’re using as they apply to our web conference system.

Webinar - Lots of people use this term differently, but to us a webinar is simply where you’re having a conference with a visual element.

Application Sharing – From the list of opened programs on your computer you can select any one of those programs to share with your participants. It limits the exposure of your computer screen and any notifications you get while sharing.

Audio Over the Web – Participants can now choose the option to listen to the audio streaming over the web. If they choose this option, they will not be able to participate in the audio portion of the conference, like raising their hand for questions.

Moderators – A moderator is a person who will control the aspects of the conference call. This includes the audio portions and sharing information.

Speaker - A speaker is different from a moderator in the sense that they can only share their programs and applications. They cannot remove participants or control the audio portions of the conference call. It’s a great way to invite different people to your conference line without having to give out your moderator code.

Conference Controls – There are two different sets of controls on web conferencing. One set of controls is for your sharing of information, like your desktop or video. The other will help you control and moderate your audio portions of your web conference.

Desktop Sharing – Different from application sharing, this option will share your entire display. It’s an easy choice when you have a lot of different things that you need to show. There is some risk with desktop sharing because anything that is on your computer will be shown to participants – including instant messages, email alerts, or web browsing.

Those are just some of the terms that you might hear one of our operators going over with you. If you want to know more about our web conferencing options give us a call and we can answer any of your questions about these options and more.

Social Media Cautions in News Gathering

Last Wednesday as I was scrolling through Twitter, I learned that the loud bang I heard outside of my house was not the wind, as I thought, or a gun shot, as no police officers showed up, but the sound of an explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas.

Over the following week, I gained a lot of information about that and other things going on around in the world from Twitter. While it’s been a great place to gather real information, it’s also a place that you can get lost in the web of misinformation. Even the most well-known of news rooms fell victim to announcing things before they were fully confirmed which caused a firestorm of Twitter snark.

It’s a good teaching place though, especially for those of us who feel like Twitter is a great place to find "real-time" information, but the events surrounding last week should also teach us some caution.

    1. Tread Carefully – While “citizen journalists” can be a useful place for information in an unfolding situation, you need to be somewhat cautious about what and whom you believe. Not too long ago, I heard that a school near my hometown was on lockdown and I took to Twitter to see if I could find any information “on the ground”. What I saw was a ton of misinformation that the issue was related to everything from an active shooter on campus to nothing. It turned out the school was locked down as a precaution in response to a robbery nearby.
    2. Wait Before You RT – Look, I understand that we all want to share breaking news and events, and most of us aren’t official journalists. So, what’s the rush? Even a journalist will take the time to check their sources and make sure that it’s true. Let your finger hover over the RT of the tweet from @teenagermakingthingsup until you see it’s been verified. It’s better to spread correct information than to have to go back and apologize for being "had".
    3. Check the Hashtag – I had no idea the @AP had been hacked until I logged into Twitter and saw the trending topic about bombs in the White House. For a moment, I was full of fear. It’s been a long week. Then I clicked on the topic to see more information and saw everything advising me it was a hoax. A few moments later, it was gone from the trending topics. Instead of selling off my investments, I took a moment to check the facts and confirm what was really going on.

While social media is gaining ground as a viable new source for information – I would remind you of something that your father told you many years ago. “Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean that it’s real.” As Twitter and other social networks grow in popularity and usefulness for gathering news and information – it’s also a good time to remember that these things still exist online.

Just be cautious.

Solving Conference Call Echo

When you dial into an audio conference you want to have a smooth and efficient meeting. Few things disrupt meetings like the sound of your co-worker screaming into the Grand Canyon and letting his voice echo back into the call. Okay, so he’s probably not taking the conference call on the Grand Canyon, but his line is definitely causing a bit of echo.

What causes echo and what can you do to fix it?

Make Sure There is Only One Line Connected in a Room – When you have multiple parties in the same room connecting into the same conference, it will create an echo on the conference line. Sound will travel on a delay from your neighbor’s cubicle or desk and into the phone you’re using. Instead of having everyone connect individually, gather the participants in a room and let them dial in together. This will eliminate the conference echo caused by participants in the same room.

Check Your Surroundings – The chance of experiencing an echo is greatly increased when you’re taking your conference call in an enclosed space. The sound of your voice will bounce off of the walls and back into your phone system, and create an echo on your call. When possible, take your conference call in a more open space, like a conference room. If that’s not possible you’ll need to adjust the tone of your voice to try to minimize the impact.

Are You Using a Speakerphone? - Speakerphones are convenient but are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to conference echo. Built in speakers can cause an echo on the conference call. A speaker phone has both a microphone and a speaker built in, so when the volume is up too high, it can cause echoing and distortion. Turn your speakerphone volume down to help with some of this interference.

Speakerphone Bonus: If you’re using a speaker phone to join into the conference and having trouble with the code, mute the device or disable the speaker line to enter the code. This might help your code get recognized.

Conference echo is a nuisance because it immediately disrupts your ability to host an effective meeting. Anytime you have a sound issue on one of your conferences that you can’t figure out, be sure to give customer service a call (800.989.9239) and let us help.

Speech Improvements I Learned from Sync

I recently bought a new SUV. It’s a beautiful black Ford Escape, a vehicle I have had my eye on for a long time. One of the most exciting features to me was the “Sync” system where, using my USB device, I can tell my car what to play, instead of having to manually search for songs. Like in the beginning of most relationships, there were some severe communication issues that we had to work through.

Just as I was considering breaking up with Sync, I realized that I had some things I needed to work on, before I called up a couple’s counselor. I learned some things about the way I need to talk to Sync to help her respond better to my needs.

Our biggest communication issues broke down into two categories – my consonants run together and my voice trails off at the end of words. When I would request that Sync play “play artist Tom Petty” she doesn’t hear me clearly. The two “T” sounds become one in the middle of my sentence so she isn’t entirely sure what I meant. The same thing happens where they are “soft” sounds at the end of words. For example, if I request that she plays Adele, she fires back with a bunch of options because the system heard the first part “Ade” but not the rest.

In order to have a good relationship with Sync, I had to change the way I spoke to her. I knew what I was saying, but she wasn’t translating it correctly, and it was causing a rift in our relationship.

Communicate Better with Participants

It’s hard to know when something isn’t communicated effectively to another person since the speaker knows what the intended points are. I knew what I was trying to say to Sync but it was getting lost somewhere along the way. I had to change the way I spoke to her in order to improve our relationship.

You can improve your relationship with your participants by making your entire presentation to a recording device. Then wait a few days and go back and listen to yourself. Make notes about parts of your speech that are fading away or aren’t being translated well.

Letting someone else listen to your presentation is also a great way to understand how a participant might interpret your speech. Take the recording and give it to a friend. Ask them to listen to the entire thing from start to finish and make notes along the way. They can jot down the things that don’t make sense or a misunderstanding that they might come across.

Communication is not just about what you say but how you say it. You can evaluate how to speak before you ever step in front of your audience so that you can know how you will sound and how your words will be received.

Introducing Something Brand New - Online Project Manager


Having the right tools at the right time helps you stay productive. To stay focused and get things done, you need to be in close contact with your team. Our new product allows you to communicate easier with co-workers.

In 2011, we decided to create our own tool for managing tasks and projects.  We had a few basic requirements:  It needed to be cloud based, online, and work across all browsers and mobile devices. Once we finished, we decided to give the product a unique name; apio.

What you can do with apio Project Manager:

  • One page overview of all of your projects
  • Keep your project files up to date. When relying on emails, it's inevitable that someone will miss an update or work off the wrong document.
  • Discuss your projects and tasks right from the site. The comment feature keeps your discussions all in one place for everyone to see.
  • Assign due dates for tasks. See when tasks are completed so you always know the current progress or status of a task.

apio Project Manager is available right now and can be used to share documents, files, and tasks.

As an AccuConference client, we are offering you a free account for 90 days.

Call us at 800.488.3040 or go to www.apio.com.

Connect With Participants on Webinars

Participants have a lot of distractions in front of them when they try to sit down and attend a meeting or web conference. As a speaker, you’re suddenly up against unseen foes of Facebook, Twitter, and email. Most participants will tune in completely to your webinar for the first couple of minutes, but after that, if you do not hold their attention, they will start to drift.

If you don’t want to lose your participants to the weeds of the Internet and other distractions, there are a couple of things you can do during your call to make sure you’re doing what you can to keep their attention.

Pace Yourself.

When you're speaking and presenting on a webinar, you are up against the clock. When presenters are up against the clock one of two things usually happens – they either go through the information entirely too fast, or they get lost in the minutia of their information. Practicing before the event in your allotted time will help you get the right pacing down and make any last minute changes.

Interact with Participants.

During the call, use polls and visuals to keep them engaged. Offer a prize for the best question to the speaker or set up a Twitter hash tag for participants to submit comments and questions about your presentation. If you decide to use Twitter during the conference make sure you have someone manning the account that can respond promptly. You can always go back later and personally respond to your messages, but don’t try to do that while you’re presenting.

Remember the Golden Rule.

Never read directly from your slides or handouts. I’m honestly surprised at how so many speakers continue to make this single mistake when it comes to trying to keep their audience involved in their conferences. Reading word for word from slides is the most direct way to get participants to "check out" of your conference. Why would they need to listen to you when they can just refer back to the copy of the slides? They should be used as a guide and not serve as a script.

Web conferencing technology is here to stay and will no doubt become even more prevalent in your day to day business operations. It’s a good idea to start making these changes to your presentation techniques now so that you’re not behind the curve later.

How do you connect with participants on webinars?

Conference Calls With Your Sales Team

Many moons ago, I worked in direct sales. While it wasn't my favorite job in the world, I learned some valuable skills. The company liked to keep us up to date on new approaches with monthly conference calls, and they were very helpful. When it’s time to set up your next conference call with team members, here are some sales conference topics that you can use.

Success Stories

Each month, invite the “top seller” to make a brief presentation to new hires or those who wish to participate. You can open up for a straight Q&A session to let your new people or the ones that need a little extra motivation find out about what strategies make someone successful in the sales business. A lot of times it helps to simply hear what works for someone else and try to incorporate that into your own approaches.

Skill Refreshers

Once a quarter, set up a conference call with departments or teams that would not usually have direct contact with each other. Use these opportunities to role play situations with a large group and then allow for questions at the end. Ask your employees what was great, what could have gone better, or what needs a little bit of improvement. It’s a great chance to hear new thoughts and approaches from those you wouldn't usually have contact with.

Brainstorm a Better Pitch

The sales persons pitch is the greatest device they have when it comes to closing a deal. If the pitch doesn't resonate, then you've lost your potential client before you even have a chance to start talking about benefits to your product or service. Get your team together on a conference call and start collaborating on a pitch that can be delivered in a clear manner with the same messages delivered across the board. Host a follow up call after a couple of months and find out some of the feedback on the pitch. If it’s still not working – you can attack the pitch again and continue doing so until you find one that works.

Before you start any conference call with your sales team, it’s important to break the ice and start opening up the lines of communication. A good ice breaker planned into the meeting agenda will get people talking and feeling comfortable with each other.

Motivating a sales team doesn't have to be all about money and success. Giving them an open door to get new ideas, stay current, and keep things going helps just as much.

Problem Solving in Customer Service

Not long ago, I received a phone call from a customer who was very frustrated that something hadn't gone the way she planned on her conference call. Her participants had been on mute, they were not able to speak, and she could not figure out how the conference had ended up in that setting. As she spoke, I ran through all of the possible things that could have caused the issue. By the time she was done telling me what happened I had a pretty good idea of what caused the issues on her conference call.

That didn't mean that I was about to take over the conversation and tell her exactly what I suspected. I   have a very specific thought process when I'm problem solving with customers and always follow three basic rules.

Remember that the company is guilty until proven innocent. We frequently get calls from customers who have typed in the wrong code. This prevents them from joining their conference and they will call us to see what we can do to help. When we get one of those calls from customers, the first thing we check is within our own system. We check our side to make sure everything is good to go first. This kind of information will help us diagnose the problem the customer is having and we are the cause until we can find out otherwise.

Don't talk down to customers. Once we have determined that everything is okay from our side, it's time to ask the customer some more questions. It's an imperative part of problem solving, but the golden rule here is to not talk down to the customer. When one of our clients is having a problem, it's getting in the way of them conducting business, and they need our help, not a tone that would make a customer feel that I’m secretly saying "I told you so". It’s much more important that we offer solutions to the customer than to prove the customer wrong.

Don't blame the customer. This is a fine line with the customer because you, as the company representative, know that the system wasn't at fault and you're relieved, but it's important to remember that until you hang up the phone, you have to help the customer. It's important that I tell the customer how to prevent the same problem, and not what they should have done to not have a problem in the first place.

Problem solving with a customer can become a he said / she said event if you allow it. I've found that when it comes to a problem, most customers don't want to get upset, they just want you to tell them what is wrong and either fix it – or tell them how to fix it.

How do you approach problem solving with customers?

17 (+4) Tips For More Productive Conference Calls

Conference calls have become an important part of corporate business life and yet they are not always used to their best advantage. The world of telecommunications has traveled light years since the old days of the traditional party line, but the modern conference call is really just an expansion of that retro concept. Today, most companies use a specialized service provider for conference calls and they are being used more and more in conjunction with web conferences. These service providers maintain the conference bridge and provide the phone numbers used to access the meeting or conference call.

How can your business better utilize this service? First, let us define exactly what service we are talking about. What is meant by the term, conference call? This is a telephone call in which the caller wishes to have more than one party listen in to the audio portion. Calls may also be designed so that the called party can participate during the call or so that the called party merely listens in and cannot speak. A conference call is also sometimes referred to as an ATC (Audio Tele-Conference).

In a book called "Death By Meeting" author, Patrick Lenzioni, argues that conference calls really should be more fun. He says: "If I didn't have to go to meetings, I'd like my job a lot more." According to Merlin Mann and his fascinating, irreverent and very witty family of websites dealing with personal productivity known collectively as 43 Folders, the following ideas have helped to make his life in general and conference calls in particular, easier and more productive. Also check out this interview with Al Pittampalli, the author of the Modern Meeting Standard. Consider them the next time you schedule a conference call. Read on and hold that call, please!

  1. Circulate an Agenda.  Don't do a conference call without first circulating an agenda to all involved parties. An agenda helps to structure the conference and helps members to prepare by providing in advance the type of information they will need in order to effectively participate in the discussion.
     
  2. Get familiar with each other. Have everyone in attendance introduce him or herself up front. In fact, make that the first thing on your agenda. It is important for people who don't know each other's voices especially well to become familiar as quickly as possible.
     
  3. Give the conference a theme. Don't meander, for the road is costly and time-consuming and leads ultimately nowhere! Use the agenda to amplify the theme in question by explaining how it will be covered or explored in each section of the meeting.
     
  4. Have conference calls only when you need to. Many are unnecessary and could be avoided with either a one-on-one call or a focused e-mail exchange. Group calls should only be made when either in-depth dialogue or brainstorming is required.
     
  5. Establish meeting timing. This includes when the meeting will begin, break and end ahead of time. Provide a time structure, which all participants must adhere to and matters will flow smoothly.
     
  6. Focus on the conference. Limit "electronic grazing" to during the conference call. Set it up like they did in the old frontier days at the saloon with all who enter checking their guns at the door!! The equipment is different; phones and laptops to be exact, but the attitude is the same. No multi tasking while the meeting is in session. This means no email, no phone calls and this means you! Attending the meeting is like being pregnant; one either is or one isn't present at the meeting. If an emergency occurs and a call needs to be made, then the person should leave the room to make the call and not tie up the meeting.
     
  7. Schedule guests and make the best use of everyone's time. Use your agenda to indicate when people will be needed to present their arguments and avoid the traffic jam of having thirty people in a room for three hours, twenty of whom will have nothing at all to do or say until the last 15 minutes of the meeting. Tick off items on the agenda as they are covered.
     
  8. Delegate roles. Don't wear too many hats at your own meeting. Employ someone to keep track of the time so that you as the leader are free to focus on the matters presented in the agenda and keep the meeting rolling along at an even pace.
     
  9. Stay focused on your time element and subject matter. Not all issues require the same amount of time to settle and any issue that can be resolved offline or does not require the input of the majority of the group should be dismissed as quickly as possible and ticked off the mighty agenda.
     
  10. Welcome late arrivals. If you join into a conference call after it has already begun, make sure that other people know you are there. If you are the organizer of the conference call and this happens, seek an opportunity to introduce that person and then quickly review any key decisions that have been made. (If the person being late is you the organizer, you probably should find someone else to head the conference call in the first place.)
     
  11. Meetings won't run themselves. Be aware of which tips work best for you and remain consistent in their use. Meetings have never been able to run themselves, and you as the leader, must always think things out thoroughly so that people attending do not feel they are wasting their time. After all, that is the one commodity that we never seem to have enough of and that waits for no one, as the old saying goes.
     
  12. Stick to the point. Keep conference calls short and very sweet. This way, each participant knows what to expect, more or less, in terms of why they are there and what they are supposed to do. There is nothing more boring than a rambling speaker and nothing that will lose a listening audience more quickly, except maybe a sudden office fire.
     
  13. Get through the agenda first. Consider dealing with any matters that are not  on the agenda last even if they are brought up at the beginning of the conference. This prevents sidetracking and losing precious time in covering the more pertinent issues at hand.
     
  14. Invite only the people that need to be on the conference. Don't call bosses and technical experts to attend the conference unless you know in advance that their advice will be needed. Regardless of the outcome of the conference, they will definitely owe you one and be eternally grateful.
     
  15. Limit the Chaos. Limit the number of people on the conference call to four or at most five. Chaos is sure to follow if there are too many opinions circulating at the same time. Problems are likely to occur because the more opinions, the harder it becomes to keep track of who is speaking and a common reaction is to go on automatic pilot and "leave the meeting in your mind."
     
  16. Wait your turn to speak. Try not to interrupt when others are speaking and wait for the appropriate moment to jump in. One has to listen and concentrate much more acutely over the phone than is necessary in person.
     
  17. Summarize and follow up on meeting proceedings. This can either be done by you or by a project manager, if one has been so assigned. Take a few minutes at the end of the conference to review any major new projects that were generated in the meeting and email the list of resolutions to all participants. Also, take a minute to identify those issues or questions that must be explored further. Don't forget to thank everyone for his or her participation and say goodbye.
     
  18. Practice makes perfect. Familiarize yourself with the conference call service before you use it.  You're going to want to know how to use the conference call service so that you can use your mute functions and any of the moderator controls.  You should be able to call the conference company and get a quick overview of the different commands that you can use. 
     
  19. Start the conference on time.  You've sent out a lot of invitations that have a specific date and time provided to the other participants.  Start at the right time so that the conference will begin for those who showed up at the right time. Participants who are late will just have to miss the introduction. 
     
  20. Pay attention. As a participant you should take good notes. This will help you retain information and it will encourage you to pay attention, rather be distracted by your cell phone, email, or social networking. 
     
  21. Use visuals on conference calls that require them.  Not every conference is going to require them, so use them only in situations that call for the visual representations. 

The mercurial business world of today demands quick decisions based on as many facts as possible. Aided by the cold hand of technology, telecommunications has made the transfer of information an instantaneous and ubiquitous affair. Take advantage of this process. Wasting time hurts business and morale on many levels and it is something that can be avoided by planning ahead all the details for your next conference call. Follow these tips and you are sure to have more productive conference calls. Perhaps not all of these ideas will work for you, but many of them will.

And by the way, hold that call, will you? I have to go. There's a conference call I have to attend ...


Looking for ways to improve your speaking abilities? Here are four more resources:

Announcement: Operator Answered Call Reporting Graph

When you have an operator answered conference call, you will get a line chart that shows you the progression of your attendees at various times.

This data is a compilation of the information that you can collect from the CSV file found on your account after each conference. What we do is plot it along a line graph so that you can see your average call time and your maximum number of users. Charts are much more fun to look at than Excel spreadsheet files.

We want to make sure that you can see how your conference calls work and how your participants are responding. Maybe you are unnecessarily overbooking for your conferences or this data might show you how you can break up your calls and maintain your participant count.

If you receive one of these graphs and have some feedback, we'd love to hear what you think. Is something missing? Maybe we can add data that you would like to see to it. Give us a call at 800.989.9239 to discuss the graph or if you have any other questions.

AccuConference |

What To Do When No One Asks A Question

Few public speaking situations have made me as nervous as when I had to present my senior thesis to the Communications department. Everything I had worked so hard for and watched my parents sacrifice for came down to one presentation on propaganda and the pressure was on. I knew that there would be questions about my research. When I wrapped up, I stood at the front of the room with nothing but blank faces staring back at me.

No questions? I was shocked. They simply thanked me and I was allowed to leave the hall. I convinced myself that no questions meant I had failed. I didn't.(Thank goodness).

At the end of a presentation, you expect there to be rapid fire questions coming from every point of the audience. What happens when you wrap up the presentation, ask anyone if they have questions, and there is nothing but silence?

Come Prepared

Before stepping out on the stage to make your presentation, you should be prepared for the event that no one is going to have a question at the end. Have a list prepared with a couple of additional notes to your presentation that you can offer if no one has any questions.

Ask Friends Before Hand

One of the things about asking questions on a conference call or face to face is that there is a hesitation to being the first person to speak up. Before the presentation, find a friend or co-worker and ask them if they would be willing to offer up a question if no one jumps in, just to get the ball rolling. You'd be surprised how many people will chime in once someone starts the Q&A off.

Wrap it Up

Not having any questions after a presentation might signal a need to wrap things up and hand the stage over to the next speaker. If their truly are no questions, it will be very awkward for you and the audience if you just hang around onstage. If you don't want to wrap up you presentation early, open a dialogue with your participants and see if you can't get them talking to you, instead of the other way around.

Provide Another Way to Ask

Maybe the presentation you're making is on a sensitive subject or everyone has simply succumb to shyness that day. Either way, you should give your participants a different way to ask questions. Some may prefer email or they simply won't think of a great question until it's time to put your suggestions into action.

When you open the floor for questions and all you hear are the crickets and papers shuffling - it doesn't always mean you didn't do a great job. Q&A sessions are very helpful for both you and the participants listening in so when things don't go your way at Q&A time, it doesn't mean you have to disconnect or leave the stage feeling like a failure. What do you do at the end of your presentation and there is nothing but silence?

Use Webinars and Engagement to Get More

This week, I read this awesome post over on Copyblogger called How to Use Webinars to Create Great Relationships with Prospects and Customers. The blog is highly indepth about how you can reach out to customers and make sales connections by inviting them to Q&A sessions or with coaching programs. I have personally written about using Q&A session with customers in a webinar format before and how it can offer great benefit to your company by knowing what your customers want to know more about.

These are great ideas and I fully support them, but there are some things you have to keep in mind when approaching using a webinar for any part of your business.

Pay Attention to Your Time Constraints

Understand exactly how long it is going to take you to present the information to your customers, clients, or co-workers. Give yourself a little extra time on either side of the webinar for any last minute hold ups or if you happen to run a little long in a Q&A session. Most webinars are scheduled for an hour and have anywhere from 30 - 45 minutes of presentation time and then the rest is Q&A from the audience.

Don't Host a Webinar Just to Do It

Ever been a participant on a webinar where you've heard it all before? Instead of presenting buzz words and tired information, have something new and interesting to present. You can invite speakers to your webinars so that they can give a fresh perspective on the topic. You can invite a blogger in your niche to come on the line and have an open discussion with participants or debate over how to do something. You can also present new research on how your kinds of products are being used in businesses, so that your potential customers can see how the products will benefit them in the short and long run. If participants feel like they scheduled an hour to hear something you've already heard before means they are less likely to sign up for your businesses webinar event again, and it means you will stick in the minds of your participants for all of the wrong reasons.

Always Have Q&A Options

No matter how well you present a topic or how much you know about a subject - there will always be questions. It's not a bad thing, in fact, it's great because sometimes your audience can lead you to an idea you might have never thought of yourself. You have to give them a way to ask these questions and sometimes the idea of having to speak the question can be a bit of a hold up for participants. Use a webinar service that is going to provide both audio and some other form of question forum (like chat) to help give everyone a way to feel comfortable asking those questions. Provide an email address for the ones that you can't get to in the alloted time.

Using a webinar is a great tool for reaching out to current customers, clients, and even a public who might never have been exposed to your brand. If you're going to take on the importance of webinars in business, you have to be ready to make them useful and informative.

What kinds of thing are you doing to make your webinars stand out from a crowd? How are you engaging with participants during the presentation to make sure they are really getting what they came for?

Solving Conference Call Annoyances

Earlier this week, I told you all about the 12 Conference Call Attendees That Cause Annoyance. Now that you've considered the list and mentally pointed the finger of blame at some of your co-workers, let’s go over what you can do to fix those annoyances on the conference.

The truth is that conference calls are supposed to be a productive and concise way to conduct business without having to shuffle everyone into the conference room, which, let’s be honest, is sometimes like herding cats. When one, any, or all of these things happen on conferences it can change the entire tone of the meeting and take a productive group of people down a desperate spiral of frustration. So what can you do?

  1. Offer a recording to the conference participants who are traveling or who have their children home with them that day. This way people won't feel pressured to join the conference if they are getting on a plane or home with a sick baby - who may decide at any time to burst into tears. These participants can listen in to the conference at a more convenient time and ask questions or give feedback later.
  2. Lock your conference call (Press *7 on the telephone keypad as the moderator) and prevent late participants from joining the conference. This will lessen the likelihood that someone will join the conference ten minutes late and then require that they immediately get caught back up.
  3. Use the power to mute the lines to control what is heard in the background and to filter out who is speaking. (We recommend using lecture mode for any conferences that are going to be five participants or more.) Use the live call screen to identify which lines are making noise so that you can mute them without disrupting the rest of the conference call. This works for background noise, hold music, pretty much any disruption that can be caused by unauthorized sounds.
  4. Encourage your participants to use a land line phone and a headset instead of speaker phones. In our experience, land lines tend to be more reliable for the conference call and headsets are the best, least intrusive way to be hands free on a conference call.
  5. Do your best as the meeting organizer to schedule your conferences before or after lunch time. The best time to host a conference is before the lunch hours but it does get hard to do this when you're dealing with people in multiple time zones. We wrote some great tips on the best time to have conference calls, so we encourage you to go over there and check them out.

Knowing what to expect on a conference call is part of the planning process. As the moderator you have to be prepared to step in a mute a line or suggest that someone call back in when they are in a less noisy environment. What do you do on conference calls and webinars that keep those distractions out and keep productivity moving forward?

12 Conference Call Attendees That Cause Annoyance

Come on, admit it. Close your eyes and think about your last conference call and you'll immediately think of a number of people that turned the last conference into a disaster. There are a lot of different circumstances that call for conference call participation, but it never fails - there are always those one or two people who just make the experience slightly unbearable for the rest of the team.

The person who is always late.

Consistently, this co-worker will join the call five minutes late and demand to be caught up before the call can continue.

The last minute participant.

This person is different than the "late participant". This participant decides at the last minute they need to join the conference call about something that is out of their scope or they are unfamiliar with. Usually the first ten minutes of the conference are spent bringing this person up to speed.

The Mumbler.

This person doesn't speak up on the conference and therefore cannot be heard. It's either because their voice is very soft or because they are sitting too far away from their phone.

The "if I can just jump in here" co-worker.

This person always has something to add to the conversation, but it's often at the expense of other participants. They interrupt other attendees on a regular basis and instead of apologizing and remaining quiet until it's their turn to speak, they continue talking as if it doesn't matter.

The person who always laughs when his or her leather chair makes a hilariously suggestive noise.

Oh, hahaha, it's so funny.

The person who thinks "it's time for a conference call" somehow translates into "time to eat lunch!"

You can always hear this person smacking their lips as they chew or gurgling down their diet soda. If you know you have a conference call during your lunch time, make plans to eat at another time. Inevitably, this person always gets prompted to respond when they have just taken a bite. They will then proceed to speak around it.

The co-worker that works from home in a sea of barking puppies or crying babies.

We're not sure if they run a day care or pet adoption center in their spare time, but it just always seems like the sound of baby crying or a dog in the background is amplified on a conference call.

The scream talker.

They always think that their phone mic is turned down too low and feel like they need to scream to be heard. Usually, their voice causes echoes and feedback on the conferences.

The "hello? hello?" participant.

This participant always suspects they've been disconnected from the conference and must then interrupt the flow of conversation in order to assure they are still joined.

The Traveler.

Yes, sometimes we have to travel when it's time to take a conference call, and there is nothing wrong with that. It just always seems like the other participants end up hearing the boarding announcement or the commuter train departure schedule better than they hear the actual conference call.

The Multitasking Genius.

With their speaker phone on, they proceed to "listen" to the conference while answering emails or getting text messages. The sound notifying them of a new text notification or the gentle and somewhat soothing pounding of the keys on the keyboard play into the conference and give everyone a sense of "nothing is going to get done here".

The person who uses the hold button on their phone, instead of mute.

When you put a phone on hold in a conference one of three things will happen: silence fills the room and everyone makes the assumption the call has ended, periodic beeps will play into the conference, or some rocking easy listening music is about to interrupt and derail your entire conference call.

Who is the person on your conferences that you always feel like needs to be muted?

Conference Call Information in CSV Files

We strongly advocate the idea of recording your conference calls, even if you don't think you'll need to listen to it ever again. The same goes for tracking and knowing exactly who joined conference calls. The way we provide this kind of information is by giving our customers access to downloading CSV files that store information based on the kind of conference call you host. Lately, we've had some customers asking us about how to get their hands on this information and how they can get the most out of this kind of attendance tracking.

General Conference Information

When you host your standard conference call you still get data on who joined the conference. It's very basic information like what conference code was used and the caller ID for those that joined the call. The data is saved in a CSV file that you can download directly from your customer site and is a good tool to use when you need just a basic headcount on attendance for your conferences.

Chat Transcription

Anytime you host a web conference with us and turn on the chat feature, we log that chat session and store it on the customer site. The ability to download the files directly wasn't always an option, but since our customers liked this feature so much we decided to make it more accessible. A lot of our customers use the web conferencing chat sessions for Q&A so that if they missed any questions, they have record of them and go back to answer them even after the call is over.

Registration Data

When you use our registration page, you get the information saved in a CSV file. With the registration page, you can edit what information you want collected (we automatically grab name and email address) and all of this will be recorded on the spreadsheet. It even breaks down your conference call to show who attended and who didn't. It's a great sales tool to see who might have registered for your conference call and didn't get to attend. You have the information that you need to contact them and find out more information.

Operator Answered Information

If you want to stand out go for the operator answered conference call. We'll take down the participants name and one other piece of information. After the call, that information is included on the Call Detail CSV file that can be downloaded directly from your account. Operator answered conferences are great for media conferences, special guest speakers, or shareholder meetings.

How to Download Call & Chat Logs

  • Login to your Customer Account
  • Click Conference Manager
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the blue "view" link beside the call you're looking for.
  • On the next page, you'll find the reports listed at the top beside "Downloads". Click on the CSV file you want to download.

Got any questions? No problem - feel free to put them in the comments or give us a call and we can answer anything you want to know about these different files. Is there anything you're doing with these files that could make attendance tracking on your next conference call or web conference easier?

Five Telecommuter Distractions (And How to Avoid Them)

By May of 2011, the United States reported that 14% of the overall population was telecommuting in some form or fashion, as well as posted growth year of year with these kinds of positions. It's obvious that more companies are not only looking for the "freelancer" but the importance to having a productive environment at home is on the rise.

If you're about to start telecommuting in some form or fashion, here are five things that can destroy the telecommuters productivity – and some tips on how to avoid these pitfalls.

Have a Place to Work.

Before a couple of weeks ago, wanting to work at home meant I was going to be sitting at the kitchen table with the most uncomfortable chair in all of existence. It didn't exactly foster a creative environment. Once I had my office all set up I was amazed at how much more comfortable I felt having a real place to work in the walls of my home. When working at home, have an area that has comfortable seating and a space that is just for you. It will really help you stay focused.

Other People in the House.

This is one of the greatest distractions to the telecommuter. No matter if it's your kids, your spouse, or your mother stopping by for coffee in the AM, having other people in your house is a natural deterrent to getting things done. I have a deal with my husband that if the office door is closed, it means I’m working and don’t want to be disturbed, but if it's open I’m not tied up and it can be chat time.

Amazon, EBay, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Working from home more than likely means you're working from your computer. The amount of distractions on the Internet can be killer when it comes to productive telecommuting. Since telling you to just avoid the sites all together is pretty much pointless, I'll instead suggest that you take a mental break every few hours. Set a timer for the ten or fifteen minutes you're going to give yourself to scroll your Facebook news feed and, most importantly, stick to it. Too many times a short mental break becomes an hour of lost productivity.

The Other Things You Could Be Doing.

As the "clean-freak" in my house I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked myself out of being productive in the office for doing some dishes, mopping the floors, or getting that extra load of laundry done. Close the door to your office and ignore it – to the best of your abilities (this is harder for some than others) so that you can stay focused on the work at hand. Since you’re going to be giving yourself proper breaks, you can always throw the dishes in the dishwasher then.

The Need For Social Interaction.

Working at home can sometimes cut you off from the rest of the world. So much of your communication is done through email that you might find yourself venturing out more often than you like to incorporate yourself into society. A quick trip down to Starbucks can turn into a couple of hours out in public. Instead of doing everything by email, pepper in a few conference calls or video conferences with co-workers and clients, so that you can hear the sound of someone’s voice that isn’t your internal monologue.

How do you stay focused while working at home?

Technology Ruined The Superbowl

Yard Line

UPDATE:Nielson Ratings on Most-Remembered and Best-Liked Ads.

The 2012 Superbowl between the NY Giants and the New England Patriots broke ratings history. The ratings make it not only the most watched sporting event, but the most watch television program of all time.

It probably helps that this year's match up pitted two teams with huge fan bases and huge populations against each other. It also helped that other stations abandoned regular programming because who is dumb enough to put their shows up against the biggest football game of the year?

The game was great and it was obvious that the two teams that were there deserved their places on the field. The game kept fans either biting their nails or screaming at the TV all night and, in short, was everything you would hope the Superbowl would be.

Well, everything you thought except for the commercials. While they were still broadcasted and many of them were as funny as expected, some of the most popular ones were released days in advance of the big game to social media audiences.

YouTube has become a big part of marketing and advertising. As someone who is in the business I get it. I am all about companies embracing new media and giving customers a glance behind the scenes to how a business operates or giving away a teaser trailer to entice them to watch for more. I'm just not sure how I feel about social media breaking the tradition of the Superbowl.

How many times have you heard someone say, "Oh, I only watch for the commercials" or chose to grab their refills when the actual game comes back on? I'm not saying that airing the commercials online was a bad idea from a marketing standpoint. I talk a lot about how companies need to be where their markets are, and most demographics are online now. It would make sense that the next logical step for advertising would be online.

It just makes me wonder why a company like Chevrolet would choose to spend the kind of cash for a Superbowl spot, only to post it on YouTube a couple of days in advance of the game. Isn’t that kind of like telling a kid what they are getting for their birthday?

Obviously, based on the ratings, releasing some of the commercials via YouTube days before the game started didn’t hurt the number of viewers for Sunday’s game, but I can't help but wonder if we lost the experience. Marketing is changing – which, it has always evolved as new ways of delivering messages has been in front of people. (Think of the evolution from radio to TV)

Did you feel like something was missing from the Superbowl experience? Were you disappointed that many of the most popular commercials were already seen or spoiled through social networking in the days before the game?

On a sidenote – here is one commercial that was a sweet surprise - the introduction of Ms. Brown for M&Ms.

Anonymity Online – Why We Love the Mask

creepy mask 300Is the right to talk smack online, hidden under a cloak of anonymity, without being held responsible afforded to us under the First Amendment? That’s the big question this week as controversy swirls around Google’s unmasking of the “Skanks in NYC” anonymous author. Under court order, Google gave the blogger the chance to step forward, before they were ordered to reveal her identity as part of a defamation lawsuit.

There are good and bad aspects to the mask of anonymity online. Most of us like the idea of having the option to be hidden until we are ready to be otherwise, but as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Here is a breakdown of some of the good and bad of wearing the mask online.

The Good.

  • Participation in online support groups can spur someone’s desire to get help for an addiction or disorder. As human beings with emotions, we have been known to fear the judgment of others, and many times this prevents us from getting real or honest. Wearing a mask online helps up to feel protected from the judgment we perceive.
  • For many, social situations cause fear and anxiety. It’s not that they are scared of people – they are just introverted or feel socially awkward. Many of us just need a few moments to warm up, maybe a little liquid courage, and we’re good to go. But for many others, the mask is a way to reveal bits and pieces of themselves over a long period of time, instead of just “putting it out there”.

The Bad

  • In the teen circles, the mask of the Internet has proven to come with some very sad consequences. Recent research shows that in 2011 43% of kids admitted to being bullied online. Most of the time, these instances of cyber bullying follow these kids to school. There is a freedom that seems to come with the access to the Internet and the various resources that are available, but these same freedoms can also breed irresponsible behavior in teens when they aren’t aware of the dangers.
  • Spammers can operate safely hidden behind a generic email address and clog up the communication channels. Think about how your mailbox gets filled with junk that just frustrates you and ends up in the trash. You can’t write them back to complain and there’s no way to get them to stop aside from vigorous blocking systems. But even those systems are not 100% effective and they will drag down your reputation.

Masks make us feel safe. It’s a truth in society that we wear one any time we’re being introduced to something or someone new. We do things that will make us feel comfortable and in stressful situations, sometimes what makes us feel comfortable is hiding. It’s in our nature to want to keep some of our inner thoughts and ideas hidden. Could you imagine airing all of your dirty laundry on a first date? You’d never see a second.

Here is what it really boils down to: if you’re going to have the guts to talk about a person online, you shouldn’t complain when someone figures out who you are and wants you to take responsibility for what you said.

I’ve made some of my best friends through the safety of anonymity and I was “cyberbullied” before it was even a buzz word. Those who go online simply to stir up drama might have a right to do it, but it doesn’t make it right, and they simply ruin the experience for everyone.

You can use a mask to stir up the “bad” but once someone rips it off, it’s going to be time to put on your big kid pants and take responsibility for it. Think about that the next time you have a desire to spread negativity across communities online.

How Good Is Your Memory: Three Reasons to Record Your Calls

Some people have eidetic, or photographic, memory. They can recall almost everything they’ve ever seen, heard, or read. These special people could attend or host a conference call, remember everything that was said, and go on with their day.  So, for the rest of us, here are three reasons why recording your calls is really important:

  • Not everyone has a photographic memory.

Convincing someone with a fuzzy recall how a meeting actually happened is frustrating. Save time, effort (and even friendships) by recording every call.  If a dispute arises on what was said during a meeting, simply play back the recording.

  • Not everyone is honest.

Admit it. You have been double crossed by a verbal agreement before.  It's your word against theirs. With a recording of the conversation, all doubt is removed.

  • Not everyone remembers what they are supposed to do.

After a meeting, people can be excited about moving forward. After lunch, the excitement starts to fade, and so does memory of any task. Recordings can be used on important meetings to distribute tasks and keep people accountable. Also, the meeting manager can revisit the recording to make sure follow-up occurs with everyone.

Tip: You can notate each call on your account. This way you will know at a glance what the call was about. (Read More About Call Notes)

Think of all the meetings, emails, conversations, questions, and misunderstandings you can avoid just by putting your exact words in a recording. It’s like a bit of photographic memory for all of us.

Never recorded your call before? Here are three ways you can get started:

  • Automatic Recording – Automatically record your conference call each time it starts. Log into your account, go to Conference Manager > View Conference Conference > Name. Select “Automatically Record Conference” under the Detail/Options tab. Done.
  • From Your Phone – Press *2 anytime to start/stop recording.
  • Live Call Screen – Ever notice the “Record button” on your live call screen? Click that button to start/stop recording.
  • Recording Advantages – See more about how you can use your conference recordings in sales, marketing, and customer service.

Press Conference Management and Etiquette (For Everyone)

As a baseball fan, we recently had a very exciting thing happen for the Texas Rangers. Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish signed a six year deal to come to Texas and play with our Rangers. During the announcement press conference, I noticed something that was really pleasant - everyone involved did a great job of explaining the feelings of the baseball club, and speaking for the not present Darvish.

I've heard bad press conferences where everyone speaks over each other and it doesn't seem like there's any information, but this conference went very well. There were some things I noticed during the conference that stood out as some best practices for press conference management.

  • Define an overall message of the press conference and stick to it throughout the press conference. Press conferences are supposed to promote the idea of cohesive thoughts and show how different individuals, departments, or agencies are working together.
  • Everyone has a specific topic to discuss and they should stick to it. Let the people who are in charge of certain departments speak on those departments - it builds trust with the reporters and the audience.
  • Don't talk over each other. Commenting officials should answer the questions related to their topic.  If you speak up when someone else is talking {because pauses can get confusing} save your point until the first person is really finished.
  • Show some love to the reporters in the back. When taking questions, make sure you take some from the reporters in the back. Smaller publications usually don't receive top billing at these kinds of conferences, so it might be a good show of faith to show a little love to the reporters in the back. 
  • Be thorough but respectful of time limitations.  Yes you want to answer all of the questions but in a crisis, you're working against deadlines as well. While it's important to inform the public of a situation it is equally important to handle the situation. Set a time limit (usually 20 or 30 minutes) and stick to it.


What do you think makes for a good press conference? Are there any specifics like these that you'd want to add, or do many things depend on the nature of the conference itself?