Old Dog, New Tricks Maranda Gibson

There's an old cliche about teaching an old dog new tricks. Having recently taught an elderly basset hound how to speak on command I'm afraid I have to disagree. Now, my cute baby wasn't going to bark for no reason. I had to entice her somehow. I had to show her that there was a benefit for what she was going to do for me. This benefit came in the form of a Milk Bone. Old dog + Milk Bone = New Trick. Simple enough, right?

If you're looking for innovation in a department that has always operated in a certain way, there's a chance you get could get some resistance.

Most companies are familiar with the idea of an audio conference. It makes sense. Get everyone on the phone together and everyone talks about the same thing at the same time. As technology has grown, so have the things you can do through a conference provider. If you think it might be time to step up your game a bit, it might be time to put some Milk Bones on the table.

Remember to dive in slowly. If you are working with a team of people who might be resistant to change or confused by new technologies, you want to introduce them slowly. Introduce them to something like simple PowerPoint sharing first.

When you're trying to introduce the unfamiliar you should always do it slowly. Throwing someone into the water and telling them to sink or swim won't give anyone any confidence with a new technology. Encourage them to try out the software with different people and let them do test runs. Be available for questions and call your conference provider to set up a demonstration with your company or department, so if there are questions you can't answer, you have someone on the phone who can take the lead.

Remind your team why this is a good option. It's on demand, always available, without printouts or handouts, no travel, and it saves you money.

What do you think? Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Happy Holidays! Maranda Gibson

I love this time of year and even though it's 80 degrees, I'm still in the spirit. This holiday I'm excited to cook and host my first family dinner. I thought I'd share some of the recipes I'll be using this year. I've never made a pie from scratch before so this one is a little on the scary side. I'm hoping it will go well and if it doesn't, I have the no bake cheesecake as my alternate.

I'll be making Dr. Pepper Ham,Velveeta fudge, and a caramel pecan pie.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Extra Preparation Maranda Gibson

Last week, Seth Godin wrote a blog about how to prepare for the fall back of the 2%. A really interesting post that basically says you can make something as easy as pie, but there's still going to be a group who doesn't quite get it.

When it comes to conference calls, you can use a registration page to prepare for the 2%. Creating a registration page will create a link for you to send out. It will direct them to a sign up page that will gather information and allow them to register for the call. It will save their name, company, and email so that you'll know who to expect.

The registration page can also set up reminders to go out for your participants so that you can make sure each person received a notice that they signed up for the conference. Someone will always forget that they are supposed to be on the call, so having a reminder system in place is always a good idea.

For after the conference, the registration page not only stores who signed up for the conference but also takes a log of which of those people showed up.  This allows you the ability for the all important follow up. If the conference is a mandatory call for employees or business partners you have record of attendance so you can schedule a make up date. You also have a record of contact information to follow up with those who did not attend.

There is nothing you can do to "fix" the 2% but you can put something in place, even in a conference situation, where you can have that extra help.

How do you prepare for the 2%?

Unexpected Service Maranda Gibson

It's Friday morning -- which around here means breakfast time. It's sort of a time honored tradition. This morning, we decided to hit up one of the major fast food chains and I volunteered to go pick it up. Two things happened:

1. I got to hear a very irate man get all peeved because the nice lady asked him to hold on for a moment."I don't have time to wait". (Well, you'd be waiting if you were in line, sir. Behind me.)
2. I learned that customer service is not lost in the fast food industry --- at least, not yet. The nice lady wrote the order numbers on each of the bags, even though she was juggling drive through at the same time.

Thanks for reminding me that customer service is still everywhere Dorothy. You made my day extra nice... and super delicious.

Best. Week. Ever. Maranda Gibson

This may be the best week ever. I'm serious. I love the holidays and Christmas and the mood it puts everyone in. This morning, we got a big care package from a company we do work with that was filled with all kinds of goodies like chocolate covered apples, cookies, and (my personal choice) milk and white chocolate slabs covered in crushed peppermint. Which was... delicious. Add to that we all got lamps and poinsettias to decorate our desks. I've included a picture to hopefully spread the cheer (please ignore Larry the Lion he's just protecting my new lamp.) Happy Holidays everyone --- I have to go work off all this chocolate energy now.

Cooking and Conferencing Maranda Gibson

Something really cool happened last night.

Gordon Ramsey taught me how to make pasta with shrimp and red chilies, steak Diane, and tiramisu on Cooking with Gordon Ramsey. While I didn't cook live with him families and celebrities from all over the country did. There was this big video screen on the stage where different pairs of cooks took to their own kitchens while Gordon Ramsey taught them how to safely flambe mushrooms. The best part?

Being taught how to cook by arguably one of the best chefs in the world was completely free.

It's quite a feat considering that the price of a three course meal at Gordon Ramsey's New York restaurant is $65.00 a person and the cost of a 12 hour gourmet cooking class can cost up to one thousand dollars. For the average American, gourmet cooking is at the bottom of our list of things to do but I think Gordon is on to something here. He cooked a three course meal in under an hour and showed me how to do it through the TV and video conference.

While I can already taste the tiramisu, I can't help but think of what Gordon might have done. Video conferencing is growing in popularity all over the world and he just used it to provide a service free of charge that can cost a pretty penny. Has Gordon opened a door into what could come down the road?

Imagine integrating chat into it, where Gordon's Hell's Kitchen winners are in front of laptops fielding your questions while he shows the TV audience how to cook. Imagine Gordon taking your question. It makes you a part of it even though you've never been to cooking school.

Where else can video conferencing be applied to provide an expensive service or class for free?

Finding Your Presentation Groove Maranda Gibson

When it comes to making a presentation, whether it is in front of a physical group of people or on a conference call with a group, we have addressed many times on this blog the importance of being prepared. That means you need to know who you’re audience is, what they would like, and even trying to define a collective personality.
You've practiced, you check out your slides, you've shown them to a group and you think you have all your ducks in a nice little row. Now it's time to make sure that you are going to be confident and comfortable during your presentation. There are a lot of different kinds of speakers in the world and a million different ways to present. Some people need a podium while others need something in their hand. Personally, I like having a pen, but I strongly suggest not using one that has a clicker on it, because I have annoyed my audience a time or two.
After figuring out what set up is going to make you the most comfortable, you have to design a way for you to follow along with your material. Crazy thought right? You’ve provided some different ways for your participants to follow along with you, but now you don’t know where to begin. Should you write out a script or should you make notes?
In my experience in public speaking, I have found that using standard sized index cards is my biggest help when presenting. I need a podium, a pen, and my index cards. I'm a bit of a wanderer when it comes to presenting, walking here and there, maybe pointing things out on the screen behind me, and always going back to the podium to check my cards.
The best way to handle index cards is to put a few points on each one and lay them out in order on the podium. You don't want to have them stacked because you don't want to have to stop and shuffle through them. It's important to look organized, even if you are a little freaked out from the presentation aspect. I don't recommend scripts, simply because I feel like they limit your flow of words and cause you to come out sounding monotone. Unless you’re a master at memorization, you'll lose your place and have to fumble around, so I suggest saying away from scripts all together.
How do you find your flow before and during a presentation? Do you have suggestions for anyone who might be looking at their first major presentation in front of a group? What do you do to make yourself comfortable?

AccuDial iPhone Application Available Maranda Gibson

App Store It's clear that conference calls are a vital part of any business. More than likely you'll find yourself dealing with multiple businesses that use multiple conference call providers. With your week filling with different conferences to attend, meetings to go to, how do you keep it all together? You use your phone calendar to store your daily plans and until now there wasn't an application that helped you do the same thing with your different conference calls numbers and codes.

AccuConference is happily presenting our updated iPhone application, AccuDial. It's a free conferencing tool that's available from the App store or iTunes that can help you to keep all of your conferences together. It's pretty simple. Just download the application, enter a new conference, and plug in the information. Name it anything you would like and attach a date and time to it if you like. When it's time for the conference you can either sort by the name or the date to find the right conference for the day (or the hour).

This application is not limited for use by AccuConference customers and allows anyone with an iPhone to connect to a conference call hosted by any teleconferencing provider. To get started, simply download the application, select it from the home screen, click on the settings (the wheel in the top right hand corner) and start adding conferences. You can add up to fifty and if you need help figuring out what goes where, just click on “help” in the top of the screen to pop up some quick descriptions and suggestions on how you can use the different options.

Since it's free, there's no reason not to give it a try, right? Go on over to the App Store or to iTunes and download the application and give it a try. If you have comments or suggestions, you can leave them here.

Download Here

AccuDial Iphone App

The Future of Work George Page

The future is tomorrow… but then I guess it always is, isn't it.  As far as the next big things of work and the workplace, we’re already seeing "the future", or more exact, the changing of the past.  In an interesting article by The Futurist on the, they have predictions of the future of work.  Going hand in hand with the article, I think that we who use conferencing are already working in the future.

It's not really stated in the article, but I believe that all the major changes—barring the generational changeover—stem from our ability to communicate and collaborate effectively despite distance.  For example, the second prediction says we’ll be working for smaller, leaner companies organized to take advantage of outsourcing and consultants.  The only way that could make sense financially is if conferencing is at the core.

The "what" and "when" of work in the future is made possible and regulated by conferencing technology.  If a company wants to have employees responsible for the big picture of the company in addition to their personal work and sell 24/7 in an on-demand, internet-driven marketplace, conferencing will have to be at the foundation.

Obviously the move towards smaller offices, home offices, and the like, located to take advantage of geographic, convenient, or financial benefits--rather than large, single location workforces for command and control purposes—will only be possible through conferencing—or teleporting.

So if The Futurist is a bang-on prognosticator and these visions of the future of work are going to come true, a company should adopt conferencing now to have a solid foundation to support all the changes to come.

For all of us already heavily leaning on conferencing, the future looks mighty rosy!  How do you think things will be in the workplace of the future?  Tell us about it in a comment.

Conferencing Backchannels George Page

What is the point of a lecture or presentation?  In most cases, it’s to educate or inform the audience and influence them in some way.  So when we’ve put a lot of time and thought into what we’re going to say, we want to do everything possible to pull off a successful presentation.  One of those things we can do isn’t something we actually do… it’s something our audience does.

Backchannel communications is any form of exchange of information “behind the scenes” during a conference or presentation.  At many conventions, a Twitter-stream provides an overall backchannel for the convention participants.  And it’s not only for them.  Participants who couldn’t make it, and anyone else interested in the convention can follow the events, happenings, and impressions of the tweeters in attendance.

For presentations in general and conferencing specifically, a backchannel of communication for the audience can greatly increase conferencing benefits.  For one thing, people can talk about what we’re saying, even as we’re saying it.  They can post their thoughts, feelings, ideas, have an interesting counterpoint to make, more information, or a better conclusion.  Without really realizing it, all of them are collaborating every time they post or even read a post; and all this going on in real time.

The backchannel isn’t just for the participants either.  If we add a web conference to our conference call and activate the chat feature, we can get instant feedback by glancing at chat activity while we speak.  This can help us know when to clarify, when to move on, when they’re with us, and when we’ve lost them.

People seem to feel much more comfortable posting their questions on chat than having to ask them aloud.  And because the questions are posted when they’re thought of, they’re not forgotten by Q&A time.  Also, since we can see a question pop up, we can choose to stop and answer right then, ignore it, or work the answer into our lecture.

For a truly dynamic, controlled group discussion, you really can’t beat a good chat backchannel.  What other ways can we create a communications backchannel in our conferences?  How else can it be used?

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