We Give Conference Calling "Star Power"

Conference calling gives you "Star Power". Well, maybe not the Britney Spears variety, but the power to use * key plus a command on your phone keypad to interact with your conference call attendees.

Here are a few "Star Power" commands to get you started:

  1. Use *1 to dial out of your conference call and then dial a new phone number to check with someone else on fact and figures. Your other parties will not hear this personal call.
  2. Use *2 to return to your conference call with a new participant. You can do this command after you have done *1. 
  3. Use *3 to return to your conference call in progress without a new participant. You may have needed to check a date with your secretary before you got back into the call use *3 to stop the call from using *1 initially.
  4. Use *2 anytime during a conference call to start conference call recording. To be compliant with law, all participants will hear a message that the call is now being recorded.

These are just a few of the * key commands that can enhance your conference call.  We have nine * key commands in all.  When you set up your account with us we’ll even send you a laminated wallet card for easy reference.

Our "Star Power" using the * key will really work to enhance your conference call and put you in control of your conference call with one or two easy keystrokes.

Web Conferencing Lets You Address Queries Quickly

If you have customers in different parts of the country or even different parts of the world, you have likely conquered the difficulties of routine communications. But what do you do when a customer has a very specific query about a product, one that cannot be answered in a quick e-mail or 10 minute phone conversation?

This is one area where web conferencing can help. You can use this technology to address the issue yourself and if you need to include colleagues, and none of you needs to leave the office.

Before you initiate a web conference, make sure that the client in question is web-savvy enough to participate. You don't want to set up a web conference only to find that your goal of helping a customer cannot be met because that person is unaware of how to use their computer or the internet. Depending on you area of business, you may be able to use this as a teaching opportunity, getting your client up to speed and answering their questions at the same time.

A web conference is not just a way to answer any questions that pop up when someone uses your product, it is also a way to impress them, with your knowledge and customer service skills.

Establishing a Video Conferencing Tradition: Part II

As we stated in the previous blog.  Groups asked to use a new communications tool, like video conferencing, go through phases.  We have already discussed the first two: forming and storming.  It is at the "storming" stage that the most oversight has to be exerted to make video conferencing really work.  This can be done by having the most experienced members, or some designated individual(s) intensively model the behavior for others.  This might mean a lot of interaction with those using the system to see if they are having any problems and getting feedback on what is and what is not working for everyone to a more intensive schedule of video conferencing meetings to get people comfortable and make this style of communicating a familiar activity.

After a generally short, but intense "storming" phase, as people get used to the hardware and different style of interaction, as well as become more comfortable with their fellow desktop video-ers, the group enters the third "norming" stage.  At this point, all webcams are on and the stuffed animals are gone and people are interacting, for the most part, normally.

Then comes the best phase.  The performing stage, where groups and conversations begin to form spontaneously and ideas and the project and interactions really take off.

Keeping these four stages in mind, helps you understand that giving your people a new tool and then expecting them to run with it right away is unrealistic.  Knowing the phases of how adoption of new communications technology goes and your role in making it happen, however, lets you know that the initial confusion and chaos and displeasure that comes in the initiation stages are all a natural part of how people react to change, especially one involving something as important as how they relate to each other.

Establishing a Video Conferencing Tradition: Part I

Remember that, like any change, people need time to adjust and build familiarity.  Just like getting a new project team up and running, companies or teams that go into heavy video conferencing mode go through the phases of "forming, storming, norming, and performing".

The first phase is where the team or group that is going to be using the technology decides that this is the technology they are going to use to do their communications.  Sometimes people aren't given that decision, though, and it is made by higher levels and they just have to live with it.  During this phase, you introduce all the participants to the technology, show them how to use it and try to eliminate some of the "fear factor" inherent when people use things by themselves for the first time.

The next phase, the "storming" phase, is one of discomfort and distrust.  Not only with the technology where they might not know exactly how to work everything or what to do when things go wrong, but also of the people on the other side of the transmission line, especially if they haven't worked closely with them before.  In this phase, sometimes people will not turn on the camera, saying they are having technical difficulties or will put a picture or stuffed animal in front of the camera instead of training it on them selves. This is due to the desire for some people to want to remain anonymous until they feel more comfortable with the process and people.  This can last a week or so, until people get more comfortable with the new mode of interacting.

Office 2007 Client Friendly Tips

If you are still using Office 2003 or an earlier Office product then you may not know that the new Office 2007 application uses a new file format that cannot be opened by earlier Office products. You may have had a client or prospect send you a document that you could not open in your version of Word, PowerPoint or Excel that ended with an X like a .docx, .pptx or .xlsx file.

Don't send your customer a note asking them to resend the file requiring them to resave it in the old Office format, just download the Office 2007 file compatibility pack from Microsoft.

You can download this compatibility pack free from Microsoft.

The new Office 2007 file format uses XML to keep file sizes incredibly small and to allow for future application interaction. Changing to the new XML file structure is a sweeping change and a controversial one as important changes always are. This compatibility pack allows users of Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003 to open edit, and even save files in the new XML format allowing for easy file transfer and exchange with customers already using Office 2007.

So if you aren't ready to upgrade your Office products to 2007, with the compatibility pack no one will know that you are still using Office 2000 or Office 2003.

Conference Calling Can Involve All Five Senses

Conference calling knows no bounds when it comes to connected people and getting the job done. No matter what your field may be, there is a way to use teleconferencing to your advantage. There are so many ways to use technology to meet your needs.

Here is one surprising example: The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance recently held a tele-winetasting as a way to promote a certain kind of wine. You may wonder just how an organization can hold a conference call event to push a product such as wine, but is quite possible.

The wines were shipped to participants in advance. Participants were responsible for chilling the wines and having them on hand at the appointed time.  Those involved included the wine producers, food writers, and a wine consultant. These are professionals who are very interested in the product, so they knew how to prepare themselves and the wine to ensure that the tele-winetasting went off without a hitch.

During the event the participants tasted wines and compared notes -all without having to leave their homes or offices. The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance was able to accomplish their goal of publicizing certain wines without having to arrange for key persons to travel and meet in one location.

What's the Best Time and Day to have a Conference Call?

You want to schedule a conference call, what is the best day and time to call? Most of this depends on your business and the time zone that you are calling, but there are a few common sense guidelines that will help you to choose the day that may work best for you.

Stay away from Monday morning. Monday morning is usually reserved for putting out fires from the weekend or for tasking staff members for the week. If you need to phone on Monday do it after 2:00 PM when most of the heavy work load is out of the way.

Stay away from Friday afternoon. Some people will leave early on Friday or are working a compressed week work schedule and are off every other Friday, so it is best to steer clear of this day. If you must phone on Friday, do it in the morning around 10:00; after the morning crush, but not so late as to interfere with the plans of the day.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday may simply be best for your needs. If the teleconference is about tasking, Tuesday will be best so as to allow team members time to complete tasks for the week. If the teleconference is about accountability Thursday may be better as you will have more data from the week to review.

Wednesday is great for training, communications, reviews, and new directions or brainstorming sessions. People are in the swing of things on Wednesday and feeling more relaxed. They still have time to take on a new project before the end of the work week. Wednesday mornings seem to be better on this day than afternoons, but that may simply be from our experience.

Which ever day you choose, understand that the best day for you is most likely a personal choice driven by the needs of your business and your personal schedule. The best idea is at your first teleconference decide as a group the best day for your next call. You may find that the middle of the week will simply be the best for your team too.

All Teleconferencing Firms Are Not Created Equal!

This is not just a comment, but is a "truth". All teleconferencing service providers are not created equal. As you evaluate which teleconferencing provider you are considering using, take strongly into account your very first interaction with the firm. It has been said that first impressions are lasting impressions and in this case I think that you will agree they can also be indicative of the long term service commitment that will impact you as a customer with that firm.

As you evaluate your choices take a look at the website. Is it professional? Does it give you pricing and information or does it hide the prices and make them nearly impossible to find.

Call their 1-800 sales line, check out the experience. How long did you wait for someone to answer your call?  Was the customer service representative courteous?  Were they knowledgeable? Did they take time to fully answer your questions or did you feel like you were intruding on their other calls

We think that when you evaluate AccuConference you will not only find a website that is transparent in regards to pricing and services, but that your experience with our customer service representatives will leave a highly favorable impression with you. So we invite you to check us out, run us through our paces, and see why we are the friendliest, best service value, and best overall teleconferencing provider you can choose.

AccuConference |

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.

Web Conferencing Review - Updated Features

We have some exciting additions to our web conferencing platform.

Video Conferencing

Share your video as part of the web conference so participants feel like they are in the same room.

Desktop and Application Sharing

Our program allows moderators to share their screens with a simple download. Participants observe as you navigate through websites or share your programs directly from your PC.

YouTube Video Sharing

Share your video directly with participants using the URL from youtube.com. Pause and play the video as needed.

Added Timed Polls

Put a time limit on responses from participants.

No Download for Participants

Participants will continue to access all of these new features through the web.

Stay tuned for audio streaming over the web for participants.

Call today 800.989.9239 for a one on one demo.

Best Inspirational Speeches

In most colleges, some form of oral communication or speech class is a requirement for graduation. These basic communication classes teach you a couple of things but the most prevalent are the types of speeches. One of these is an inspirational speech and its purpose is to make an impact on the audience. Most of the time, the inspirational speech gets caught up and mixed in with the motivational speech, which usually brings across memories of Matt Foley and the fear of living in a van down by the river.

An inspirational speech is so much more than just trying to motivate and when properly delivered, it can change the world. Some of the best speeches of all time have been nothing more than an inspirational speech in their mechanics.

Martin Luther King – "I Have a Dream"

The MLK speech is one of the most highly recognized and historically significant speeches in the world. The speech was written to call to reform the legal system, but something amazing happened. Where the written words should have concluded, King improvised, in the moment, adding some of the most powerful words of the entire speech – "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Like any speech, this one was written and crafted for the moment, but King found himself inspired by the thousands that listened intently and hung to his every word. He connected to his audience and felt their common emotions and translated what they felt into words that he had the power to deliver. Truly great inspirational speeches do not just repeat words already on the page – they feel the emotions of the crowd and give a voice to the movement.

Abraham Lincoln – "Gettysburg Address"

When your country is torn apart in a vicious civil war and 51,000 men just lost their lives, the task of inspiring a nation to unite could be the most daunting of all. When Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, less than half of the Union soldiers had been properly buried. It sounds like such a somber moment in history – so why is this one of the greatest inspirational speeches of all time?

Lincoln marked a tragic occasion with an address that honored the dead but challenged the living, and he delivered the speech in under three minutes. In many ways he placed the task of honoring the dead on the grounds into the hands of those that lived – asking and wanting to know what they would do now. "It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on."

John F. Kennedy – “Man on the Moon”

In the shadow of the Cold War, John F. Kennedy knew that the United States had to do something about keeping up with the Soviet Union. He announced in front of a special joint session of Congress that by the end of the decade, the United States would put a man on the surface of the moon.

Kennedy’s words set a direct and specific date for anyone who was listening. When a deadline is given for something, people are more likely to respond to the call to action – even for something as challenging as putting a man on the moon. Kennedy would later address Rice University on the same subject and utter the famous quote, "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Kennedy made his speech on May 25, 1961 and Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969.

Do something you’re never done before. Be a voice to someone who doesn’t have one. Turn a moment into an opportunity for strength. Challenge yourself to do something that may not even be possible.

That is what makes a great inspirational speech.

Image credit to Smithsonian online.

Four Somewhat Forgotten but Beneficial Leadership Qualities

I've been lucky to experience leadership from a vast group of people who handle leadership in different ways. I've had the young and hip boss, the sales driven, goal-oriented, no-nonsense boss, and everything in between. When I was fresh out of college, I realized quickly what I would respond to and what wouldn't motivate me.

I've realized that some of the most important skills in leadership are some of the ones that you don’t see a lot of.

Communication Skills - The end goal of communicating with employees is to get a positive response. No matter if it’s a one-on-one situation where the employees behavior needs to change or it’s to a group in the hopes of brainstorming the next great thing, you want the talk to motivate employees to take action.

Representation - Our bosses would never ask us to do something that they wouldn't be willing to do themselves. This is why they will help with calls if we’re really busy or will pitch in to make things go smoother. You are the leader for a reason and showing your employees that you remember what it was like to be where they were, or be willing to pitch in goes a long way with a great office environment.

Approachability - I never feel like I have to hesitate if I see something that could be worded better or something that we can change to make the experience better for the customer. Since we deal with the customers all of the time, it works for us to be able to go to our bosses and explain what we see. For example, I just suggested to my boss we change one of our email templates, and now, I need to work on the text for it.

Sense of Humor - We have a great relationship with each other and our bosses and we laugh a lot together. We've been able to cultivate a positive team environment that leads to an open sharing of ideas and it just makes approachability easier to come by when we can work and laugh together.

My experience is that the best leaders will be the ones that can incorporate all of the things that make us better leaders.

What do you think are forgotten but important leadership qualities? What makes a great leader?

Avoiding Miscommunication

I started reading a book about writing last week called Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. It’s about the way your brain responds to storytelling and how you tailor the way you write to engage the brain. I tried to tell my friend about the book, but my explanation didn’t entice her wish to read. In fact, the moment I said the word “science” she seemed disinterested. Later she told me that she liked to keep her creative side and her science side separate, and I realized that wasn’t what I had meant at all.

Isn’t it funny how miscommunication works? While I was just trying to talk to my friend about a book, I failed to communicate the information in a way that would pique her interest. Instead, I assumed that she would understand what my underlying message was, and not focus on the mention book was applying scientific theories to creativity.

Even with a friend, these miscues can occur when we make assumptions or infer meanings that aren’t correct or there to begin with. Here are three ways to keep the miscommunication to a minimum.

Take the time to think about what you’re about to say before it just pops out of your mouth. My mother used to tell me that my biggest problem as a child was that I had no filter. It was cute when I was five and telling our landlord that he was not my father and couldn’t tell me what to do, but as an adult, that’s not really appropriate.

Consider your relationship to the person you are speaking with. It’s probably a bad idea to talk to your boss the same way you might speak to your friend after a couple of vodka tonics. Understanding relationships and how to appropriately respond based on any lines that you might cross is a must for adequately judging what you can say and how you can say it.

When writing your communications let someone else read it before you send it. Sending a response via email takes away your ability to be heard, so people can (and will) draw their own conclusions on what you mean. It’s important to set the tone in an email and you should never respond when you’re angry or frustrated. Kenneth Roman & Joel Raphaelson’s book, Writing that Works, features a chapter on how to craft a great email and breaks down the importance of tone.

Bonus Tip: When you’ve replied to an email twice and the issue is still unresolved, it’s time to pick up the phone. Our rule here is to not hit reply a third time; instead, make a phone call.

Bonus Tip #2: When you find yourself starting a sentence with “Don’t take this the wrong way…” you should stop talking.

What’s the best way to make your message clear to everyone?

International Conference Call Options

Not too long ago one of my favorite customers sent me an email inquiring about international conference calls. If you need to provide a way for participants outside of the United States or Canada to join your conference call we have three different options for international dialing.

Option One: Participant Pays Long Distance / International Fees. This option requires no changes on how you use or are billed for your services. Anywhere in the world, a participant can call into a direct access number and be joined to the conference. You’re billed whatever is standard for your account and they are billed on their phone bill what their provider will charge. This option is best for those who rarely have a need for international conferences or are one of our flat rate customers.

Option Two: International Toll Free. From Argentina to Venezuela on this list of rates these countries can be provided their own toll free access into our conference bridges. You rates for domestic callers (US / Canada) stay the same and the rate for international depends on the country that connects. There is usually no charge to participants in these countries and requires a new conference line on your account.

Option Three: Most countries can be dialed to from within in our system and brought into the conference line without any additional charges to them. For many of the countries there is little to no change in your per minute per person rate. Some countries are not available for outdial and we can either add a new conference line or activate this option on a conference existing on your account.

Depending on what option you choose or how your account is set up, we might ask for you for an additional form to be sent back to us. International can be activated for specific users of your account in order to limit cost and availability for the services. If you need international conferencing added to your account or have any questions about how it works or the pricing for outdial rates, just give us a call and we can help.

Better Writing Lessons from NaNoWriMo

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you know that I spent a lot of November talking about NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it has a very simple goal – write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Such a challenge written on paper may not seem like much but when you try to do it, you realize that it becomes a feat of writing at least 1,667 words a day. The standard blog post is about 350 – 600 words.

For four years, I have begun November by saying this is the year and I will complete this challenge and every year, it seems like something happens to derail my progress. This year, though, it’s different and I am proud to announce that I am a 2012 NaNoWriMo Winner.

Winning felt great and completing something that seemed like such a beast over the last few years was even more of an accomplishment. It honestly feels like I can do anything. I wanted to think about how I could translate that feeling into the creative energy I spend at work so that feeling of accomplishment will be in all of my work.

Outline. Before NaNo began, I had the idea, plot, and characters for my novel all lined out. I took each scene and moment step by step so that I didn’t get lost or forget the important points. I’d never done that before and I think that using outlines in blogging will help me to write more content that has a true outcome, instead of just mashing ideas together and hoping to end up with a great post.

It’s easier to get ahead than it is to fall behind. One of the things that always prevented me from completing NaNo was that I always seem to have family obligations in November. If you look at my progress chart below, I was 8,000 words ahead by day five which was a huge help for those days when I was out of town or during the holiday.

Turn off Your Inner Editor. Part of the goal of NaNoWriMo is to encourage writers to just write. In a lot of ways there is no rhyme or reason to the plot of a participant’s story. It’s about encouraging writers to turn off the need to “edit as they go” and instead just put the words down. You can always go back and correct the things that are wrong later.

Find Someone to Battle With. It was a big help to do “word wars” with a friend who was also trying to reach the 50,000 word goal and it was great to have someone that I could battle with. We would pick a time and then write as quickly as we could to see who could get the most words in a 20 or 30 minute period. Even if you battle with yourself you can set a timer to see how many words you can put down in a specific amount of time. On the next post, try to beat your personal best.

The best thing about completing something like this is feeling that pressure off. There really feels like there is nothing to stop me from taking on the world – okay, maybe not, but I did write 50,000 words in 30 days, and that’s a pretty amazing accomplishment.

What will you accomplish today?

Customers Expect Speedy Service

Let’s face it – we live in a 'want it now and don’t want to wait' kind of world. Look around you the next time you’re out or while you’re holiday shopping. Black Friday sales started at eight and ten PM Thanksgiving night and one of the biggest reasons for this is that people didn’t want to wait for the sales to start in the early morning hours. Look around at any store and you’ll see the development of the ideas of meeting customer’s on-demand expectations. From self-check isles to overnight shipping, you can see that the world feeds our need to have things right away.

Take a look to evaluate how you’re operating things at your company and see if you’re meeting the right here, right now expectations of your customers.

  • Take a look at your customer service. While not everyone can eliminate phone trees and hold times, there are ways to make things easier for customers. It could be that you hire more people when your call volume is highest or train existing employees to handle accounting or minor technical calls.
  • Evaluate the products that you offer and see if there are any new offerings you can make that customers might expect you to have. For example, if your company sells roofing shingles, you should consider selling roofing nails on your website. Customers to come to your website will consider the convenience of having the ability to buy all of the supplies they need a bonus.
  • How long does it take a customer to find things on your site? Do they have to make a million clicks to get to the contact information or your pricing? If a potential client has to spend too long on your website to find the information they are looking for, you’ll find yourself with a lot of missed opportunities.

When it comes to giving a customer what they need, it goes beyond simply creating and selling and product. You have to provide those services in a way that is both informative and an efficient use of their time.

How do you make sure that you’re meeting the on-demand desires with potential customers?

Preparing for Communications Failures

Superstorm Sandy has come and gone but the effect of the storm on communication remains. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the FCC reported that 25% of the operating cell towers were damaged during the storm and the ability to make calls, send, and receive messages would be temporarily affected.

When you know there’s an event that could interrupt your ability to communicate with your friends and family, prepare in advance for what could be a long time without your cell phone.

Have at least $5.00 in quarters in your first aid / emergency kit. I know that a lot of people under the age of eighteen have probably never seen a payphone, nor would they fully grasp the idea of calling collect. Gather some quarters before the weather event so that if you do lose service you can find a payphone and make a call.

Notify who you can when you can. A friend of mine was in a hard hit area of New Jersey and it was touch and go to get a hold of her for the first week. She asked me to be responsible for updating our mutual friends, as she could get one text message out much easier than she could twenty. She would text me how she was, and I would use social networks to update our friends.

Update Social Networks via text message instead of using an application. In my hometown in Arkansas, the cell phone service is pretty spotty, and most of the time is spent on the Edge network. This makes things like updating my Facebook and Twitter difficult because it can take so long for the application to load. Most social networks have a way to update your status by sending a text message and it’s a great way to update your friends and family.

Find Your Local Red Cross. Before a disaster strikes, find your local Red Cross and see if you can find out where they will be setting up emergency stations in the event of a serious event. You can view a list of Red Cross centers by your zip code and then you’ll have a good idea of where to start if you need help. You can even check in to Safe & Well to list yourself as OK or check on friends and family.

It’s hard when you lose your cell phone because it’s the way we connect with the world. In the event of a disaster, you have to stay connected in any way you can. Sometimes, that means that old technology might be the most reliable.

Image credit to NOAA.

Delivering Promises to Customers

A few weekends ago, I wanted to order some sandwiches for deliver to my house. I assumed that since there were two locations of a chain within a reasonable drive to my location, that surely they could keep their “freakishly fast” promise. After being denied at both locations, I decided to look and see exactly how far they were from my house.

The two sandwiches places were mapped out to be five miles away and searching around the sandwich site, I didn't see anything that restricted delivery mileage and it seemed it should have that information.

Your website is the portal to your business and what you offer to customers. So does your website deliver the truth to customers?

Are there old promotions hanging out on different pages? Take an hour and go through your landing pages to make sure that you are still honoring the offers on the site. Trust me, if there’s a deal available online, a customer is going to find it and ask for it. If you find anything that’s old or out of date you should change it or update it.

Are the terms and conditions clear? If a promotion requires new customers to send you a picture of them talking into a banana like a telephone, then make sure you put that on the website. If a customer understands the things that have to be done to have a special deal they can make their own decisions, then it builds transparency between you and the customer.

Most customers can understand why or why not a company can do something as long as they don’t try to hide the reasons and requirements behind it. How do you make your websites and promotions transparent for customers?