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Oct
31
2013
Conference Call Checklist Maranda Gibson

So you want to have a conference call?  You can always start a conference call in minutes, however we suggest a bit more preparation for a conference between you and your co-workers. When inviting clients or customers to your conferences, there are a few extra things you will want to do. 

First: Decide What Your Call is About

Write out what the meeting is going to be about and create an agenda, making sure to estimate how long each point will take.  It's always good to give yourself 5-10 minutes of margin.  Don't forget to budget time for questions.

Second: Decide Who

Once you've worked out when you want to have the call, decide who is going to be there.  This is a good time to ask yourself if you'll be having a guest speaker or if you need an operator assistance.   

Third: Send Your Invitations

Now that you have all of the above worked out, it's time to send out your invitations.  Your email invitations should include:

  • What the meeting is about
  • Their call-in number and participant code
  • When the meeting is and for how long
  • An abbreviated version of the agenda

Your participants are taken care of, so where will you be?  The beauty of audio conferencing is that you can host a conference call from pretty much anywhere.  So your only guidelines should be to conduct your conference call from a quiet place where you won't be interrupted.  And—for absolute best quality—use a landline.  One final suggestion: use a headset.  It's much more comfortable than cradling the phone in your neck.

Use this helpful conference call checklist before you plan your next meeting:

PREPARE YOUR CONFERENCE

__Choose the date and time.
__Determine if you need operator assistance.
__Will there be a guest speaker?
__Do you need a registration page?
__Do you want the conference call recorded?
__Will there be a visual element requiring web conferencing?

CREATE AN AGENDA

You need to write an agenda to send to speaker and participants so the know what to expect. 

__Does it have a realistic timeline?
__Is there a need to have breaks?
__Will there be Q&A? How long will your Q&A session be?
__Do you need a different version for participants?

TECHNICAL CHECKLIST

__Do you know how to mute your telephone?
__Is the sound quality on your conference good?
__Did you do a practice run to make sure that you know how to join the conference and the webinar?
__Do you have a backup method of connecting in case there is a problem with your connection?
 


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

Oct
31
2013
The Real Value of Flu Shots - Updated 2013 David Byrd

It's that time of year again. We recently had our flu vaccinations at the office. Have you had yours? Are you concerned about getting the vaccine? To add to our information below I'm including a link to an article on Gizmodo that talks about 25 myths of the flu vaccine.

2013 Update: Gizmodo posted 25 myths of getting the flu vaccine.

Three of the myths I hear most often that Gizmodo tackles are:
Myth #1: The flu vaccine gives you the flu or makes you sick.
Myth #2: The flu shot contains dangerous ingredients, such as mercury, formaldehyde and antifreeze.
Myth #6: Flu vaccines don’t work.

Every year we provide voluntary flu shots for the company. We feel like if we can keep one person from getting the flu, then it was a success.

There are those who disagree with the value of flu shots. I've met people who swear they have actually gotten the flu after receiving a flu shot. In addition, there is a Dr. Robert Rowen who states that:

  1. flu shots contain mercury
  2. 97.3% of adults don't even need flu shots because research shows only about 2.7% of adults get the flu (is this per year?)

Ok, so now I'm curious and I have decided to do some research on my own (especially since the doctor who quotes the research provides no links to said studies).

As a general practitioner and the owner of a hospice company in Fort Worth my brother, Dr. Brian Byrd, deals with the elderly and sick a lot.

So, what is his take on flu shots?

"It probably won't help you individually, since you most likely won't get the flu. The example I use is this: If 3,000 people in a community are vaccinated vs. 3,000 who aren't, at the end of the flu season, there are a lot more flu cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the non-vaccinated group."

Ok, so I take the flu shot for the communal effect, not personal effect. I'm ok with that. But others aren't.

Can you get the flu from a flu vaccine?

"About 5% of people who get the flu shot feel crummy after. The vaccine uses a killed virus, so it's impossible to get the flu from the vaccine. It is a foreign substance, so it might make you feel like you are sick."

What are his thoughts on the 97.3% study?

97.3% is a mild season.

Other thoughts?

"Vaccinations have eliminated polio and smallpox. If we had stopped vaccinations back then, we would still be living with the threat of those as well as flu. It's a process. I just treated a one year old who had a bad case of whooping cough. His parents would not vaccinate him. Now, he will probably have a lifetime of asthma as a result."

Thank you Dr. Byrd.

Here are some other things I found:

Some (not all) flu shots contain thimerosal. Thimerosal is a preservative containing ethyl mercury. So far I have not been able to find anything concrete regarding the toxicity or safety of using thimerosal as a preservative in flu vaccines since 1999. Most of the articles I found related to multiple vaccines in infants can be dangerous because the amount of ethyl mercury can accumulate in children who have difficulty metabolizing the ethyl mercury. I have yet to find any studies/articles pertaining to ethyl mercury and danger to adults.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/09/26/flu-vaccine-exposed.aspx

The CDC states that "on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related conditions." These numbers contradict Robert Rowan's numbers of 2.7%. I guess he is going off a mild season.

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/disease.htm

This is from the American Lung Association:

"The flu shot. The viruses in the flu shot are inactivated, which means that someone receiving the vaccine cannot get influenza from the flu shot. The exposure to the inactivated influenza virus helps our bodies develop protection by producing antibodies. The amount of antibodies in the body is greatest one to two months after vaccination and then gradually decline. After receiving the flu shot it usually takes about two weeks for the body to develop immunity to influenza."

http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/influenza/preventing-influenza.html

So, will we still be giving out voluntary flu shots this year? Absolutely. Do you have to receive one as an employee here? Absolutely not. You are a free American and can chose. Thank you to the men and women who have died to give us that freedom.

Do you get a flu shot each year? Do you believe in vaccinations for adults? What about for children?

Oct
30
2013
12 Ways to Get Motivated Right Now Maranda Gibson

This thing that we refer to as a “bad” day is really a personal choice to let the blues rule the day. It’s human nature to feel a little down sometimes but it still remains something that we can control.

When that day stretches into a few days or a week, there could be a bigger problem. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s hard to keep from getting lost in the darkness. You’ve been there, I’ve been there – so what do you do? Here are 12 ways that I refocus to get motivated.

Talk to my mom.
(Also acceptable: talking to Dad) My mom gives the best advice and I love being able to sit down with her and just talk about things. Sometimes, my mom holds my hand and tells me those wonderful mom things like, “You’re so special”. Other times, my mom tells me to get over myself – which is usually exactly what I need to hear.
 
Make a playlist.
Grab yourself some new songs from iTunes or Amazon and make yourself a list of songs that make you tap your feet and get excited. Listen to those when you’re trying to get unstuck on a task.

Stop for a few minutes.
Put down your pen or iPad and step away from the keyboard. Give yourself a clean five minute break.

Do something else
.
Stuck on a task? Put it down and come back to it later.

Make a list.
When all your upcoming tasks are swirling in your head, it can feel a little overwhelming, so write them down. Cross them out as you get them done. You’ll feel better.

Change the way I’m trying to complete a task.
Trying to write a blog post on your computer and it’s just not working? Grab a pen and a notebook and try going that route. You’d be surprised how often I can be found jotting down notes or whole posts on a piece of paper.

Look at something positive.
Go back and remind yourself of something that was challenging, but you were able to get through and come out on top. That can sometimes help you remember that you’ve been down this road before – and you made it through. Find something inspirational to read.

Ask for help.
Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with this. I think we’d all be a little less frayed like a knot and spend less time rubbing our faces if we could just do this.

15 Minute Facebook break (No, seriously)
Just do something to make your mind not think about work related things. Scroll your news feed and talk to a couple of people. Give yourself a little mental break.

Change your location.
Sitting in the office trying to write a blog post? Grab your purse and go get some coffee. Change the scenery and get busy.

Go for a drive.
Now, don’t just walk out in the middle of your day at the office – that’s going to have an opposite effect, I suppose. Instead, take a little detour on your way home, or if you have the luxury to make your own schedule, just put some things on hold and get in the car. Roll down the windows, turn up the radio, and let go.

Turn off your electronic devices.
Give yourself at least 30 minutes every day without a notification or email notice. The really bad thing about email notifications is that we feel pressured to respond right away. It’s totally acceptable to read a book and relax when you’re at home – the email will wait.

Hey, we all get the blues. I’m not immune to it, none of us really are – so what kind of things do you do to get yourself feeling, well, like yourself again?


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

Oct
29
2013
What We Have Read Maranda Gibson

A lot of us here spend hours reading each week. Whether it’s blogs, news articles, eBooks, or physical books, we like to indulge ourselves in the written word. Sometimes we want to share some of the things we've read. Here are some of our recent favorite reads, things we thought that were interesting, or that we just couldn’t keep to ourselves.


Could reading 'Crime and Punishment' make you better at reading people?

by Adi Robertson, The Verge
This article from the Verge questions what do the arts mean to our lives? To at least some researchers, they're a way that we learn how the people around us think. 

 

Pinterest Is Seriously Valuable
by Lauren Bacon, Medium
Men in the male-dominated tech sector are blown away that Pinterest has become A Thing (and that they didn't see that coming).

 

Doing Your Job Right: Captain Mike and Lt. Norm
GeekoLogie
This is the online chat interaction between Netflix customer service representative Cap't Mike and Netflix streaming user Lt. Norm. Obviously, Cap't Mike really went the extra mile.

 

Reasons to Drink Coffee Everyday
by Renee Jacques, Huffington Post
There really can't be any adult in this great big world that has never tried coffee. It's consumed everywhere, and judging by the amount of Starbucks locations in the United States alone, we love coffee.

 

What Makes Us Happy?
by JOSHUA WOLF SHENK,The Atlantic
Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life?

 

Why 30 is not the new 20
by Meg Jay Video on TED.com
Clinical psychologist Meg Jay has a bold message for twentysomethings: Contrary to popular belief, your 20s are not a throwaway decade.

 

Canadian Family Lives Like It's the 80s
Blair McMillan  CBC.CA
A family of four from Guelph, Ont., has banished cell phones and computers, donned cut-off jeans and combed out their mullets, vowing to live the low-tech life for a year.

 

Lost to the Ages
by: Emily Yoshida  Grantland
Lost to the Ages Myst was supposed to change the face of gaming. What is its legacy 20 years later?

(Emily's post inspired our own debate on Myst and what happened to gaming.)

Oct
28
2013
Did Myst Change Gaming? David Byrd

Emily Yoshinda from Grantland wrote an amazing piece on looking back at Myst and reading the work sparked an interesting debate between Maranda and me.

Did Myst open a door for the games that we know today? Or did human nature slam the door in the face of adventure games in the 2000s?

Maranda disagrees with the implication that Myst and games like it went "kaput" after 93.

"Myst brought the entire adventure genre to life and a lot of really amazing games came after it - like the entire series of Lucas Arts adventure games. Somewhere along the line, we stopped wanting to 'thin' to play. We wanted games to be a 'release' and for most of the buying public that meant taking out aggression on alien life forms or unsuspecting 'ladies of the night'."

"What changed? We did. 'Gamer' was a term suddenly applied to teenagers in their basement hopped up on Red Bull and Mountain Dew. It is no longer about "escaping" into a world. Gaming is different now, because we are."

I see the doors that Myst opened, rather than the ones that were closed as these kinds of adventure games faded in popularity.

How many LucasArts games were there after 1993? I agree that Lucas Arts had some great games up until it’s demise this past year. But, the Myst genre pretty much fizzled out. However, I think it was a needed stepping stone for the open world games today.

Games like Halo and Call of Duty allow you to tackle specific challenges in your own way. This is not just a ‘release’ and you have to think, and think quickly. Although there are some games that don’t require thinking, most popular games require more than just button mashing. Add in the open world games like Assassin’s Creed, and you have quite a bit of thinking going on. Games like Myst have pushed creators to make better games that alter the gameplay as well as the graphics performance.

After a spirited debate, it was realized that while the games might have changed, one thing remains the same: We look at games in the perspective of the games we like to play.

Check out this Kickstarter project for Obduction - a new game from the creators of Myst

Oct
28
2013
Voice Inflection Tips Maranda Gibson

Inflection is a fancy way to describe your tone of voice when speaking. It’s not just the volume level that you may speak at but also the tone, pace, pitch, and cadence at which the words of a presentation come out of your mouth.

In order to host a successful presentation on a conference call, you usually only have one tool – and it’s the way you speak. Your voice will get participants to tune in, listen carefully, and stay engaged throughout the call.

If you’re finding that participants are less than engaged or everyone seems to be waking up from a long nap when it’s time for Q&A, maybe it’s time to evaluate the way you speak to make some improvements on your voice inflection.

Where’s the emphasis?

Listen to a recording and determine where you are putting the emphasis on your words. Are you putting the emphasis on the end of all your sentences? If you are – it’s not a good thing, as it triggers your audience to think that the statement is a question. The proper emphasis can direct people to focus on strength, confidence, and clue into important parts of the conversation.

Do you speak softly?

While volume isn't the most important thing about voice inflection, it is an important aspect of making a great presentation. There are a lot of distractions around the participants and the last thing that you want to do it make them have to work to pay attention to you. Your voice should command the attention of those listening – even the ones who are completely focused on Facebook.

Are you speaking too fast?

If you’re blowing through the words like you’re that guy from those 1980s Matchbox car commercials (Google it), you’re talking too fast. When it comes to making a presentation, people don’t want to have to work to listen to you – they want their experience to be easy and enjoyable. If they are struggling to keep up with you they are probably just going to tune you out. You want a natural cadence that best reflects a conversational tone.

Improving voice inflection is not something that can be done overnight. If you think you need to work on your speech patterns you’ll want to start as soon as possible by recording your next conference call and evaluating your speech.

How have you improved your voice inflection? What are your tips for improving tone, cadence, and the overall quality of a speech?

Oct
25
2013
Types of Presentations Maranda Gibson

Once you've been asked to present at a conference or event the first question you need to ask yourself is:  What kind of presentation can I do?

While making your outline, you also have to figure out what you want your audience to do after your presentation is over. Are you just trying to give them useful information? Is it one of those cases where you are trying to make a sale? There are four different types of presentations you can give and their purpose is to invoke different reactions.

Informative Speeches

These are the most common types of presentations and are used to present research. A student who is defending a thesis or a non-profit group that did a research study will use informative speeches to present their findings.

Demonstrative Speeches

These will show you how to do something. In introduction to communication classes, these speeches are usually How to Make Cakes kinds of speeches and include different pictures and steps to the process.

Persuasive Speeches

This kind of speech is trying to change the way you think about a subject or issue. If you’ve come to a health conference you may find yourself listening to why you should change your eating habits or stop drinking.

Inspirational Speeches

These speeches are designed to make your audience move. Also considered a “motivational” speech, this is designed to encourage participants to go after their goals, whatever they may be. Inspirational speeches will tell stories and the hope is that the audience will feel an emotional connection to the topic. These are also a great way to get the audience's attention.

Think about Apple CEO Steve Jobs and the presentations he gave when he introduced a new product. He gives you information, he shows you how to use a new product, tells you how you can use the product to solve a problem, makes you understand why you need it, and closes by letting you touch and feel the product. He lets the entirety of his speech stand for decision making and then by letting you get your hands on the new iSomething, you see why the new product will help you.

In truth, the best presentations will embody a little bit of each one of these kinds, but you can take a specific type to help move you along the right path.

Ready to try out one of these presentations in front of your co-workers? Sign up with AccuConference and one of our event planners will help you take these presentation types to a whole new level.


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

Oct
25
2013
The Hook: 5 Ways to Quickly Get Your Audience’s Attention Chilton Tippin

Arguably the most important part of any presentation is the beginning. It sets the foundation for the rest of your talk. If you come across as a strong, entertaining speaker at the beginning of your presentation, people will be forgiving if your material gets a little more routine as the talk progresses. Most peoples’ judgment is reserved for those first few seconds of the talk. So if you want to get people listening you need to hook them fast.

Think about it. How many times have you heard a speech that begins with, “I’m here to talk with you today about….” Or “Thanks for coming out to listen to my talk about…” or some variation of these intros. While they do get straight to the point, they do absolutely nothing to grab your audience, to rivet them so they’ll listen, or in other words hook them. With that in mind, here are a few ways to get your audience’s attention right off the bat.

Quote, Anecdote, Rhetorical Question

These are some of the most common ways to hook your audience. You must be sure to use a quote, anecdote, or rhetorical question that segues nicely into your material. If, for example, you were talking about the current recession, you could give an anecdote about the Great Depression and use it to underlie the point of your message. Or you could ask the rhetorical question: Just how similar is our current economic crisis to that of the 1930s? These types of lead ins will get people wondering, and help them tune in to what it is you’re saying.

New Twist on the Familiar

Take a common story, quote, saying, or anecdote and change it. This will give your audience a new perspective on the familiar as well as grab their attention. If you handle the twist skillfully enough, you can actually make quite an impression. Let’s say you were giving a presentation on nutrition in America. You could say something like, “To eat, or not to eat. That is the question.” The bolder the twist, the better the reaction will be. However, you must make sure it makes sense and fits into your material. One of the best ways is to simply find popular aphorisms online and try switching the wording around.

Personal Story

This will help introduce you as a speaker and gives a personal take on the material. Part of what gives you credibility as a speaker is the authority you have to talk about a subject. A good way to do this, for example, could be to lead into your presentation with a personal story about how you got involved in the field, started your business, or became an expert on the subject. The key is to be either funny or endearing so people will trust you.

Audience Participation Exercise

This is useful as an icebreaker, but typically only works in small settings. The simplest example is to have everyone introduce themselves. However, you can get creative, depending on the setting. Often in classrooms teachers will have people work in pairs and find out 5 interesting facts.

The Screening Question

Also known as the “Show-of-hands Question,” this gets the audience to participate, engages them in the material, and gives you, the speaker, an idea of how much the audience already knows.

With all of these options and a dash of creativity, you should be able to think of a good way to grab your audience’s attention quickly.


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

Oct
24
2013
Learning Success Through Failure Maranda Gibson

It’s October which brings about the winds of change. The air is turning cooler, the leaves will begin to change color, and budding authors around the globe are about to change into energy drink consuming plunderers of the keyboard.

That’s right novelists, it’s almost NaNoWriMo time. I’ve partaken in the grueling marathon of 50,000 words in thirty days since 2009 - but I’ve only won once. That’s almost 1400 words a day at the minimum in order to succeed and get your shiny badge and bragging rights.

Success is not guaranteed though. In fact, it feels like failure is.  NaNo seems easy for anyone who considers themselves able to string a couple of stories together, but when the euphoria of “It’s time for NaNo!” wears off and you’re left with the idea of actually having 45K more to go, it’s pretty easy to turn around and run away. In fact, I admit that in 2011 I completely imploded. About four days in, I threw my hands up and walked away.

This article from Psychology Today suggests that failures might actually shape us in a more definite way than success does. The assertion actually makes a lot of sense. Think about your latest success - what did you learn from that specific success. 2011 NaNoWriMo showed me all of the things I needed to do in order to have a better chance in 2012.

When I won in 2012, I knew it was because of two very big changes I made in light of the previous year - I outlined the entire novel and did word games with friends to give big boosts to my word count in a short time. In 2011, I took a very solo approach to NaNoWriMo despite that my friends we were working hard on theirs as well.

I can't do it alone. 

Getting a 500 word boost in a matter of 20 or 30 minutes puts a huge dent in your daily goal. The task was less daunting when I had someone to work with.

Creating an outline meant I wasn’t going to get bogged down in the direction of plot or “what happened then” questions. I had every move that each character was going to make down on the page, so all I had to do was create the story around it.

I honestly think that without my utter and complete NaNo meltdown in 2011, I would not have been able to “win” 2012 NaNo. I learned a lot in 2011 and I applied all of those “well, I’m not going to do that this year” thoughts, which I think helped me succeed. One might even say that my failure was the reason I succeeded.

What’s going to be most interesting to me is competing again in 2013. Will the same drive push me to finish, or will I feel more complacent in succeeding? I wonder how much is to be said for being a back to back NaNoWriMo winner.


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

Oct
23
2013
Active Listening Skills for Customer Service - Updated Maranda Gibson

Update:  After putting my head together with some of the other operators, we determined a couple of other things that can improve your active listening skills. 

When we bring on a new employee, the first thing they learn is customer service, and the most important skill we focus on is listening. Customer service is about being an active listener. You can't just "hear" what people are saying, you have to really be grabbing onto the words and turning them over in your head.

What does it take to be an active listener? There are a lot of rules to active listening but we break these skills down into basic steps. These steps have improved our customer service responses and our communication.

(NEW) Clarify The Message

One of the best tools when speaking to a customer is the ability to clarify the message they are trying to send.  You never want to make assumptions when trying to decide what a customer wants. Most of the time you will get that assumption wrong and have to go back to the customer. It's always better when you're not clear to make sure you understand. A lot of times a customer uses words or phrases that might not be what you would use. You can just repeat it back to them in another way. "It sounds like you need..." or "Let me make sure I understand..." are great ways to start.

(NEW) Test Your Listening Skills

The Active Empathetic Listening (AEL) measure has eleven key items that test how well you sense, process, and respond when you listen to someone else. Sensing is the way you indicate you are taking in the information, processing is how well you construct the narrative delivered, and responding is how you ask questions to make sure you understand.  Take the AEL test and find out where you stand as a great listener and how you can improve. 

Focus on Understanding

Engage in communication with the goal of "understanding" instead of "understood". When your customer is speaking, it's best to focus on what the customer is saying, rather than trying to get a head start on how you're going to respond. Once someone in a conversation goes on the defensive, you are less likely to come to a resolution.

Give Your Undivided Attention to the Person Speaking

This may seem like common sense but devices like cell phones and the constant access to email are roadblocks to active listening. When a customer calls, disengage from the emails you’re working on, the spreadsheet you are clicking through, or the text message that might be waiting on you. Engage fully in the conversation that is present and not the one that is waiting for you to type a response.

Play Pretend

The more I can act like I'm face to face with a customer, the better our conversation goes. Imagine the customer across from you and nod when you understand. Responding to the customer as you would if you were face to face, you will be an even better listener. I will smile while I speak and even nod my head as the customer tells me what’s going on. It makes me feel like I truly understand the customer's needs.

It's not always easy to listen and even more so when we are immediately trying to figure out what we are going to say or have too many things going on at once. If we can just stop for a moment and become a more active listener, it will improve our communication with everyone.


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

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