The Fray Gets In Over Their Heads with The National Anthem

In high school, as part of a competition choir group, we were often asked to perform the National Anthem at different sporting events and activites around our community. The one thing I can clearly remember is our sweet choir teacher telling us that we would take it seriously or we would not participate. I can only imagine if I would have shown up on the field holding a tamborine. I would have neverbeen invited back.

So imagine my surprise when last night at the NCAA Championship Game, The Fray steps out with their guitars, a drum, and a tamborine. (Oh yes, a tamborine) You are welcome to watch it for yourself but lets just say, well, it was awful. In fact, it was worse than Roseanne Barr and she has the unfortunate title of "worst Star-Spangled Banner Ever". Truthfully, that title may be in question after last nights unessecary attempt by The Fray to change the National Anthem.

 

I didn't recognize it at first. In fact, I thought it was the "warm up" act or "America the Beautiful". As the guitar started to play in an off tempo, somewhat awkward beat, and the singing began, I felt my mouth fall open. The camera panned the crowd and even as they held their hands over their hearts, their mouths and facial movements seemed confused, scared even. When it was finally over, there was an awkward moment, and then applause - but it felt subdued, less like a celebration and more like relief. Relief that it was over and relief that the game was about to begin.

My boss put it best when he said You don't cover the National Anthem.

So to the Fray - I ask, in a manner indicitative of the resepct you showed the National Anthem - why didn't you just light the flag on fire and run away? Exactly who do you think you are that you need to be the ones to change the entire tempo, tone, and musical accompaniment to the Star-Spangled Banner? Even if your guitar had been in tune it would still have been awful.

What a lesson in humility this should be for all of us. Getting asked to perform the National Anthem would be a huge honor for anyone. Even as a teenager in a choir group I understood that. I also understood that my lack of respect for the moment would mean that I would not get to participate.

It's a perfect example of how we get ourselves in the thought process that we need to change something. There are some things that work just fine without the help of some 2nd rate hipster pop group. The lesson to be learned from The Fray? There are some things that are so perfect and amazing in their own right that they do not need your "personal touch". Being asked to sing the National Anthem is no different than making a presentation at a conference or writing a blog for someone else. When you're invited to someone else's stage you have to respect the nature of the stage. If you have been asked to post on a blog that has never posted a curse word, it wouldn't be respectful to include a bunch of them in your submission to the site.

Also, if you're desperate to get that horrible performance out of your mind - here are two that I've always really thought were top notch.


 

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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.
AccuConference | 5 Tips for Unique Corporate Presentations

5 Tips for Unique Corporate Presentations

The problem with using the best technology, the best techniques, is that soon enough you'll look like every other go-getter. This doesn't mean these things are bad. It just means that you have to use them intelligently to go from mediocre to unique.

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing sees a lot of presentations. Unfortunately, these presentations aren't all good. No, most are just downright bad. In his blog, From Where I Sit, he gives us five rules for better presentations.

The first rule is obvious, so obvious that it's understandable that we've strayed from it. The rule is to remember that the main focus of a presentation is not PowerPoint, graphics, or gimmicks, it's you the speaker. Those other things are there to augment you and your message.

Which sounds more appealing: a lecture or a story? Why can't a lecture be a story? A presentation should have a natural flow going from point to point. It will provide structure and help your audience follow you better. Plus, it's much more interesting to listen to the struggle, downfall, and ascension to triumph of your company's last quarter than pointing to a graph and rattling off some numbers.

The next two rules concern your video presentation support materials, otherwise known as your PowerPoint presentation. These are great to instantly send a message to your audience. However, there is danger in deciding which messages, and how much of each to display. Always remember "Less is more." Constrict text to a few lines per slide, and make it large so everyone can see without squinting.

Hyatt agrees that handouts are a good thing, but with a caveat. Instead of handing them out before your presentation (basically giving your presentation away), or during your presentation (distracting from and derailing your flow), pass around handouts at the end. It reinforces your message, and helps in case your audience missed something. But don't confuse an agenda with presentation notes. An agenda tells the audience the purpose of the presentation, and provides signposts to guide them. Your handouts will point out scenic views and important landmarks, filling in the back story after you have passed by.

Of course with web conferencing, you have to adjust to the fact that your audience members are spread throughout the world. This doesn't mean you can't distribute handouts, in fact because everyone is already at their computer it's as simple as emailing a Word document as you are ending your presentation, or putting a link in the chat window.

Posted by George Page, Communication Specialist

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