Register for Better Tracking

If you really want to keep track of your participants, use a registration page for all of your conference calls.  Registration systems will record any data you want and store it for use later.  Also, during a live call, you can see the data next to that caller - speaking directly to users and knowing who they are increases the personal touch of your call (not to mention it is impressive).  Also, each participant receives their own unique code for the call - again, more personal.

After your live event, you have data on who registered, who attended the live call as well as who did not - great for follow-up.  For paid services like teleclasses, this is a great way for tracking attendance and keeping control of who gets it.  For required employee calls, the data will keep everyone accountable.

Best of all, it's free.  Try it out!

When Multi-Tasking Works Against You

We've all been in this situation, sitting in a "boring" teleconference, our mind starts to wander, we decide maybe we'll look at our email, and then out of the blue, the speaker asks your opinion!

Wow, talk about an embarrassing moment, how do you say you had been drifting? It's better to follow these few tips to keep your focus in a teleconference particularly when your mind starts to wander.

  1. Close your email program and your browser. You won't be tempted to multi-task if you don't have these applications open.
  2. Turn off your cell phone and PDA. Don't be tempted to lose your focus with these distractions to the call.
  3. Get a piece of paper out and make bulleted notes of the meeting.
  4. As you think of it, write down your questions on a specific topic or write down the name of the person and task that they have just been given.
  5. Write down the follow-up actions you will personally need to take and the dates to take them. Writing will help you to stay tuned-in and keep your mind actively involved in the teleconference as well as provide concrete follow-up for you to log into Outlook after the conference call.

How to Lead In Tough Times

Forbes discusses leading in tough times and gives five essentials "for leadership through difficult, and how to bring them to bear."

"Leading an organization through hard times is challenging by definition. It requires a deliberate focus and extra attention to a few critical areas that can make the difference between a quick rebound followed by sustained improvement in performance--or by a downward spiral that may become irreversible.
And it's in facing headwinds, of course, that the captain of the ship proves his or her mettle."

The five Forbes essentials include:

  1. Communicate continually and honestly.
  2. Hatch a plan based in reality.
  3. Hang on to your best talent.
  4. Act decisively.
  5. Alter your perspective.

There's a few more I would add:

  1. Don't try to be the superhero.

Nobody likes someone who tries to do it all and fails. Everyone will be in awe of you if you do what you do best and let others do the rest. A leader knows how to delegate to other members of his/her team so that she/he can focus on the essential core tasks of leadership. Trying to impress your team by agreeing to everything they request or point out will get you nowhere.

  1. Give out more praise than criticism.

This does not mean simple flattery or half-truths. There are ways to praise so that people realize what they missed or did wrong. Try rewarding strong work and recommending alternative ideas for less-strong work at the same time. And don't criticize. If you find this difficult, get Giving Feedback: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges, by Harvard Business School Press.

"Good feedback is essential to helping employees perform better at work. It lets people know when they are meeting or exceeding expectations, and when they need to get back on the right track. This practical guide shows managers how to develop and refine this necessary skill."

Feedback is communication. Are you giving feedback or a performance review? Are you wanting a different approach or just want to tweak the approach already taken? Learning to differentiate between what you want to accomplish and then saying it to accomplish that is a sure sign of a leader.

Anything else to add to this list? Feel free to add your thoughts.

Tips on how best to run your business from home

Work is work. Home is home. Running your business from home may be convenient, but you still have to keep home and work separate. Here are some tips to make this a bit easier.

  1. Find your own space. You need to have a place where the only activity permitted is work. A den, a spare room, your corner of the basement, or any place that gives you some measure of privacy, so you can do your work uninterrupted. A room with a door is best, especially when you have customer contact and conference calls.
  2. Have a business only phone line and separate office equipment. Your business shouldn't have to compete with the other activities in your household. Establish clear boundaries so that others know your priorities in these areas.
  3. Establish specific "office hours". Family and friends need to know that you may be at home, but you're still at work. Personal calls take a back seat and may be returned at a more appropriate time. You're not at home for their convenience.  This means you're not available for chores and helping with errands and other distractions.
  4. When the office is closed, leave it closed. Make an effort not to drift in and out of work once your business day has ended. The convenience of working from home means having your work available 24 hours.  Home and work both suffer when you ebb and flow between them.
  5. Don't overlook the "green" benefits of working from home. With no commutes, your stress level goes down. You're saving hundreds of hours of drive time, thousands of gallons of gas, and keeping tons of carbon from entering our atmosphere. Don't blow your good works by jetting off to meet a client. Consider a virtual meeting. The technology exists that allows you to meet with clients and coworkers without ever seeing an airport.

Running your business from home has its challenges. When considering the benefits to you, your family and the environment, the impact would seem to do us all a world of good.

Seth Gets It

Seth Godin talks about the The new standard for meetings and conferences.  Energy prices are rising and the cost of travel is climbing higher with wait times, canceled flights and more.

Now that the technology has arrived to replace almost every aspect of the face-to-face meeting, isn't it time to rethink "Do I really have to travel?"

As Seth says, "I flew all the way here for this?"

Another place for savings (time, energy and money) is working from home.  One of our previous posts mentions the enormous savings that could be realized if employees worked from home one day a week.

As a collaboration company, all we can say to Seth is, "Amen!"

Out of Sight, Out of Touch?

Once the favorite alternative work option for many large companies, telecommuting was purported to be the savior of the burnt-out cubicle worker. Over the past year or so, telecommuting has received a critical eye. A series of articles from eWeek discusses the rise and fall of telecommuting.

"Only a few years since it was heralded as a newer, better way to work, studies began to emerge that put chinks in the armor of telecommuting.
Sixty-one percent of executives surveyed in January 2007 by Korn/Ferry International, a Los Angeles-based recruiting firm, said they saw career stagnancy among telecommuting workers.

Nearly half of CIOs felt that remote employees' quality of work suffered due to reduced in-person contact with colleagues, and one-third said that these employees were less productive due to a lack of supervision, in a study released last July by Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm in Menlo Park, Calif." 

But is telecommuting really all bad?

San Francisco’s Chronicle espouses the concept of telecommuting as a cure for conserving energy and reducing gasoline usage.

"An estimated 1.35 billion gallons of gasoline could be conserved annually if every U.S. worker with the ability to telecommute did so 1.6 days per week, according to a report released today by the American Electronics Association.

‘Fewer commuters on the roads means reduced fuel consumption, traffic congestion and air pollution,’ said Christopher Hansen, president of the association, the nation's largest high-tech trade group.

And, he said, 'It is a win for workers, who can reduce long commute times and strike a better life-work balance.'"

And this article from CNN points out that for a better life-work balance, 43% of working moms would jump at the chance to telecommute.

"‘More than 25 percent of working moms are dissatisfied with their work/life balance," said Mary Delaney, chief sales officer at CareerBuilder.com and mother of three. ‘As companies continue to experience a tighter labor market, the importance of retaining star employees is requiring them to implement benefits that actually encourage workers to improve the balance between their professional and family lives. From flexible work schedules to job sharing to telecommuting, company-wide work/life initiatives are becoming much more universal.’"

As gas prices increase this year, perhaps companies should endeavor to make telecommuting more effective: encouraging in-house workers to coordinate more fully with telecommuting staff, pursuing online collaboration that encourages teamwork, and rewarding loyal and productive clients with a flexible work schedule.

The Lost Art of Thank You

Lost Art of Thank YouFew things are as powerful or as simple as saying thank you. Looking someone in the eye, a genuine smile, a firm handshake; each has meaning beyond words. They touch people. They communicate sincerity and integrity. They earn trust and respect. These are powerful tools and are opportunities easily missed.

Letter writing is a dying art. The need to write letters is fading quickly, overtaken by the speed and efficiency of email, cell phones, and the fast-paced lifestyle. There just isn't time in the day to sit down and compose a long, detailed essay like long ago.  We used to tell the details of our lives, our innermost thoughts and experiences, in our letters. Now it just takes too long. There just isn't time. 

It isn't necessary to write these long letters anymore. We should, however, make the time for quick notes. Keeping a stock of blank cards on hand is a great way to "knock off" a quick thank you when dealing with a customer or a business acquaintance.  Do you remember the last time you received a thank you card or note from anyone? If you've gotten one, I'll bet you remember it. If not, then you know how rare it is. It's a powerful moment when somebody opens their mail to see you took the time to sit down, right a note, stamp it, and drop it in the mail. Your contact with that person just became so much more than average. Your ability to be remembered has increased dramatically. You touched them and made them feel appreciated. This quiet gesture is powerful.

The greatest communicators know the effect of letter writing, especially of the thank you. Former President Ronald Reagan was a great believer in the letter. He spent many of his quiet moments composing thoughtful letters to friends, loved ones, and politicians from both sides of the aisle. He knew the letter could accomplish great things and do it in a personal and one -on-one way.  All you need is a thank you note and you can accomplish the same thing with great results. So little effort. So much reward. 

Moderator, I'm Ready

Lecture mode has to be one of the best and most influential features modern conference calls have. How else can you easily manage a call with fifty, one hundred, a thousand, or more people breathing and coughing and opening bags of potato chips?

With lecture mode on, your participants - no matter how many - can rest at ease to concentrate on your message without worrying if they are contributing to the background noise of the call. You, the host, can rest easy too, as no one can accidentally un-mute themselves, or worse, never mute to begin with.

As a participant, there is one thing you are responsible for: be ready when it's your turn. In lecture mode, you can signal the moderator that you have a question by pressing star 1 on your telephone keypad and you get put into a queue. Occasionally it will take a while to get to you, but you should make sure to be ready. Once you signal, you could be un-muted at any time, so stay on your toes!