Conference Call Suggestions

These conference call suggestions might not apply to you, but they certainly affect you. Like a fly on a movie projector, even the littlest thing can cause an entire group to get distracted (or frustrated!) Conference Call Etiquette: 10 Tips

  • Keep multi-tasking to a minimum.
  • If you talk fast, try slowing down.
  • Speak clearly and exude energy. Your voice is the only thing you have to keep everyone’s attention.
  • Speak directly into the phone. If using a microphone remember that being too close will sound distorted and being too far away will sound quiet.
  • Call from a quiet location. Even printers and phones in the background can be distracting.
  • Use the mute button when you’re not talking or need to sneeze.
  • Avoid bad phones, bad headsets and speakerphones. (Speakerphones pick-up all sorts of background noise!)
  • Announce when you leave and return from the phone.
  • Avoid too much paper shuffling or typing.
  • And avoid gum, chips or any other food while on a conference call.

Suggestions for the Inevitable VoIP

As a teleconferencing company, we have many clients who use VoIP. Naturally we'd prefer that clients use a land-line, but we know it's inevitable. That being said, here are a few suggestions.

(This is not an endorsement… it's damage control.)

  1. Bandwidth – The key is high bandwidth. Avoid scheduling your meetings in the afternoon because that is when call volume is the highest. Overloaded networks reduce call quality and cause problems like echoing. Echoing effects teleconferencing because computers rely on dial tones to recognize your pass codes.
  2. Monitor Bandwidth – Just because you paid for the "super-duper-high-speed service" doesn't mean its performing how it should. Check your bandwidth regularly to make sure you're getting the service you paid for. Try these sites: http://myvoipspeed.visualware.com/or http://www.speedtest.net/ .
  3. Reliable Service: Your local power company and internet service provider (ISP) should be reliable. If your power goes out or your ISP shuts down then your phone will also.
  4. Expect More- VoIP is capable of offering land-line quality, so don't settle. Some business-grade VoIP services can use a variety of connection methods and do not rely on an ISP. For example, look for a VoIP provider that offers dedicated point-to-point T1 connections.
  5. Avoid Speaker Phone– The combination of VoIP and speaker phone is almost certain to compromise quality. Consider using a headset if you want to have your hands free.

And when you find that "perfect" VoIP provider, call and let-t-tt-t-t us know.  To read more about VoIP click here for a great article.

Mastering a Successful Conference Call

Is there an art to holding a successful conference call? Some may say no, but in all actuality, there is. The art comes in planning. The moderator must fine-tune each detail of the conference, from the agenda, the email invitations and to the scheduling details. A successful conference call takes a knowledgeable organizer who has provided all the participants with the correct conference information, including the date and time and deciphering the time zones. The moderator needs to know the features available to him through his conferencing provider. Is recording available? If so, how do I initiate it? Can I see who is on my conference call? What about a live question & answer session? How can I facilitate one? Most conferencing providers have a customer support center which can answer all those important questions. Take advantage of all the features. This will enhance your conferencing experience.
 
On the day of the conference call, make sure you are prepared in advance with the telephone set up. If using a conference phone make sure it is tweaked to capture all the speakers and will not cut out voices. Individual phone lines are recommended above a conference room speaker phone. Encourage your participants to also dial from land lines and not cell phones.

As the moderator, call into the conference at least 10 minutes before the call is to being. Welcome your participants and let them know you will begin shortly. If you are having more than 10 people on your conference call, consider using Lecture Mode to mute all the participant lines. This will ensure a very professional atmosphere to deliver your message. The Q&A can be done very concisely and accurately when the call is in Lecture Mode.

By following these conferencing ideas, you will create a memorable event.

 

Echo in a Conference Call

During a conference call, there is generally nothing worse than hearing echo being introduced into a call.  Participants will hear what sounds like good quality audio, but twice (or more) as a result of this.  Conference call hardware generally has two classes of equipment: those with "echo cancellation" or without.  The quality of the call can be significantly degraded on systems without the echo cancellation.

AccuConference uses state of the art DSP technology (Digital Signal Processors) that employ an echo cancellation algorithm.  The result is that echo is significantly reduced during a conference call.  There are always things that will introduce echo no matter what, such as putting a phone in the same room as another phone in the conference call.  Telephone microphones are very sensitive and even the slightest sound can be picked up and echoed to the other phone and amplified.  Cellular phones are notorious for this, as there is an inherent delay introduced with a wireless network.  As a result, AccuConference recommends never having two participants in the same room, unless both are muted.  The result is that the quality of the call will be the highest possible.

 

Number of Participants

AccuConference provides superior technology that virtually eliminates the problems associated with bridging large numbers of participants onto a single call. Our bridges regularly handle calls up to 1000 participants, and have the capability of handling much more when necessary. As a result, customers can rest assured that the quality of the call will not be affected by adding more callers to the conference. Each caller will hear the highest possible quality signal from the speaker, whether it is a 3 person conference, or a 300 person conference.

We highly recommend that customers utilize the *5 lecture mode for more than 10 participants on a conference. This allows the speakers and moderators to better control the people that speak into a call. Without it, a call could have any number of the problems listed above introduced, since the number of potential problems increases with the number of phones connected.

AccuConference also provides a unique feature known as “Live Queued Q&A”. This feature allows the participants on a large call to speak one-at-a-time into the conference. The moderator simply announces that the call is now open for questions and answers (Q&A) and instructs participants to press *1 to ask a question. Via the live web-based conference screen, a moderator can see who has asked a question, how many questions are remaining, and where the callers are calling from. To take a question, the moderator simply clicks on the “Take Next Question” link. The participant hears a message instructing them to “Please ask your question now.” They are then unmuted automatically, and allowed to speak into the conference. Once the question has been answered by the speakers, the “Take Next Question” link can be clicked again, muting the first question and allowing the next one to speak. This feature is very popular on large conferences, allowing individuals to participate in the call, without introducing noise or quality issues.

 

Entry/Exit Tones and DTMF

The final piece of a good conference call depends on the conferencing service that the business is using. AccuConference provides a significant number of features that allows customers to customize what messages are played into the conference. This will enable the call to be tailored to the customer’s needs.

On every call AccuConference hosts, a feature known as “DTMF clamping” is employed. This feature essentially traps the touch tones on the phone so that they are not played into the conference. Many other conferencing providers cannot provide this feature, and, as a result, cause a conference call to be of a lower quality. Because DTMF tones are used to activate features (such as the *6 to mute an AccuConference line), many systems simply pass the DTMF tone into the conference, which means that when the moderator goes to mute the phone line with a *6 command, the * and the 6 tones are echoed into the entire conference. DTMF clamping solves this issue. AccuConference bridges trap these tones _before_ they are played into the conference call and simply does not echo them into the call. The result is that when a *6 is pressed to mute a line, the tones are not played into the call, and the conference is not interrupted.

AccuConference also provides, by default, entry and exit tones into a call. These tones signal the arrival of a ne w party to the call, or can notify the conference when someone drops off. In addition, AccuConference also allows customers to turn on “name recording” to be played into a conference. The result is that an announcement of the person joining the call is played into the call as well as the entry tone. As an additional feature, the AccuConference website allows customers to choose whether or not entry/exit tones and/or name recording are turned on at all. By disabling both, the call will not be interrupted when people join or drop off. A customer can continue to monitor the call via the AccuConference website to determine when someone joins or disconnects.

 

Phone

The first and most important component of a good telephone call is always the phone itself. Businesses generally have a PBX system or some higher quality telephones, and the richness of the audio in the conference reflects this. Purchase an inexpensive phone, and the call will reflect it.

Recently, headsets have become very popular in the business world. In prior years, only customer service and call-center agents made use of them. The last few years have seen a rise in the number of businesses that have begun outfitting their employees with headsets. We recommend any headset from Plantronics (http://www.plantronics.com). These headsets are generally more expensive, but with features such as noise cancellation and secure communications, they provide superior quality as well as comfort for the wearer. Their top of the line models even work wirelessly with any desk phone. Beware of lower priced and lower quality headsets. They can damage a conference call faster than any other factor.

Speakerphones are generally considered poor for hosting conference calls. Some of the top of the line speakerphones, such as the ones from Polycom (http://www.polycom.com) are better than most, but because of the sensitivity of the speaker and the close proximity of the microphone, they have a tendency to introduce extra noise and sometimes echo into the conference. If the phone is on a conference table, then if someone bumps the table accidentally with their knee, the sound vibrates the entire table, and by default, the speakerphone itself. The entire conference must suffer through these little clicks and bumps. This is why speakerphone use is generally discouraged for a conference.

 

When Teleconferencing comes into the Picture

We have all heard about different conferencing possibilities that are out there to enhance business and educational communication. However, some inquiries still arise when we are confronted with what services best fit our needs and the demands of those around us. Teleconferencing, for instance, contrary to videoconferencing which implies the use of video, is undergone only with audio support. Tele conferencing (also referred to as audio conferencing and conference calling) is carried out over regular telephone lines and can be conducted rather inexpensively.

When choosing a service, there are two main alternatives, reservationless or operator-assisted. The first comes into view as the most economical and user friendly as a telephone number and pin code are the only needed requirements to get you started. What’s more, it abolishes any possible human error consequence of operator assisted services. Greater flexibility is offered as it is permanently available and once you have adhered to the service, you only need to worry about setting a time and date with your participants to perform a meeting.

Operator assisted teleconferencing, on the other hand, is recommended for meetings with larger number participants and can avoid potential problems that come up as a result. An operator is available to carry out certain tasks such as checking out or adding participants, splitting larger groups into smaller clusters, as well as perform a variety of other services. Organizing an operated assisted conference, however, implies calling an operator a day in advance.

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Quality Health Care at the Reach of All

When the average citizen is asked to indicate aspects of life they are most concerned with, health will inevitably come up at the top of the list. Having access to proper health care is an issue that governments constantly battle with. New technologies are sought to respond to the needs of both practitioners and patients. Videoconferencing has, therefore, gained strength in the medical field as a mean to respond to some of the present medical challenges.

The practice of medicine using interactive video has enormous benefits, many of which are still to be exploited. Teleconferencing allows consultations and other medical services to take place without the need for doctor and patient to be in the same physical space. Health care has, therefore, become more accessible to patients living in more remote locations, who otherwise would not have the means to commute to a local hospital or health care centre. Patients are followed more closely as financial and travel constraints no longer are a concern. Patients see their hospitalization time reduced as well, as doctors can follow up on their condition through videoconferencing. Such a situation benefits health care organizations as patient expenses are reduced, as well as the actual patient who can continue treatment from the comfort of their home.

On an educational level, Video Conferencing has become an important tool which can offer medical staff ongoing training. On the other hand, videoconferencing puts doctors in contact, regardless of where they are thus granting them greater confidence in patient diagnosis as they are in easy reach of a second opinion. What’s more, doctors have easy access to patient information which can accelerate and assist patient analysis.

As the medical world exploits telemedicine for its obvious benefits, its contribution to saving lives arises as the greatest of them all.

Sources:
http://www.ortcc.org/PDF/benefitsoftelemedicine.pdf

Dr. Technology Will See You Now

Imagine being able to go to your local health clinic (no matter how remote your community) and being able to consult with the most experienced specialists in virtually any medical field. This is one of the opportunties that telemedicine can bring to all of us.

Telemedicine can empower local communities by improving access to quality medical care. Travel times and waiting will be reduced, and eventually advanced robotics could even provide a means for surgeons to operate via long distances. Believe it or not, these technologies are already being used.

The following is from the Orlando Sentinel:

“Telemedicine is widely used already, with doctors consulting each other from thousands of miles apart, even examining patients through video. Advances in robotics also will make it possible someday for doctors to operate on patients in remote settings.”

The future for telemedicine is bright, indeed.