Recording your Conference Call is the Perfect Meeting Back

There is one screen that strikes fear into the heart of computer users everywhere. It's not the invalid operation popup or the "if you open this file, you're going to get a big virus" warning. Every PC owner has experienced the screen I've described at least once and some truly unlucky few have experienced it more than once. It's the fatal error screen commonly known as the "blue screen of death."

The blue screen of death is the PC user's worst fear. It means your computer is probably now just a really expensive paper weight. The screen comes out of nowhere, popping around the corner like a special effect zombie in a horror movie. You're tempted to pull the plug but decide to try the Ctrl+Alt+Delete command and get no response from the system. That pretty much cleans you out of ideas and by this time you're tired of looking at the bright light of the blue screen.

So you pull the plug and hope that rebooting the system will make it better. The computer logo pops up and you think that all is well. Until you get the somewhat less scary looking but completely disastrous little brother of the blue screen of death; "Windows cannot locate drive C: /". Oh yeah, that's right. It's time to completely reformat your system. Now everything is lost and you're going to have to start over from the beginning and hope that you kept all your software passwords.

Entire businesses have been created based purely on the idea of backing up documents and programs on a secondary system. The pictures, documents, and music files that you store on your personal computer are important enough that you spent extra money to back up everything and not have to go through this kind of hassle.

Wouldn't it then make perfect sense that you should be recording all of your conference calls? Without these meetings, those trips down to Disneyland and over to the Grand Canyon wouldn't be possible. So call recording should be used on every conference as both a safeguard as well as a reference tool.

Recording doesn't always seem like an important step to take until it's too late. Most conference call systems don't store conferences on back-up unless they are commanded to do so. So if you find yourself in a situation where you chose not to record your call and then you need to reference it for some reason, you're probably going to be in a tough place. Many conference companies, AccuConference included, offer the recording service for free.

This is a good safeguard if you ever find yourself in a position that you need to listen to the call again or need to gather more information. You have the ability to do these things right away. There's not a secretary or note taker in the world that will be able to write down every single word and be able to transcribe the call in its completion. If you're the type of the person who enjoys having hard copy of what was said on a particular call these recordings can also be submitted for transcription, which will give you yet another way to keep a copy of the meeting on hand. If you ever find yourself in a position where you want to know verbatim what a particular participant said on the call, the recording is there to back you up. No one can deny their own voice can they?

In the end, going the extra mile to back up personal files seems like a no-brainier, and the person who doesn't and suffers a crash always ends up regretting it.

Don't Forget the "Green Room"

The conference call goes live and suddenly you are faced with a crowd of people listening in their phones, all waiting for the words coming through your receiver. If you have prepared yourself and know what you're talking about you'll be fine. Admittedly, facing an audience is easier through a phone than on a stage with them right in front of you, but you still have to be ready and you must have your team and speakers ready as well.

This is where your pre-conference, or "Green Room" comes in. It's a good idea to have the organizers and speakers dial in to a conference ten to fifteen minutes early. Since you have given them speaker codes, you and they will be separate from the participants who are muted and listening to hold music. It is in this virtual green room that you can go over the timing and content of your conference call. Then at meeting start time, you can exit pre-conference by pressing *3 which ends the hold music, keeps the participants muted, but allows everyone to hear the speakers.

The green room isn't just for the beginning of conference calls, you can switch back and forth as necessary. A good time to go back to the green room is during each break. This puts the participants back with the hold music and you and your speakers can discuss how the previous section went and prepare or make changes for the next section. The hold music also becomes a great indicator for the participants as when it disappears, they know that the conference has begun again.

Keeping the same page is vital for a great conference. Using the green room is a way to stay on top of things as well as be flexible for any changes along the way, all while displaying professionalism and putting on a great show.

Five Conference Call Guidelines Your Probably Don't Think About

1. Talking clearly, near to the phone - especially in a large conference room with many people around you and many more on the phone line. If you're nowhere near the phone, get closer. If you're near the phone, face it. If you're speaking, remember someone is listening from very far away and the clearer you can make your presentation, the better it will come across.

2. Skip inside jokes; they don't translate well. It's all fun and games until someone can't understand you. I sit on conference calls that are mostly inside jokes and laughter for about half the call. This is great fun for those in the conference room at the other end of my phone line, but I miss most of it. If you have an inside joke, wait for later, or let everyone hear it. This also cuts down on extraneous jokes that really aren't appropriate.

3. Conference rooms should have closed windows. This is a significant problem with conference calls during the summer when construction is everywhere and it's hot in the building. The sirens, the traffic noises, and construction noises really come across louder on a phone line if the windows are open in the conference room. If you have to open the window, crack it and if that gets so loud outside that even you can hear it, remember the people on the phone can hear it more. Close the window until at least the main part of the presentation or meeting is complete and then get some air. Air conditioning is also a novel idea for conference rooms. Hint, hint.

4. Introduce yourselves and let people on the phone introduce themselves. Then use your name each time you talk for a few rounds. "This is Mark, can I ask a question?" This helps the people on the phone and in the room realize that you are speaking to them too. This also helps to cut down on confusion as to who's talking as well.

5. Ask the people on the phone if they need any clarification. Every ten minutes or so, just stop and make sure everyone both in the room and on the phone are tracking the meeting. This is helpful, because many people on a phone line aren't sure when to break in to ask you to speak up and if they don't ask, no one in your conference room will have a clue that anything is amiss. Check in with everyone often and that should clear up any lingering issues with regard to hearing and comprehension.

Communicating With Song

Teleconferencing is described as a "live exchange of information among persons and machines remote from one another but linked by a telecommunications system, which is usually over a telephone line."

Teleconferencing services are not only offered and used by businesses alone.  At times, ordinary people will find that teleconferencing or video conferencing is the best way to make a personal connection, just for the fun of it.

This week, the Barbershop Harmony Society held their 70th International quartet and chorus contest in Nashville, Tennessee.  Almost 9,000 people traveled from around the globe to be part of this amazing annual contest.  The Society boasts a membership of almost 30,000 male singers in the United States and Canada alone.  For those who were not able to attend the convention, the Society worked hard to provide services to make you feel like you were almost actually at the convention.

They provided a web-cast that showcased each Barbershop quartet and chorus competing in the contest in real time.  In addition, people who were viewing the action online were able to speak to competitors immediately after they left the contest stage via a teleconferencing link.  People could congratulate and speak to competitors using the services provided by several different carriers at the performing venue.

For those not able to attend the convention, the experience of communicating with friends and family members who were competing was invaluable.  The people who viewed the web-cast were thrilled to be able to see history in the making as the new Champions were given their medals.  Plans are already in the works for next year’s teleconferencing and video exchange.  The convention will be held in Anaheim, California.

Manners Matter in Virtual Team Teleconferences

Even though you can't see the people in your meeting with a teleconference doesn't mean that there aren't certain rules of etiquette that you should follow. In fact for teleconferences, meeting etiquette in certain areas is even more important than in a face-to-face situations.

Here are a few tips to help you to have the best teleconference possible:

  1. Make sure to send your agenda before the meeting so people may be properly prepared. You may want to send it out more than several hours ahead. Depending on the nature of the call, you may need to send your agenda several days to a week ahead of your planned call.
  2. Include your starting and expected ending time. Use Outlook to schedule your meetings electronically and ask for participation approval automatically. Let your participants clear their calendar to allocate you the time you need.
  3. Make sure you have communicated your expectations clearly to all participants. This will help to keep your meeting on-track and allow you to have metrics for which to measure your teleconference meeting success.
  4. If you have had previous problems with attendees putting your call on hold and sharing their canned hold music or promotional message with the group, consider discussing the issue privately with the party before your next call. If you cannot identify the person clearly, send with your agenda a gentle teleconference protocol reminder listing this item specifically to help your team get and stay on track.
  5. Keep your message short, concise, and closely follow your agenda. Doing so, will keep attendance high and keep participants focused.
  6. Follow-up in writing your plan of action and who has been tasked to perform which activities. Good follow-up assures that the plans you have discussed will be implemented and that team members can be accountable for specific tasks.

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.

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!"

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!