To Dial-in or Not to Dial-in

Have you gotten on a conference call and the moderator hasn't dialed in yet? You called on time or maybe even a few minutes early, but you were waiting and waiting.  Hold music is soothing, but when you are a multi-tasking executive your time is valuable and it appears it is being wasted by someone else!

Think of a conference call as a face-to-face meeting and present yourself accordingly.  For all of your conference calls, I recommend that you, the moderator, call in at a minimum of five minutes early. This allows you to personally greet each participant as they arrive. It also gives you a chance to chat with the early attendees and break the ice.

If you are web conferencing and have your Webcam set up, don't use the few early minutes to apply makeup, comb your hair, or review your notes. Be smiling and ready to welcome each attendee with your eyes focused on the camera. Don't be caught off guard!

I also recommend that you check yourself in your webcam 10 minutes before your call starts to make sure you look the best you can.  Once you're ready, forget about the camera and just consider the camera lens as the eyes of your participants. There is something welcoming about dialing in and getting a personal greeting from the host or seeing a smiling face.

Remember many attendees to your call will phone in five minutes earlier than the scheduled time of the call, so be on five minutes before that and start your teleconference off right!

Practice Makes Perfect

If you are the main speaker for a conference call or web conference, you may want to practice before the day of the phone call or event. You can assure yourself that your audience will get the full impact of your message by taking the time to be well prepared. What you really shouldn’t do is try to conduct a conference call in an "off the cuff" fashion.

Prepare your notes ahead of time
Think about the main topic, what you want to say, and the length of the conference call as you compose your notes. Remember that people in other places will be listening, but not seeing you. They will likely be taking notes themselves, so you have to present your theme in a digestible fashion.

Practice going over your notes
Once you have your notes in good shape, it is time to practice saying them aloud. You cannot replicate what will happen during the call, but you can be familiar with what you want to say. You could tape record yourself reading through the notes and play it back to get an idea of how you might sound. Or you could ask a friend if you can could them and go over the notes. This person could ask you a few questions and give you feedback.

Web or Video Conference: How to Know Which One You Want

Sometimes you need to get your team or group together for a meeting, but it is just impossible for everyone to get together in the same place at the same time. Because it is important to have everyone seeing the same thing at the same time, a teleconference just does not seem like the best vehicle for interaction. What do you do?

Well, pretty much, you have two choices: web conferencing or video conferencing. How do you know which one would be best? It can be confusing. There is overlap in capability because web conferencing can include video and you can share documents via video conferencing.

To decide, which one is best for you and your meeting, you have to ask two things: "What do I, and everyone else, need to see?" and "What is being emphasized, the content of a presentation or interactions between people?"

If the answer is "the presentation and its content", then you should be thinking "web conference". If you want, you could arrange a small pop-up window on the screen with a video of the speaker just to add a personal touch. If the answer is "personal interaction", then video conferencing is your communications vehicle of choice.

Web conferences are very good if you are making product demonstrations, analyzing reports/data or doing software training. Video conferences are better for board meetings, negotiations, interviews, or depositions.

Of the two, because video conferencing requires more technology and infrastructure, it is the more expensive option.

Web Conferencing Lets You Address Queries Quickly

If you have customers in different parts of the country or even different parts of the world, you have likely conquered the difficulties of routine communications. But what do you do when a customer has a very specific query about a product, one that cannot be answered in a quick e-mail or 10 minute phone conversation?

This is one area where web conferencing can help. You can use this technology to address the issue yourself and if you need to include colleagues, and none of you needs to leave the office.

Before you initiate a web conference, make sure that the client in question is web-savvy enough to participate. You don't want to set up a web conference only to find that your goal of helping a customer cannot be met because that person is unaware of how to use their computer or the internet. Depending on you area of business, you may be able to use this as a teaching opportunity, getting your client up to speed and answering their questions at the same time.

A web conference is not just a way to answer any questions that pop up when someone uses your product, it is also a way to impress them, with your knowledge and customer service skills.

Education Online: The New e-Campus

When you want to take a college level class, learn a new skill, keep up-to-date on continuing education classes, the e-Campus has become a hot property and first choice for many.

Using the Internet with teleconferencing, application sharing, and interactive options such as forums for after class discussions the e-Campus is becoming a mainstream education choice. Not only have traditional four year colleges embraced the Internet as a way for professors to communicate lesson plans, post notes, and monitor class assignments, but graduate level courses are being served with interactive video allowing the actual class members to share and discuss topics under the supervision of an instructor in real-time.

Many of these online classes use teleconferencing and Web conferencing as ways to listen to and watch a lecture and to interact with a professor. Some classes use a forum or online blackboard to post lectures, video lessons, and some actually support far-flung virtual classrooms connected via the Web with class and instructor video feeds. The diverse use of technology to disseminate information, train and educate students, and offer higher level education to a wider sector of people is changing the face of higher level education.

Many online classes allow for self-paced learning and some prefer the strong class interaction of having everyone online at the same time. Either way education is taking a new advance and allowing more options in how you go to class on the new e-Campus.

Webinar Marketing 201: Pricing and Bundling

As we indicated in the previous blog, the biggest mistake in producing webinars is under-pricing them.  In part this is because people forget that this is a completely new medium, not your old-fashioned Marriott ballroom seminar event.  Remember, webinars free people from the costs of having to travel and stay somewhere to participate in the event.  Build some of this convenience that you are providing your audience into your price.

It is a lot easier to initially set the tuition of at the high end and see what comes in than it is to try and increase prices at a later date for the same information.  Keep in mind that the important and timeliness of what you can tell participants, in addition to the convenience you are providing, can overcome almost any pocketbook issue.

An alternative way to charge for attendance is to offer a site license, as opposed to a per-seat charge.  Consider this option in your pricing as it can be great way to increase participation and get more customers.  Although companies will typically pay a higher tuition cost, more than one person from the same office can participate. You may even want to encourage this in your marketing message.  The advantage of multi viewer participation to the company is that all of their people hear the same message at the same time.  This sure beats paying for one person to go to a meeting and then come home and try to brief their colleagues.  This team webinar participation approach also provides your staff with a vehicle to discuss what they have learned and share questions and think of applications after the webinar is over.

Webinar Marketing 101: How Much Should You Charge?

Believe it or not, nobody wants something for nothing.  If you look at any kind of event or class, virtual or real, no matter how much interest people have in it, if you don't charge money people stay away in droves.  Seems counter intuitive, but almost any kind of event where tickets or reservations are given out free-of-charge to potential attendees typically will have high no-show rates… on the order of 35% or more.  In comparison, when people have to pay real money, even if it's a relatively modest amount, no-show rates drop to 5% or less.

Another thing that people understand is that "you get what you pay for", especially in business or any kind of competitive arena.  People commonly mistakenly think that the cheaper you make something the more people will be able to afford it and therefore want to buy it.  When you are talking about information transfer, this just does not apply.  Believe it or not, in the information arena, your price tag tells people what you consider to be the value of the information you have to offer.  Make sure that what you charge is commensurate with the importance of the information you are providing and/or with the credentials of who is presenting the information.

In terms of the latter, remember… you would not expect to pay $5 to hear management tips directly from the lips of General Colin Powell.  If you saw that advertised, you'd think it was a scam.  On the other hand, some people would pay $100's of dollars just to hear him speak even if the topic was about something they were only peripherally interested in, just to hear his perspective.  So keep the credentials of who is making the presentation in mind when you set your price.

Things to Consider When Hosting a Webinar

So you've decided to host a webinar. What can you do to maximize enrollment and to make it an experience that your participants will want to repeat? First and foremost, be sure you research your hosting vendor carefully because not all are created equal. You want to look for someone who has a system that can work with a variety of operating systems, who is reliable, provides scalable service, and that is customer service oriented. Look for those that have application sharing, polling, and chat and recording features. These give you added flexibility in planning your event.

A second thing to seriously consider is using a meeting consultant. Good companies will provide this as part of their service. These consultants will help instruct you about best practices and will train you to carry out a successful webinar. Many times they will also be present during the event to help with anything that might come up.

Lastly, be sure the content of your webinar is top notch. You have to offer, and deliver, something that is more than just generally knowledge for a participant to get really fired up. Adding someone or a company that has broad name recognition can really boost your attendance. Whatever you do, keep the slides simple and leave plenty of white space so if people print them out, they have room to write in your words of wisdom.

Webcasting in Government: The New Indispensable Tool

To give people living in New York more access to their government and governing processes, earlier this year, Eliot Spitzer, the Governor of New York issued an executive order requiring all state agencies, public authorities, boards, and departments to broadcast their meetings on the Internet by July. Although not on quite such a grand scale, many small municipalities are adopting webcasting as a way to reach out to those they serve by webcasting legislative meetings and making archived, key word searchable copies of them available on the Web so people can assess them at their leisure.

What some cities have found is this allows more community and media knowledge of what is going on and saves time and money by no longer having to have staff make and mail out CDs of the meetings for those who request them.

Communities that have initiated webcasting, like Hesperia, California have found that with their webcasting that fewer people are coming to meetings, but the number of people viewing the proceedings, both in the live webcast, as well as those archived has gone way up. It is easy to see why. If you have ever been to a county board meeting, wanting to hear or talk about one of the topics on the agenda, many times you have to sit through hours of discussion on other topics before the one of interest to you comes up. Provided the archived webcasts have key word search capabilities, a viewer can connect only to the part of the meeting or the topic they are interested in.

Webcasting of legislative or other government meetings are generating a lot of interest and use in rural communities and states where there is no universal cable TV coverage and where people have to travel long distances to see what their government is up to.

Building Relationships: The Power of Audio, Web and Videoconferencing

Nothing is more important than the relationships a company builds with its customers and partners. To foster these relationships, larger companies sometimes have annual conferences where people from across the country come together to meet each other, catch up on new company products and services, and learn new ways to use the company’s system. These usually cost quite a bit of money for both the company and the participants.

 Although nothing beats a good physical face-to-face conference, just in terms of time and money it is not something that can be done more than once every year or two. And, getting together with key clients and partners only once every year or two to fill them in on what’s going on is just not sufficient to build a real relationship.

What some companies have decided to do is to still offer the once-a-year physical meeting, but to augment them with quarterly web meetings that are similar to their large conferences, but smaller in scope (50 to 75 people) and that target different market niches and that use audio and video tools to provide interaction between parties.

Due to the more intimate nature of the web meetings over the physical get together, this becomes a venue to find out how clients are actually using the product and its features and get them to share what they are doing and what they are finding out about it. It also proves to be a great vehicle to brainstorm and troubleshoot with clients about products under development; and provides a great way to find out what the client’s priorities are for new products, allowing the meeting convener to better prioritize product enhancements or new product releases.