Twitter Concert

I had the wonderful pleasure last Thursday of getting to see @eddieizzard live at the American Airlines Center. Let me just say that if you like history, can handle a bit of naughty language, and don’t mind comedy that makes you think, Eddie is someone you should check out.

While it was a great show, what intrigued me most was what happened before the show began. You know how it goes, you get to a concert early, you always find your seat, and then you get something to eat or just hang out until the show starts. It’s exciting on one hand, but on the other hand, waiting for the show to begin is the thing that drags on and on, with nothing to entertain you. Eddie changed this up a little. He live streamed his Twitter feed on two big screens. Anything with @eddieizzard showed up on the screens.

The plus side? It was something to watch and it helped to pass the 30-45 minutes before the show started.  It was also exciting to see that there were so many people around the world who were watching Eddie’s twitter feed. The buzz grew inside the arena. Posts from those who could be sitting across the arena to the person who could be at the end of the row expressed excitement and anticipation. One guy even proposed to his girlfriend.

The downside? Well, some people just want to be seen or, in this case, read. So there were a lot of really pointless tweets that made it into the stream, some didn’t make sense, some were just plain offensive, so you had to weed out the bad and pay attention to the good.

How can this help you? Share a web browser on your next conference and set up a Twitter page. Get someone to man the page and refresh the replies page. Are you using a hashtag? Search for the #text on Twitter web and watch the tags roll in. People always join conferences early; why not give them something to check out while they wait for everything to begin? Not only are you providing some entertainment, you’re also getting everyone’s mind focused on what you have about to come. Tweet some teasers, you know, if you’re about to unveil something amazing. Let the buzz gather and follow the topics of conversation. Address questions before your participants even have to answer them.

How can you use a live Twitter feed during your conference to make it better? What scares you about opening that door? 

Name That Character

Since Amber will be creating something amazing on the white board each week, I thought it would be fun to play a little game.  Every week, I'll post a picture hint for this week. The first person to send a reply to @accuconference telling me what the drawing is will win 500 free conferencing minutes with us.  The contest will begin right now and the winner will be the first @ reply I get in my inbox.  Good luck everyone!

 

Ready?  Go!

 

  Update:  @klmonline is our bg winner this week. If you didn't win, no problem, we'll play again next week. I'm going to have to make it harder on you though. Here's the full picture below featuring Beaker and Elmo from Sesame Street. Happy Friday everyone!

 



Beaker and Elmo are the property of  Sesame Street and PBS.

Destination Wedding

 I am very excited. One of my friends from high school is getting married this summer. She’s also family, her sister has been married to my brother for about 10 years, and I would love to go spend some time with her and wish her all the best.

The problem?

She lives in Scotland. The wedding will be held there and sadly, I’m just not in a position where I can afford to hop a plane, fly to Scotland, and stay in a hotel for a few days. Not only is that an expensive trip, but the medical risks of a long flight make attending impossible for me. I’m sure I’ll get a ton of pictures and hopefully my sister in law will come back with a recording, but it would mean a lot to me to get to see her marry her sweetheart.

Then I had a thought. I used video conferencing with my dad to “hang out” last week. Why not do that for a wedding you’re having in rural Nebraska or in Times Square? I remember from planning my wedding that we had a very limited budget and that sadly, some people just had to be cut from the guest list.  I would have liked them to attend, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Had I known then what I know now, I would have had a video conference.

When weddings are planned, RSVPs are requested so that we know who’s attending. You can do the same thing with the video conference of your wedding. Many couples are setting up “wedding pages” where they the host information about the upcoming nuptials. Plan a video conference for your wedding, set up a registration page, and host the link on your wedding website. If you set up your registration page to request mailing addresses, you can go back in once the event is over, see who attended, and mail them a thank you card.

My only question now is why didn’t I think of this two years ago?

Save Time or Waste Time?

One of the things I love about customer service is that there is always a new way of getting a hold of someone.  When online ordering became the big thing, I was very excited. Is there anything better than not having to pick up the phone and order a pizza? I hate calling restaurants. I hate speaking to airline customer service – nothing against them; I’m just a very flustered customer. It’s easier for me to do things online and I’m more comfortable with that. The more I order services and food online, the more I have different experiences.

Last Thursday, the office ordered lunch from a very popular sandwich joint here in the area. We eat early when we order as an office, so I went online, put in everyone’s order and selected a delivery time between 11 and 11:30. It was about 10:20 AM, so I figured that was at least an hour, it had to be plenty of time. I was wrong. Not too long after that I got a call from them, letting me know that it would actually be closer to 12:30. Two hours later. She said they were behind in deliveries. My question? Why could I place an online order for that time period? Should that be changed when that delivery time is no longer available? I think so.

This morning, I was ordering an airline ticket and this little message popped up asking me if I wanted to talk to a live person. No. No I don’t, I’m handling my purchase online. If I wanted to talk to someone I would have. If I need help, I promise I’ll call you.  I think I’m more bugged by this because it implies that if you spend a certain amount of time on the site, you must be stuck. For me, I was trying to do a million things at once and I had something else to handle before I could finish my purchase. I don’t need you to tell me I need help; I’ll tell you when I need your assistance.

On a side note, my plane ticket purchase was made successfully, without the need for the airline rep to call me.

What about online ordering has made your life easier? Have you had an experience like above or do you simply skip ordering online a go to the real person?

Video Conference Brings Relief

With all the sad images and stories that are coming out Haiti right now, it’s hard to find something that might make you smile through the face of tragedy. We have been bombarded with images of death, hunger, pain, sadness, and fear. How can you help but to lose hope when you see something like that?

Check out this heartwarming video about a Portland, Oregon, family who was waiting on word about the three boys they in the process of adopting. In the middle of telling their story to ABC, they were interrupted with a video conference that showed that their children to be alive and safe. The joy and relief on their faces is a tiny glimmer of hope surrounded by news that seems to get worse every day. Their joy, which became my joy when I saw it, was all thanks to a tiny little thing called a web camera.

Just moments ago, a plane landed in Pittsburg full of Haitian orphans who were waiting to go home to their US families. The United States has helped to cut some of the red tape that sometimes moves the adoption process slowly so that these children can be placed with their new families sooner.

According to adoption.com, 301 children were adopted from Haiti by families in the United States in 2008, with many more waiting to be adopted.  In the shadow of the earthquake’s devastation, it’s brought the concerns of adoptive parents, waiting to hear about their children, to the front of the news. Besides this story, there are many floating the internet about the power of the video conference to give many adoptive parents some relief and happiness to see their children are well.

With the devastation in Haiti so vast, these stories are sometimes overlooked as we try to fully grasp the severity of the situation. If you’ve heard an uplifting story about the people of Haiti, I want to hear it. Share it below and let’s find a place to go when it all just seems too sad.

PS - If you want to help, you can donate online to the Red Cross or add a ten dollar donation to your cell phone bill by texting “Haiti” to 90999 or view a verified list of organizations.

Turn Out The Light

I did something really silly this weekend. I’ve decided I don’t get outside enough so now, I walk over to the mailbox every day, rather than stop on my way in from work or the grocery store. Good plan right?

I had an enjoyable time on my walk yesterday until I go home and realized there was no key to my apartment. It must have fallen out on the way and now I was locked out. I could always try to wake my husband up to get back inside, and that’s a big if, he sleeps like a rock that was hit with a bigger rock. Even if I did get back inside, it didn’t stop the fact that my key would be out in the grass somewhere. When horrible images flooded my mind, I decided I had to find it. (Rachel, I’m really sorry I teased you when you lost your apartment key and was spazzing.) Retracting my steps, I had no luck. I was sure I looked like a prowler as I walked the grass for more than an hour.  I was tired. I was cold. I was stuck. I called my Mama, because, well, that’s what I do.  

Her suggestion? “Maranda, go sit down by the pool, relax for a second, let the sun go down, and you’ll see it when the flood lights turn on.” We chatted for a few and when the sky went pink, I started looking again. Within ten seconds, I was in possession of my key and three very important lessons.
1.)    Mama’s are smart. No matter what, you always listen.
2.)    I need to purchase some sort of giant key ring that beeps or says my name.
3.)    Sometimes, closing your eyes is the way out of the dark.

I spent what felt like forever out in the day light trying to find the key and I had looked right where it was probably thirty times. It wasn’t until it went a little dark that I could see clearly.  My frustration was blinding me, I couldn’t see anything but my need to find my key and go home.

No matter what you’re looking for or what has you stuck, be it putting together a presentation or if you have writers block, sometimes the best thing to do it step back, let it get dark, and gain a new perspective. What do you think? 

Secret Talents

I have to show you what our resident artist Amber did on our white board. It's been a little chilly here lately she decided to put Jack Frost in the office so he can mock us. Yes, 50 degrees with a wind is chilly. It's Texas. Our faces melt off in the summer, we're a warm blooded people.  



Pretty cool huh? No one knew she could do this until she started just doodling around on a notepad. Just goes to show that everyone has something they are really good at, but no one knows. It could be something that you don’t even realize is a talent until someone else points it out to you.

Do you have a secret talent? What is it?

 

What Is Honesty?

I know there is an actual definition to the word, but looking it up is irrelevant. Honesty, when you really put your mind to it, is a different thing for everyone. We all have our own versions of being honest, what we consider to be personal honesty and what we have as expectations of others being honest. We may not agree on what we feel is dishonesty.

Is full disclosure better as a company or is it "okay to omit"? Imagine you sell clothes online and you get a call from someone having difficulty ordering a product. The reason they can’t add this product to their shopping cart is because you no longer carry that item. The reason it's still on the website is because the webmaster hasn't taken it down yet. What do you say to your customer? Is it "I'm sorry we no longer carry that item, is there something else I can help you find?" or "I'm sorry, that item is currently out of stock."

Do you see the distinction here?

Personally, my vote is for the first response. I'll tell you why : If you tell the customer you no longer carry that, sure they might be disappointed, but you're also making the effort to help them find another product that will work. It's not the same, but it is an option. Customer service like that sticks in someone's mind. The second option will only drive the customer to find the "out of stock" product somewhere else.

What do you think? And be honest.

Family Conference

I taught my Dad how to video conference last night. It may have been the single most amusing experience of my entire life, and with my dad I’ve had quite a few funny moments. If anyone asked me where my sense of humor came from, I wouldn’t hesitate to answer that it was him. With my dad travelling for his job, we don’t get to see each other that much (right now, we haven’t seen each other since before Christmas) so last night, he had some down time, so I decided to take him into the new technological age.

Since I miss my dad I figured this would be a good experience for us both. He hooks up to the internet, we turn on our cameras, and we see and talk to each other. Easy enough? Not so much. For being a pretty technologically savvy guy my dad could not grasp the concept of “click here – turn on webcam”. This is a man who used to sit me on his knee and show me the ins and outs of MS-DOS. After about thirty minutes of trying to explain to him what to do, tell him I hadn’t turned on my camera yet and that’s why he couldn’t see me, I finally I got him straightened out. I was able to see my dad, something I haven’t done in nearly two months. It was welcome, even if it was just a video of him.

There are many times when we hold to something’s “intended” use. Video and web conferencing were originally designed to help ease the strain of business that operated around the world. We forget that sometimes, with new technologies we can make our lives easier as a whole.

What other business practices can we incorporate into our everyday lives that might make things a little easier?

Additional Hassle

Since Christmas Day, weary travelers have been trekking through airports worldwide with one thought in mind: How long is this going to take? The TSA already recommended that you give yourself one to two hours for security checkpoints before your flight, especially when flying to international locations or in to the United States. Since the failed bombing on Christmas Day, security is even tighter. Now, the TSA website states that "At this time, security checkpoint requirements for passengers departing U.S. airports remain the same. Passengers do not need to do anything differently, but they may notice additional security measures at the airport." Interesting, since the day that Joan Rivers can't get on a plane and people are detained for not exposing the amount of money they make seems like more than just "additional security measures". Taking my shoes off is an additional security measure, limiting the amount of liquid I can take on my carry-on bag is an additional security measure. Getting a full body scan is a bit more than an "additional measure" and a bomb sniffing German Sheppard is not the way I was to spend my time hanging out in the terminal. Good luck if you're trying to fly into the United States from another country.

Why are we still putting ourselves through the hassle? In the past it had always been about trying to close a deal or do some training but with conference call providers that can do audio, desktop and web sharing, I have to ask, what's the point of the headache when you can easily do something different? Set up a conference, stay in your office, and avoid the delays. I can guarantee no one on the conference is going to mistake your white chocolate mocha as an explosive device.

AccuConference | Conference Calling Fights Rising Hotel Costs

Conference Calling Fights Rising Hotel Costs

"… According to the Travel Industry Association, average domestic air fares actually dropped 1.3 percent in August compared with August 2006. But other factors, especially a 6.5% rise in average hotel rates, drove up overall travel costs by 2.4 percent for the month."
From the New York Times 10/2/07 "Conference Calling as Plan A, With Flying as a Backup"

Travel costs are rising and so are travel headaches. Not only do busy executives have to hassle with longer lines at airline checkins, long flight delays, and security check headaches, but add a 6.5% increase in the average cost of a hotel room. There just isn’t a better time for executives to be looking for a cost efficient alternative to travel for some business needs.

Conference Calling is just one of the solutions that top executives routinely implement as a cost saving measure to improve the bottom-line. With travel expenses up nearly 2.4% for September alone, the squeeze to find replacements to business travel is top priority for concerned business owners.

It used to be that the technology that drove conference Calling and Web conferencing was expensive, hard to use, and spotty in stability, but with new advances and new technology this has certainly changed. Conference Calling is a truly viable consideration in light of the overall increases in the cost of business travel.

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