Compelling Content

In the blogging world, we talk a lot about engaging our audience (Twitter, fan pages, comment threads) and how that’s going to make for a more rewarding experience for both you and the reader. How can you take the ideas of reaching out to an audience with written words, and make them feel the same closeness with spoken word?

Many times when you’re dealing with a conference call, you’re going to be speaking to people who may not necessarily want to be there, but have to be there. How do you engage an audience that isn’t really keen to listening to you right now?

Games. Conferences that involve training are easy. Anything can be more fun if competition is thrown into the mix so set up a contest for your teams and include it as part of the invitation. It can be a simple game, but it’s best to make it tie into your conference topic somehow. There’s always a way to start a game and have some fun, even if it is business. For example, if your conference is a safety meeting, find or take a picture that has a lot of unsafe situations, and have your different participants figure out the things in the picture that are unsafe. The person who gets the most, gets to leave an hour early on a Friday.

Ask Questions. If you’re having a recurring conference, you should always leave your participants with something to think about between the last conference and the one now. It can be any kind of question that will help to lead you into the next conference. Any time you can make people think at the very end, you’ll keep them wanting more.

Be passionate. You’re a part of the company you are with for a reason. No matter what the conference topic is about, you should believe in it with your full heart, no hesitation or second guessing allowed. When you speak, speak emphatically. Explain to your participants why this is an important topic and how it affects them. If you want your team to get behind what you’re talking about, you will first have to prove to them that you are.

Humor, passion, and questions are used on many blogs to keep the audience excited about the topic at hand.

How do you keep your audience engaged on a conference?  

Culture Conference

So here’s something that you may not think about.  

Mostly, conferencing – all kinds, video, audio, and desktop have been used as an alternative to stuffy board room conferences for a long time. But there are many parts in the world where conferencing is a brand new experience.

One thing that is very exciting is seeing the applications of conferencing in smaller, poorer countries. I once had the pleasure of recording a conference between a school district and some “adopted” students in Africa. With a simple web camera and a telephone, the school district was able to cross a cultural divide that stretched from the North Pole to the South Pole. I didn’t listen in on things, just monitored to make sure that the recording of their video was going well, but I could see looks of joy on the faces of the adopted students.

Many programs are popping up to use some form of conferencing for education. The world is such a melting pot now, that it’s almost necessary to be able to understand the cultures of the world in order to succeed.

How will you immerse yourself in another culture and world today?

So here’s something that you may not think about.  

Mostly, conferencing – all kinds, video, audio, and desktop have been used as an alternative to stuffy board room conferences for a long time. But there are many parts in the world where conferencing is a brand new experience.

One thing that is very exciting is seeing the applications of conferencing in smaller, poorer countries. I once had the pleasure of recording a conference between a school district and some “adopted” students in Africa. With a simple web camera and a telephone, the school district was able to cross a cultural divide that stretched from the North Pole to the South Pole. I didn’t listen in on things, just monitored to make sure that the recording of their video was going well, but I could see looks of joy on the faces of the adopted students.

Many programs are popping up to use some form of conferencing for education. The world is such a melting pot now, that it’s almost necessary to be able to understand the cultures of the world in order to succeed.

How will you immerse yourself in another culture and world today?

Spend the Day At Home

We all know the large scale reasons to have a conference call: save on your bottom line, keep up production, and the like.  I’ve thought of a few other reasons that you may not think about until you’ve spent the day at your home office.

You were embarrassed to buy those fuzzy slippers, so you should wear them all day
. Wasn’t it painful taking them up to the register and trying not to make eye contact with the person ringing you up? When you slid your card through the machine you hoped that no one was paying attention to your name on the card and that no one will know that Bob Smith bought fuzzy house slippers. So go ahead, stay in them, you earned it.

Let’s be honest, it’s cold outside. Most of the United States has some form of winter precipitation hanging around.  That means its cold outside. Don’t be ashamed to step outside, pull your jacket, only to turn around and go back inside. I’m not going to judge you. The DFW area got a foot of snow a few weeks ago and it was the craziest thing I have ever seen. I do however reserve the right to point and laugh at you when its 80 degrees in the middle of July and you complain that it’s hot.
 
Those leftovers aren’t going to eat themselves.
  There are some things that just taste better the next day, like chili and lasagna. These are also items that are cooked in bulk, which means there are going to be a lot of leftovers. So why not stay at home, have a conference call, and help yourself to a second helping of chili? I like mine with tons of shredded cheese.

Kick off –or on—your fuzzy slippers and hang out in the nice warm house today.

Get Pushy

So this is my desk.

Yes it’s a different desk than around Christmas time. I had enough of that tiny little corner and I like being out in the office. The drawback of my new desk is that it’s a glass top, so every time I turn around there is another smear smudge. For most people, this is no big deal; but for me it might as well be a punch in the face.

Today I decided to do a test. I spilled something on my desk that smeared when I wiped it up. I am now going on thirty minutes of this big nasty smudge staring at me. If I’m completely honest with myself I will admit that it is driving me a bit insane. I was going to clean it up right away, but as a self proclaimed clean freak, I decided to test myself.

How long can I allow this smudge to sit here, unanswered? I am completely out of my comfort zone and I keep staring at it like it has eyes and we could have a stare off contest. The point of this is that I’m breaking my boundaries, getting out of my comfort zone and learning how much I really can take.

Maybe I don’t need the desk as clean as I thought. So far, it’s going on two hours and I haven’t had an anxiety attack yet. If I hadn’t pushed myself, I never would have known.

Will you push yourself today?

White Gold

Happy Friday to you all. Amber took a little spin on the board today with her rendition of the flaming tomato.

 

 
 

Time Tips

There are a ton of things to consider when planning a conference. Believe it or not, one of the considerations that can give you the biggest headache is “What time?”. Here are three things to take into consideration when setting your conference time.
 
Be advised. Always alert participants that the time zones listed on the meeting invitation may not reflect their time zone. Be sure to note on the invitation what time zone you’re listing things in. For example, our company is in central time, so anytime you hear us refer to times, it would be CST. We note all the major US time zones on invitations and agreements, so hopefully; we can help keep things clear.

Special Considerations. When the US goes on Daylight Savings Time, everyone skips ahead an hour – except for the state of Arizona. As confusing as it can be for you, I’ve actually found it is pretty confusing for them too. When DST is in effect, it’s a good idea to note your invitation that the times reflect daylight savings.  

International Participants. When setting up your meetings, remember when dealing with international participants they can sometimes be up to a day ahead of you currently time wise.
 
Knowing who is invited to your conference and where they are located makes the planning process smoother as well as helping things move along well. Being well prepared will help relieve your stress and make things go a little smoother so that you can focus on the reason why everyone is together.
 
Besides time zones, what are some other things to consider when planning a conference?

Fighting Mother Nature

 

 

It’s been an active winter across the US, we even had a white Christmas here in DFW, something that hasn’t happened in about 20 years. Last week, the Northeast was struck with what has been dubbed “Snowmageddon” and they are slated to get another round of heavy snow this week. Snow has a nasty habit of crippling travel, business, and even education as airline travel stalls and classes get cancelled. Today, widespread air travel delays and cancellations are already striking airports from Washington DC to Philadelphia, which will only serve to ripple across the US.
 
Weeks like this make it important to have some sort of backup plan in place and a conference call is the perfect fit for trying to keep your business moving, even when cars and jets cannot. Instead of having to cancel a meeting that many people probably cleared their schedule for, you can apologize for inclement weather and send them conferencing information instead.
 
As an educator, you can still invite your students to their lectures and classes, so as not to fall behind, via conferencing. Since a lot of professors include PowerPoint presentations in their lectures, you can include a link to share that over the web.  This way classes still continue as planned, as well as business.
 
Mother Nature loves to play tricks on us all, the question is, are you prepared for her to bring it on?

Free Your Mind

As a married woman, I often feel that my husband and I differ in our tastes in television and music. I guess Paula Abdul was right about opposite’s attracting. One thing that we can agree on is that I am a music freak and he loves trying to find new things he thinks I might like. Often he comes to me with a proud smile and tells me that he found something he thinks I’ll love.  

I usually stare at him skeptically because with him, you never can tell what you’re about to get. Sometimes, he brings me a song that I listen to and immediately make a face. However, there are many times when he brings what I would consider to be some of my favorite songs to me.

If not for him and his somewhat strange musical tastes, I would not know the wonders of Muse or Sneaker Pimpz (“Destroying Angel” specifically).  What’s the point of saying this? I would never have known some of my favorite bands if I didn’t have an open mind. I would have just scoffed and told him that I wouldn’t like it, rather than give it a chance. Now, there have been plenty of times that I’ve listened to ten seconds of a song and turned it off. But at least I gave it a shot.

Having an open mind is essential to business. It can be something like considering a new process or even defining a new way of thinking. “Innovators” in their business would not have been such if not for having open minds. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and even Henry Ford would not have an impact on the world if they weren’t able to look at things openly.  What about the first company to go “green”? They had to have open minds to even embrace a new way of thinking – one that has spread like wildfire.

When someone in your company comes to you with a new idea, it’s important to listen, consider, and then make a decision. Saying no right off the bat will get you nothing but an employee who thinks their contributions aren’t appreciated. No matter what the suggestion is – from different creamers in the break room to trading in expensive conventions for conference calls, it’s important to consider every idea that comes across your desk.

Take A Break

Oh, Twitter, how you give us a glimpse into the mind of the everyday office worker and how they feel about their day to day activities. Usually, that mild mannered office worker has a conference call to attend, from updating a team on procedures to going over financials.  Everyone is using conference calls to make their staff meetings go a little smoother, stay more productive, and save money on travel.  Most of the time, conference calls can go pretty quickly, but there are always those times when you know it’s going to be a long one – due to the topic or even the person who’s doing the presenting.

As the leader of a conference, you can do a lot to plan ahead for a conference call and have things in place to keep the attention of the attendees. However, nothing is fool proof and there’s always the chance that you are going to lose the audience. What can you do during a conference call to bring them back to attention? Here are a couple of suggestions to try on your next conference if you sense everyone is drifting.

Ask a question. Don’t call anyone out but throwing out a blanket question and pausing for a few beats afterwards can help pull everyone’s brains back into the task at hand. Don’t answer the question, just ask it.  A lot of times when people “zone out” hearing something new or that could require a response will draw them back in.

Take a break. Have a long conference planned? Schedule a break about halfway through. I would suggest this for any conference that is going to be an hour or longer. It doesn’t have to be a long break, maybe five minutes. Let people get up from their desks, stretch their backs and arms, and maybe get a refill of coffee. Then they come back and it’s like the call just began.

Switch speakers. Even if you’re talking about the same subject throughout the length of the conference, you can still bring a different voice on the call to finish up.  Not only does it help relax your vocal chords, but it will be a new sound and tone for your attendees to react to.  If you’re used to a sound or voice, it’s easier to drown it out, and bringing a new voice to the call can refocus everyone.  

There are some quick suggestions that can help you bring everyone back down to Earth during a conference call. Do you do anything differently? Have you ever tried these before? How do you prepare to refocus your group mid conference?

What We Can Learn from TV

Television, sometimes affectionately known as the “idiot box”, for the most part shows us nothing about the world.  Reality television has given us glances into human interaction that promote backstabbing, immunity challenges, and fist pumping. Programs that show us the deeper sides of human emotions can be passed over for programs that are full of drama. (Two exceptions come to mind: “The Biggest Loser” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”). TV is an escape and we don’t want to be “taught” anything from the things we do to distract ourselves from the stress of the day.

After the SuperBowl last night, CBS aired a show called “Undercover Boss”. The basic premise is a CEO of a major company immerses themselves in the day to day work of the average person in their company. Last night, we saw a CEO picking trash off a conveyer belt, collecting errant paper from a hillside, and steam cleaning port-a-potties. What things can we learn from this as business owners or management? I have some thoughts.

1.) Understanding your workforce will help you understand customers’ needs. Stream-lining processes, identifying understaffing issues, or changing the way things are done improves your productivity and directly affects your customers’ happiness.  Making it easier on the front line employee will help them make it easier for the customers.
2.) You can’t see the face of your company staring at numbers. Sure, numbers are the bottom line, and in the end, as the CEO it’s your responsibility to keep the company profitable. Remember that every “number” on the page is actually the face of someone who works tirelessly for you.

Did you watch “Undercover Boss”? Did you like it? I really enjoyed myself with it and I feel like it was trying to be socially relevant in a time when people feel like their head offices or CEO’s are a million miles away and have no real idea what goes on in their company. 

How are you going to connect to your workforce today?  

AccuConference | Improved Data Safety for Businesses

Improved Data Safety for Businesses

You hear in the news practically on a weekly basis these days about thousands of user or employee records being lost due to theft of a secure laptop or file. While most businesses don't have the responsibility of anything nearly that large, the personal information of your employees and your own proprietary information needs to stay secure. What steps have you taken to protect your employee's information and your own business data?

1. Are your employee records under lock and key? If they are accessed electronically, is the password changed often? Is it accessed often or do limited persons have it for their use? How do you know who is viewing your employee's information?

2. When hiring people to handle your HR or accounting work, do you run a background check? The idea of running background checks might not seem palatable to most business that don't handle large amounts of confidential data, but isn't the information you hold important?

3. Can your IT person point out to you ways a hacker can get inside your network or onto your internal website? A good internet technology person can set up hack-proof systems that keep company data safe.

4. If there is a breach, do you have a way to notify your clients, customers, and the media? What would be a necessary plan of action if such a breach occurred?

Small businesses that think they're not susceptible to data breaches are often those that fare the worst in such situations. Just a simple emergency plan in case a breach occurs may be a wise idea. If you don't usually lock a file cabinet or office, start locking it. If you're not sure who of your employees has access to secure files, find out. If you want to make sure that only you and a select group of employees has access to data, take steps to ensure that happens. Make sure your IT person is aware of who needs access and if necessary, take steps to ensure that you can remove access with a simple key stroke. All these measures may seem extreme to companies busy with clients and the day-to-day workload, but taking a moment to ensure your own peace of mind will go a long way. It's just one less thing to keep in the back of your brain, trust me!

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