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Oct
13
2009
Making the Main Event George Page

The hardest part of putting on a big event isn't getting it to start on time, or breaking the ice.  In fact, it isn't even during the event itself.  The hardest part is all the days, weeks, and months before "showtime," when all the planning and preparation occurs.  Here's a few ways that teleconferences can improve your main event by making the before-hand easier.

1.  Planning Sessions – The bigger the event, the more planning it needs.  And sometimes, the big planning meeting can be as complex as the big event.  By using conference calls instead of "getting everyone together," you can fit planning into more people's schedules, and be able to meet more often.  As an added bonus, the conference call recording can be made available for playback in case anyone missed a vital part of the plan.

2.  Juggling Collaboration – Events are a composite of the services of many different groups of people.  For example, the caterer, the band, and the valet company--to name a few--need to be on the same page, especially if there is a central theme.  A good way to convey that theme is to have the key players join your web conference.  You can go over scheduling and such, but you can also share pictures, videos, designs; anything to give them a good idea of the grand motif so that they can play their parts better.

3.  Guest Management – I just received and accepted a party evite.  It told me the directions, time and date, and costume theme; everything I needed to know.  For a much bigger event, there will probably be a need for something more.  If you have guest registration, why not give them a conference call code after they fill in their information.  When they dial-in, they can hear a recording that plays a message from you telling them thanks, what to expect, details of the event, and whatever else you think they'll need.

The key to planning, preparing, and organizing a big event is communication.  It helps keep things smooth and efficient, not to mention getting things finished long before the eleventh hour.  Have you tried using teleconferences to get ready for a big event?  Tell us about it.

Jul
30
2009
Rules of the Remote George Page

Telecommute

A big perk these days is the opportunity for employees to have a day or two where they work from a home office.  They get to be productive—sometimes getting more done in less time—avoid a commute, and of course, work in their bathrobe.  But a justifiable concern for a company with remote workers is making sure the work gets done, communication stays strong, and discipline doesn't fall overboard.

If your company is considering an off-site program, has had one for a while, or even simply has a few concerns, then you'll be interested in a the rules for telecommuting that I found in an article on ManageSmarter.com.  These are my top two favorites:

"Manage Results Not Activity" – It's easy—and tempting—to monitor instant message programs for inactivity icons, track emails sent, or login/logout times, but it's also time-consuming and counter-productive.  Remember the point of "work" is to get things done.  While the urge is strong to get the most for your money out of an employee, you want results, not activity.  Establish timelines and objectives for remote employees, then monitor if things get done and on time.  If the "idle message" is more common with a particular employee, maybe they need more to do, or less time to do it in.

"Define Rules of Responsiveness" – How soon should you expect a reply to an email?  What about an instant message, or even a voicemail?  Does everyone at the company—telecommuting or not—know what's appropriate for each communication medium?  Establish guidelines for responding to emails, instant messages, missed calls, voicemails, texts, and possibly even tweets on Twitter.com.  Once everyone is on the same page, if there is sluggish communication from someone, you'll know there's an issue rather than suspect one.

What are your rules for the various forms of communication?  How do you keep tabs on remote workers?  Leave a comment and share your off-site or home office program experiences.

Jul
27
2009
The Power of Presentation Visuals George Page

Carefully compared to a lecture in an auditorium, a web conference is only somewhat different.  The audience can't see you, but they can hear you very well.  And much like an auditorium, you can have documents, graphs, and video placed in front of the audience's eyes with perfect timing.  The content of your presentations—both in a web conference and an auditorium--can be greatly enhanced by visuals, but what if your visuals are subpar?  Will your presentation be greatly affected?

According to Dave Paradi, poor visuals can only lessen the impact of an auditorium presentation.  Paradi's example entailed a lecture by an esteemed academic and expert in his field.  While the studies and conclusions were well researched and told to the audience clearly, the visuals were poor and not used very effectively.  However, Paradi says that the content of the presentation was well received by the audience anyway.

Paradi's conclusion is that "great content will trump poor visuals."  The audience will leave informed and enlightened, but not to the extent they could have been.  For a lecture in an auditorium, I agree with Paradi.  When you stand in front of an audience, you are the presentation, not your visuals.  Your words—and body language—can only be enhanced by pictures, video, and such. 

For a web conference presentation, I disagree completely; great content can be sunk by poor visuals.  After all, in a web conference there is only your voice and visuals to drive the presentation.  If the graphs are confusing, the pictures blurry, and the documents not spell-checked, the participants can be greatly distracted from what you're saying.

However, I do like Paradi's solution, and it's even more effective for web conferences: create the presentation and the visuals separately.  Don't fire up PowerPoint and use it to create your outline and main points.  Don't look for pictures to talk about. 

Leave all but a blank page to write your presentation, and only afterwards find great visuals to enhance the content of your web conferences.

Apr
29
2009
How To Prepare For Your First Conference Call George Page

If you've only attended a conference call, but never actually hosted or presented on a call before, we've collected our best tips to help make your first conference call a success.

Make sure everyone has the correct time, date, dial-in number, and pin.
Prepare to have to provide this again to those who may lose it or forget or panic before they arrive to the conference call (usually those who are new to attending conference calls).

Hand out agenda or presentation printouts before the call.
Some presenters prefer not to give hand-outs before a call, but it's much easier to track the presentation when you have something to look at. Those who don't give hand-outs before risk getting a lot of questions about whether or not there will be printouts, so just save yourself some time and hand them out before, so everyone has something to look at.

Prepare yourself with back-up notes and reminders to speak clearly and calmly.
Have notes or index cards with your main points and remind yourself to speak slowly. Remember that the faster you go through your material, the more confusion and questions there will be. Plus, as you force yourself to speak slowly, you'll calm yourself down automatically. Not that we're encouraging you to be boring! Nothing wrong with talking animatedly! People love that.

Don't be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake.
You might stumble over words or mispronounce a name, but don't worry about it. Everyone makes mistakes. If you make a mistake, just keep right on going, or chuckle a bit, if that helps smooth it over. Be gracious if someone points out your mistake, and say thanks. People will remember that more than the mistake.

End on time and don't keep people for more than ten extra minutes.
Don't go over by much. If you state your call will be an hour, try to stick to that time. Nothing is worse than sitting for another twenty minutes waiting for the presenter to attempt to wrap it up. People will drop off the call if you keep going for too long. Once you've delivered your message and taken appropriate questions, feel free to sign off.

See, you did it! You're now a pro! A conference call is actually really fun. It's a great way to feel connected on a project, inspire a group of people, or to feel as if you're in the same room and not a long ways away.

Apr
27
2009
Conferencing with Twitter George Page

Twitter

Let's say we're having one of those quick conference calls that turns into a big deal.  We're outdialing to get others in the loop, shooting emails back and forth, instant messaging, and switching between lecture mode and open conference to get ideas while maintaining order.  That's a lot of information flying around.

Now let's say we setup a private Twitter account.  We'll call it, "CompanyXconference," and since its private, only our conference "friends" can see what's on it.  Think of it as a virtual whiteboard that never runs out of space, and we hold the dry erase marker.

As the meeting progresses, we tweet questions- and answers - people's ideas, what's being talked about, and whatever else we want to record and share.  Then after the meeting, instead of sending an email of the minutes of the meeting to everyone, people can just look at their CompanyXconference friend.

Audio conferencing and Twitter don't always have to be private.  If we're hosting a large conference for customers and potential customers, a public Twitter board might work better.  We could tweet what part of the agenda we're on and what's coming next.  Any websites we want attendees to check out can be linked in a tweet.  And presentation materials can be distributed/downloaded with tweeted links as well.

Perhaps the best part of a conference call with customers, potential customers, and Twitter is the networking possibilities.  If you're getting people to watch your tweets during a conference, it's an easy step to have them "follow" you and be "followed."  And once they're following you, they'll see your updates and announcements, and you can keep in touch with them; formally or informally.

These are just a few ideas, how have you used Twitter with your business?  Leave a comment and tell us all about it!

Mar
30
2009
Picking the Right Conference Call Service George Page

As more and more companies choose to do business utilizing conference calling, the question is often asked of us: How do I know exactly what kind of conferencing tools I'll need?

We feel that when you choose a conference call service, you should keep in mind future conferencing needs, even if you're sure now you'll never need anything that fancy later on. We always encourage folks to keep their options open.

Accuconference offers a wide range of conferencing tools, some of them you definitely need now and some you don't. However, adding the ability to share applications later is always an option, so no worries.

I just want to host a straightforward conference call.

A simple conference call among a smaller group (less than fifty) will require a conference line, invitations, and a date that works for everyone taking part in the meeting. Check it out.

What if I want to add a PowerPoint presentation?

Web conferencing allows you to share, review and revise documents or web pages, demo products or present a proposal—all in real-time, sharing the same screen space. Look here.

How about video? I really think it's important that people can see me as I speak.

Video conferencing will never replace the in-person meeting, but it will support your business meetings by providing you with unique ways to interact. The online collaborative tools can enhance a meeting in ways that can't be done in person. Find out more here.

Plus, Accuconference offers recording playback at your convenience, secure conference controls right from your computer desktop, and toll-free customer support for any questions you may have. A full list of our customer benefits is here.

Often people aren't sure about teleconferencing because they're nervous about learning how teleconferences work, not sure if everything will run smoothly at the right moment, and general nervousness about having to speak with a group via the telephone.

We can't help you with your nerves (talking on the phone in a teleconference will get easier over time, we promise), but we can promise a stress-free, easy to use experience when you choose our teleconferencing system. Our rates are reasonable and well-priced when compared with other conferencing services, and we offer outstanding customer service. And I mean outstanding. Our customer service specialists will and often do bend over backward to help our clients with any issue.

Still not sure about conferencing even after that amazing list of benefits?

If you have any questions or want more information on how Accuconference can help you with your teleconferencing needs, please let us know.

Mar
18
2009
How to Crush Creativity George Page

In some companies -- especially large ones – creativity is expected and encouraged only by those paid to be creative.  The rest of the employees are expected to follow policies and procedures, keep quiet, and do what their told.  Of course it's never expressed like that, but the end results are the same.

But where do good ideas come from?  Where is the next gem that will send sales skyrocketing?  A spark of creativity can hit anyone at anytime.  When that does happen, it's best to support both the idea and the person.  Richard Highsmith of BusinessKnowHow writes some tips on how to NOT encourage creativity in the workplace.

First, remember that a man is an island.  Your employees get a paycheck and should be grateful for this.  Any ideas they have were probably inspired by your greatness and are therefore yours.  Plus, you're insulating them from upper management and office politics.

Of course, who are they to suggest anything anyway?  You know best about your company and department.  Only you can see the forest because they are all pruning trees.  Because of this, make sure you tell them your (better) opinions often.  How else will they know what's going on.

By just reading the title of this post I'm sure you realized that I don't really want to encourage the crushing of creativity.  However, I'm sorry to say the above examples aren't made up.  If avoiding these examples are ways to have more creativity in the workplace, what are some proactive things you can do?

Well, realize that other people can have good ideas, no matter their station in life.  If you can't be congratulated for coming up with something creative, at least you can be known as having the foresight, intuition, and humbleness to be able to spot and implement someone else's good idea.

But you can't spot what isn't there, so ask people their opinions about problems.  Have meetings to let anyone throw any idea out there.  Let people know that their thoughts are welcome, appreciated, and most importantly, listened to.

Posted by George Page, Communication Specialist

Jan
05
2009
Encouraging Initiative in the Workplace George Page

Initiative is a character trait highly prized by employers.  It's a good trait to have on your resume.  It's what separates the leaders from the doers.  If someone is lacking in initiative, that doesn't mean they are a bad employee, just a mediocre one.  Sometimes though, employees are too fearful or comfortable to show initiative or make big decisions.

An employee that won't speak up or follow their instincts can be detrimental to your business.  However, in a lot of cases you can encourage these employees to show initiative.  Managing "comfeartable" employees doesn't have to be an ordeal.  It can be a matter of shifting office culture, or simply encouraging one person.

A big step is to let your employees know that it's okay to show initiative, to make big decisions.  Some people hold back because they are afraid of consequences for mistakes.  We all know there are good and bad mistakes – "strong effort, weak results" -- but employees need to know that they won't be punished for the good mistakes.

Everyone has varying degrees of stage fright, and it's possible that someone doesn't speak up in meetings because of an audience.  If you tend to get great ideas from someone, but only in private, maybe their stage fright is getting in the way.  Make the next meeting they are in a conference call.  They won't have all those people looking at them and may feel freer to contribute.

Initiative takes courage.  Some people have courage, and some need encouragement for their courage to come out.  Speak to them in specifics and go into details on how they can step-up to a challenge, how best to meet it head on, and how they will be rewarded if they do.

Posted by George Page, Communication Specialist

Aug
29
2008
The Facebook and Twitter Usage at Work Debate Continues George Page

Facebook | Twitter

Facebook and Twitter's impact on your job and your ability to keep it is back in the spotlight. Eweek.com reports on the ongoing argument about allowing it at work.
"Gartner analysts Anthony Bradley and Nikos Drakos say corporations should not ban social applications such as Twitter or social networks such as Facebook and MySpace in the enterprise.

"Their arguments come after banks such as Credit Suisse Group have stopped their employees from using such tools.

"Web collaboration tools are software applications that help users connect with each other to work on projects or to share information. They are key ways for users to leverage the Internet in the enterprise, allowing users to e-mail, send instant messages, set up Web conferences or create shared wiki sites.

"Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Lotus Connections are examples of these tools tailored for the enterprise. But with 90 million-plus users leveraging Facebook, businesses are increasingly looking at the social network as a business networking tool, the way professionals leverage LinkedIn.

"Partly because of this utility in the workplace, Bradley argued that organizations should not shun Web participation for fear of bad behavior.

"Instead, they should create a trust model and policies that dictate fair use of Facebook and its cousins, as well as microblogging tools such as Twitter and Plurk. This trust model would include a definition of community and its characteristics, the likelihood of positive and negative behaviors, and a framework for guiding behaviors."

The Tri-CityHerald.com talks about how a Facebook profile can either land you the job or land you in hot water.

"Want a job?

"Forget about getting together all the usual stuff. You know, that booooring list of education, references, experience, previous jobs, blah, blah, blah ....

"First, you better take a hard look at your Facebook profile.

"Scour it for ‘inappropriate' content, suggests new research published by Katherine Karl of Marshall University and Joy Peluchette of the University of Southern Indiana.

"And what exactly might that content be? Well, this won't surprise folks who are 40 or more, but it must be a revelation to many twentysomethings. Otherwise, they probably wouldn't post it for millions to see.

"Among the ‘inappropriate' materials for your Facebook page are comments about sexual activity, alcohol abuse, drug use, profanity and negative attitudes about work.

"That's according to Megan Childs, a marketing communications coordinator for IGI Global in Hershey, Pa.

"The researchers studied 148 graduate students taking human resources and organizational behavior courses. The students played the role of hiring manager and were provided access to five job applicants' Facebook profiles."

I say, let Facebook help hiring managers and for those of us who use Facebook as a professional tool, why not let us network and socialize? What do you think?

May
22
2008
Tips on how best to run your business from home George Page

Work is work. Home is home. Running your business from home may be convenient, but you still have to keep home and work separate. Here are some tips to make this a bit easier.

  1. Find your own space. You need to have a place where the only activity permitted is work. A den, a spare room, your corner of the basement, or any place that gives you some measure of privacy, so you can do your work uninterrupted. A room with a door is best, especially when you have customer contact and conference calls.
  2. Have a business only phone line and separate office equipment. Your business shouldn't have to compete with the other activities in your household. Establish clear boundaries so that others know your priorities in these areas.
  3. Establish specific "office hours". Family and friends need to know that you may be at home, but you're still at work. Personal calls take a back seat and may be returned at a more appropriate time. You're not at home for their convenience.  This means you're not available for chores and helping with errands and other distractions.
  4. When the office is closed, leave it closed. Make an effort not to drift in and out of work once your business day has ended. The convenience of working from home means having your work available 24 hours.  Home and work both suffer when you ebb and flow between them.
  5. Don't overlook the "green" benefits of working from home. With no commutes, your stress level goes down. You're saving hundreds of hours of drive time, thousands of gallons of gas, and keeping tons of carbon from entering our atmosphere. Don't blow your good works by jetting off to meet a client. Consider a virtual meeting. The technology exists that allows you to meet with clients and coworkers without ever seeing an airport.

Running your business from home has its challenges. When considering the benefits to you, your family and the environment, the impact would seem to do us all a world of good.

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