Why Do We Accept Bad Behavior Online?

Spend a little time on the Internet and you'll run into one of two things happening in conversations: either people are being respectful and understanding, or they aren't. We spend so much time using text messages, email, and even message forums where our tone and meaning are lost. We've become a bit desensitized to the way we sound thanks to the Internet and other technological forms of communication, and sometimes we forget what the proper, polite rules are when it comes to speaking to someone directly.

The rules of communication on the Internet do not apply in polite face to face conversation. It's interesting to me some of the things we do online that (most) of us would never consider taking to the offline world. Our level of acceptance to some behaviors is increased or perhaps we just really like having access to that "ban IP" power. I've complied a little list of things that happen online that we would never accept in the offline world.

  • Writing in all caps is basically screaming. Would you walk up to a person and just go toe to toe with them and start screaming in their face? If your answer is anything other than 'no' then you're not emotionally equiped for face to face communication.
  • Pretending to be someone else is never acceptable in face to face communication. This is simply lying. It's one thing to be anonymous online but it's another to embrace a persona or a character and develop relationships along these lines. Eventually, you will have to fess up to the people that are in your community about who and what you really are, or someone will find out.
  • Asking a total stranger for a date (or worse) when you first meet them. Walking up to someone on the street and saying, "Hey, do you want a cup of coffee", will probably get you punched.
  • Call someone a name just because you can.
  • Starting arguments while using the name "anonymous". Imagine someone walking up to you on the street with their face covered in a Richard Nixon mask and trying to get you to talk politics or religion. I'd have a couple of knee jerk reactions, but none of them would be to share my thoughts on the upcoming election.
  • Using a repeat of you're stupid to validate yourself or your argument. Our conversation would not go far if we were face to face, so one has to wonder why we continue to "feed the troll" online.
  • Bring up a completely off topic and horrible offensive subject. Have you ever been standing in a group of friends and have a nice pleasent conversation when someone walks up and says something so horrible that it completely derails the entire vibe of the evening? No? Well, go spend an hour or two on a message board and you'll come across that eventually.
  • Stalk someone. The phrase "stalk" is thrown around on the Internet, but imagine for a moment if you followed your favorite celebrity around offline the way you did online. Twitter is their favorite coffee house, Facebook is their home, and I'm pretty sure at some point, you'd get reported to the police.
  • Threaten someone. Disagreeing with someone in the offline world happens, but it seems like sometimes online those interactions often end with a threat.

So my question is this - Why do we tolerate online what we wouldn't tolerate in face to face communication? Is it easier to turn a blind eye to people being rude, mean, or just downright creepy because we know that we can simply "delete" or "ignore" them online? I also want to know your "okay online but not face to face" rules.

Five People Who Don't Need an Invitation to Your Next Conference Call

It's not always your fault when you invite a good number of participants to your conferences and then don't get many attendees. When people don't want to join your conference calls it's usually because they feel like it's not worth their time to do so and there could be a couple of reasons for that. One of those reasons could be who you're inviting to your conferences. Some attendees can cause distractions on your conferences and makes the people who need to join the conference find something else to do.

The next time you send out conference call invitations you should consider keeping these distractions off the list.

The Boss

Sometimes, having the boss on a conference call can be more of a distraction than benefit. When the boss gets on the line, he or she may see the conference call as an opportunity to bring up topics that they feel are very important but do not have anything to do with the agenda for your meeting. The boss will seieze the opportunity of having everyone on the phone at the same time as a great moment to update on policy changes or ask questions. If you want to stick to your agenda or need to adhere to very specific time constraints, it might be better to email your boss the highlights of the conference call after it's over.

The Notetaker

When meetings happen there is a natural flow of conversation that seems to happen and it can happen at a quick pace. When someone is trying to jot down the information that is being discussed on the conference, they can easily miss something important or have to ask everyone to slow down so that they can get all of the information. When you have a conference call, be sure to take advantage of the recording option so that all of the information is stored, and there's no need to invite the notetaker.

Your Customer

We all love our customers but many times they just need to be briefly updated on what's going on. They don't always need to be a part of your teams conference call. In fact, they may not want to be and just feel obligated to attend because you've invited them. It's another good reason to record the conference call so you can provide it to the customer later, if they ask for it, or for you to use to keep track of what you're working on for them.

The Traveling Person

Unless the person who is traveling is imperative to the success or failure of a conference call topic, they do not need to attend the meeting. Dealing with the traveling employee is another great opportunity to use recording your conference calls to your advantage. More than likely, they will be relieved that they don't have to try to attend a conference call in the middle of an airport terminal, and you'll be thankful that you don't have to hear flight annoucements in the middle of your conference.

Having a conference is important to advancing your business and your plans with customers, especially when you're scattered all over like a lot of employees are. Having the conference isn't nearly as important as making sure it was worth everyone's time to attend. The first thing to do when it comes to having better conference is trim the fat and only invite the people who absolutely need to attend.

Mike Wallace’s Death Leaves Questions for Today’s Journalists

The sad news of veteran TV anchorman and 60 Minutes patriarch Mike Wallace passing this weekend moved a lot of people to stop and remember a pioneer in the field of journalism. Mike Wallace was known for his curveball interview style ("Forgive me...."), his documentary style presentations on 60 Minutes, and a number of lawsuits filed against him. He was also known for his personal losses (the death of his son in the 60s) and a personal battle with depression.

Over the last sixty years and his personal struggles, Mike Wallace leaves the world known as one of the most respected journalists in the world. His pace set the stage for many of the men from my father's generation - the late Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and even Dan Rather.

Mike's passing made me stop and take pause about the state of journalism today - what's changed and how journalists approach news stories today. The truth is that everything has changed since the days of Mike Wallace. People don't get their news in the same way that they did in the 1960's and before, and I can't help but wonder where are all the journalists?. In forty years, will my children be able to recognize the people who brought the news to the world? Will there be archives for them to reflect upon - the same way that I watched Walter Cronkite announce the death of JFK on a black and white news reel? Who will fill the gap in the newsroom? More importantly - will there even be a news room to fill?

The Landscape of "Journalism" Has Changed

Perhaps many of us don't want to admit it but the way that news is sent and received has changed. When Osama Bin Laden was killed, it was Twitter that knew first, thanks to the messages sent by a guy who was unknowingly live tweeting the Navy SEAL operation taking place near him. When social media networks often do a better job of getting news stories out to the masses, why would we wait until six PM to turn on the Nightly News to see what is going on in the world?

The advent of the 24 hour news networks (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc.) has also changed the way that we receive our news updates. Again, it becomes a question of why wait for the nightly news breaks. Even if I don't want to get my news from a source like social media, I have the ability and the option to tune the television to a news network right away. Breaking news is always the top of the news - and the 24 hour networks love to follow every piece of a story.

How does a "standard" journalist keep up with the always available news streams? What do they do to make people want to turn to them, instead of the 24 hour a day channels?

Enter the Journalistic Narrative

As my husband and I were discussing Mike Wallace and his passing, he made an excellent point. Journalism is nothing more than a narrative at this point. As much as we'd all like to say that there are still journalists who present the news in a way that doesn't have a slant, or a shtick, I wonder if there really are. Well - let me rephrase, I'm sure they are out there but no one is listening. Why? Because no one wants to read the facts. Journalism has evolved (devolved?) to the point that without a narrative, no one wants to read it.

When we read a news story we expect to read a story that panders to our beliefs. We want to read something that confirms our beliefs and opinions. We want to read or hear a presentation that will make us feel like the way we feel as an individual is validated by a news source. The ones that do not verify our opinions are the ones that we stay away from. If we think that the news is too serious, we turn our attention to the John Stewarts and Steven Colberts of the world.

But this appeal can go too far and that's where you start to get doctored 911 calls and documents. Even the respected Dan Rather was not immune to this phenomenon and got himself into trouble, and ultimately lost his position on the CBS Nightly News.

When did we stop watching the news to get the facts and instead turning our backs on the programs or outlets that didn't pander to us? Is it why so many people are now gathering their information from smaller sources - even down to the local outlets? Has the need to appeal turned the networks that created journalists like Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite to nothing more than content marketers?

When did all the journalists become storytellers?

The Fray Gets In Over Their Heads with The National Anthem

In high school, as part of a competition choir group, we were often asked to perform the National Anthem at different sporting events and activites around our community. The one thing I can clearly remember is our sweet choir teacher telling us that we would take it seriously or we would not participate. I can only imagine if I would have shown up on the field holding a tamborine. I would have neverbeen invited back.

So imagine my surprise when last night at the NCAA Championship Game, The Fray steps out with their guitars, a drum, and a tamborine. (Oh yes, a tamborine) You are welcome to watch it for yourself but lets just say, well, it was awful. In fact, it was worse than Roseanne Barr and she has the unfortunate title of "worst Star-Spangled Banner Ever". Truthfully, that title may be in question after last nights unessecary attempt by The Fray to change the National Anthem.


I didn't recognize it at first. In fact, I thought it was the "warm up" act or "America the Beautiful". As the guitar started to play in an off tempo, somewhat awkward beat, and the singing began, I felt my mouth fall open. The camera panned the crowd and even as they held their hands over their hearts, their mouths and facial movements seemed confused, scared even. When it was finally over, there was an awkward moment, and then applause - but it felt subdued, less like a celebration and more like relief. Relief that it was over and relief that the game was about to begin.

My boss put it best when he said You don't cover the National Anthem.

So to the Fray - I ask, in a manner indicitative of the resepct you showed the National Anthem - why didn't you just light the flag on fire and run away? Exactly who do you think you are that you need to be the ones to change the entire tempo, tone, and musical accompaniment to the Star-Spangled Banner? Even if your guitar had been in tune it would still have been awful.

What a lesson in humility this should be for all of us. Getting asked to perform the National Anthem would be a huge honor for anyone. Even as a teenager in a choir group I understood that. I also understood that my lack of respect for the moment would mean that I would not get to participate.

It's a perfect example of how we get ourselves in the thought process that we need to change something. There are some things that work just fine without the help of some 2nd rate hipster pop group. The lesson to be learned from The Fray? There are some things that are so perfect and amazing in their own right that they do not need your "personal touch". Being asked to sing the National Anthem is no different than making a presentation at a conference or writing a blog for someone else. When you're invited to someone else's stage you have to respect the nature of the stage. If you have been asked to post on a blog that has never posted a curse word, it wouldn't be respectful to include a bunch of them in your submission to the site.

Also, if you're desperate to get that horrible performance out of your mind - here are two that I've always really thought were top notch.



What To Do When No One Asks A Question

Few public speaking situations have made me as nervous as when I had to present my senior thesis to the Communications department. Everything I had worked so hard for and watched my parents sacrifice for came down to one presentation on propaganda and the pressure was on. I knew that there would be questions about my research. When I wrapped up, I stood at the front of the room with nothing but blank faces staring back at me.

No questions? I was shocked. They simply thanked me and I was allowed to leave the hall. I convinced myself that no questions meant I had failed. I didn't.(Thank goodness).

At the end of a presentation, you expect there to be rapid fire questions coming from every point of the audience. What happens when you wrap up the presentation, ask anyone if they have questions, and there is nothing but silence?

Come Prepared

Before stepping out on the stage to make your presentation, you should be prepared for the event that no one is going to have a question at the end. Have a list prepared with a couple of additional notes to your presentation that you can offer if no one has any questions.

Ask Friends Before Hand

One of the things about asking questions on a conference call or face to face is that there is a hesitation to being the first person to speak up. Before the presentation, find a friend or co-worker and ask them if they would be willing to offer up a question if no one jumps in, just to get the ball rolling. You'd be surprised how many people will chime in once someone starts the Q&A off.

Wrap it Up

Not having any questions after a presentation might signal a need to wrap things up and hand the stage over to the next speaker. If their truly are no questions, it will be very awkward for you and the audience if you just hang around onstage. If you don't want to wrap up you presentation early, open a dialogue with your participants and see if you can't get them talking to you, instead of the other way around.

Provide Another Way to Ask

Maybe the presentation you're making is on a sensitive subject or everyone has simply succumb to shyness that day. Either way, you should give your participants a different way to ask questions. Some may prefer email or they simply won't think of a great question until it's time to put your suggestions into action.

When you open the floor for questions and all you hear are the crickets and papers shuffling - it doesn't always mean you didn't do a great job. Q&A sessions are very helpful for both you and the participants listening in so when things don't go your way at Q&A time, it doesn't mean you have to disconnect or leave the stage feeling like a failure. What do you do at the end of your presentation and there is nothing but silence?

Use Webinars and Engagement to Get More

This week, I read this awesome post over on Copyblogger called How to Use Webinars to Create Great Relationships with Prospects and Customers. The blog is highly indepth about how you can reach out to customers and make sales connections by inviting them to Q&A sessions or with coaching programs. I have personally written about using Q&A session with customers in a webinar format before and how it can offer great benefit to your company by knowing what your customers want to know more about.

These are great ideas and I fully support them, but there are some things you have to keep in mind when approaching using a webinar for any part of your business.

Pay Attention to Your Time Constraints

Understand exactly how long it is going to take you to present the information to your customers, clients, or co-workers. Give yourself a little extra time on either side of the webinar for any last minute hold ups or if you happen to run a little long in a Q&A session. Most webinars are scheduled for an hour and have anywhere from 30 - 45 minutes of presentation time and then the rest is Q&A from the audience.

Don't Host a Webinar Just to Do It

Ever been a participant on a webinar where you've heard it all before? Instead of presenting buzz words and tired information, have something new and interesting to present. You can invite speakers to your webinars so that they can give a fresh perspective on the topic. You can invite a blogger in your niche to come on the line and have an open discussion with participants or debate over how to do something. You can also present new research on how your kinds of products are being used in businesses, so that your potential customers can see how the products will benefit them in the short and long run. If participants feel like they scheduled an hour to hear something you've already heard before means they are less likely to sign up for your businesses webinar event again, and it means you will stick in the minds of your participants for all of the wrong reasons.

Always Have Q&A Options

No matter how well you present a topic or how much you know about a subject - there will always be questions. It's not a bad thing, in fact, it's great because sometimes your audience can lead you to an idea you might have never thought of yourself. You have to give them a way to ask these questions and sometimes the idea of having to speak the question can be a bit of a hold up for participants. Use a webinar service that is going to provide both audio and some other form of question forum (like chat) to help give everyone a way to feel comfortable asking those questions. Provide an email address for the ones that you can't get to in the alloted time.

Using a webinar is a great tool for reaching out to current customers, clients, and even a public who might never have been exposed to your brand. If you're going to take on the importance of webinars in business, you have to be ready to make them useful and informative.

What kinds of thing are you doing to make your webinars stand out from a crowd? How are you engaging with participants during the presentation to make sure they are really getting what they came for?

Solving Conference Call Annoyances

Earlier this week, I told you all about the 12 Conference Call Attendees That Cause Annoyance. Now that you've considered the list and mentally pointed the finger of blame at some of your co-workers, let’s go over what you can do to fix those annoyances on the conference.

The truth is that conference calls are supposed to be a productive and concise way to conduct business without having to shuffle everyone into the conference room, which, let’s be honest, is sometimes like herding cats. When one, any, or all of these things happen on conferences it can change the entire tone of the meeting and take a productive group of people down a desperate spiral of frustration. So what can you do?

  1. Offer a recording to the conference participants who are traveling or who have their children home with them that day. This way people won't feel pressured to join the conference if they are getting on a plane or home with a sick baby - who may decide at any time to burst into tears. These participants can listen in to the conference at a more convenient time and ask questions or give feedback later.
  2. Lock your conference call (Press *7 on the telephone keypad as the moderator) and prevent late participants from joining the conference. This will lessen the likelihood that someone will join the conference ten minutes late and then require that they immediately get caught back up.
  3. Use the power to mute the lines to control what is heard in the background and to filter out who is speaking. (We recommend using lecture mode for any conferences that are going to be five participants or more.) Use the live call screen to identify which lines are making noise so that you can mute them without disrupting the rest of the conference call. This works for background noise, hold music, pretty much any disruption that can be caused by unauthorized sounds.
  4. Encourage your participants to use a land line phone and a headset instead of speaker phones. In our experience, land lines tend to be more reliable for the conference call and headsets are the best, least intrusive way to be hands free on a conference call.
  5. Do your best as the meeting organizer to schedule your conferences before or after lunch time. The best time to host a conference is before the lunch hours but it does get hard to do this when you're dealing with people in multiple time zones. We wrote some great tips on the best time to have conference calls, so we encourage you to go over there and check them out.

Knowing what to expect on a conference call is part of the planning process. As the moderator you have to be prepared to step in a mute a line or suggest that someone call back in when they are in a less noisy environment. What do you do on conference calls and webinars that keep those distractions out and keep productivity moving forward?

12 Conference Call Attendees That Cause Annoyance

Come on, admit it. Close your eyes and think about your last conference call and you'll immediately think of a number of people that turned the last conference into a disaster. There are a lot of different circumstances that call for conference call participation, but it never fails - there are always those one or two people who just make the experience slightly unbearable for the rest of the team.

The person who is always late.

Consistently, this co-worker will join the call five minutes late and demand to be caught up before the call can continue.

The last minute participant.

This person is different than the "late participant". This participant decides at the last minute they need to join the conference call about something that is out of their scope or they are unfamiliar with. Usually the first ten minutes of the conference are spent bringing this person up to speed.

The Mumbler.

This person doesn't speak up on the conference and therefore cannot be heard. It's either because their voice is very soft or because they are sitting too far away from their phone.

The "if I can just jump in here" co-worker.

This person always has something to add to the conversation, but it's often at the expense of other participants. They interrupt other attendees on a regular basis and instead of apologizing and remaining quiet until it's their turn to speak, they continue talking as if it doesn't matter.

The person who always laughs when his or her leather chair makes a hilariously suggestive noise.

Oh, hahaha, it's so funny.

The person who thinks "it's time for a conference call" somehow translates into "time to eat lunch!"

You can always hear this person smacking their lips as they chew or gurgling down their diet soda. If you know you have a conference call during your lunch time, make plans to eat at another time. Inevitably, this person always gets prompted to respond when they have just taken a bite. They will then proceed to speak around it.

The co-worker that works from home in a sea of barking puppies or crying babies.

We're not sure if they run a day care or pet adoption center in their spare time, but it just always seems like the sound of baby crying or a dog in the background is amplified on a conference call.

The scream talker.

They always think that their phone mic is turned down too low and feel like they need to scream to be heard. Usually, their voice causes echoes and feedback on the conferences.

The "hello? hello?" participant.

This participant always suspects they've been disconnected from the conference and must then interrupt the flow of conversation in order to assure they are still joined.

The Traveler.

Yes, sometimes we have to travel when it's time to take a conference call, and there is nothing wrong with that. It just always seems like the other participants end up hearing the boarding announcement or the commuter train departure schedule better than they hear the actual conference call.

The Multitasking Genius.

With their speaker phone on, they proceed to "listen" to the conference while answering emails or getting text messages. The sound notifying them of a new text notification or the gentle and somewhat soothing pounding of the keys on the keyboard play into the conference and give everyone a sense of "nothing is going to get done here".

The person who uses the hold button on their phone, instead of mute.

When you put a phone on hold in a conference one of three things will happen: silence fills the room and everyone makes the assumption the call has ended, periodic beeps will play into the conference, or some rocking easy listening music is about to interrupt and derail your entire conference call.

Who is the person on your conferences that you always feel like needs to be muted?

Conference Call Information in CSV Files

We strongly advocate the idea of recording your conference calls, even if you don't think you'll need to listen to it ever again. The same goes for tracking and knowing exactly who joined conference calls. The way we provide this kind of information is by giving our customers access to downloading CSV files that store information based on the kind of conference call you host. Lately, we've had some customers asking us about how to get their hands on this information and how they can get the most out of this kind of attendance tracking.

General Conference Information

When you host your standard conference call you still get data on who joined the conference. It's very basic information like what conference code was used and the caller ID for those that joined the call. The data is saved in a CSV file that you can download directly from your customer site and is a good tool to use when you need just a basic headcount on attendance for your conferences.

Chat Transcription

Anytime you host a web conference with us and turn on the chat feature, we log that chat session and store it on the customer site. The ability to download the files directly wasn't always an option, but since our customers liked this feature so much we decided to make it more accessible. A lot of our customers use the web conferencing chat sessions for Q&A so that if they missed any questions, they have record of them and go back to answer them even after the call is over.

Registration Data

When you use our registration page, you get the information saved in a CSV file. With the registration page, you can edit what information you want collected (we automatically grab name and email address) and all of this will be recorded on the spreadsheet. It even breaks down your conference call to show who attended and who didn't. It's a great sales tool to see who might have registered for your conference call and didn't get to attend. You have the information that you need to contact them and find out more information.

Operator Answered Information

If you want to stand out go for the operator answered conference call. We'll take down the participants name and one other piece of information. After the call, that information is included on the Call Detail CSV file that can be downloaded directly from your account. Operator answered conferences are great for media conferences, special guest speakers, or shareholder meetings.

How to Download Call & Chat Logs

  • Login to your Customer Account
  • Click Conference Manager
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the blue "view" link beside the call you're looking for.
  • On the next page, you'll find the reports listed at the top beside "Downloads". Click on the CSV file you want to download.

Got any questions? No problem - feel free to put them in the comments or give us a call and we can answer anything you want to know about these different files. Is there anything you're doing with these files that could make attendance tracking on your next conference call or web conference easier?

Five Telecommuter Distractions (And How to Avoid Them)

By May of 2011, the United States reported that 14% of the overall population was telecommuting in some form or fashion, as well as posted growth year of year with these kinds of positions. It's obvious that more companies are not only looking for the "freelancer" but the importance to having a productive environment at home is on the rise.

If you're about to start telecommuting in some form or fashion, here are five things that can destroy the telecommuters productivity – and some tips on how to avoid these pitfalls.

Have a Place to Work.

Before a couple of weeks ago, wanting to work at home meant I was going to be sitting at the kitchen table with the most uncomfortable chair in all of existence. It didn't exactly foster a creative environment. Once I had my office all set up I was amazed at how much more comfortable I felt having a real place to work in the walls of my home. When working at home, have an area that has comfortable seating and a space that is just for you. It will really help you stay focused.

Other People in the House.

This is one of the greatest distractions to the telecommuter. No matter if it's your kids, your spouse, or your mother stopping by for coffee in the AM, having other people in your house is a natural deterrent to getting things done. I have a deal with my husband that if the office door is closed, it means I’m working and don’t want to be disturbed, but if it's open I’m not tied up and it can be chat time.

Amazon, EBay, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Working from home more than likely means you're working from your computer. The amount of distractions on the Internet can be killer when it comes to productive telecommuting. Since telling you to just avoid the sites all together is pretty much pointless, I'll instead suggest that you take a mental break every few hours. Set a timer for the ten or fifteen minutes you're going to give yourself to scroll your Facebook news feed and, most importantly, stick to it. Too many times a short mental break becomes an hour of lost productivity.

The Other Things You Could Be Doing.

As the "clean-freak" in my house I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked myself out of being productive in the office for doing some dishes, mopping the floors, or getting that extra load of laundry done. Close the door to your office and ignore it – to the best of your abilities (this is harder for some than others) so that you can stay focused on the work at hand. Since you’re going to be giving yourself proper breaks, you can always throw the dishes in the dishwasher then.

The Need For Social Interaction.

Working at home can sometimes cut you off from the rest of the world. So much of your communication is done through email that you might find yourself venturing out more often than you like to incorporate yourself into society. A quick trip down to Starbucks can turn into a couple of hours out in public. Instead of doing everything by email, pepper in a few conference calls or video conferences with co-workers and clients, so that you can hear the sound of someone’s voice that isn’t your internal monologue.

How do you stay focused while working at home?