Three Different Ways We Can Teach Ourselves

This is part one of our series on learning new things. This post talks about how we can teach ourselves anything with a little trial and error. Follow the links after the post to read the other parts of our series.

Learning something new isn’t always easy, but there are times we have to do it. And we may not have the time or money to sit in a classroom to be lectured. In these situations, we resort to the self-teaching method. The ways we go about teaching ourselves something can vary depending on our learning abilities and the subject. According to LearningRX.com, there are three different learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (hands-on). After a discussion I had with my office colleagues, we found three different ways we can teach ourselves, and these techniques can relate to our learning abilities.

Copy Other People's Work

I'm not saying to steal someone else's work and call it your own. However, if you are a visual or hands-on learner, this technique might help. When I had worked for a security company eight years ago, I had received a promotion that required me to learn the fundamentals of SQL (Structured Query Language). SQL is the typical way analysts and report managers gather data for reports that companies need to help them function. I didn't have any background with SQL, but I was willing to learn to expand my professional background. How did I do it? I used queries that others had written and experimented with them. I broke them up in pieces to see what each part did. Then, I tried to write my own using the same syntax (linguistic SQL rules) to see if my queries would produce the same results. Once I was familiar with the basic SQL concept, I was able to efficiently write several queries on my own. Of course, when I was learning SQL, I would only test my queries in a development environment to avoid any potential catastrophic database issues. Learning this way allowed me to see how a query worked and I applied the visual experience with a hands-on tactic.

Take a Dive and Jump In

This technique is best for hands-on learners. People who learn kinesthetically are most likely to succeed when they can engage with the learning material. For example, a hands-on learner who wants to be a mechanic would want to jump in and start pulling out and disassembling a motor to learn how to put it back together. An article on Utah Valley University's website acknowledges that movement and activity helps kinesthetic learners remember their material. It can be an activity as small as swinging a leg to a more interactive activity like drawing a picture. The article states, "The more skin and muscles you use, the better you remember."

Learn with a Specific Goal

Sometimes we learn best if we know what the goal is. Auditory learners use this method by being told how to reach their goal. A musician is a great example. Someone who is learning music already knows how the piece should sound. They then break the music apart and learn when to play which notes and for how many beats. Their overall goal is to make their instrument sound like the original piece. The Bepko Learning Center gives some helpful tips on how auditory learning can improve their learning habits; one of them is to listen to instrumental music while studying.

Once we are able to see what our learning style is, we can apply these concepts to our study habits. Even being out of the school atmosphere, we still learn at our jobs and hobbies. If you would like to learn more about finding out what your learning style is, check out the links below.


You can find the other parts of our learning new things series by following the links below:

Part Two: How To Learn From the Internet - By Maranda Gibson.

Part Three: Why We Are Afraid to Try New Things - By David Byrd.

What We Are Reading

PD James Murder
by Liz Bury, The Guardian
Liz Bury: Crime writer declares 'absolute conviction' that she has identified real-life killer.

 
The Real Lesson of the NSA
by Zeynep Tufekci, Medium
It seems that, depending on the constituency, the never-ending trickle of NSA revelations should be either seen as either boring or shocking.

 
Does anger follow the laws of thermodynamics?
by Seth Godin, Seth's Blog
Anger can be contagious.

 
The Erroneous Map of the World
by Kai Krause, Dynamic Diagrams
We Have Been Misled By An Erroneous Map Of The World For 500 Years.

 

F.D.A. Ruling Would All but Eliminate Trans Fats
by Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed measures that would all but eliminate artificial trans fats, the artery clogging substance that is a major contributor to heart disease.

 

Why Tea Is So Healthy for You (and How to Get the Most from Every Cup)
by Melanie Pinola, Lifehacker
Here are all the ways drinking tea can lead to a healthier, longer life--and how to maximize both the enjoyment of the drink and its health benefits.


A lot of us here spend hours reading each week. Whether it’s blogs, news articles, eBooks, or physical books, we like to indulge ourselves in the written word. Sometimes we want to share some of the things we've read. Here are some of our recent favorite reads, things we thought that were interesting, or that we just couldn’t keep to ourselves.

Uber Car Service Controversy

"Make easy money just by driving with Uber!" That was a Facebook post I saw that was made by one of my friends. Of course, it grabbed my attention. How could you make money by driving? More importantly, who is Uber? My curiosity started kicking in, and I decided to do my research. According to their website, Uber is a service created in 2009 that connects its users to its drivers through a mobile app. Basically, Uber contracts a set of licensed drivers. An Uber user can request taxi-like services by pulling the app up on their phone and contacting an Uber driver that's closest to them. The user can then rate the driver based on their experience, and they pay the driver by linking their credit card information to their account so their fare is automatically deducted. Drivers for Uber can create their own schedule, though the site suggests being available during peak hours to make more money. I assume "peak hours" are when bars are closing or after a concert or sporting event.

The service itself seems pretty innovative. For the driver, they have the freedom to set their own hours and don't have to deal with cash. For the user, they are able to hand-pick their drivers that are close to them and/or are highly rated. You can't quite do that by calling a traditional taxi service.

Although it has gained popularity with the public, many city officials are not too happy with the tech company. In Los Angeles, Uber received a cease-and-desist letter this last June telling the company that they are "operating an unlicensed, for-profit commercial transportation service..." Uber has also had to deal with battles in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C., and most recently Dallas. The City of Dallas initiated an investigation that ended up with 61 citations being issued to 31 Uber drivers as of August 28, 2013.

Since Uber came to Dallas in 2012, members of the City Council have tried to regulate its transportation-for-hire services. More recently, city staff members had placed an unscheduled item into the Dallas City Council meeting agenda. When agenda items are scheduled, a committee will study the issue and get the public’s input before it would ever reach City Council. However, a memo  was placed into the August 28, 2013 agenda to propose changes to the current Chapter 10A of the Dallas City Code bypassing the usual procedure.

Along with city officials, taxi and transportation companies are not too fond of the service either. A representative from LADOT (Los Angeles Department of Transportation) said that these drivers for Uber "...are not required to pass background checks or have their vehicles inspected for safety." Arthur Hollingsworth, an investor for Yellow Cab also argues that "Uber drivers don't have to pay the same taxes, insurance fees and licensing fees that taxi drivers do." Both are pretty good points if the primary concern about the whole issue is fairness and public safety.

It seems that after the August 28th City Council meeting, the issue has simmered down a little in Dallas. The Dallas Morning News reported on October 23, 2013 that the 61 citations have all been dropped and the City of Dallas is backing off Uber as the interim Dallas city manager, A.C. Gonzales, has been getting a lot of heat for not handling the issue appropriately. So, the question still begs to be answered. Should Uber be treated like a taxi company and pay the same fees or follow the same regulations that taxi drivers are subjected to? Or are they merely a middleman for the for-hire transportation driver and the Uber user?

David Byrd thinks, "Uber is a new service that wasn't possible before cell phones. Now, you are getting customers from a market that didn't exist. So, is it really competition to taxi services?  I don't think so since I would be willing to use Uber when I wouldn't consider a taxi. I don't see Uber eating into taxi business for people at the airport, or at hotels. So, I don't think they should be restricted by the same rules."

I think as long as the Uber drivers have the necessary background checks done (they don’t have any warrants, are not reckless drivers, and are properly insured) then they should be allowed to offer their services. The transportation market is changing as it should with technology. I think it’s great that Uber users are able to see their driver’s ratings and can hail them quicker than they can get a cab. It’s just a different way of doing business.

National Weather Festival 2013

When I was a kid, I fell in love with the weather. There has always been something about the study and science behind it that has always fascinated me. I used to stand in front of the big screen TV and pretend to be a meteorologist standing in front of the big green screens. On November 2, I attended National Weather Festival and got an upfront view of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

It was absolutely incredible to see "behind the curtain" and get an up close look at the National Weather Service. After getting parked and taking a few moments to completely weather-geek out, I was finally emotionally stable enough to walk over to the booths, events, and speakers.

I saw a lot of really interesting things, but some of it stood out. Here are my four favorite parts of the day:

- Oklahoma University research students are currently flying model planes into the atmosphere to take readings. It’s an alternative to weather balloons, which are only used once and sometimes not returned. The tiny planes are made of Styrofoam for now and read the atmospheric conditions. The goal could be to build larger and more study planes for a fleet of “hurricane hunter” type devices. These small scale planes could eventually be used to read conditions ahead of severe storms in a hopes to better warning times and give people more notice of approaching tornadic systems.

- "Tornado sirens" or outdoor warning systems are still a big topic of conversation in the weather community, especially given the events in Oklahoma this past May. I was surprised by the amount of people who live in an area where major tornadoes touch down that don’t know that the NWS has no control over when they are sounded and how they are sounded. These are all controlled by local emergency management operation systems and each office has different rules for when they are sounded.

- Research is currently being conducted on the dissemination of information via social media accounts when there is severe weather hitting. The NWS is looking specifically at tweets during the Moore, Oklahoma to see how quickly information (good and bad) spread. Do rumors spread faster on social media or are people pretty good at vetting info before sending it out? This could signify a shift in using social networks as a more legitimate means of getting information to the public.

- (During a Q&A session with forecasters I received this answer to my question about the overall goals with issuing warnings) Eventually the National Weather Service wants to be able to predict storms in a more specific area. Watches are issued for large swatches of counties across the states and then warnings themselves are issued in polygon shaped areas across these counties. Even though tornado activity in recent years have had a lot of media attention, it still stands true that most places that are placed under a "watch" never actually receive a warning. In a perfect world, the NWS would be able to issue watches in a more specific zone.

In the end, the lead forecasters at the National Weather Service want you, as the general public, to educate yourself on how severe weather works. My opinion is that part of the reason why people don’t respond the way they should is because they don’t understand what forecasting is all about. We (the public) complain when the NWS issues a tornado watch and nothing happens, meanwhile, the meteorologists sitting in the Storm Prediction Center breathe a huge sigh of relief because the parameters didn't come together the the way the models predicted they would.

In the weather world, a day that ends with you saying “they got us all amped up for nothing - bunch of morons don’t know what they are talking about” is the best kind of day for the meteorologists in the Storm Prediction Center.

Keep Notes in Your Conference Account

Since you know how to download your CSV files for your conference information, I'm going to tell you about another neat included service that you have in your account. Did you know that your conference call history is a note taking machine waiting to happen? Conference calls can often be jam packed with information and when you have multiple conferences in a single day, they all start to run together.

Our call notes system helps you keep track of the information or action items you need to take based on a conference call. Here are some of the ways our customers are using the system.

Using the Same Conference Codes

Since our codes can be used again and again, the history stores everything by the name, date, and time. Using the conference code notes system lets our customers go in and mark "call with client X" or "sales meeting".

Track Moderators

Even if it's not needed to track what the subject matter of the conference was about a lot of our customers use the notes system to keep record of who initiated the conference.

Next Steps

Once a conference is over, go to the notes section and add in the actionable items that were taken away from the conference call. You can leave yourself a to-do list based on the conferences in your account. You can also leave it as a note for your assistant or IT Manager. Let’s say it is time to issue new codes on the conference line, you can leave a note for the person who manages that to prompt them to go in and make the change. "Needs new conference codes for security" is a great way to let the person who manages your conference account know that some things need to be changed.

Are you using the note taking system or is it new for you? We've found it to be beneficial for our customers as well as to how we stay organized here. How could you see yourself using the system or how are you using it?

Bonus

If you have one of our toll free forwarding numbers, you also have access to this system. Keep notes on who you talked to, what you talked about or information that is contained in a saved fax. If you're going back later on to check and see if a document or phone call has been received, you can scan the notes and make sure that you've done what you need to. We use the system internally to keep track of what customers have sent us. Since we all take care of the faxes received into our office leaving a note on it also lets us know that the fax has been looked at by another operator.

Conference Call Checklist

So you want to have a conference call?  You can always start a conference call in minutes, however we suggest a bit more preparation for a conference between you and your co-workers. When inviting clients or customers to your conferences, there are a few extra things you will want to do. 

First: Decide What Your Call is About

Write out what the meeting is going to be about and create an agenda, making sure to estimate how long each point will take.  It's always good to give yourself 5-10 minutes of margin.  Don't forget to budget time for questions.

Second: Decide Who

Once you've worked out when you want to have the call, decide who is going to be there.  This is a good time to ask yourself if you'll be having a guest speaker or if you need an operator assistance.   

Third: Send Your Invitations

Now that you have all of the above worked out, it's time to send out your invitations.  Your email invitations should include:

  • What the meeting is about
  • Their call-in number and participant code
  • When the meeting is and for how long
  • An abbreviated version of the agenda

Your participants are taken care of, so where will you be?  The beauty of audio conferencing is that you can host a conference call from pretty much anywhere.  So your only guidelines should be to conduct your conference call from a quiet place where you won't be interrupted.  And—for absolute best quality—use a landline.  One final suggestion: use a headset.  It's much more comfortable than cradling the phone in your neck.

Use this helpful conference call checklist before you plan your next meeting:

PREPARE YOUR CONFERENCE

__Choose the date and time.
__Determine if you need operator assistance.
__Will there be a guest speaker?
__Do you need a registration page?
__Do you want the conference call recorded?
__Will there be a visual element requiring web conferencing?

CREATE AN AGENDA

You need to write an agenda to send to speaker and participants so the know what to expect. 

__Does it have a realistic timeline?
__Is there a need to have breaks?
__Will there be Q&A? How long will your Q&A session be?
__Do you need a different version for participants?

TECHNICAL CHECKLIST

__Do you know how to mute your telephone?
__Is the sound quality on your conference good?
__Did you do a practice run to make sure that you know how to join the conference and the webinar?
__Do you have a backup method of connecting in case there is a problem with your connection?
 


Looking for ways to improve your speaking abilities? Here are four more resources:

The Real Value of Flu Shots - Updated 2013

It's that time of year again. We recently had our flu vaccinations at the office. Have you had yours? Are you concerned about getting the vaccine? To add to our information below I'm including a link to an article on Gizmodo that talks about 25 myths of the flu vaccine.

2013 Update: Gizmodo posted 25 myths of getting the flu vaccine.

Three of the myths I hear most often that Gizmodo tackles are:
Myth #1: The flu vaccine gives you the flu or makes you sick.
Myth #2: The flu shot contains dangerous ingredients, such as mercury, formaldehyde and antifreeze.
Myth #6: Flu vaccines don’t work.

Every year we provide voluntary flu shots for the company. We feel like if we can keep one person from getting the flu, then it was a success.

There are those who disagree with the value of flu shots. I've met people who swear they have actually gotten the flu after receiving a flu shot. In addition, there is a Dr. Robert Rowen who states that:

  1. flu shots contain mercury
  2. 97.3% of adults don't even need flu shots because research shows only about 2.7% of adults get the flu (is this per year?)

Ok, so now I'm curious and I have decided to do some research on my own (especially since the doctor who quotes the research provides no links to said studies).

As a general practitioner and the owner of a hospice company in Fort Worth my brother, Dr. Brian Byrd, deals with the elderly and sick a lot.

So, what is his take on flu shots?

"It probably won't help you individually, since you most likely won't get the flu. The example I use is this: If 3,000 people in a community are vaccinated vs. 3,000 who aren't, at the end of the flu season, there are a lot more flu cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the non-vaccinated group."

Ok, so I take the flu shot for the communal effect, not personal effect. I'm ok with that. But others aren't.

Can you get the flu from a flu vaccine?

"About 5% of people who get the flu shot feel crummy after. The vaccine uses a killed virus, so it's impossible to get the flu from the vaccine. It is a foreign substance, so it might make you feel like you are sick."

What are his thoughts on the 97.3% study?

97.3% is a mild season.

Other thoughts?

"Vaccinations have eliminated polio and smallpox. If we had stopped vaccinations back then, we would still be living with the threat of those as well as flu. It's a process. I just treated a one year old who had a bad case of whooping cough. His parents would not vaccinate him. Now, he will probably have a lifetime of asthma as a result."

Thank you Dr. Byrd.

Here are some other things I found:

Some (not all) flu shots contain thimerosal. Thimerosal is a preservative containing ethyl mercury. So far I have not been able to find anything concrete regarding the toxicity or safety of using thimerosal as a preservative in flu vaccines since 1999. Most of the articles I found related to multiple vaccines in infants can be dangerous because the amount of ethyl mercury can accumulate in children who have difficulty metabolizing the ethyl mercury. I have yet to find any studies/articles pertaining to ethyl mercury and danger to adults.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/09/26/flu-vaccine-exposed.aspx

The CDC states that "on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related conditions." These numbers contradict Robert Rowan's numbers of 2.7%. I guess he is going off a mild season.

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/disease.htm

This is from the American Lung Association:

"The flu shot. The viruses in the flu shot are inactivated, which means that someone receiving the vaccine cannot get influenza from the flu shot. The exposure to the inactivated influenza virus helps our bodies develop protection by producing antibodies. The amount of antibodies in the body is greatest one to two months after vaccination and then gradually decline. After receiving the flu shot it usually takes about two weeks for the body to develop immunity to influenza."

http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/influenza/preventing-influenza.html

So, will we still be giving out voluntary flu shots this year? Absolutely. Do you have to receive one as an employee here? Absolutely not. You are a free American and can chose. Thank you to the men and women who have died to give us that freedom.

Do you get a flu shot each year? Do you believe in vaccinations for adults? What about for children?

12 Ways to Get Motivated Right Now

This thing that we refer to as a “bad” day is really a personal choice to let the blues rule the day. It’s human nature to feel a little down sometimes but it still remains something that we can control.

When that day stretches into a few days or a week, there could be a bigger problem. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s hard to keep from getting lost in the darkness. You’ve been there, I’ve been there – so what do you do? Here are 12 ways that I refocus to get motivated.

Talk to my mom.
(Also acceptable: talking to Dad) My mom gives the best advice and I love being able to sit down with her and just talk about things. Sometimes, my mom holds my hand and tells me those wonderful mom things like, “You’re so special”. Other times, my mom tells me to get over myself – which is usually exactly what I need to hear.
 
Make a playlist.
Grab yourself some new songs from iTunes or Amazon and make yourself a list of songs that make you tap your feet and get excited. Listen to those when you’re trying to get unstuck on a task.

Stop for a few minutes.
Put down your pen or iPad and step away from the keyboard. Give yourself a clean five minute break.

Do something else
.
Stuck on a task? Put it down and come back to it later.

Make a list.
When all your upcoming tasks are swirling in your head, it can feel a little overwhelming, so write them down. Cross them out as you get them done. You’ll feel better.

Change the way I’m trying to complete a task.
Trying to write a blog post on your computer and it’s just not working? Grab a pen and a notebook and try going that route. You’d be surprised how often I can be found jotting down notes or whole posts on a piece of paper.

Look at something positive.
Go back and remind yourself of something that was challenging, but you were able to get through and come out on top. That can sometimes help you remember that you’ve been down this road before – and you made it through. Find something inspirational to read.

Ask for help.
Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with this. I think we’d all be a little less frayed like a knot and spend less time rubbing our faces if we could just do this.

15 Minute Facebook break (No, seriously)
Just do something to make your mind not think about work related things. Scroll your news feed and talk to a couple of people. Give yourself a little mental break.

Change your location.
Sitting in the office trying to write a blog post? Grab your purse and go get some coffee. Change the scenery and get busy.

Go for a drive.
Now, don’t just walk out in the middle of your day at the office – that’s going to have an opposite effect, I suppose. Instead, take a little detour on your way home, or if you have the luxury to make your own schedule, just put some things on hold and get in the car. Roll down the windows, turn up the radio, and let go.

Turn off your electronic devices.
Give yourself at least 30 minutes every day without a notification or email notice. The really bad thing about email notifications is that we feel pressured to respond right away. It’s totally acceptable to read a book and relax when you’re at home – the email will wait.

Hey, we all get the blues. I’m not immune to it, none of us really are – so what kind of things do you do to get yourself feeling, well, like yourself again?


Looking for ways to improve your speaking abilities? Here are four more resources:

What We Have Read

A lot of us here spend hours reading each week. Whether it’s blogs, news articles, eBooks, or physical books, we like to indulge ourselves in the written word. Sometimes we want to share some of the things we've read. Here are some of our recent favorite reads, things we thought that were interesting, or that we just couldn’t keep to ourselves.


Could reading 'Crime and Punishment' make you better at reading people?

by Adi Robertson, The Verge
This article from the Verge questions what do the arts mean to our lives? To at least some researchers, they're a way that we learn how the people around us think. 

 

Pinterest Is Seriously Valuable
by Lauren Bacon, Medium
Men in the male-dominated tech sector are blown away that Pinterest has become A Thing (and that they didn't see that coming).

 

Doing Your Job Right: Captain Mike and Lt. Norm
GeekoLogie
This is the online chat interaction between Netflix customer service representative Cap't Mike and Netflix streaming user Lt. Norm. Obviously, Cap't Mike really went the extra mile.

 

Reasons to Drink Coffee Everyday
by Renee Jacques, Huffington Post
There really can't be any adult in this great big world that has never tried coffee. It's consumed everywhere, and judging by the amount of Starbucks locations in the United States alone, we love coffee.

 

What Makes Us Happy?
by JOSHUA WOLF SHENK,The Atlantic
Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life?

 

Why 30 is not the new 20
by Meg Jay Video on TED.com
Clinical psychologist Meg Jay has a bold message for twentysomethings: Contrary to popular belief, your 20s are not a throwaway decade.

 

Canadian Family Lives Like It's the 80s
Blair McMillan  CBC.CA
A family of four from Guelph, Ont., has banished cell phones and computers, donned cut-off jeans and combed out their mullets, vowing to live the low-tech life for a year.

 

Lost to the Ages
by: Emily Yoshida  Grantland
Lost to the Ages Myst was supposed to change the face of gaming. What is its legacy 20 years later?

(Emily's post inspired our own debate on Myst and what happened to gaming.)

Did Myst Change Gaming?

Emily Yoshinda from Grantland wrote an amazing piece on looking back at Myst and reading the work sparked an interesting debate between Maranda and me.

Did Myst open a door for the games that we know today? Or did human nature slam the door in the face of adventure games in the 2000s?

Maranda disagrees with the implication that Myst and games like it went "kaput" after 93.

"Myst brought the entire adventure genre to life and a lot of really amazing games came after it - like the entire series of Lucas Arts adventure games. Somewhere along the line, we stopped wanting to 'thin' to play. We wanted games to be a 'release' and for most of the buying public that meant taking out aggression on alien life forms or unsuspecting 'ladies of the night'."

"What changed? We did. 'Gamer' was a term suddenly applied to teenagers in their basement hopped up on Red Bull and Mountain Dew. It is no longer about "escaping" into a world. Gaming is different now, because we are."

I see the doors that Myst opened, rather than the ones that were closed as these kinds of adventure games faded in popularity.

How many LucasArts games were there after 1993? I agree that Lucas Arts had some great games up until it’s demise this past year. But, the Myst genre pretty much fizzled out. However, I think it was a needed stepping stone for the open world games today.

Games like Halo and Call of Duty allow you to tackle specific challenges in your own way. This is not just a ‘release’ and you have to think, and think quickly. Although there are some games that don’t require thinking, most popular games require more than just button mashing. Add in the open world games like Assassin’s Creed, and you have quite a bit of thinking going on. Games like Myst have pushed creators to make better games that alter the gameplay as well as the graphics performance.

After a spirited debate, it was realized that while the games might have changed, one thing remains the same: We look at games in the perspective of the games we like to play.

Check out this Kickstarter project for Obduction - a new game from the creators of Myst

AccuConference | All posts by maranda-gibson

All Teleconferencing Firms Are Not Created Equal!

This is not just a comment, but is a "truth". All teleconferencing service providers are not created equal. As you evaluate which teleconferencing provider you are considering using, take strongly into account your very first interaction with the firm. It has been said that first impressions are lasting impressions and in this case I think that you will agree they can also be indicative of the long term service commitment that will impact you as a customer with that firm.

As you evaluate your choices take a look at the website. Is it professional? Does it give you pricing and information or does it hide the prices and make them nearly impossible to find.

Call their 1-800 sales line, check out the experience. How long did you wait for someone to answer your call?  Was the customer service representative courteous?  Were they knowledgeable? Did they take time to fully answer your questions or did you feel like you were intruding on their other calls

We think that when you evaluate AccuConference you will not only find a website that is transparent in regards to pricing and services, but that your experience with our customer service representatives will leave a highly favorable impression with you. So we invite you to check us out, run us through our paces, and see why we are the friendliest, best service value, and best overall teleconferencing provider you can choose.

Corporate "Earnings Calls": Best Practices in Notification

The National Investor Relations Institute has a lot of good advice on their website on earnings calls and webcasts and what you can and should not do. Their advice is something you should take to heart if you are thinking of initiating or fine tuning your present earnings conference calls.

In setting up any kind of earnings teleconference, the thing that should be first and foremost on your mind is how to get the word on your corporation out to as many interested parties as possible. Although there is no one way to do this, there are certainly best practices.

If you are planning to hold an earnings teleconference, the best thing is to issue a press release to one or more of the major Internet corporate news sites. Of course, you should also post the date in a position of prominence on your company’s website and if you have a news letter, mention it in that as well. Although you might want to email investors who have asked for information about the company, do not think this is a substitute for a news release.

Information should be provided on the date and time of the call and how it can be accessed. Be sure to contact a service provider, like us, who can simultaneously connect hundreds of callers to your teleconference for this type of meeting.

In terms of other information, if you are going to be presenting financial information in the presentation, be sure the material is posted somewhere on your website or included in the webcast which should be archived on the website as well.

Education Online: The New e-Campus

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

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

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

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

Teleconferencing is Less Taxing

At some point the business traveler who spends countless hours waiting in airports or on runways has to wonder if it is really worth it.

There are times when you really do need to appear at a meeting or event, but there are just as many cases where you find that the expense and hassle of travel may not have been worth it after all.

After the travel arrangements have been made, you are whisked to the airport, you go through security, walk through the terminal to your gate, wait for your flight, return phone calls, spend the flight time reviewing notes—all this before you are arrive at your destination. You may feel as though you already completed a day’s work although your work has yet to begin,

This is where teleconferencing comes in because it allows you to accomplish your communication goals without having to hail one taxi.

When you choose to conduct business by teleconference, you will avoid the hassles of travel. You’ll be more alert and ready for discussion in familiar surroundings. By choosing to teleconference, you can be certain that you have all the up-to-the- minute information you need because you will be in your own office.

Copyrighting Your Teleconferencing Materials

You may want to consider the value and importance of copyrighting you audio, video, and PowerPoint conference materials, especially if they are available online for anyone to access.  Putting your presentation in PowerPoint rather than word makes it harder to copy and steal (adapt). You can also make your documents permission based, read-only so they cannot be edited.  Be sure to include a copyright symbol on the bottom of the page, and at the beginning and end of every recording.
If you are amenable to sharing the information, as long as you or your organization is cited as the source, you can state that policy also.

The point is you want to retain control of your content and your concepts. You may even want to register a copy of your presentation with the Library of Congress (www.loc.gov) in advance, so that if anyone tries to copy or repurpose it, that you will have protection under the Copyright Act. While every document you create IS copyrighted at its inception, filing the copyright gives you protection if you have to mount a lawsuit.

By the same token, if you are using anyone else's content in your presentation, you should call, email, or write them and ask for permission to use their content. If you are just using a sentence or two, you can simply cite it with the proper attribution or website, and you are sufficiently covered.

Be smart. Be honest. Better to be safe than sorry.

Create the Right Impression: Video conference Job Interviews

With the more distributed and global nature of modern business, more and more companies are moving to interviewing potential employees through video conferencing. The objective of the parties on both sides of the line are the same as if it were a face-to-face meeting: to hire the right person or to be hired.

If you are being interviewed via a video conference, here are some tips to help you do your best.

  1. Be sure to arrive well ahead of time so you can be briefed on the technology, get comfortable with the controls and surroundings, and set up the room or table the way you like it. Make sure you know where you can get technical assistance immediately if something happens to the reception or equipment during your interview. Minimize what you put on the table and keep whatever you do have there neat so you don’t distract the interviewer.
  2. Make sure you have the picture-in-picture option turned on so you can see how you look to the other person. It also helps you eliminate shadows that might fall on your face because of the lighting. If you see a shadow, you can generally make it go away by shifting your face or body slightly.
  3. Sit up straight, look alert and interested, and be sure to make eye contact with the interviewer. If you don’t, sometimes the camera will focus on another bright feature in the room.
  4. At the outset, ask the interviewer if their reception of your station is good and let them know immediately if there is any problem with you receiving them on your side.
  5. You will be asked the same type of questions as you would be at any other job interview, so be prepared. And be prepared to ask questions of your own as well.

Having a successful video conference job interview is more than just mastering the technical aspects of the videoconferencing venue. It is all about what you say and how you answer their questions. Knowing what the interviewer is going to ask is a big plus, because at your leisure, you can then plan what you want to say or highlight so when that question comes up, you are prepared instead of surprised or flustered as you furiously think of what to say.

There are plenty of websites now that list the most asked questions in interviews of all types. Just type "job interview questions" into any search engine and a legion of websites devoted to them will pop up. Many also have strategies on how to answer tough questions like "What are your weaknesses?" or, for people who were fired or who left a dysfunctional job situation, "Why did you leave your previous employment?".

There are not really any interview questions out there that have not already been asked a million times, and reading through a number of these websites and thinking of how you might answer some of them in light of your experiences and expertise, really helps build your confidence and comfort. Two things that are paramount to transmit in any interview situation.

Choosing The Right Hardware For Video and Conference Calling

The conference calling equipment of today comes with almost too many options for the average business owner to choose from. It becomes so much more than just an issue of eliminating the nasty entanglement of wires. Sophisticated options for muting, recording and call inclusion are among a few of the special premiums offered. If your video conferences are not quite up to par because periodic static or fuzziness of picture interferes with their presentation, there is hope that these and other problems can be easily resolved or eliminated. Read on for some tips on what to look for when choosing the proper hardware for your video and conference calling.


Desktop Computers and the Internet

Although it would seem almost unnecessary to say it, some offices, particularly newer ones, are not fully equipped with desktop computers. You must invest in PCs for your staff if you plan to incorporate conference calls into your business protocol. You can actually calculate your net worth based on the quality of the computer technology you can afford.

Each employee should also have total Internet access, far beyond the ability to check email or download a joke of the day. The extra expense is worth it for the vast array of information and the ease and speed of communication that it provides for web conferencing.

Avoid low quality and Mobile Phones

With mobile phones, many variables can cause issues such as changing environments, wind noise (when talking outside) and background noise. Make sure you are using a solid land-line (cannot be had with a cordless phone).

There are a few cordless alternatives, however, should you prefer to go that route. Conference call cell phones shaped like a half star-fish can operate without the wall outlet and only need battery power. This might work well in a conference room, which lacks the floor telephone jack in the middle of the room, which does sometimes occur. A wired phone still might be a better way to go because of the problems with frequencies that often occur in many office buildings.

VOIP services have their pros and cons. Their lines use the Internet to transfer audio and because of the varying levels of speed involved, these lines can waver in voice quality. With VOIP, make sure to use *6 to mute extraneous noise.  VOIP costs less, especially in regard to long distance calls, which are offered at flat rates, and incoming calls can be automatically routed to a VOIP phone regardless of where the Internet connection is located. VOIP phones can also be integrated with other Internet services and a user can easily send or receive messages or data.

About headsets

For best results, use a headset with a quality microphone. A headset allows you to have both hands free, and when you use a standard model, in which the phone is held with your hand, it can cause variations in the volume due to the unstable position of the microphone and your mouth.

About microphones

Whether built into your PC or an external plug-in, you can't do without a microphone if you wish to communicate over the Internet. Spend a little more than the minimum because the cheaper ones will not eliminate static or provide for a clear conversation. Microphones provide that which there is no substitute for during a video conference; namely, the clear enhancement of voices picked up from other participants on the conference call.

About Webcams

A webcam is simply a camera that is connected to the Internet. This broad definition makes it difficult to determine which type will best suit your particular business needs. If your conference calls will be soley of a verbal nature, you won't need a webcam. Face-to-face-interaction however, should never be underestimated, as it permits the utilization of facial expressions and professional demeanor. A webcam will allow you to turn a computer-enabled meeting into a personalized one.

One of the biggest business mistakes made with webcams is that they aren't given the "marketing attention" they deserve. Often they are simply “thrown together by an astute computer employee who doesn't realize the economic power that a webcam can generate. Highly rated webcam sites are almost always capable of 5 frames per second or more. Consider investing some time and money to make your company webcam pay off for you.

Choosing the right hardware for your next videoconference can make all the difference between creating an effective business meeting and a disappointment. Choose wisely and spend some quality time in understanding all the options available. Don't buy impulsively even if you are under pressure due to a time frame or other factors. There are so many options available that there probably are several hardware solutions that would work for your company.

Just remember that the videoconference you save may well turn out to be your own!

Teleconferencing Technology Can Improve Health Care

Agencies that provide health care can use teleconferencing to confer with and counsel patients.

A network of mental health agencies in Ohio has used teleconferencing technology since the 1990s. They faced several hurdles in training staff and reaching patients, especially in rural areas. Teleconferencing provided a way for them to keep staff up-to-date and communicate with patients who lacked transportation.

At the Woodland Centers there were some questions about how patients would handle talking to a screen, but they found that the technology was a boon to their operations.

In addition to the challenges the agencies faced in instructing their own staff, it was also difficult to find qualified psychiatric staff. They were able to find the staff they needed by offering a teleconferencing option.

For example, a psychiatrist can have patient records sent to a computer in a home office. This file transfer can take place while the professional is teleconferencing with a patient. This way doctors can cut down on travel time to medical facilities.

Continual improvements to technology mean that medical professionals and patients who communicate through teleconferencing can see and hear each other much better than in the past.

Using teleconferencing can benefit health care providers and communities they serve.