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Nov
03
2010
How to Debate Effectively and Rationally Maranda Gibson

Host your next debate via conference call by setting up an account with AccuConference.  Universities receive a 50% discount. 

Today is November 3, 2010, which means that the elections were held yesterday. Now, whether it was a good day or a bad day for you and your political ideals, the results are going to stick around for 2 years. “They” say you’re not supposed to talk about politics; it leaves open too much room for drama and disagreement. In watching the election coverage last night, I saw that a lot of the members of the panels on various news organizations couldn’t have a meaningful debate.

They were rude, inappropriate, and just downright mean to their fellow panelists. I’m a huge supporter of a healthy debate, civility in discussion, and above all, being passionate about what is being discussed. Ultimately, if you’re going to have a discussion, you should be passionate about it, otherwise, what are you talking about? We’re advised not to discuss politics and it’s because of this passion that these kinds of discussion can be dangerous firecrackers waiting to explode.

We proceed carefully on a conference call when discussing something that is controversial or will change the face of our company, like hiring and firing. We shy away from open discussion and the sharing of ideas. Why is that? We are adults and we should be able to have conversations.

The principals of debate are clear but somewhere along the lines we’ve forgotten what it was like to have a civil conversation with others about topics we might disagree with. Here are ten tips to consider before engaging in healthy debate.

  1. Be prepared. Don’t be surprised when the passion from both sides bleeds through.
  2. Let the other person finish. Interrupting the other person makes you look like a jerk.
  3. Be open to accepting another person’s point of view. In order to engage in debate, you must be willing to understand where someone is coming from, even if you disagree.
  4. Consider your response carefully. Think about what you are about to say before you just fire off at the mouth. You can’t take it back once you say it, so don’t say anything you’ll regret.
  5. Have Respect. Have respect for the other person’s opinion, but don’t concede your own.
  6. Listen intently. Healthy debate is not just about making you heard; it’s about hearing someone else.
  7. Try to see things from the other side. Before you respond, consider what the other person has said and what their motivations might be. You don’t have to agree, but everyone is capable of understanding the other perspective.
  8. It should be called conversation, not debate. It should be about discussing opposing points of view and learning from each other.
  9. Answer follow up questions. If the person you’re speaking with asks you a direct question, answer it. They are engaged in the conversation and want to know more about your feelings.
  10. Be passionate, but be polite. Name calling and generalizations only encourage people feel attacked. You can have passion about your point of view, but you should never revert to name calling. You’re not eight and this is not the playground.

Bonus Tip: Shake hands.At the end of every debate, shake hands and take a moment to converse about something that’s not debate related. These conversations usually come up with our inner circles, so once it’s all over, talk about something you both agree on.

Look, debating with a person who opposes your views and an opinion is hard, but when you’re a grown up, I like to think it’s possible to sit down and talk about things with others, no matter what their opinions. Some of the greatest ideas in the world have been born from healthy debate and there’s no reason why we should just not talk about something because we disagree.

Nov
02
2010
Right or Wrong George Page

Sayings and turns of phrase used incorrectly can make you look bad.

People treat us by how we dress and generally present ourselves. On a conference call, when they can’t see us, they judge us by how we speak and what we say. With that in mind, we should look at some common words and phrases in everyday use and make sure we’re saying what we want our participants to hear.

First are words that are similar, but mean different things in different contexts. A common one of these is saying “further”--as in “further than I can run”--instead of “farther than thirty miles”. The difference is that farther goes with actual, measurable distance.

Along those lines, when you mean to say something is less than a specific number, you say “fewer than ten”. Alternatively, you would say, “You have less than me.”

A sneaky one is between “bring” and “take”, and it all depends on what direction the thing is going. If you are going to a party, you are taking the wine. The hostess of that same party can say that you are bringing that wine to her.

My favorite is the subtle “infer” and “imply”. If someone suggestively says something, they are implying. If we draw a conclusion from their statements, we are inferring.

What about phrases that we use almost without thinking? For example, some people say that they need to “hone in on a solution” when they actually mean to say, “home in”.

Or when they say that something is “different than” something else, it’s more correct to say it’s “different from”.

Less is more in so many things, and the same goes for speaking. One such way is to drop the “of” when combined with “outside”. It’s not that the dogs are “outside of the house”, they are simply “outside the house”.

I hope these speaking and usage tips will “raise the question”--not “beg the question”--of your verbal habits, and help you vocally put your best foot forward.

Oct
28
2010
The Monsters Guide to Public Speaking Maranda Gibson

The Monsters Guide to Public Speaking

Halloween is this weekend and with it comes scary stories, fright nights, and a lot of things you don’t see every day. It’s the one time of the year that ghosts and goblins can come out of their hiding places. Since they only make one public appearance a year, they like to make it count and offer some valuable insights into the realm of public speaking – what works and what doesn’t.

Zombie

Eating brains does not translate into a warm and friendly greeting to your guests.

Instead, arrive at your event about an hour early and shake hands instead of eating brains—oops, I mean breakfast. Introduce yourself and find out more about what brought people to see you speak and what they would like to know more about.

Ghost

Be transparent and friendly.

Standing up in front of a group of people can be intimidating. It will help you as the speaker to relax along with your participants if you are humorous, friendly, and open with your audience.

Witch

Don’t be afraid to dazzle with a little magic.

Unless you are presenting in Salem, MA, somewhere between 1692 and 1693, your audience would probably like a little flash and dazzle. Since you only have about two minutes to grab their attention and keep them interested for the whole presentation, don’t be afraid to open the presentation with a splash.

Frankenstein

Don’t walk like a robot.

Frankenstein makes an excellent point about the importance of being able to move fluidly around the stage. When you move, you’re forcing audience members to pay attention and notice you. Otherwise, you’re just going to be a droning and unmoving piece of furniture on the stage. The more comfortable you are with being in front of a group, the better.

Vampire

Give them something to sink their teeth into.

In the end, if you’re not talking about something that matters, you’re not going to get a great response. Be sure that the content of your presentation or topic is relevant and intriguing, and offer clear ways for your participants to be involved during and after the presentation.

Hope you enjoyed that insight from the people who know what it’s like to make one public appearance a year. You have to come out swinging; otherwise, you’ll end up six feet under.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Oct
21
2010
But Um, Like Actually... You Know? George Page

Everything in moderation, and this includes words. When we speak, there are silences, breaks, and pauses that many people fill with filler words. I myself once had a problem with “in any case.” I don’t know how long it was until I noticed I was saying it a lot, but once I did, it was maddening. I can only imagine how it bugged other people.

A huge filler word used primarily by teens is “like”. They can pepper a simple sentence with “like”, sometimes where it’s more than half the words used. “Actually” is another filler starting to gain widespread usage, and there’s always a “you know” lurking nearby.

“But uh” is relatively new to the word filler scene, and it’s gaining strength. Out of the blue last week, I found myself filling up a conversation with “but uh”. So just like “in any case”, I made sure to stop. If you’ve noticed a particular word or phrase filling your sentences, you might be curious about how I managed to banish the space fillers.

Now if you’ve already identified a filler, you’re doing great. But if unsure, ask a friend or record a conversation. Even better is downloading and reviewing the recordings of your last few conference calls. Once you’ve spotted the filler, a) take notice of each time you use it, and b) try to choose a different word when you’re about to say the filler.

The best habit to form, however, is one of silence. When pauses occur that normally you would have filled, just let silence happen. Not only will it vastly decrease the use of fillers, but your words as a whole will have more gravitas and power.

Tell us your filler word in a comment.

Oct
20
2010
The Patterns of Preparation Maranda Gibson

The Patterns of Preparation

I talk a lot about public speaking and how you can get yourself prepared as well as the approach you’re going to take. One of the things I am the most vocal about is how getting up “in front” of a crowd is no different than standing on the other side of a conference call. You’re still being heard by a large group of people and you’re still being listened to intently, with your audience members hoping that you will add some value to their current plans.

Being on a conference call doesn’t always take the pressure off – sometimes, it can put more pressure on. Gone are the non verbal cues you can give people to let them know that you’re enthused or excited and say goodbye to making eye contact with people in your audience to engage them in the conversation.

The way your audience processes your information is going to be different and the way you deliver the information has to adapt, but most of the time, the stages leading up to the presentation are always the same. I read this great post from Michael Hyatt called “The 10 Psychological Stages of Public Speaking” about how his brain processes the emotions leading up to a presentation.

Take a look at these, it’s pretty interesting and I very easily relate, especially to number 5. I feel a bit like everything is going to be horrible, like I’m going to get completely tongue tied or have one of my strange moments where my brain just completely stops working. (Usually, my main focus is to not do this horrible awkward laugh thing that I do.)

The point is that no matter what you’re about to do, most of us are naturally nervous when con something like public speaking, and there’s no major difference between planning for a live conference or for a conference call.. It’s not just you. Maybe the way Michael puts himself out there will be a way that can help you get over those jitters.

Thanks for the honesty Michael!

Oct
20
2010
Office Conference Etiquette Maranda Gibson

When conferencing from your desk, there are a lot of things that can be in your way or on your mind, even though you’re trying to conduct some business, and when you’re lost in your full-steam-ahead mindset, you could be bothering the others trying to work beside you. Here are a couple of ways to be polite the next time you have to take a conference call from your desk.

  1. If at all possible, take your conference call in a private area, even if all your conference rooms are filled. Not only will this cut down on the possibility to disturbing your neighbor, you’ll also be separated from your distractions like IM, email, and even Angry Birds. Let the people around you know you’re going to be on a conference. Tell your buddy at the desk beside you that you’ll be on a conference for a little while, so you may not be as fast to respond to emails or IM.
  2. Resist the urge to put the call on speaker phone. The people around you weren’t invited to your conference call, so they don’t need to hear it. If you want to be hands free, do that by a headset instead of disturbing your cubicle buddy.
  3. Speak in a normal voice on the conference. Just because it’s a conference call doesn’t mean that the ability for your to be heard has decreased that much. Speak in your normal voice in order to be hear.
  4. Make a funny sign to hang on your cubicle wall to let everyone know you're on a conference. Monsters and zombies are pre-approved by yours truly.

Having a conference call from your cubicle can be a bit of a distraction to your every day work environment. We’re used to getting up and going into conference rooms and being able to block out everything, but that’s not always a possibility, so we have to be able to keep ourselves focused, as well as not disturbing our buddies.

Oct
18
2010
MagicJack Blocks Conference Calls (UPDATE) Maranda Gibson

A few months ago, I let you know about the problems that some of our customers were getting when they were trying to connect to our conference services with MagicJack. The basic rundown is that we were told to simply email them to request that the phone numbers be unblocked. It has not turned out that easy and we wanted to update our customers on where we stand in the resolution.

  • We contacted MagicJack via email, as per their request, to ask our numbers be activated. In response, they asked for some additional information, information that applies to VoIP providers, like an IP address. Since we are not a VoIP provider, we do not have that kind of information to give them.
  • For a brief period in time, MagicJack customers attempting to dial in on one of our toll free numbers were being blocked, but those issues were resolved within 24 hours of letting our contact know.
  • MagicJack has let us know that an interconnection is required in order to proceed but since we are not a VoIP provider, we’re not able to connect to them in such a manner. Their response is “Unfortunately, if we cannot interconnect there is nothing I can do”.

What does this mean for you as a MagicJack subscriber trying to use AccuConference?

Unfortunately, this means that if you’ve been experiencing this interruption in trying to connect to AccuConference, for now, you will continue to get this message. MagicJack has provided no additional information on how we can resolve this, simply stating that we can’t interconnect, therefore, we cannot resolve the issue. We are continuing, on our side, to try to work everything out, but it doesn’t seem like it’s understood we are not a VoIP provider, so we cannot give them what they want to fix the problem. There’s no other solution for us.

For the time being, our hands are tied, but that doesn’t mean yours are. If you’re a MagicJack customer, please feel free to contact their customer service department and let them know that the numbers are being blocked. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission by visiting their website and clicking on “Internet and VoIP”. This will file a complaint with the FCC for “unlawful advertising” while the FCC is continuing to work out regulations and rules for VoIP providers.

Oct
11
2010
Encourage Great Questions Maranda Gibson

Most of the time, when it comes to ending a presentation or conference call, it’s always the same – “We’d now like to turn the floor over for questions.” Then this dreaded thing happens -- silence comes over the crowd and no one seems to have any questions. Everyone knows that the call for questions can be the quietest part of your presentation, when it should be the most collaborative moment you have. When else will you have all these great minds in a room together to pick each other’s brains and share ideas?

In my personal experience, the missing questions are usually related to it being a lot of information thrown at your audience at once, without any real time to digest things. It’s not until later; when you’re reviewing your notes that you’ll realize you have an entire list of questions.

As the presenter there are a few things you can do to help open up the possibility of getting some great questions.

  • Pass out an agenda to the participant prior to the conference. This gives them time to review the information ahead of time and they might even show up with some questions.
  • For long presentations, take periodic breaks for questions. The longer you give information, the more likely questions are to be forgotten. Your audience will be able to feel like they are staying “on topic” which will encourage questions.
  • Give multiple ways that participants can ask questions. Don’t give them the audio only option, also provide a chat box, or email to submit their questions. A lot of people do have stage fright that that could be preventing them from asking their question.

Three little things can change the outcome of your next conference and make it the meeting of collaborative genius you had been hoping for. What are you doing to encourage questions after your conferences?

Oct
08
2010
3 Ways to Make Participants Pay Attention Maranda Gibson


3 Ways to Make Participants Pay AttentionI have two cats and like cats are prone to do, they get into things they shouldn’t. I love my cats but they are naturally nosy and they get into so much. I realized the other night, as one of my little beasts poked her nose around an electrical outlet that when she turned to check and see if I was watching her, which I was, that the glare that was on my face did not do anything to dissuade her from her exploration. It wasn’t until I waved my hands in a large gesture and made a sound at her like air leaking from a tire that she paid attention to me.

The message I learned from this situation was “cats don’t understand non verbal messages.” They are animals, responding only to the sound of the cat food hitting their bowls. If I want them to listen, I have to get their attention. In a lot of ways your participants or attendees on a conference are the same way, attending, but hungry for the information you’re about to lay on them. That is what they are going to respond to. You can get more of a response if you do three things that pet owners do.

  1. Big Gestures. Stepping in front of a crowd means you have to command their attention. People are going to do their own thing unless they have something to pay attention to. The way you get someone’s attention is by grabbing it right away. You have two minutes to make people sit up and pay attention, and then you’ve lost them to their laptops or smart phones.
  2. Give them treats. When my cats do something good they get a treat, maybe some cheese or a can of wet food. Throwing your participants an added bonus is going to make them stay focused and hang on your every word, just in case they might get another one.
  3. Don’t be afraid to get their attention. Most cat owners probably know the wonders and amazement of the squirt bottle of water. Cats hate water and it’s the quickest way to get their attention. While I’m not advocating pointing a Super Soaker at the crowd and going crazy (oh, God, someone please do this) I do think you need to figure out who you’re speaking to and get their attention in a way that is appropriate for those who are attending.

It may seem like a crazy way to look at your conference participants, but I don’t mean it a bad way. Hopefully your participants have the resolve not to wind themselves around your legs in excitement.

Sep
22
2010
Protect Your Privacy Maranda Gibson

There’s a lot of conversation about privacy going on right now. I’m seeing it all over multiple blogs I read and everyone has something to say about it. When the Google CEO (even jokingly) tells you to change your name if you want privacy, it’s time to evaluate what we are doing with ourselves.

Now I want to be clear, privacy is a big deal and there are things that I don’t want published about me on the internet – it’s part of the reason why I deleted my MySpace page (that and I’m not a 15 year old anymore). However, I am not perfect when it comes to keeping my privacy under lock and key, and I probably have too much trust in companies.

When was the last time I really examined those terms and conditions that needed me to “agree”? Do I even know what I am signing up for? What if there’s a clause about the FBI coming by and demanding a blood sample? Did I just “agree” to that? When it comes to the privacy debate – there are two things going on:

  1. Companies shouldn’t lie or be shady. Since it’s the most well known, let’s take a look at Facebook as a perfect example. We signed up for Facebook with a thought about our privacy, and then suddenly – BOOM. Everything was changed. Suddenly, privacy was an “option” and not a “default” setting on your Facebook page. When a user opts to give you their information, it is your responsibility to be sure that they know when you are going to change things, give them an “opt-out” choice, and provide them with information to manually change their settings. The problem with Facebook is that they didn’t give anyone a choice and said “we are going to share your info and you can’t stop us”.
  2. We are ultimately responsible for what we “agree” to. Think about the last time you signed up for a service or social media site – did you actually read the terms of use, or did you just say ‘oh, okay, I’m sure this is standard stuff’ and hit ok? Would you sign a credit card agreement without reading the fine print? No, you wouldn’t. So why treat your personal information any differently? In the end, it’s up to us to know what we sign and who our information is going to.

I think in the end, we should all be reading what we’re agreeing too. But when you have a company that you’ve been a member of or subscribed to for years that suddenly changes everything you’ve ever known about that company, it’s not right. Companies have a responsibility not to sell your information, not to share what you don’t want shared, without a proper and complete warning about the whole thing.

But remember – if you don’t like it, you can always delete or cancel.

Have you been sold out by a company trying to increase their bottom line, or do you admit to making mistakes and not reading what you were signing? When was the last time you read that new iTunes agreement?

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