3 Ways to Make Participants Pay Attention


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.

Conference Calls on iPhone

AccuConference iPhone App

Conference calls on the iPhone are a good way to meet with multiple people while on the go. With the AccuConference app, talking with multiple people on the iPhone can be accomplished almost effortlessly. This post will explain the steps you need to take in order to be conferencing within the next 10 minutes. While we think the AccuConference tools are the best means for conducting calls with multiple people, this application will allow you to connect to conferences hosted by any teleconferencing provider. Also, the iPhone has a built in capability for holding small conferences. T his method will be included in the lower portion of the post.

Conference Calls on iPhone - AccuConference App

  • Get the free AccuConference App from the App Store
  • Open the app and select “Add New Conference”
  • Fill out the fields (conference name, number, and code). If you would like to add other options such as conference date & time or other participants do so on the screen (optional). Save the information.

Now, whenever you need to connect to that conference, simply open the app, press join conference, and it will keep track of all of your codes and dial them for you. Your connection is reduced to one button.

Available in the App Store

Communication Trends

Take a look at what you’re doing today to get a hold of your customers and friends. Is there anything that you’re doing right now that you hadn’t thought of doing a month ago? (Perfect example – FaceTime) How about two?  What about a year ago? How much has the way you communicate changed in the last 15 years? I know the answer – a lot. Things keep changing and eventually, there will be some avenues of communication that will be in a museum somewhere one day. Here are five communication trends I am starting to see.

  1. Social Media – Probably the biggest trend in past years is the growth of social media as not only a platform to communicating with friends, but also as a way to reach customers. It’s being used for everything right now – advertising, customer service, and marketing. It’s taking away the need to send an email to your cousin or to pick up the phone and call a local business to get an answer or help. You just send out a tweet and hopefully) the business will respond promptly.
  2. Decline of Emails – Currently, the use of emails as the preferred medium in an office is on the decline, despite the availability of emails through the mobile technology. The reason for this could be related to a couple of things:  more companies are adopting IM technologies that provide a quicker means of response and idea sharing, or it could be because companies are encouraging social media relationships with customers.
  3. Travel is stressful and expensive, and companies are cutting down on expenses. To keep the flow of business, there’s an increase in use of conference calls to get employees together, and saving the air travel dollars for special reasons.
  4. Less Tech-Speak – I’ve found that more places and people are coming down to their customer and client levels when it comes to sales.  Speaking above your customers head doesn’t mean that you’re going to get that client. What’s probably truer is that you’re going to confuse them, and if they are confused, they won’t want your services. More companies are trending to speak on a level the customer can understand.
  5. Decline of Automated Systems – While there are still plenty of these out in the world, I’ve noticed a slow decline of auto mated systems in the past six months. More customer service lines are opting to use the automated system to gather an account number and name, and then patching you into a live person.  In fact, a few have even done away with the auto operator on the whole. I hope this is a trend that continues.

There are a ton of other communication trends happening out there.  What have trends have you been noticing and embracing in your own communication?

 

Conference Call Recording

I think we’ve reached the point where most businesses have a conference call service. Companies have found that a good conference solution comes in handy in the event of a foot of snow in Texas or in the middle of a volcanic eruption. With advances in conferencing technology, most services can provide much more than the standard conferencing ability, like out dial services and recordings. Recordings are a vital part of any service and you should know how and if your provider charges for the files. Once you’ve found that out, think about the different ways you can use recordings in your own business. Here are a couple of things I came up with:

  • Podcasts – You can call in to a conference line, record a podcast, and then post it on your website.
  • Replays – Did you host a conference that had a better turn out than usual? Have those that attended your conference told others about it and now they want to hear it for themselves? With a recording you can provide a replay of the conference that has everyone talking.
  • Snippets – Take the same recording and edit the MP3 to leave the most interesting parts. Use it as a marketing piece to showcase the highlights of your last presentation and entice people to sign up for your next.
  • Filing – Just keeping a record of a conference can be a good reference. If you review your files and find that you’re getting the same question a lot in your conferences and presentations, you can review and see what you’re missing or what you might need to word differently.
  • Back Up – Sadly, people do sometimes go back on their word. I once talked to a customer who used a conference call to defend her dissertation and told her that she had a specific amount of time to make some changes and report back. When they tried to give her a shorter deadline, she didn’t have a recording to back up what they had originally said.

When my customers don’t want to record, I remind them that it’s a free service with us. I always say that it’s better to have a recording and not need it than to need one and not have a copy. Conference calls are more than just picking up a phone to have a meeting and recordings are just one way you can make a service work for you. How are you using your conference service to make headway in business?

The Big Joke

Anyone who’s ever been on a conference call, hosted a meeting, or even works in an office needs to watch this video right now.

I laughed so hard at David Grady’s perfect impression of a standard phone meeting. You start, you stop, someone joins the wrong call – honestly, it’s five minutes of humor that says, “Here’s what NOT to do on your next conference.”

After you watch that quick stand up and wipe the tears from your eyes – think about the last conference you tried to do. What went wrong? Was it filled with some or all the issues David makes fun of? Here are five things you can do for your next meeting that will keep it from becoming a big joke.

  1. Turn off intro tones.
  2. Mute participant lines with lecture mode for any conferences over ten participants.
  3. Set individual participant codes for repeating meetings for each person who will be attending
  4. That way you can skip the roll call and save time – just go back and check your conference history later.
  5. Set up different conference lines so each department can have their own “room”. This way you don’t have to worry about a participant calling into the wrong line at the wrong time. It’s especially useful when you have conferences that need to be secure.
  6. Send out a meeting agenda so that everyone knows why you are meeting. That way if you get interrupted you don’t have to start all over so that everyone knows why you’re holding the conference in the first place.

While it’s hilarious to think about all the funny things that seem to go wrong in conferences, it’s important to remember that it’s still a meeting and there’s business to be conducted. What are some of your funny stories and what did you do to prevent that same situation from happening again?

5 Ways to Have Comfortable Presentations

There’s a reason why we all love going home. It’s comfortable and familiar. You know where everything is and you can stretch out in a chair that knows your form and weight. There is no second guessing in your home.

There also isn’t a group of people listening to some snappy conference call hold music while waiting for you to start a conference. It can be a little overwhelming, since conference calls are usually held away from your desk and you’re completely thrown off by the new surroundings. How many times have you been on a conference and heard, “Oh, one second, I don’t know where anything is in here.” Here are five very simple ways to be more comfortable in new surroundings.

  1. I suggest you stand up during your conference, but if you chose not to, make sure you sit in your own chair. Just like at home, your chair knows what you feel like and you’ll feel comfortable in your chair.
  2. Unless you’re “borrowing” someone’s space, choose your own room to hold the conference call. When you can, walk into each room and get a feel for it. I would hate to present in a room that didn’t have any windows, so I would never chose a room like that.
  3. Take at least 30 minutes before the call to poke around the room. I would even suggest planning on eating lunch in the office, the longer you sit in a room, and the more comfortable you’re going to be with it. You’ll know where the foot rests are for the conference table or where the table might squeak if you move too much.
  4. Use your own computer when you can. Out conference room computer set up is completely different from mine at my desk (my desk is Windows 7 and the conference room is Windows XP). Every time I go in there, it takes me like 15 minutes to get used to how things look. Use your own computer when it’s easy to take it into the conference room you selected – and if not, make logging in part of your 30 minutes of familiarizing.
  5. Always chose a room that has a door to close. Being able to shut the door will cut out any of the outside influences and you’ll be able to focus on what you’re doing without any interruptions.

Nothing is ever going to feel like your own desk and your own offices, but these are five very simple things that you can do in order to make yourself feel a little more at home in your conference room. What are you doing to get yourself ready for your next conference call?

Where to Focus?

There are a lot of different reasons a company will host a conference call. It could be to announce a promotion, have a guest on the call, train, update company policy, you name it and a company can accomplish it with a conference call. One of the things that always have to be identified when planning a call is what approach you should take as the speaker. Should you take the “I” focus, or the “we” focus and what is the difference?

Some examples of I-Centric presenting will be when you say phrases that have a personal focus, like I have or I feel. In a We-Centric conference, you’ll be referring to a lot of things in the third person or using we. So how do you know what focus to take? As I’ve said before, on a conference call you only have the ability to use words and tone to set a mood.

Set the mood with an “I-Centric” presentation if you are:

Invited to speak on the conference call. You’re there because you have some information, and people want to hear how what you’ve done worked for you.

Accepting a promotion or a new position. You want to address that you’re excited and that you’re looking forward to working with everyone.

Presenting research you did. Sometimes, what you’re showing everyone is something that you’ve done on your own, so “I-Centric” words are completely okay.

Set the mood with “We-Centric” phrases when you are:

Accepting a promotion or a new position. Yes, I realize that I suggested you use I-Centric words for this situation also. The truth of the matter is anytime you accept a promotion or new position in your company is a time that you should enforce the ideas that you’re all going to be a team. It’s important that everyone walks away knowing you’re excited about your new position and that you look forward to collaborating with a new team.

Updating on company policy. When policy changes are made, it’s not just the employees who are affected. Everyone will be affected by changes in a company. When announcing them to a group of employees you need to make sure they understand that the management will not be immune to the changes.

Status meetings. When you’re just updating members of your company or group with where you stand on a project or just in general, you should take a We-Centric approach. Any good things that have stepped forward with the project, everyone has a small part of the success – as well as any failures.

The bottom line between using a We-Centric or I-Centric focus is that most of the time, you’ll want to use a mixture of both, and depending on what you have to say, it could affect the way you say it. How are you using “we” and “I” to set the mood on your conference call?

Presentation Time Limits

Last week, my dad called me in a mess of bubbling excitement, the likes of which I hadn’t heard since one of his Little League teams was getting to battle it out on the road to a championship years ago. A few weeks ago, he got a new job and was faced with the prospect of presenting a proposal—something new for his company.

He struggles with getting up and doing presentations. It’s not that he’s shy (by ANY means), it’s just not something he’s had to do a lot, and his brain tends to get ahead of his mouth—especially when he’s bubbling with ideas. Naturally, he called me for some tips about what to do. The first thing I told him, based off what I know about my dad and his ability to ramble, was to set a time limit for his presentation. He had one hour in front of the big-wigs in his company, and he wanted to make the most of it, but he had about thirty pages of information he wanted to cover. We had to whittle all that down to a presentation that would fit in a time limit that didn’t seem like too much, or too little. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Give yourself enough time to cover what you want to cover and leave time for questions. Since he was presenting something new to a company that they had never done before, it was important to pad the time for a little longer question session. We anticipated they would want to know a little more about what he had in mind, and he wanted to be able to answer those questions.
  • Define specific points to cover – and make them the most important things. To do this, we found that he should take a journalistic approach. In his presentation, he should answer who, what, when, where, why, and how and then let the conversation start.
  • Stick like glue to the plan. When you make a plan and then veer off the path, it’s almost like people can see that your thought train was completely derailed. Once you make a plan for time limits, stick to it.
  • Plan what you’re going to say, and then put together the PowerPoint. Since we were trying to stick to a time limit, we decided that if we put together what he would say, instead of what he would show, we would be building a PowerPoint that was to the point of what we were trying to accomplish.

In about ten minutes, we had my dad ready to go, and after another thirty, we had his PowerPoint knocked out. It only took us about an hour to get him ready to present to a Fortune 500 company – and the best news? They loved his ideas and gave him the green light to go ahead and get the ball rolling on a major venture.

Public Speaking Practice

A lot of times I talk about how to “practice” before you stand up in front of a group or jump on a conference call, but I get the distinct feeling that not a lot of people take this into consideration. We make a lot of excuses as to why we can’t practice – or sometimes, even why we won’t practice. I’m going to debunk some of those reasons right now and show you why you should always practice before you present.

Excuse #1 – I’m a pro. Yeah? So are Major League sports players, musical talents, and theatre stars. So are movie stars, television stars, and even acrobats in the circus. They still show up to batting practice and dress rehearsals. Getting paid to speak at events doesn’t mean that you’re immune to wardrobe malfunctions or technology failures. 

Excuse #2 – I don’t have enough time. Make time – plain and simple. You should never try to make a presentation when you haven’t familiarized yourself with the surroundings or topic. You would never present on a subject you don’t know anything about – so why would you make a presentation in a conference room or over a phone system that you didn’t know anything about. 

Excuse #3 – I have to travel to get there. Okay, that’s understandable, but that shouldn’t be your excuse for absolutely not practicing. Give yourself enough time when you get into the venue to at least take a walk around the hall, or to ask someone to tell you how the conference call will work, instead of just walking into the presentation and expecting everything to run smoothly. Pad your scheduled with, at the very least, 10-20 minutes of down time before you start.

 Those are the three biggest reasons that I hear for why people don’t do a run through before their conferences. Everyone says the old cliché about how practice makes perfect – but I don’t agree with that.  I think that striving to be perfect will only lead to disappointment because no one is perfect. You should instead strive for confidence. Part of confidence is being comfortable. So practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make confident public speakers. 


Crisis Communication

I think we can all agree that the BP created a PR disaster with their handling of the crisis shortly after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure if the PR team could hop in a time machine and go back, they would find a way to handle things a little better from the very start. (One would hope right?) The thing about communication in a crisis is that sometimes, we come across situations that are unprecedented, things that have never happened before, and it isn’t until later that we can get down into the nitty gritty of a company response and learn from mistakes as well as triumphs. This kind of communication can be especially different when hosting a conference call to update everyone and when you have only your voice and the words you are using to convey the messages, here are some important things to keep in mind.

  • Express your emotions so there is no question on how you feel about a situation. Sometimes, situations call for condolences to be expressed to families. Be sure you say that out loud. In a crisis, loss happens, and you’re sorry for that. No one will be able to see that in your eyes, so you have to say it out loud.
  • Use the tone of your voice to convey the seriousness of the situation. There is a time and place for jokes and humor on a conference, but this is not one of those times. It’s not always appropriate to try to “lighten the mood”.
  • Use facts and refrain from judgment or blame. When presenting information in a crisis, the last thing you want to do is speculate when you shouldn’t be. Talk about or answer questions about what you know, not what you think.
  • Keep it simple and avoid using jargon. Word is going to travel fast once you hang up from the conference. Speak in simple terms to lessen the likelihood that your words and meaning could be twisted.
  • Be mindful of the words you are actually saying. For example, using a word like “promise” is going to stand out. Even when you say “I promise” or “we promise” and you don’t mean the literal meaning of promise, for many, that word binds you into stone. Remember that your words have so much power, even though you’re just trying to offer comfort.

I think in the end, what I’ve learned from BP as well as numerous other tragedies that we’ve had in the world is that when it comes to communicating in the crisis, most of what people want is reassurance, but as companies, we are also trying to give the public the facts. What have you learned from the BP oil spill?