How to Be Like The Jetsons

Growing up, my brother and I always watched the Jetsons.  It was set in 2062 and when I was seven, that was a really long time away, but now, in 2009, we're staring down the barrel of about 50 years.  Watching some old episodes this weekend brought back some memories and also made me think about how things have changed. Invention is often propelled by convenience, cost, and creativity. In 1991, a group of researchers wanted to save pointless trips to the coffee pot, so they set up a web cam that would broadcast the current status of the pot (and catch the person who didn't reload the machine after getting the last cup).

It was such a simple idea and look at where it's brought us. Web cameras are almost a staple of any office set up.  It's used for anything from having important seminars to being able to have a "face to face" conversation with a far off family member. It makes you think, where can it go from here? Is there anything that we could use video conferencing to achieve that we aren't doing yet?

Blink-182 is currently on a concert tour that is taking them all around the world and right into your living room, by offering a webcast. It made me think of the power of web conferencing to change the whole way things are done. Can you imagine never having to leave your house again to see your favorite band in concert? I am no stranger to the science fiction movies that show people in 3-D environments. Imagine embracing that technology 100% and the way it can change the world.

Imagine being a doctor and having to do a medical procedure you've never done before. Of course, as a medical professional, you want everything to go smoothly. Picture yourself video broadcasting the surgery live to the most world renowned brain/heart/knee/etc surgeon in the world and announce what you are doing it as you are doing it, thus letting you learn from the best. Apply skills like how you are holding the scalpel at the wrong angle, make adjustments that won't only help what you are doing right then, but for all future surgeries.

I usually hate going for the cliché but the possibilities are endless when it comes to the powers of conferencing. It's already reaching out and bringing families together as well as saving business' lots of cash on travel.

Where are you planning to implement video conferencing in your business? 

Accent Your Conference Calls

Conference calls, web conferences, video conferences… they make business so much easier, don't they?  And at their most basic, they are easy to setup and easy to run.  So if a no frills, simple conference call is easy, then does that mean a complex one is hard to do?

The answer is a quiet, dignified, "No."  Putting the extra touch and polish on a conference call is easy with a little forethought.  To get you started, here are a few ways to accent your next conference call:

Guest Moderator – Hiring an average speaker for a meeting or presentation can be costly; especially if they have to travel far to you.  With conference calls, travel isn't necessary.  And because a guest moderator only has to talk on the phone for an hour or so, their honorarium is much, much less.  Lower costs for you and less inconvenience for the guest means you are able to hire a much wider range of people including celebrities and industry superstars!

Why Not Add Video – Let's say you have two offices, one on each coast.  You're planning a meeting between them from their respective conference rooms, each circled round a speaker phone.  Obviously, you could make this happen with a simple phone call, but let"s improve on that.  Start a video conference, have a laptop and webcam at each table, and hook up the laptops to large monitors.  Now you don"t have two disembodied groups anymore.  Instead, your two offices are talking—and seeing who's doing the talking—as if they were just across the hall from each other.

PowerPoint Pizzazz – Among other things, web conferences have a singular feature going for them: you can put the contents of your entire laptop in front of any and all of your participants at the same time.  You can share a design—or video, website, graph, document—and they can study it as if it was on their computer… because it basically is.  Showing your participants something is much more powerful than telling them about it.  And that power is available in each and every web conference you do.

Tips for a Successful Webinar from Michael A. Stelzner

Michael Stelzner

I had a chance to speak with Mike Stelzner, author of Writing White Papers How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged, about a recent webinar he hosted, the Social Media Success Summit. The live online event spanned over a month and brought the brightest minds in social media marketing together and they never even had to get up from their desks.

"Social media happens to be the hottest thing on the planet," Mike stated. His summit brought together some of the biggest names on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and demonstrated the benefits and uses of these social networks to grow the buzz about your small business.

The most unique part of this event? It was a virtual conference. "It's a great way for me to impart a lot of knowledge on a lot people." Mike is absolutely right, virtual conferences can reach a large or small group of people worldwide. Mike was kind enough to give some tips for the business or individual looking to get involved in webinars on a small scale, or even the larger scale.

Have a helper
When you have a presenter, they should be able to be focused on just that, presenting. Assign someone else to keep an eye out for incoming questions, to sort through them if you're prescreening, as well as someone to field any connection questions. 

Speak live in a way that will sound just as great on a recording.
Be mindful that this seminar will be available for people to listen to at a later time. Maybe they missed the first day of your seminar; maybe they missed the last day, or maybe they are just interested in writing down some of the smart things you said. Either way you want to make sure that everything is going to translate into a recorded format while you're doing the live conference.

Keep your audience engaged
"Something as simple as a poll question can really get people engaged." Ask your participants their opinions. 'Would you do this?' 'Is this something you would like to see more of?' Make your participants part of the conference and not just quiet observers to keep them excited about the topic and more likely to come back for the next event.  Encourage them to interact with you via Facebook and Twitter. This will help them stay engaged and will give you instant feedback.

Provide different options to encourage questions.
Instead of just offering your guests or clients the old fashioned voice submission for questions, allow them to submit their questions via email, chat, or text.  It's not always an easy thing to get people to open up. Have some questions ready yourself in the event that you might not get any questions submitted. "When it comes to taking questions that are live, you can run into some real technical challenges if you're not familiar with the platform. So I always believe in having a backup plan in place, and maybe even some back up questions."

These are just some of the tips that Mike was nice enough to offer, and I hope that you apply some of them to your next virtual event or conference call. If you'd like to find out more about Mike Stelzer, you can visit him on Twitter, @mike_stelzner.

Podcasts, People!

What is the difference between a podcast and a recording of a conference call? Quick answer: there isn't a difference.  Longer answer: one way to look at it is a podcast is just your recorded audio conference call that's been "published."

And that's really all there is different between the two.  Has someone mentioned that it would be a good idea to make podcasts for the company; that it would be good advertising?  Have you had a brainstorming meeting to come up with podcast material?  Has someone been put in charge of making the podcast program happen?  (Was it you?)

Here's the good news then: if your company has been doing a lot of conference calls, then there's a good chance you already have a bunch of podcasts just waiting to be published!  Because what could be better content for a company podcast than its presentations about its products, industry news, or the exciting things happening there.

With content taken care of, it's time to edit and transform the conferences into podcasts.  Using a standard audio editing program, you can add the company jingle to the beginning, a few words from the CEO, or a general introduction.  Snip out long silences as well as any proprietary or secret information.  At the end, you can add a conclusion, contact info, product discounts, music, or just let the ending of the presentation be the end of the podcast.  It's entirely up to you.

For publishing, you can simply add it to your website, and do an email and Twitter campaign to promote the new "Podcast section."  You can also upload it to YouTube, or even iTunes!  The point is to get your podcasts out there and working for your company 24/7.

After all, a really great presentation shouldn't be heard just once.

Guest Post by Chris Garrett - 10 Ways Webinars Can Boost Your Business, Starting Today

Chris Garrett

Your business can benefit from teleseminars and webinars much more than merely holding your standard conference call meeting. Due to my lack of vocal confidence I resisted doing much of this kind of thing for a while, until I finally took the plunge. Now I regret holding off for as long as I did because my income and audience have vastly improved each time I have tried one of the many kinds of teleseminar or webinar I list below.

Check them out and see how they could fit into your business ...

1. List-Building Webinar

The first positive impact you can see from holding a webinar is email list opt-ins. This alone could be all the reason you need for putting one on. Even better, these are good leads - people who really want to hear from you. They are people who have taken an action and cleared their schedule for an hour. Much better prospects than someone who is only kinda-sorta interested in reading what you have to say.

2. Masterminds and Brainstorms

They say two heads are better than one, but what about 5 or 10 heads? 
I know many folks who have regular, formal masterminds and get a huge amount of value out of them. I on the other hand have a few people I get together with on an adhoc basis, but still find the experience indispensable.

3. Regular Call/Radio Show/Podcast

Sometimes all it takes is for your customers to get to know your voice in order for them to warm to you. This can be achieved by running a regular call, radio show or podcast. Put it on a specific and regular time slot so people can tune in each time, and that will grow familiarity, personal connection and trust.

4. One-off Buzz-Building Event

Rather than a regular time slot, what about a one-off? Events are a perfect way to build excitement, word of mouth, buzz and anticipation.  You can use the event for publicity, links, traffic, and to gain attention for a message, or product launch.

5. Authority Building Interview Series

Borrow credibility, expertise and authority from thought-leaders in your market. Interview personalities and get vital nuggets of wisdom to share with your prospects and customers.

6. Paid Membership Club

If you have access to lots of experts with great information to share, turn it into a revenue opportunity by charging for access and sharing the proceeds with your interviewees.

7. Online Audio Course

Put your own expertise into a curriculum and sell it as a course. You might think that this will eat into your product sales, consulting service or divert attention away from your core business, but in fact everyone I have spoken to who has done this has found the reverse, more people buy their consulting, products and find it a much easier sell because their prospects KNOW the company is the right one to help with their problem.

8. Q&A

Instead of answering the same questions over and over on email or one to one, put together a question and answers call. This will overcome sales objections, help customers with tricky challenges, and demonstrate your commitment to customer service.

9. Product Preview/Overview/Demonstration

Sometimes customers do not know what they do not know. Demonstrating a product can both educate in the use of the product and explain the benefits, but also serves as "proof" when the prospect can see the before and after with their own eyes. It does not have to be live or video, just a logical sequence of slides explained well can work just as effectively.

10. Digital Product

Finally, when you have all of these calls or webinars recorded, why not add a transcript and sell or giveaway the recording and booklet? 
You might use them as ethical bribes, or offer them for sale at a profit. This can be a quick and easy way to create information products so is well worth considering.

Summary

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Think beyond conference calls and look at all the other ways you can benefit from webinars and telephone seminars. Are there any ideas that I have missed? What has worked for you in the past? Are you thinking of giving any of these ideas a try? Please share your thoughts in the comments ...

Chris Garrett is an internet marketing consultant and business blogger living in the UK. You can find him at his own blog, http://chrisg.com and he also writes for http://promotions.co.uk/blog/

"Write It Down" & Other Teleconferencing Tips

In my daily search of the internet for knowledge I encountered an article on AllBusiness.com that, at first glance, seemed to just have some basic teleconference tips.  However, mixed in were a few I'd like to share with you:

Speak Slower – It can be easy sometimes to forget that sound works differently in a conference call than in a conference room.  Speaking slowly and clearly will ensure everyone understands you.  And even though you may speed up to save time, you lose the savings when you have to repeat yourself.

One at a Time – Interrupting or talking all at once is universally annoying.  Since you can't point in a teleconference, designate the order people should respond, or read off their names.  You can also use lecture mode to let your participants queue up.  Then you can cycle through their "raised hands" at your leisure.

Repeat Important Information – This might be a good idea in any meeting, teleconference or face-to-face.  I was going to say that repeating vital points in a teleconference is especially important because you can't see faces, but I recall many times around conference tables where what was said was not exactly what was meant, and it took repeating aloud for them to realize it.

Write it Down – Ideas can strike at any time, but usually when it's not your turn to speak.  Instead of blurting it out loud-and interrupting someone, see above-write down your killer idea.  Doing this prevents, "Uh, I forgot what I was going to say!" as well as gives you a chance to expand on-or trash-your brilliant thought.

AllBusiness.com suggested taking detailed minutes and notes of each teleconference, to be distributed immediately after.  I wholeheartedly agree… somewhat.  Lose the pen and paper and make sure your "Automatically Record" box is checked.  Then allow people to dial-in after the conference to listen to the recording, or just download it for emailing or uploading to the company website.

What's Your Meeting End Game?

How many purposes for a meeting are there?  Thousands probably.  What was the purpose for your last conference call?  Did you have a goal that needed to be accomplished?  Did you reach that goal?  So here's the "other hand," as much as got done, how many teleconferences have failed to meet the goal you set out for it?

Looking at the big picture, if you didn't reach your main goal, how effective was everything else that got covered during the meeting?  More important, how can you be more effective next time?  I read a post on WikiHow that answers just that very question.

Beginning with my favorite, (their fourth point), "Be clear about the purpose ..." For me, I call it the "end game."  In other words, how do I want things to be after it's all said and done?  Let's say the purpose of your next conference call is to educate the sales staff on a new product that should increase revenues by 20%.  And that's the end game: the sales staff increases revenue by 20% with the new product. 

To make that happen with your conference call, we look at WikiHow's other points:

  • First, with your end game in mind, clarify and organize your ideas.  If it seems like too much, boil it all down to three main points for your presentation.  Build your presentation only with stories, facts, and ideas that support those points. 
  • During the conference call, keep those points at the forefront to stay on-topic.  Be alert to deflect any question, statement, debate, or whatever that could divert the meeting from the end game.
  • Then there is the excellent point number 8: Listen.  Yes, you are the one dispensing knowledge, but in listening, you can learn how much they are learning.  What points do you have to repeat?  Where is there a misunderstanding?  What, if anything, will keep you from reaching your end game?

So what is your word for "end game"?  If not mentioned above-or in the WikiHow article-how do you make sure to accomplish your conference call meeting goals?

A Computer that Also Makes Calls

"…it's customary now for professionals to lay BlackBerrys or iPhones on a conference table before a meeting—like gunfighters placing their Colt revolvers on the card tables in a saloon. 'It's a not-so-subtle way of signaling 'I'm connected. I'm busy. I'm important. And if this meeting doesn't hold my interest, I've got 10 other things I can do instead.''"

Do you have a computer that is always connected to the internet virtually anywhere, that is very close to a desktop replacement, that you can hold in your hand?  How we communicate, how we do business is changing… yet again.

Nothing used to stand out more at a business meeting than a laptop on a conference table open and ready, its owner typing and clicking away.  Not only was this a bit distracting, but you couldn't be sure if they were taking notes, returning an email, or playing solitaire.

With the coming of age of computers that are also mobile phones, not much has changed; it just got less noticeable.  But this isn't a bad thing.  Customers expect to be able to contact whoever, whenever.  Fortunes can be won or lost on the timing of an email reply.  And the speed of business these days makes it difficult to tuck-and-roll if you fall off.

And the possibilities!  Be on that conference call, but at the same time check the quarterly numbers, look up clients, browse their websites, view the latest TPS report, email action items, text the person running late, and twitter updates on your company's private account. 

And while you're doing all of that, make sure to flip back to the internet browser to see if anyone has indicated they have a question on the live-updating teleconference screen… because you are also running the call.

Questions for Effective Presentations

Business communication is different from other types of communication.  It always needs to be clear and concise, and most of the time it needs to be fast.  But fast or slow, when you give a speech or presentation, or send an email or memo, remember that you’re giving them information, but you also want them to do something with it.

To help make sure your communication has the right focus, the Michael Hyatt blog has five questions to ask yourself while preparing to communicate.  They are:

  • What do they need to know?
  • Why do they need to know it?
  • What do they need to do?
  • Why do they need to do it?
  • What can I do to help them remember?

Especially if you have a lot of information to convey, these questions can help keep the presentation focused and easily digestible by the participants.  They should also drill-down the scope of what is to be covered to just the parts that are pertinent or important to the actual audience.

The question that I believe is the most crucial is number four.  It’s tough—and frustrating—to be told to do something without knowing why or how the task fits into the big picture.  Telling people the why along with the what lets them be a part of the team. 

But my favorite part of number four is that if everyone knows the goals and greater purpose, then each can be on the lookout for problems, or even opportunities for improvement.  Instead of just one person trying to hold everything together, there’s a team working together towards the finish line.

Promote that Conference Call!

If a tree falls in the woods, but there's no one around… no wait, if an conference call is held, but no participants have dialed-in, does it still make a sound?  You can't have a conference without people, and even a slick, well-planned webinar is can become a failure if only a handful of participants join in.  So getting the word out to clients, potential customers, investors, and even employees is an important part of hosting an conference call.

With that in mind, I'd like to present three of the eight simple, low-cost tips about promoting meetings from The Forum Effect

Number 2 of 8 – "Add a conference promotional message to the outgoing e-mail signature line for all of employees."  This tip is very simple, clever, and free.  Think about how many emails leave your company on any given day, and that's not even counting the ones that get forwarded.  Your message (with a link to a registration page) could be seen by a huge amount of people in a short amount of time.

Number 3 of 8 – "Offer free advance webinars on topics that will be featured at the conference to ‘tease' the conference."  There are actually two reasons this is a good idea.  The first is to generate interest and build hype.  The second is it lets all those participants get acquainted with dialing-in and participating in a webinar.  It also gives your team a chance to have a dry run of sorts to work out any problems before the big show.

Number 5 of 8 – "…Answer potential attendees' two most important questions: What's in it for me? Why should I come to your event?"  These are two very important, yet often overlooked questions.  Their answers should be put in pretty much every place you mention your webinar.  And it's not just for conferences or events, answer these questions everywhere in your company: "Why should I… buy that product, visit that store, care about the TPS report?"