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Sep
29
2008
Say Good Bye to Sticky Notes Maranda Gibson

Reminders are everywhere. It began with a ribbon around the finger and has evolved to mounds of sticky notes attached to every foreseeable corner of your desk. It's cluttered, messy, and not at all in line with your company's recent pledge to be more streamlined and efficient. Companies want written records and one of the most important things is about follow up. With conference calls, they can be so jam packed with information that sometimes it might feel like you are writing non stop throughout the whole thing just to take good notes on what you need to discuss more later on. Hopefully, you are recording every conference call.

The new call notes system can help you keep track of the information for particular conference calls. A single click of the mouse can tell you everything you need to know about a particular call. With the conference call note capability, now it's possible to go into the conference and add a tag (up to 100 characters) beside the conference name in the history.

Notes
The call notes column has been added to your conference account history.

If you're not sure where to start or why you would want to take advantage here are some perfect examples of why this feature is such a great addition.

  • Purpose: A lot of companies use their conference codes again and again, but still need to keep track of what was discussed on a specific conference call.
  • Editing Recordings: Many offices have a staff of people who handle the editing of call recordings. Usually they have to wait for the director or manager to let them know when and where the conference should be edited. With the conference notes system you can tag the call with the editing instructions for the person to know what you want on each call.
  • Initiation: Update the notes section to include the person who either initiated the conference or was moderating the call.  If you invited a speaker or even a VIP to the call, you can list their name in this section as well.
  • Task Manager: Use the call notes as a task manager. Instead of flooding yourself with handwritten notes about things that need to be done, use our online notes to keep track of which calls you need to have transcribed, which calls need to be uploaded for review, hosted on your website, or sent to individuals. Are you now planning to make some of these calls available for dial-in playback? Put a note into the call to remind yourself to go back and set the conference to allow for that. Are you ready to change your codes on a particular call? Make a note that says "need code change" to either remind yourself to do it or to let a secretary or assistant know that needs to be done.


Use the call notes system to indicate specific information about your call.

Notes

With an 800 forwarding account this feature is available as well

  • As an engineer or someone over seeing a large project, you can make call notes in your log regarding who was calling you and what they were calling about. If the contractor calls to let you know there's a delay you can make a simple note: "Contractor – delay in permits" that way you know what is going on without having to go into each recording.
  • Faxes: When you receive a fax through your forwarding number, the PDF is stored on your account log and by using the call notes system you can keep track of what the fax is regarding without needing to keep a printed copy of the fax.
  • Use the call notes system to track for business purposes. When a call is received the log can be updated to reflect the persons name, phone number, or content of the call.

By doing this, the need to keep written notes is further eliminated, allowing even more access to the things that are important, like business information, and taking one more step towards eliminating the sticky note pad all together.

Sep
22
2008
More Talk About Using Teleconferencing To Save Money Maranda Gibson

The city of San Jose, California has a proposal on the table this week to save their "in the red" city employee travel budget.

Teleconferencing.

"With San Jose confronting chronic budget deficits, one councilman suggests the capital of Silicon Valley could employ computer technology to shrink its more than $1.3 million annual travel costs by substituting virtual travel for the real thing.

Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio has proposed an addition to San Jose's travel policy for city employees that would require them to explore whether Internet teleconferencing could be used to substitute for traveling on the taxpayers' dollar.

'Millions of dollars on travel seems to be high for a city suffering a deficit,' said Oliverio, whose proposal will be considered next Wednesday by an agenda-setting committee chaired by Mayor Chuck Reed. 'Using technology will not only save the city money, it will also help our environment.'

The proposal comes on the heels of a scathing city audit of travel expenses for San Jose's pension trustees and retirement services department that found a loose policy allowed them to routinely overpay for airfare, transportation and lodging. Oliverio noted the retirement travel audit looked just at the spending of one department, whose trip expenses totaled about $90,000 a year and are paid out of pension funds rather than the city's operating budget.

According to travel expense figures provided by the city manager at Oliverio's request, city travel expenditures averaged more than $1.1 million annually over the last eight years."

The Pioneer Press based out of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota reports on the trend for conventional businesses as well.

"Video conferencing has been underwhelming corporate America for years. But maybe it's finally ready for its close-up.

With oil hovering around $100 a barrel and the rigors of business travel looking more and more like an episode of 'Survivor,' more companies are giving the high-tech alternative to the in-person business meeting a second look.

And more are buying in. Video conferencing was a $1.14 billion global market last year, up sharply from about $800 million in 2006, according to Wainhouse Research, a Boston-area technology consultancy that focuses on the industry."

This spike in teleconferencing activity for businesses and city governments shows that once again Americans have figured creative workarounds during the past year. If you haven't considered teleconferencing, why not check it out? You may save some money in the process.

Sep
15
2008
Web Conferencing with your IPhone Maranda Gibson

Iphone and Web Conferencing

Less complicated is pretty much the American mantra.

We want it all and we don't want to have to wait for it. Drive-thru's, toll tags, tap and pay services for credits, and there's even an entire marketing campaign dedicated to why you should use your check card instead of cash. We want it quick, we want it now, and we don't have time to wait for it.

Apple cashed in when they created their iPhone system, integrating a MP3 player, a cell phone, and a mobile internet browser into a single device. Part of being less complicated definitely means that it's important to carry around less stuff in your pockets. Listen to music, answer a phone call, check your email, and the great thing about it is that you can do it all from the city park or from JFK International Airport.

The iPhone has, in many ways, eliminated the need to carry around a laptop to meet your busy lifestyle. It can also take some of the pressure off when travel is delayed or you get stuck in traffic. Gone are the days when you had to drag out the laptop, plug in the wireless card or fork over ten bucks for airport Wi-Fi just to hop on a manage your conference call, a call that you had expected to be in your office for.

Use the access to the 3G network on your iPhone and log into the AccuConference customer website (don't worry touch users, it works, you just need to make sure you have a WiFi connection). Just go right through the Safari browser and pull up your account information. Once you're logged in, you have the ability to manage on-the-go with your iPhone. View the live call that is going on and scroll through the participant list. It is updated in real time just like when you are accessing this feature from a laptop or PC it is just a smaller screen in the palm of your hand. You can also listen to the call at the same time that you are controlling it so that you're not trying to juggle too many things at once.

The iPod's touch sensitive screen will recognize when you click the different features from the Live Call screen. You can access the toggle functionality for Lecture Mode, Free Recording and more. Use your finger the same way you would use a mouse so that you can identify those noisy callers and mute their lines. Who knows, they could be experiencing muddy travel plans as well.

It's not just for travel purposes either. Sometimes computers can go horribly wrong (see the blue screen of death blog from Friday) when you're right in the middle of something, even if it is a conference call. Just pull out your iPhone and access your customer information. No one on the call will ever know the difference and you'll be able to do the same things you would have on your PC without having to go into panic mode.

There are a lot of "it's" in the world and this is just one little thing that makes "it" go a lot easier.

Sep
13
2008
Recording your Conference Call is the Perfect Meeting Back Maranda Gibson

There is one screen that strikes fear into the heart of computer users everywhere. It's not the invalid operation popup or the "if you open this file, you're going to get a big virus" warning. Every PC owner has experienced the screen I've described at least once and some truly unlucky few have experienced it more than once. It's the fatal error screen commonly known as the "blue screen of death."

The blue screen of death is the PC user's worst fear. It means your computer is probably now just a really expensive paper weight. The screen comes out of nowhere, popping around the corner like a special effect zombie in a horror movie. You're tempted to pull the plug but decide to try the Ctrl+Alt+Delete command and get no response from the system. That pretty much cleans you out of ideas and by this time you're tired of looking at the bright light of the blue screen.

So you pull the plug and hope that rebooting the system will make it better. The computer logo pops up and you think that all is well. Until you get the somewhat less scary looking but completely disastrous little brother of the blue screen of death; "Windows cannot locate drive C: /". Oh yeah, that's right. It's time to completely reformat your system. Now everything is lost and you're going to have to start over from the beginning and hope that you kept all your software passwords.

Entire businesses have been created based purely on the idea of backing up documents and programs on a secondary system. The pictures, documents, and music files that you store on your personal computer are important enough that you spent extra money to back up everything and not have to go through this kind of hassle.

Wouldn't it then make perfect sense that you should be recording all of your conference calls? Without these meetings, those trips down to Disneyland and over to the Grand Canyon wouldn't be possible. So call recording should be used on every conference as both a safeguard as well as a reference tool.

Recording doesn't always seem like an important step to take until it's too late. Most conference call systems don't store conferences on back-up unless they are commanded to do so. So if you find yourself in a situation where you chose not to record your call and then you need to reference it for some reason, you're probably going to be in a tough place. Many conference companies, AccuConference included, offer the recording service for free.

This is a good safeguard if you ever find yourself in a position that you need to listen to the call again or need to gather more information. You have the ability to do these things right away. There's not a secretary or note taker in the world that will be able to write down every single word and be able to transcribe the call in its completion. If you're the type of the person who enjoys having hard copy of what was said on a particular call these recordings can also be submitted for transcription, which will give you yet another way to keep a copy of the meeting on hand. If you ever find yourself in a position where you want to know verbatim what a particular participant said on the call, the recording is there to back you up. No one can deny their own voice can they?

In the end, going the extra mile to back up personal files seems like a no-brainier, and the person who doesn't and suffers a crash always ends up regretting it.

Sep
02
2008
Don't Forget the "Green Room" Maranda Gibson

The conference call goes live and suddenly you are faced with a crowd of people listening in their phones, all waiting for the words coming through your receiver. If you have prepared yourself and know what you're talking about you'll be fine. Admittedly, facing an audience is easier through a phone than on a stage with them right in front of you, but you still have to be ready and you must have your team and speakers ready as well.

This is where your pre-conference, or "Green Room" comes in. It's a good idea to have the organizers and speakers dial in to a conference ten to fifteen minutes early. Since you have given them speaker codes, you and they will be separate from the participants who are muted and listening to hold music. It is in this virtual green room that you can go over the timing and content of your conference call. Then at meeting start time, you can exit pre-conference by pressing *3 which ends the hold music, keeps the participants muted, but allows everyone to hear the speakers.

The green room isn't just for the beginning of conference calls, you can switch back and forth as necessary. A good time to go back to the green room is during each break. This puts the participants back with the hold music and you and your speakers can discuss how the previous section went and prepare or make changes for the next section. The hold music also becomes a great indicator for the participants as when it disappears, they know that the conference has begun again.

Keeping the same page is vital for a great conference. Using the green room is a way to stay on top of things as well as be flexible for any changes along the way, all while displaying professionalism and putting on a great show.

Aug
28
2008
Five Conference Call Guidelines Your Probably Don't Think About Maranda Gibson

1. Talking clearly, near to the phone - especially in a large conference room with many people around you and many more on the phone line. If you're nowhere near the phone, get closer. If you're near the phone, face it. If you're speaking, remember someone is listening from very far away and the clearer you can make your presentation, the better it will come across.

2. Skip inside jokes; they don't translate well. It's all fun and games until someone can't understand you. I sit on conference calls that are mostly inside jokes and laughter for about half the call. This is great fun for those in the conference room at the other end of my phone line, but I miss most of it. If you have an inside joke, wait for later, or let everyone hear it. This also cuts down on extraneous jokes that really aren't appropriate.

3. Conference rooms should have closed windows. This is a significant problem with conference calls during the summer when construction is everywhere and it's hot in the building. The sirens, the traffic noises, and construction noises really come across louder on a phone line if the windows are open in the conference room. If you have to open the window, crack it and if that gets so loud outside that even you can hear it, remember the people on the phone can hear it more. Close the window until at least the main part of the presentation or meeting is complete and then get some air. Air conditioning is also a novel idea for conference rooms. Hint, hint.

4. Introduce yourselves and let people on the phone introduce themselves. Then use your name each time you talk for a few rounds. "This is Mark, can I ask a question?" This helps the people on the phone and in the room realize that you are speaking to them too. This also helps to cut down on confusion as to who's talking as well.

5. Ask the people on the phone if they need any clarification. Every ten minutes or so, just stop and make sure everyone both in the room and on the phone are tracking the meeting. This is helpful, because many people on a phone line aren't sure when to break in to ask you to speak up and if they don't ask, no one in your conference room will have a clue that anything is amiss. Check in with everyone often and that should clear up any lingering issues with regard to hearing and comprehension.

Jul
31
2008
Communicating With Song Maranda Gibson

Teleconferencing is described as a "live exchange of information among persons and machines remote from one another but linked by a telecommunications system, which is usually over a telephone line."

Teleconferencing services are not only offered and used by businesses alone.  At times, ordinary people will find that teleconferencing or video conferencing is the best way to make a personal connection, just for the fun of it.

This week, the Barbershop Harmony Society held their 70th International quartet and chorus contest in Nashville, Tennessee.  Almost 9,000 people traveled from around the globe to be part of this amazing annual contest.  The Society boasts a membership of almost 30,000 male singers in the United States and Canada alone.  For those who were not able to attend the convention, the Society worked hard to provide services to make you feel like you were almost actually at the convention.

They provided a web-cast that showcased each Barbershop quartet and chorus competing in the contest in real time.  In addition, people who were viewing the action online were able to speak to competitors immediately after they left the contest stage via a teleconferencing link.  People could congratulate and speak to competitors using the services provided by several different carriers at the performing venue.

For those not able to attend the convention, the experience of communicating with friends and family members who were competing was invaluable.  The people who viewed the web-cast were thrilled to be able to see history in the making as the new Champions were given their medals.  Plans are already in the works for next year’s teleconferencing and video exchange.  The convention will be held in Anaheim, California.

Jun
09
2008
Manners Matter in Virtual Team Teleconferences Maranda Gibson

Even though you can't see the people in your meeting with a teleconference doesn't mean that there aren't certain rules of etiquette that you should follow. In fact for teleconferences, meeting etiquette in certain areas is even more important than in a face-to-face situations.

Here are a few tips to help you to have the best teleconference possible:

  1. Make sure to send your agenda before the meeting so people may be properly prepared. You may want to send it out more than several hours ahead. Depending on the nature of the call, you may need to send your agenda several days to a week ahead of your planned call.
  2. Include your starting and expected ending time. Use Outlook to schedule your meetings electronically and ask for participation approval automatically. Let your participants clear their calendar to allocate you the time you need.
  3. Make sure you have communicated your expectations clearly to all participants. This will help to keep your meeting on-track and allow you to have metrics for which to measure your teleconference meeting success.
  4. If you have had previous problems with attendees putting your call on hold and sharing their canned hold music or promotional message with the group, consider discussing the issue privately with the party before your next call. If you cannot identify the person clearly, send with your agenda a gentle teleconference protocol reminder listing this item specifically to help your team get and stay on track.
  5. Keep your message short, concise, and closely follow your agenda. Doing so, will keep attendance high and keep participants focused.
  6. Follow-up in writing your plan of action and who has been tasked to perform which activities. Good follow-up assures that the plans you have discussed will be implemented and that team members can be accountable for specific tasks.

May
30
2008
Register for Better Tracking Maranda Gibson

If you really want to keep track of your participants, use a registration page for all of your conference calls.  Registration systems will record any data you want and store it for use later.  Also, during a live call, you can see the data next to that caller - speaking directly to users and knowing who they are increases the personal touch of your call (not to mention it is impressive).  Also, each participant receives their own unique code for the call - again, more personal.

After your live event, you have data on who registered, who attended the live call as well as who did not - great for follow-up.  For paid services like teleclasses, this is a great way for tracking attendance and keeping control of who gets it.  For required employee calls, the data will keep everyone accountable.

Best of all, it's free.  Try it out!

May
29
2008
When Multi-Tasking Works Against You Maranda Gibson

We've all been in this situation, sitting in a "boring" teleconference, our mind starts to wander, we decide maybe we'll look at our email, and then out of the blue, the speaker asks your opinion!

Wow, talk about an embarrassing moment, how do you say you had been drifting? It's better to follow these few tips to keep your focus in a teleconference particularly when your mind starts to wander.

  1. Close your email program and your browser. You won't be tempted to multi-task if you don't have these applications open.
  2. Turn off your cell phone and PDA. Don't be tempted to lose your focus with these distractions to the call.
  3. Get a piece of paper out and make bulleted notes of the meeting.
  4. As you think of it, write down your questions on a specific topic or write down the name of the person and task that they have just been given.
  5. Write down the follow-up actions you will personally need to take and the dates to take them. Writing will help you to stay tuned-in and keep your mind actively involved in the teleconference as well as provide concrete follow-up for you to log into Outlook after the conference call.
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