The dollar is losing value in overseas markets. A main effect of this is increasing expenses for business travelers going overseas. Not only has the average ticket price risen due to the dropping dollar, but add in the growing fuel surcharge tax applied by airlines on top of that and you're in for a double whammy.
The Business Standard says:
"The signs are ominous. The euro is kissing 1.5, the yen is below 108 and a low for the last several years and the pound is persisting above 2. The Fed"s broadest measure of the dollar (the 37-country trade- weighted BROAD index) is close to its historical low of 84, reached in Oct 1978, and July 1995. The news gets bleaker still - oil is at $100 a barrel and commodity producers are planning to change their century-old practice of pricing in dollars."
So, with the dollar at historical lows, overseas travel is an increasingly less attractive proposition for businesses to consider. With this in mind, savvy managers weigh all the options that they have available as they squeeze profit dollars to their bottom lines. Teleconferencing, web conferencing with application sharing, video conferencing, and instant messaging are becoming an accepted alternative to everyday overseas business travel in this growing global marketplace. Although not every business trip can be replaced by teleconferencing, many aspects – such as initial planning meetings, or updates -- can fill in, or even surpass "going there".
Crumpled pieces of paper, some pastries and assortment of beverages along with exhausted and bored people are typically found at a company brainstorming session. With the arrival of conference call, brainstorming participants are now often sprinkled about the country. One advantage of an audio only conference is the timid participants won't be intimidated to stifle themselves by sneers or scowls by their confident cohorts. Here are six tips that can make a teleconference brainstorming session worthwhile:
- After you have introduced the subject allow everyone some time to think and write down their ideas before the conversation begins.
- Don't allow harsh comments while the ideas are being tossed around.
- Encourage participants to offer any idea, even if it's a bit outrageous; it could lead to inspiring someone to have a great idea.
- Continually vote on the ideas; eliminating the ideas that received a small percentage of the votes. Eventually the winning idea will emerge.
- Be on the lookout for hidden agendas. Some participants might have secretly agreed in advance to reject the ideas of specific members. They may have agreed in advance to praise a specific idea and stimulate others to jump on board.
- Bring in new people for the brainstorming project in order to add stimulation to the process.
Attending a boardroom meeting requires certain etiquette. You wouldn't shove somebody's paperwork off the table to make room for your sales report. Conference calls also necessitate etiquette. Here are nine valuable conference call etiquette suggestions:
- Be on time. Don't disrupt the meeting. It's also a little rude to ask a punctual person to supply a review of what you missed.
- If the moderator of the conference call excludes you from the introductions; don't be shy, say hello and mention your name and your location.
- It's polite to acknowledge the contributions people are adding to the teleconference. "That's a great idea" or "Thanks for the information." It also makes the meeting seem more active.
- Disable the call-waiting feature on your phone.
- Don't interrupt while a participant is speaking.
- If you are on speakerphone all the little noises such as keyboard sounds, chairs squeaking and papers being shuffled are annoying to the participants.
- Don't hit the hold button. You don't want the group to be serenaded by unnecessary music or irritating beeps.
- Inform your co-workers regarding the timeframe of the teleconference so they won't enter your office making sarcastic comments about the Chief Financial Officer for everyone to hear.
- Don't use a cell phone; too much background noise.
Etiquette and conference calls go together.
Should you limit the number of participants in your conference call? That depends on the purpose of the conference call. Perhaps you have never considered putting a limit on the number of participants in a teleconference because it seems like you would want as many participants as possible but then again you may want to consider a participant limit to be more effective.
If the sole purpose of the teleconference is to announce something and give listeners information that you really want them to know (and tell others), then you should allow any and everyone to participate. When you set up a teleconference as a way of publicizing new products and services, you may or may not want to limit the number of participants. On one hand, the more people you expose to your company and products, the better. On the other hand, you have to know that listeners will not feel special or singled-out.
Conference calls that are set up as a dialogue might benefit from a limited number of participants. Publicizing this limit will may make the truly interested sign up quickly. If you want time for the speakers and participants to take an in-depth look at a topic, then a limit will give them the opportunity to do just that. A moderator will still be needed, but that person probably won't have to do as much as they would if you had a large number of people involved.
We found an interesting educational site today. It mainly caters to governments and technology, but it is a clearinghouse for top-notch audio archives of niche-related teleconferences from 2007 and 2008. You can visit the Lorman Education Services site for the depth of selection and pricing.
What I found highly interesting was that the archived teleconferences were available for purchase some with price tags as high as several hundred dollars and available to buy as MP3 download or burned to a CD and mailed to you.
When you have a teleconference, don’t consider it a one time event. Take some time to archive it back on your website like Lorman has done, offer it free to prospects, or even offer it for sale on your website. You may find a brisk business in your “after-event” media that may surprise you.
Even if you don’t want to sell access to your previous teleconferences, an online archive that can be downloaded to portable media players or to computers will allow others to preview the quality of your teleconference events potentially raising attendance at your next teleconference event. Think about it the opportunities for your teleconference marketing are endless!
When you think of the type of people who utilize conference calling, businessmen in conservative suits with their ties properly positioned comes to mind. However, if Butler County sheriff Joe Gaddie gets his way, men and women wearing prison jumpsuits in the state of Kentucky will be participating in the world of conference calling.
Sheriff Gaddie wants to take advantage of the conference calling equipment which was installed three years ago in the courts in all 120 counties in Kentucky. It's an excellent way to prevent taxpayers from spending a lot of money transporting the prisoners back and forth to court and other destinations.
Here is why the local community may want to be concerned - the system has not been activated. This is a prime example of government agencies not understanding the huge cost saving benefits that conference calling can afford. Government officials in Kentucky and other states that are not taking advantage of the huge cost savings from using conference calling for court cases might change their minds by actually totaling up the cost for transportation and then deducting the cost to turn on their conference calling systems. Just the decrease in gas expenses and the overhead of the personnel costs of security staff needed to transport a prisoner to the court house may make county managers reconsider their uses of conference calling and actually look for ways to expand its use within the prison system.
Once you've tried holding a few audio conferences, you should consider doing more.
Your organization could sponsor an entire series of audio teleconferences. This is just one more way to improve your industry profile, communicate with clients and customers and spread the word about what you do.
Conference calls are great idea generators. So if you have one you are certain to get ideas for the next one and the one after that from the discussion. You will hear about or come up with new projects, initiatives, and resources after you've had the opportunity to get into dialogue with others in your industry.
You can plan your series to go with a yearly calendar, academic calendar, or to follow some other pattern. You could schedule conferences on a quarterly basis or on some other plan that fits your industry.
As the plan gains momentum, you'll find that more people want to get on board. At the start you will likely have to do a lot of publicity. It will be up to you to get those phone lines jumping and to find speakers, within or outside of your organization. Eventually you will be able to book industry experts who are seeking to join your conferences.
Conference calls are not just for work, you know. A basic telephone is, above all, a communication device. And there is no more important function of communication than that of keeping up with friends and loved ones.
Why not schedule a teleconference with friends in far-flung parts of the country, or may even the world. Before you laugh or say it sounds ridiculous, think about it…you schedule business meetings and rehearsals and because you schedule them you make every effort to keep these appointments. So why not schedule time to talk and catch up with friends. Sure, you all have cell phones and perhaps after 9pm you can talk for free, but will you?
It is hard to get a conversation going with multiple people on cell phones. Or if several of you try to talk using the speakerphone mode, it may not sound quite right. A provider of audio conference tools has the set-up to make your conference call with friends sound crisp and clear.
Yes, it is saying something about the times in which we live when people consider setting up conference calls with friends. But the reality is that many of us are so busy that we just sit back, watch our friendships erode, and lament it all.
If you have been e-mailing friends who are far away, it is time to step away from the computer. LOL cannot replace the sound of genuine laughter. Get a group of friends together and find a time to really talk. You'll feel a whole lot better. And you just may decide to conduct a little business after all: you can use conference calls to plan your next group vacation.
To publicize a series of teleconferences, you have to get creative. Notice we said publicize, not advertise. Of course you can take out ads in trade publications and newspapers, but if your budget is limited, you may want to save those funds for another venture.
Instead of taking out ads in publications, you can write letters to the editor when you see an article about a topic your teleconference will address. Of course you have to mention the teleconferences in the letter! But don't make it like a commercial. Make sure you concentrate on relevant commentary about the topic at hand and mention the teleconferences as just one way your organization keeps the public informed.
Make sure that you talk about upcoming teleconferences every chance you get. When you meet people at conferences, happy hours and networking events, don't forget to tell them about what your organization is doing. This seems so simple, but you'd be surprised at just how often we all forget that word of mouth is the best way to advertise. Even if you meet someone and think that they are not in your industry, tell them about the teleconference anyway. They may know someone else who'd be interested.
Certainly if you should charge or not for your conference call as well as how much you should charge is totally up to you. There are two different philosophies when it comes to charging. Some feel that they should offer conference calls free as a way to expose prospects to their services in a non-threatening way. Impressing potential clients with their business acumen or level of expertise in their field may work for you as an approach as well. This is certainly a very workable strategy as every one loves to get something for nothing. The other philosophy is that unless you charge a prospect will not assign value to your information.
When you don't charge for your conference call, you may unwittingly communicate that their attendance is not important to you. Attendance at your calls may suffer as the call appointment may be easy to blow off if there is a conflict or the day gets busy, because, you know it is free and there will most likely be another one.
Sometimes the best in between is to charge a modest amount and refund the fee against the first order or service contract. Whatever you choose, paid or non paid, you may want to test several options, check out your competition, and ask your own clients their opinions.