What To Do When No One Asks A Question

Few public speaking situations have made me as nervous as when I had to present my senior thesis to the Communications department. Everything I had worked so hard for and watched my parents sacrifice for came down to one presentation on propaganda and the pressure was on. I knew that there would be questions about my research. When I wrapped up, I stood at the front of the room with nothing but blank faces staring back at me.

No questions? I was shocked. They simply thanked me and I was allowed to leave the hall. I convinced myself that no questions meant I had failed. I didn't.(Thank goodness).

At the end of a presentation, you expect there to be rapid fire questions coming from every point of the audience. What happens when you wrap up the presentation, ask anyone if they have questions, and there is nothing but silence?

Come Prepared

Before stepping out on the stage to make your presentation, you should be prepared for the event that no one is going to have a question at the end. Have a list prepared with a couple of additional notes to your presentation that you can offer if no one has any questions.

Ask Friends Before Hand

One of the things about asking questions on a conference call or face to face is that there is a hesitation to being the first person to speak up. Before the presentation, find a friend or co-worker and ask them if they would be willing to offer up a question if no one jumps in, just to get the ball rolling. You'd be surprised how many people will chime in once someone starts the Q&A off.

Wrap it Up

Not having any questions after a presentation might signal a need to wrap things up and hand the stage over to the next speaker. If their truly are no questions, it will be very awkward for you and the audience if you just hang around onstage. If you don't want to wrap up you presentation early, open a dialogue with your participants and see if you can't get them talking to you, instead of the other way around.

Provide Another Way to Ask

Maybe the presentation you're making is on a sensitive subject or everyone has simply succumb to shyness that day. Either way, you should give your participants a different way to ask questions. Some may prefer email or they simply won't think of a great question until it's time to put your suggestions into action.

When you open the floor for questions and all you hear are the crickets and papers shuffling - it doesn't always mean you didn't do a great job. Q&A sessions are very helpful for both you and the participants listening in so when things don't go your way at Q&A time, it doesn't mean you have to disconnect or leave the stage feeling like a failure. What do you do at the end of your presentation and there is nothing but silence?

Use Webinars and Engagement to Get More

This week, I read this awesome post over on Copyblogger called How to Use Webinars to Create Great Relationships with Prospects and Customers. The blog is highly indepth about how you can reach out to customers and make sales connections by inviting them to Q&A sessions or with coaching programs. I have personally written about using Q&A session with customers in a webinar format before and how it can offer great benefit to your company by knowing what your customers want to know more about.

These are great ideas and I fully support them, but there are some things you have to keep in mind when approaching using a webinar for any part of your business.

Pay Attention to Your Time Constraints

Understand exactly how long it is going to take you to present the information to your customers, clients, or co-workers. Give yourself a little extra time on either side of the webinar for any last minute hold ups or if you happen to run a little long in a Q&A session. Most webinars are scheduled for an hour and have anywhere from 30 - 45 minutes of presentation time and then the rest is Q&A from the audience.

Don't Host a Webinar Just to Do It

Ever been a participant on a webinar where you've heard it all before? Instead of presenting buzz words and tired information, have something new and interesting to present. You can invite speakers to your webinars so that they can give a fresh perspective on the topic. You can invite a blogger in your niche to come on the line and have an open discussion with participants or debate over how to do something. You can also present new research on how your kinds of products are being used in businesses, so that your potential customers can see how the products will benefit them in the short and long run. If participants feel like they scheduled an hour to hear something you've already heard before means they are less likely to sign up for your businesses webinar event again, and it means you will stick in the minds of your participants for all of the wrong reasons.

Always Have Q&A Options

No matter how well you present a topic or how much you know about a subject - there will always be questions. It's not a bad thing, in fact, it's great because sometimes your audience can lead you to an idea you might have never thought of yourself. You have to give them a way to ask these questions and sometimes the idea of having to speak the question can be a bit of a hold up for participants. Use a webinar service that is going to provide both audio and some other form of question forum (like chat) to help give everyone a way to feel comfortable asking those questions. Provide an email address for the ones that you can't get to in the alloted time.

Using a webinar is a great tool for reaching out to current customers, clients, and even a public who might never have been exposed to your brand. If you're going to take on the importance of webinars in business, you have to be ready to make them useful and informative.

What kinds of thing are you doing to make your webinars stand out from a crowd? How are you engaging with participants during the presentation to make sure they are really getting what they came for?

Solving Conference Call Annoyances

Earlier this week, I told you all about the 12 Conference Call Attendees That Cause Annoyance. Now that you've considered the list and mentally pointed the finger of blame at some of your co-workers, let’s go over what you can do to fix those annoyances on the conference.

The truth is that conference calls are supposed to be a productive and concise way to conduct business without having to shuffle everyone into the conference room, which, let’s be honest, is sometimes like herding cats. When one, any, or all of these things happen on conferences it can change the entire tone of the meeting and take a productive group of people down a desperate spiral of frustration. So what can you do?

  1. Offer a recording to the conference participants who are traveling or who have their children home with them that day. This way people won't feel pressured to join the conference if they are getting on a plane or home with a sick baby - who may decide at any time to burst into tears. These participants can listen in to the conference at a more convenient time and ask questions or give feedback later.
  2. Lock your conference call (Press *7 on the telephone keypad as the moderator) and prevent late participants from joining the conference. This will lessen the likelihood that someone will join the conference ten minutes late and then require that they immediately get caught back up.
  3. Use the power to mute the lines to control what is heard in the background and to filter out who is speaking. (We recommend using lecture mode for any conferences that are going to be five participants or more.) Use the live call screen to identify which lines are making noise so that you can mute them without disrupting the rest of the conference call. This works for background noise, hold music, pretty much any disruption that can be caused by unauthorized sounds.
  4. Encourage your participants to use a land line phone and a headset instead of speaker phones. In our experience, land lines tend to be more reliable for the conference call and headsets are the best, least intrusive way to be hands free on a conference call.
  5. Do your best as the meeting organizer to schedule your conferences before or after lunch time. The best time to host a conference is before the lunch hours but it does get hard to do this when you're dealing with people in multiple time zones. We wrote some great tips on the best time to have conference calls, so we encourage you to go over there and check them out.

Knowing what to expect on a conference call is part of the planning process. As the moderator you have to be prepared to step in a mute a line or suggest that someone call back in when they are in a less noisy environment. What do you do on conference calls and webinars that keep those distractions out and keep productivity moving forward?

12 Conference Call Attendees That Cause Annoyance

Come on, admit it. Close your eyes and think about your last conference call and you'll immediately think of a number of people that turned the last conference into a disaster. There are a lot of different circumstances that call for conference call participation, but it never fails - there are always those one or two people who just make the experience slightly unbearable for the rest of the team.

The person who is always late.

Consistently, this co-worker will join the call five minutes late and demand to be caught up before the call can continue.

The last minute participant.

This person is different than the "late participant". This participant decides at the last minute they need to join the conference call about something that is out of their scope or they are unfamiliar with. Usually the first ten minutes of the conference are spent bringing this person up to speed.

The Mumbler.

This person doesn't speak up on the conference and therefore cannot be heard. It's either because their voice is very soft or because they are sitting too far away from their phone.

The "if I can just jump in here" co-worker.

This person always has something to add to the conversation, but it's often at the expense of other participants. They interrupt other attendees on a regular basis and instead of apologizing and remaining quiet until it's their turn to speak, they continue talking as if it doesn't matter.

The person who always laughs when his or her leather chair makes a hilariously suggestive noise.

Oh, hahaha, it's so funny.

The person who thinks "it's time for a conference call" somehow translates into "time to eat lunch!"

You can always hear this person smacking their lips as they chew or gurgling down their diet soda. If you know you have a conference call during your lunch time, make plans to eat at another time. Inevitably, this person always gets prompted to respond when they have just taken a bite. They will then proceed to speak around it.

The co-worker that works from home in a sea of barking puppies or crying babies.

We're not sure if they run a day care or pet adoption center in their spare time, but it just always seems like the sound of baby crying or a dog in the background is amplified on a conference call.

The scream talker.

They always think that their phone mic is turned down too low and feel like they need to scream to be heard. Usually, their voice causes echoes and feedback on the conferences.

The "hello? hello?" participant.

This participant always suspects they've been disconnected from the conference and must then interrupt the flow of conversation in order to assure they are still joined.

The Traveler.

Yes, sometimes we have to travel when it's time to take a conference call, and there is nothing wrong with that. It just always seems like the other participants end up hearing the boarding announcement or the commuter train departure schedule better than they hear the actual conference call.

The Multitasking Genius.

With their speaker phone on, they proceed to "listen" to the conference while answering emails or getting text messages. The sound notifying them of a new text notification or the gentle and somewhat soothing pounding of the keys on the keyboard play into the conference and give everyone a sense of "nothing is going to get done here".

The person who uses the hold button on their phone, instead of mute.

When you put a phone on hold in a conference one of three things will happen: silence fills the room and everyone makes the assumption the call has ended, periodic beeps will play into the conference, or some rocking easy listening music is about to interrupt and derail your entire conference call.

Who is the person on your conferences that you always feel like needs to be muted?

Conference Call Information in CSV Files

We strongly advocate the idea of recording your conference calls, even if you don't think you'll need to listen to it ever again. The same goes for tracking and knowing exactly who joined conference calls. The way we provide this kind of information is by giving our customers access to downloading CSV files that store information based on the kind of conference call you host. Lately, we've had some customers asking us about how to get their hands on this information and how they can get the most out of this kind of attendance tracking.

General Conference Information

When you host your standard conference call you still get data on who joined the conference. It's very basic information like what conference code was used and the caller ID for those that joined the call. The data is saved in a CSV file that you can download directly from your customer site and is a good tool to use when you need just a basic headcount on attendance for your conferences.

Chat Transcription

Anytime you host a web conference with us and turn on the chat feature, we log that chat session and store it on the customer site. The ability to download the files directly wasn't always an option, but since our customers liked this feature so much we decided to make it more accessible. A lot of our customers use the web conferencing chat sessions for Q&A so that if they missed any questions, they have record of them and go back to answer them even after the call is over.

Registration Data

When you use our registration page, you get the information saved in a CSV file. With the registration page, you can edit what information you want collected (we automatically grab name and email address) and all of this will be recorded on the spreadsheet. It even breaks down your conference call to show who attended and who didn't. It's a great sales tool to see who might have registered for your conference call and didn't get to attend. You have the information that you need to contact them and find out more information.

Operator Answered Information

If you want to stand out go for the operator answered conference call. We'll take down the participants name and one other piece of information. After the call, that information is included on the Call Detail CSV file that can be downloaded directly from your account. Operator answered conferences are great for media conferences, special guest speakers, or shareholder meetings.

How to Download Call & Chat Logs

  • Login to your Customer Account
  • Click Conference Manager
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the blue "view" link beside the call you're looking for.
  • On the next page, you'll find the reports listed at the top beside "Downloads". Click on the CSV file you want to download.

Got any questions? No problem - feel free to put them in the comments or give us a call and we can answer anything you want to know about these different files. Is there anything you're doing with these files that could make attendance tracking on your next conference call or web conference easier?

Distance Learning Not Just For College Students

With budget shortfalls affecting school districts across the United States, a lot of public schools are turning to virtual learning to ease some of the burden of these shortfalls.

When I started researching for this blog post I found that here in Texas, we have the Texas Virtual Academy, which is 100% supported and accredited by our school districts. I did some quick asking around in the office and found out that one of our operators has a child that started the program this year. I talked to him to give me some of his first impressions about the program.

What's Cool

  • Approved curriculum from the school district
  • Monitoring tools to keep kids accountable
  • Materials provided go well beyond text books. He informed me that not only did the school provide his child a preloaded desktop computer, they also threw in jump ropes and yoga balls for PE, as well as beakers for chemistry assignments.
  • There are also no additional grading requirements. Meaning all of the grades are submitted directly to the district - so there is no additional information for the parents to fill out or send in.
  • More one on one attention from the teachers and students are required to do at least six hours of logged work per day.

The ideas of distance learning are not exclusive to the state of Texas. In fact, a lot of school districts are embracing these ideas as financial burdens begin to affect the ability to hire more educators. Distance learning isn't just about saving money, it also exposes students to different teachers and classroom set ups.

Imagine the student that attends a large school district where the student to teacher ratio is 30:1 and this student struggles in the subject of Math. Now take that same student and virtually connect him or her to a classroom in small town America where the student to teacher ratio is 15:1. I wonder if the extra attention might help to boost this students grades.

We have an education system that if full of different perspectives and loyal educators. Embracing distance learning is going to give students the chance to be exposed to a number of the different kinds of classroom experiences.

What do you think about the potential benefits or drawbacks of distance learning?

The 10 Minute Presentation Rule for Brains

We say a lot of things to ourselves to pump ourselves up for giving a presentation.

Don't trip. Don't stutter. Don't fall. Your slides look amazing. This is a great looking suit. Don't be boring.

Huh? What does don't be boring even mean? To many of us, it means that we are going to speak in a friendly tone - keeping our voices from getting monotone. It means that we have lively slides and we don't plan to read off them. Don't be boring means that we are going to make an excellent presentation and we are going to make sure that we provide information to our audience that they want and need. It should be as simple as that.

John Medina, the author of the book Brain Rules took a moment to remind us that simply reminding ourselves to not be boring isn't all it takes to be a great presenter. In his eBook, he discusses some rules to the brain and Rule #4 stood out to me. Rule #4 (paraphrasing here) states that our brains respond to emotion and in order to keep an audience engaged, we must provide them with something that will reinvest them emotionally into the presentation every ten minutes.

Not only is the 10 minute rule important psychologically, it's also important when you're dealing with an audience surrounded by smartphones, iPads, Facebook, Angry Birds, and the wonders of the Internet. You have to be prepared to make sure that you can draw them back when their distractions become too much. When your audience is in front of you it is a little easier to keep these kinds of distractions in check. Most members of an audience will do what they can to give a speaker the respect and attention they deserve - since the person is practically staring them in the face. When you're dealing with a conference call or web conference, it becomes even more difficult. Now you can't see what your audience is doing - and they can be easily distracted while "listening".

Here are some of the things that I think work well to reconnect with your audience through emotion in that 10 minute span.

  1. Tell a Story This is a best practice used by so many speakers. If you pay attention the next time you're listening to a presentation, you'll find that this is a common occurrence. A lot of speakers tell the story at the beginning and then launch into their information. I suggest you use a story every time you are shifting the focus from one idea to the next. This makes them invest emotionally into your presentation again. This gives them yet another reason why they can relate to the information presented.
  2. Raise Your Voice No, I am not advocating that you scream at your participants. What I'm suggesting is that you use emphasis to your advantage and put special notice on the words that might make a difference in the presentation. Instead of saying "I just really don't like..." put the emphasis on the "really" and wake your participants up. A change in pitch can make a world of difference to your participants. It's kind of like clapping your hands in a room full of children.
  3. Ask Questions. If you're running short on stories you can draw your audience back in by asking them questions every ten minutes. When you're running on a specific time limit, it's not always feasible to let everyone participate in an open Q&A session. What a question can do for participants is poke their brain with a stick and remind them that oh, hey, I need to be paying attention .

Reminding yourself to be entertaining and not boring is a great idea when you set out to make your presentation, but if you fail to operate within the psychology of our attention spans, you might lose your audience after the first ten minutes. How do you pull your audience back into the conversation and get their brains to engage with the subject being discussed?

Internet Explorer Nine BETA & AccuConference

Just as a quick public service to all of our customers out there, we’ve been notified that some customers who are using IE 9 are having some trouble when trying to use our services. The problems stem from those who are still on the BETA version of IE 9. If you’re having problems with IE 9, you simply need to install the full version in order to be fully operational with our services. If you’re not sure how to find out if you’re on IE 9 BETA or the full, completed version, you can find that information under “About Internet Explorer”.

Politics in a Digital Age – Reaching More People Far and Wide

Most people can admit that social media and mobile devices have revolutionized the way we communicate, receive news, and stay updated on events. Digital communications became a central part of the 2008 US Presidential elections as candidates took to Twitter and users chronicled their experiences through various social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr.

Another trend in politics that emerged in 2008 was the popularity of hosting teleconferences as town hall meetings. AccuConference personally hosted some of these media and informational meetings for political leaders and in our experience we have found them to be powerful for politicians for three big reasons.

  1. You can reach an audience that may not be able to physical attend. Hosting a conference call instead of a physical meeting lets those who have busy schedules or can’t leave their homes have an opportunity to have a more personal connection with the candidate.
  2. We’ve found the most popular type of conference with politicians is the operator answered call, where we can collect name and information from the callers. This information is stored for review at a later time, giving the staff the ability to contact those who attended after the conference is over. You can alert them to upcoming events or invite them to another conference call with the politician.
  3. Conference calls allow for moderated question and answer sessions which allow for more people to get the opportunity to ask a question. In politics, the people have to know that their elected official is concerned about the issues that closely affect voters.

When it comes to the trends in politics, there’s a clear move towards using the avenues that will reach the most people. We suspect that more politicians will be using conference calls to host media and town hall events in the upcoming 2012 election. If you’re a political organization considering using conference calls, contact us and let us show you how we can help you take advantage of new technology during this election season.