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Oct
26
2011
The 10 Minute Presentation Rule for Brains Maranda Gibson

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?

Jun
14
2011
Internet Explorer Nine BETA & AccuConference Maranda Gibson

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”.

May
24
2011
Breaking Communication Boundaries Infographic Maranda Gibson

Breaking Communication Boundaries

May
17
2011
Politics in a Digital Age – Reaching More People Far and Wide Maranda Gibson

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.

May
09
2011
Mississippi River Flooding Teaches Us about Communication Maranda Gibson

Tonight, it is forecasted that the Mississippi River will reach record flood stages in many places. For weeks, the residents in the 100 year flood plan have been urged to evacuate, including areas like Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee. Interstate 40, the major route between Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis has been closed for nearly two weeks due to flooding concerns. As the river crests and the waters run to the south, areas like New Orleans have been put on alert for potential record flooding.

In an emergency, communication is crucial to both residents and law enforcement. Communicating in a disaster requires constant updates of information and when the communication breaks down, it can be hard to keep the information flowing between local agencies and residents. It’s a combination of preparation, notification, and support that keeps people safe and gets the information out.

Planning - Preparation will save lives in the event of a flood. For example, weeks ago, the Shelby County OEM issued a notice through the National Weather Service that notified residents they should pack up important belongings and be ready to evacuate their homes at a moment’s notice.

Lesson Learned: The sooner you can get a date and time for your conference call set in stone, the better. It will give you plenty of time to get the information out to the people you want to invite to your conference call.

Notification - Using the media is crucial to saving lives in the event of a flood, and not just local media – it’s about communicating emergency messages where the residents are going to be reading. This includes Twitter, Facebook, and online through different services. Many highway departments are using Twitter for updates about flooding and road closings, including Arkansas and Tennessee.

Lesson Learned: Use different sources to get your information out to the people who need it. Email, Twitter, and Facebook are great ways to advertise your next conference. You can even build a registration page so that you can collect information from those who plan on attending.

Support - The Federal Communications Commission implements emergency procedures in order to keep 911 and other systems up in the event of an emergency. It is imperative that emergency services are still available and that people can get any help that they need.

Lesson Learned: Get to know your conference call provider. Call their customer support and see how long it takes for them to answer and see if you can get someone to explain the different features. Get a name out of someone and see if they are willing to be your contact person in the event of needing support. (If you need a conference call service that will do that for you, give us a call, and we’ll help you out.)

We can all learn a lot from the way the OEM handles a situation – planning, notification, and support. What are you doing in your business to prepare your participants for your next conference and let them know what is going on?

Photo Credit to ilovememphis @ Flickr

May
03
2011
Overcoming Fears & Have a Little Fun Maranda Gibson

Last year, I finally broke down and watched the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I have had a long time fear of Freddy Kruger and being able to watch that film was a big step in my growth. This weekend, one of the movie channels premiered the 2010 remake of the film and my friend and I decided to watch it – with one, fun little twist. We built a fort in the living room. Not just any fort, an old school dining room chairs and blankets fort. It dawned on me after I made it through the movie without hiding my face or screaming bloody murder that there was one very important reason why. I took something fearful and I made it fun.

While Freddy is just one kind of fear, there are a lot of other ones that people suffer through every day. By injecting a little fun into those moments, you can save yourself a lot of stress and turn a moment that is usually filled with nail biting anxiety into a moment of triumph. One of the biggest moments of stress for people is the idea of having to speak publically or do some sort of presentation. A little bit of humor can go a long way when you have a little mess up in your presentation.

  1. If you’ve ever tripped over your own feet walking out to the podium, instead of looking horrified, grab the microphone and declare that the clumsy portion of the day is over and everyone can stop waiting for you.
  2. If you’ve ever lost your place, admit it. When I was in New Orleans in March, I remember someone losing their train of thought and while the crickets filled the room, the presenter simply laughed and back up the slides, admitting to everyone, “Don’t know what happened there. Let’s try this again.”
  3. If you’ve ever stumbled over your words, just declare a new word thusly written and encourage everyone to tweet out the new word.

There’s not a person in that room that hasn’t experienced their own bad presentation so feeling bad over a simple stumble isn’t doing yourself any favors. Recover from it and create a fort in your brain where the things you’re afraid of don’t matter so much. Just remember that the fort is a safe place where humor is the thing that will beat back your fears.

May
02
2011
What Did You Say? George Page

If there’s one thing participants focus on the fastest, it’s when they can’t hear the presenter. Speaking too softly, mumbling, or garbling words are a few ways a speaker gets in the way of their own message. Well SpeakSchmeak has a few tips for speaking to be heard.

  1. Relax - When we’re nervous or tense, our voices sound unnatural. This leads to low volumes, abnormally high pitches, and even our words pouring out too fast to be understood. To avoid all that, take deep breaths and slow down. Before the presentation we can calm down by stretching our arms over our head, or even bending at the waist and just dangling to the floor.
  2. Open Your Mouth - The main cause of garbled words or mumbling is simply that we need to open wide. For practice, reading aloud helps us hear ourselves being unclear, and encourages us to enunciate and let our voices out.
  3. Improve Your Posture - Sitting up straight or standing tall doesn’t just help us look better, it properly aligns our bodies the way they were designed. With a straight spine, our lungs can fill with more air, our diaphragm can support our sound better, and our voices have a clear route out.
  4. Focus Your Voice - We may have good posture, be relaxed, and speak with our mouths open, but if we’re sending our words to the floor or just in front of us, we’ll still be unheard. We should speak out to, and focus our voices to where the ears are. If in front of an audience, we aim towards the back. If on a conference call, we make sure our mics are close enough and unobstructed.

Apr
28
2011
Listen Up, Listen Well George Page

Listening may seem like just one of several sensory input systems - it is - but it also is the lynch pin for much of what makes us be able to get through life. Listening well will help you remember more and more clearly. It will help you focus on instructions given and then later when you are following them. Listening helps with your personal and professional relationships.

Being a good listener is not something you are born with; you have to work at it. Since all of us are different, some may have to work harder than others. For example, if you are excellent with remembering faces, but horrible with names, this doesn't mean you have a bad memory; it means you are a bad listener. And if you have a tough time with faces… you might need glasses. The good news is that we all have the ability to become better listeners.

Here are some things to consider for improving your listening:

 

  • Accept everything the person says. Judging and evaluating the content of what someone is saying -- while they are saying it - guarantees that you will miss some parts. Take in everything, then examine it.
  • Don't get hung up on how they tell you something. Possibly you may not like a person's speech style, or their high-pitched voice. Ignore how they are saying it and concentrate on it.
  • Don't interrupt. It may seem obvious to point out, but often we formulate our responses and rebuttals even while the other person is still making a point. Let them finish, then it's your turn.
  • Get your body behind your ears. Make sure you keep eye contact. Lean forward to show interest. Try not to cross your arms.
  • Repetition of key points at opportune times is a good memory trick, but it is also a good way of letting the speaker know you are still following them. When they know you are paying attention, they will put more of themselves into what they are saying.

Apr
26
2011
Speechwriting Tips from JFK George Page

President Kennedy's words are burned into our minds and immortalized for time untold. Behind the man and his message was Ted Sorensen, JFK's advisor and speechwriter. In Sorenson's new book, he gives his perspective of the events of that presidency, as well as some basic rules he followed to make Kennedy's speeches so memorial. Carmine Gallo, Businessweek.com contributor, chose a few basic tips to sharefrom Sorensen's book. It doesn't matter if you are giving a keynote address, speaking in a small conference call, or expressing yourself in a letter, these rules can help your message go out clear and powerful.

  • Don't take a minute to say what you could say in a few words. Maybe even before they realize it, your audience could get bored and distracted as they figure out you have been taking too long to make your point.
  • Use words that describe specifically what you want to say. Don't resort to catch-phrases or clichés when a single or a few perfect words will suffice.
  • Organize your content in a simple, orderly fashion and clue your audience in at the beginning. Start with the theme or purpose of the meeting and how many major parts they should expect. Then verbally guide them as you go along. "Our third point of Organized Speeches deals with clarity."
  • Never forget the most important part of your speech is the ideas you are conveying. It doesn't matter how good it looks in a PowerPoint or how technologically advanced you're A/V equipment is, if you have a banal message, you will have a banal presentation.

These are just a few of the tips Gallo wrote about. Visit his article for more or go to the source in Ted Sorensen's book. Regardless, embrace these ideas and make your presentations shine. Your audience will thank you.

Apr
22
2011
How to Choose the Time to Host Your Conference Call Maranda Gibson

When sending out an invitation, you want to be clear on when your conference call will be held. You also want to be sure to schedule it during a time that you're likely to get the best attendance. That can be hard when you're dealing with participants from across the nation, or even across the world. How can you possibly schedule your conference call around the number of parties and where they are located to ensure the best attendance? Here are three things to remember when it comes time to schedule your conference call.

  1. Majority time zone rules. Where are most your participants located -- that should be the primary time zone for your call, even if it's not the time zone you are end. These are potential clients, customers, or colleagues and you want to make things easy on them.
  2. Avoid the lunch hours. Once you set your primary time zone for the conference call, remember that people who are trying to eat lunch are less likely to attend your conference call when it's going to happen during the lunch hour. Avoid scheduling the time for the conference call between 12 and 2 to give yourself the best shot at having a good turnout.
  3. Give yourself a time limit and stick to it. Do everything you can not to go over your set time limit. Not only will this make everyone very happy, but it will also help your image. Now, you'll be remembered as the person who remembers the importance of time limits, and not the guy who keeps talking when everyone is trying to move on to their next task.

It's not a perfect system, but it can help to get better attendance on your conference call. What are you doing to increase attendance on your conferences?

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