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.

Mississippi River Flooding Teaches Us about Communication

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

Overcoming Fears & Have a Little Fun

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.

What Did You Say?

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.

Listen Up, Listen Well

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.

Speechwriting Tips from JFK

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.

How to Choose the Time to Host Your Conference Call

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?

How Good is Your Memory?

Some people have eidetic memory: they can recall almost everything they've ever seen or heard or read. A photographic memory as it's sometimes called. These special people could attend or host a conference call, remember everything that was said, and go on with their day. However, even these memory masters have a need for conference calls with a good recording feature.

One obvious reason for any conference call to be recorded is to know exactly what was said, in what order, and who said it. If this was the only reason to use recording then the eidetic memory folk would have no need for it. So what possible use could they have for conference call recording? The simplest reason is that everyone with a photographic memory knows that the majority of the human race doesn't share their perfect recall gift.

We can only imagine how many times one of them has had that annoying conversation where they have to convince someone with a fuzzy recall of actual events or conversations about what really transpired. So while a conference call recording will help most people know what was said, it will also help eidetic memory people help their people know what was said.

That's not the only reason they and the rest of the world would want to use recording. Getting away from the basic reason of sheer remembering, recordings can also be used to multi-task. While being recorded in a conference call, you could make sure to summarize at the end and specify task items for teams and individuals in your company. You can have your meeting be accessed for playback, or simply crop it down to the summary and upload it. Then you shoot an email to all involved letting them know that there is a recording available for call-in playback. They all call in individually, listen to your recording, know exactly what they are supposed to do, and you get on with your day.

Think of all the meetings, emails, conversations, questions, and misunderstandings you can avoid just by putting your exact words in a conference call recording. It's like a bit of eidetic memory for us all.

{Image credit: (CC) Larry D. Moore}

Have A Great Staff Conference Call

In business, we often find that things change rapidly and we have to keep our staff updated. One of the best ways to do that is with hosting a conference call with your employees. There are some important things to keep in mind when hosting these kinds of calls. Conference calls can get mundane quickly and when you don’t need to have one, there’s no reason to do so. Here are three tips for hosting a great staff conference call.

  1. Timely. Before sending out an invitation to participants for your next conference call, make sure you have planned it out. Studies have shown that there is only 23 minutes to get and keep your participants attention, so you need to operate within that time frame. Make an agenda and be sure to stick to it so that you can get on record with all your important information.
  2. Informative. It’s not always necessary to require a monthly meeting for your team or business if there’s no new information to present. When things haven’t changed and there is nothing new to announce, you might consider not holding the daily/weekly/monthly call just because it’s on the calendar. This will free up some time for your staff to work on other things, while also putting more importance on the conferences that you do need to have.
  3. Applicable. No matter what the subject your conference call is about, you should make sure that you give not only information, but how to apply that information once the call is over. Don’t just tell your participants what is new, but tell them how to apply it to their everyday business, and how it’s going to make a difference. If people can understand the changes, they are more likely to embrace them.

    When you follow these three simple tips, you can ensure that your conference calls have high attendance and you’re being the best host you can be. What kind of things do you do on your conferences to keep the attention of your staff?

Everyone Needs to Listen

On a hot summer day back in 1989, a group of five year old boys were on a field with one pig-tailed (and quite adorable, I might add) freckled face girl in a Pirate uniform.

Just like her dad taught her, the little girl wearing her new baseball glove leans down from her spot in right field, her hands on her knees, watching the little batter at the stand, just in case he was to knock that ball as hard as he could. She’s on the tip of her toes, she’s ready to make a play, and she glances around to see which way she can run. That’s when she spots the boy in centerfield sitting on his butt and picking flowers.

“Hey!” She yelled, “Get up and get ready for the ball!” This little girl did not have a soft or soothing voice. She was loud and when she yelled at this boy, every parent and player heard her.

This story is true – and it’s quite possibly one of my dad’s favorite stories about me. The thing about being on a team sport is that you all have to be in it 100% - -and it’s the same idea for working on a team in the office. If one person on your team is sitting down and playing with flowers, then you’re not all in it. We collaborate all the time in the work place and there are three essential parts of collaboration.

  1. Everyone has a voice. On a team, everyone is responsible for collecting information and helping out. Everyone should be communicating together and respecting each other’s viewpoints. You have to listen if you’re going to succeed. How many times have you seen the catcher go out to the mound to calm down a pitcher? The catcher isn’t the coach – but they are a team, and they have to listen to each other.
  2. Everyone is responsible. On a team, everyone has a job, and they are responsible for that position. A center fielder who is sitting on his rear end in the middle of a game is not doing his job, and if he misses a big play, everyone is going to feel it.
  3. Everyone listens. Not only do you have to listen to each other, you also have to listen to the team lead and respect them as such. Think of a short stop and a third baseman both going after the same pop fly. If you don’t communicate and listen, then you’re going to slam into each other while trying to make a play.

I’m sure none of us realized, while playing sports as a kid that we were being trained for life in the business world, but we were. The principals we learned working together on that team, we should be carrying them with us into our lives every day. How are you applying team sport principals to life in the office?