AccuConferenceAccuConference

Jun
30
2009
What's Your Meeting End Game? Maranda Gibson

How many purposes for a meeting are there?  Thousands probably.  What was the purpose for your last conference call?  Did you have a goal that needed to be accomplished?  Did you reach that goal?  So here's the "other hand," as much as got done, how many teleconferences have failed to meet the goal you set out for it?

Looking at the big picture, if you didn't reach your main goal, how effective was everything else that got covered during the meeting?  More important, how can you be more effective next time?  I read a post on WikiHow that answers just that very question.

Beginning with my favorite, (their fourth point), "Be clear about the purpose ..." For me, I call it the "end game."  In other words, how do I want things to be after it's all said and done?  Let's say the purpose of your next conference call is to educate the sales staff on a new product that should increase revenues by 20%.  And that's the end game: the sales staff increases revenue by 20% with the new product. 

To make that happen with your conference call, we look at WikiHow's other points:

  • First, with your end game in mind, clarify and organize your ideas.  If it seems like too much, boil it all down to three main points for your presentation.  Build your presentation only with stories, facts, and ideas that support those points. 
  • During the conference call, keep those points at the forefront to stay on-topic.  Be alert to deflect any question, statement, debate, or whatever that could divert the meeting from the end game.
  • Then there is the excellent point number 8: Listen.  Yes, you are the one dispensing knowledge, but in listening, you can learn how much they are learning.  What points do you have to repeat?  Where is there a misunderstanding?  What, if anything, will keep you from reaching your end game?

So what is your word for "end game"?  If not mentioned above-or in the WikiHow article-how do you make sure to accomplish your conference call meeting goals?

Jun
29
2009
Music is My Inspiration Maranda Gibson

Getting inspiration can be difficult. No matter what you're doing it always seems like there can be a road block.  For me, one of the hardest things that I do is writing.  Don't get me wrong, I love writing, and I'm pretty much doing it 95% of the time, both at work and at home.  There are times though, when you just get stuck. There's never been anyone in the world that hasn't experienced that. So, how to get through it?

MusicWell, there are things that work differently for each person, but I have found that music is my inspiration. I have my iPod on me at all times. Different kinds of music can spark different kinds of reactions in you as you work, too. For me, if I have an idea that blindsides me and I need to get it out, it's usually something fast. I'll slow it down when it comes time to edit. 

I have a habit of going for the same song over and over again, for a while it was "Hysteria" by Muse, right now, it's All American Rejects. (In case you haven't noticed, I have a wide array of musical choices). I've seen more and more authors giving credit in their published works to the bands that they listened to while they composed their story. Blog writers have started to do this too, by tagging their posts with current music playing information.

I only get my musical suggestions from what's recommended to me, since I rarely listen to the radio, new music escapes me sometimes until someone asks me if I've heard this song. Music can be the thing that opens the doors to communication with a potential client or even a new friend.

Are you sharing your current musical choices with the people around you?

Jun
26
2009
Call Waiting Maranda Gibson

Call Waiting

Jun
25
2009
Rethink Your Web Conferences Slideshow Maranda Gibson

I've talked quite a bit before about web conference presentations, PowerPoint presentations, and even PowerPoint presentations for your web conferences.  We've looked at "Zen” presentations, using black slides, telling stories, and of course, the "Less is More” rule.

Bad Powerpoint

Well, I'd like to add to that illustrious list today with the help of a .pdf "ReThink!” PowerPoint presentation by Oliver Adria.  The link puts you at the beginning of his slideshow that demonstrates as it explains a newer, more interesting kind of presentation.  And following the eternal, Less is More, there are 76 .pdf pages, but they comprise at most 30 "slides.”

Adria breaks his presentation into three sections, Old Habits, One Message, and One Story.  For this post, we're going to concentrate on what he suggests to do with Old Habits… namely, dump them.

What does it mean to get rid of old PowerPoint habits?  It means abandoning rules like, 7 words for each line, 7 lines for each slide, and only display each slide for 40 seconds each.”  (Now, if you've been following this blog, you're allowed to feel smug that these rules haven't been your rules for a while.)

My favorite part is .pdf page 20 where it shows a PowerPoint slide template, then tells you to forget it.  I am not ashamed to admit that there was a time when I was a slave to that template.  So seeing a blank page as the suggested starting point felt good.  The trick now is what to do with that empty canvas.

One idea of course is to use Adria's theme which is to not have a theme.  His slides contain large fonts and small.  His words appear in the right corner, left, bottom, top, and basically anyplace but where they're expected.  Pictures are used, but only occasionally and sporadically, and I think this increases their impact.

Abandoning old habits is difficult, but at least with PowerPoint habits, starting with a blank slate is already exactly what you have to do.

Jun
24
2009
Foundations of Good and Bad Communication Maranda Gibson

Why didn't the team finish the project in time?  How did she accomplish so much in such a short meeting?  Both good and bad communication doesn't just happen, there are root causes underneath. 

I came across two articles that at first seemed to be polar opposites.  After reading them in depth however, I realized that both were about the underlying causes of effective or defective communication. 

The first article, from AllBusiness.com, studies the roots of poor communication because:  "Only by understanding the root cause can you effectively work to solve the underlying issue."

A very good point.  And the number one root cause?  Fear.  Fear of failing, fear of losing a position, fear of ridicule for a bad idea, these different manifestations can shut people's mouths, even when it's best-for them and/or the team or project-to speak up.

Good and Bad Communication

Confusion is another big producer of poor communication.  Who is in charge?  What role does each person have?  Where do I send my part of the project?  Confusion can take a highly-capable group of people and make them produce sub-par results.  At best, multiple solutions are conceived and developed.  At worst, you get cross-purpose actions clash and fail.

Fear can be allayed and confusion routed by good communication.  But what are the underlying principles of that?  From BNET.com, the Corner Office blog, I read four general, but solid principles to build your communication foundation:

  • Be direct and concise – "Say what you mean and mean what you say."
  • Be honest and genuine –People can tell if you're being genuine, even if it's only subconsciously.
  • Be present and open – This is a bit Zen, but a more practical application would be to listen with your ears and mind.
  • Be confident but measured – Stand by your views and statements, but remember that others have their own thoughts and views.  In other words, avoid putting your foot in your mouth.

Jun
23
2009
A Computer that Also Makes Calls Maranda Gibson

"…it's customary now for professionals to lay BlackBerrys or iPhones on a conference table before a meeting—like gunfighters placing their Colt revolvers on the card tables in a saloon. 'It's a not-so-subtle way of signaling 'I'm connected. I'm busy. I'm important. And if this meeting doesn't hold my interest, I've got 10 other things I can do instead.''"

Do you have a computer that is always connected to the internet virtually anywhere, that is very close to a desktop replacement, that you can hold in your hand?  How we communicate, how we do business is changing… yet again.

Nothing used to stand out more at a business meeting than a laptop on a conference table open and ready, its owner typing and clicking away.  Not only was this a bit distracting, but you couldn't be sure if they were taking notes, returning an email, or playing solitaire.

With the coming of age of computers that are also mobile phones, not much has changed; it just got less noticeable.  But this isn't a bad thing.  Customers expect to be able to contact whoever, whenever.  Fortunes can be won or lost on the timing of an email reply.  And the speed of business these days makes it difficult to tuck-and-roll if you fall off.

And the possibilities!  Be on that conference call, but at the same time check the quarterly numbers, look up clients, browse their websites, view the latest TPS report, email action items, text the person running late, and twitter updates on your company's private account. 

And while you're doing all of that, make sure to flip back to the internet browser to see if anyone has indicated they have a question on the live-updating teleconference screen… because you are also running the call.

Jun
22
2009
Did You Thank Your Agent Today? Maranda Gibson

Did you have to call a customer service or technical support agent today? 

Did you thank them?

It seems like such a strange question but have you ever thought about it before? They really try to answer what question you might be having or what issue could be occurring. When you hang up the phone with them and they have solved your issue or answered your questions, thank them and tell them why.

I was thanked today by a client that I barely spent three minutes on the phone with. Their question was easy and they were in a hurry, and he was off the phone in a couple of minutes. When he hung up, he said, "Thanks, you were a big help." It's so small, but it's made me smile all day.

Sometimes the nicest thing can go a long way and just letting someone know that they are doing their job well can brighten their day. Think about that little surge in your chest when a client or a manager pulls you to the side and tells you what a stellar job you did closing the deal or that your presentation was great. You can ride on that for days. Customer/Tech support agents are no different and we like to hear that too.

Don't be afraid to ask for someone's supervisor to say something nice.  In our office, when that happens, it gets emailed out and passed around for everyone to see so that we can all get that little boost. Since most jobs are team efforts, we share our excitement and good comments with the whole office.

A little bit of kindness goes a long way so telling the person who helped you today, "Thanks a lot, you were a big help" can be the thing that makes them smile and put a little extra pep in their step. 

Jun
19
2009
Unnecessary Marketing Maranda Gibson

Lemonade Stand

Jun
18
2009
Changing Customer Interactions Maranda Gibson

Crowd

I learned about "crowdsourcing"--and its poster company, CrowdSpring--in a recent article on BusinessWeek.com.  What caught my eye though, was a small paragraph about croudsourcing and customer participation

Because of the internet, social media, and websites like CrowdSpring bringing design and decisions to the professional masses, customers are starting to feel left out.  They want to have a say about what should or should not be in the products they are buying.  But it's more than just input, it's also complaints, problems, and issues as well.  It's gotten easier for customers to speak up, so shouldn't their voices be heard?

A lot of big companies like Dell, Best Buy, and Starbucks have said, "Why not?" and created bespoke and expensive websites, or hired thousands of customer service agents to better hear from their customers.  What if your company wanted to do the same, but that much expense wasn't a viable option?

On a separate article on BusinessWeek, I read about the company Intuit, whose 8,000-employees conduct "follow me homes" with their customers by going to homes or offices to make sure the products are working well there.  This method works well for Intuit, but again, it's probably not feasible for anyone else.

This is where I started thinking about several companies I know that use audio conferencing to pursue participation.  Typically, they host a monthly web conference for their new customers, but then they have another audio conference that anyone can join.  Part of the time is spent on updates, a good portion is set aside for Q&A, but most of the conference call is devoted to the customer's comments, complaints, and ideas.

I think these companies might be on the right track.  Regular conference calls are much easier than a "follow me home" for both customer and employee, far less expensive than a mega-website, and just as effective for learning what the customer thinks and wants.

How do you ensure good customer interaction at your company?  I'm interested to know some more techniques, so leave a comment and tell me about yours. 

Jun
16
2009
Questions for Effective Presentations Maranda Gibson

Business communication is different from other types of communication.  It always needs to be clear and concise, and most of the time it needs to be fast.  But fast or slow, when you give a speech or presentation, or send an email or memo, remember that you’re giving them information, but you also want them to do something with it.

To help make sure your communication has the right focus, the Michael Hyatt blog has five questions to ask yourself while preparing to communicate.  They are:

  • What do they need to know?
  • Why do they need to know it?
  • What do they need to do?
  • Why do they need to do it?
  • What can I do to help them remember?

Especially if you have a lot of information to convey, these questions can help keep the presentation focused and easily digestible by the participants.  They should also drill-down the scope of what is to be covered to just the parts that are pertinent or important to the actual audience.

The question that I believe is the most crucial is number four.  It’s tough—and frustrating—to be told to do something without knowing why or how the task fits into the big picture.  Telling people the why along with the what lets them be a part of the team. 

But my favorite part of number four is that if everyone knows the goals and greater purpose, then each can be on the lookout for problems, or even opportunities for improvement.  Instead of just one person trying to hold everything together, there’s a team working together towards the finish line.

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