Just a Phone Maranda Gibson

Just a Phone

Rules of the Remote George Page


A big perk these days is the opportunity for employees to have a day or two where they work from a home office.  They get to be productive—sometimes getting more done in less time—avoid a commute, and of course, work in their bathrobe.  But a justifiable concern for a company with remote workers is making sure the work gets done, communication stays strong, and discipline doesn't fall overboard.

If your company is considering an off-site program, has had one for a while, or even simply has a few concerns, then you'll be interested in a the rules for telecommuting that I found in an article on  These are my top two favorites:

"Manage Results Not Activity" – It's easy—and tempting—to monitor instant message programs for inactivity icons, track emails sent, or login/logout times, but it's also time-consuming and counter-productive.  Remember the point of "work" is to get things done.  While the urge is strong to get the most for your money out of an employee, you want results, not activity.  Establish timelines and objectives for remote employees, then monitor if things get done and on time.  If the "idle message" is more common with a particular employee, maybe they need more to do, or less time to do it in.

"Define Rules of Responsiveness" – How soon should you expect a reply to an email?  What about an instant message, or even a voicemail?  Does everyone at the company—telecommuting or not—know what's appropriate for each communication medium?  Establish guidelines for responding to emails, instant messages, missed calls, voicemails, texts, and possibly even tweets on  Once everyone is on the same page, if there is sluggish communication from someone, you'll know there's an issue rather than suspect one.

What are your rules for the various forms of communication?  How do you keep tabs on remote workers?  Leave a comment and share your off-site or home office program experiences.

Accent Your Conference Calls Maranda Gibson

Conference calls, web conferences, video conferences… they make business so much easier, don't they?  And at their most basic, they are easy to setup and easy to run.  So if a no frills, simple conference call is easy, then does that mean a complex one is hard to do?

The answer is a quiet, dignified, "No."  Putting the extra touch and polish on a conference call is easy with a little forethought.  To get you started, here are a few ways to accent your next conference call:

Guest Moderator – Hiring an average speaker for a meeting or presentation can be costly; especially if they have to travel far to you.  With conference calls, travel isn't necessary.  And because a guest moderator only has to talk on the phone for an hour or so, their honorarium is much, much less.  Lower costs for you and less inconvenience for the guest means you are able to hire a much wider range of people including celebrities and industry superstars!

Why Not Add Video – Let's say you have two offices, one on each coast.  You're planning a meeting between them from their respective conference rooms, each circled round a speaker phone.  Obviously, you could make this happen with a simple phone call, but let"s improve on that.  Start a video conference, have a laptop and webcam at each table, and hook up the laptops to large monitors.  Now you don"t have two disembodied groups anymore.  Instead, your two offices are talking—and seeing who's doing the talking—as if they were just across the hall from each other.

PowerPoint Pizzazz – Among other things, web conferences have a singular feature going for them: you can put the contents of your entire laptop in front of any and all of your participants at the same time.  You can share a design—or video, website, graph, document—and they can study it as if it was on their computer… because it basically is.  Showing your participants something is much more powerful than telling them about it.  And that power is available in each and every web conference you do.

Don't Be Critical, Just Critique. Maranda Gibson

Momma always said that you’re your own biggest critic.  In my later years, I’ve learned that this is true.  No matter how many times I've been told, "No worries, it's not a big deal" it always is to me. Making mistakes, even though they are an important part of the learning process, isn’t any fun. I’ve come to realize that there are all kinds of people in the world when it comes to mistakes, how they make them, and how they deal with it. If you’re like me and you want to learn something, you internalize it over and over in your head.

What could I have done differently? What should I do differently in the future? At what point does your personal critique become personal criticism? What is the point that you think you’re “critical” and not just "critiquing"? When you realize that you’re crossing that line, how do you reel it back in?

I draw the line at anything that involves the phrase "How could I have done that" reverberating in my brain. It's negative and all it does is make you think about the mistake.  Instead, think "how can I do better next time?", instead of just beating yourself up, you're taking what happened (no matter what it is) and learning from it. It always helps me to take a negative thing and spin it to a positive. Try that next time you think you’re being too hard on yourself.

What are some of the things you do to reel yourself back in? How do you take a negative experience and learn from it, rather than just letting the experience keep you down? Everything can help you grow, are you finding the area where you can grow and learn?

The Power of Presentation Visuals George Page

Carefully compared to a lecture in an auditorium, a web conference is only somewhat different.  The audience can't see you, but they can hear you very well.  And much like an auditorium, you can have documents, graphs, and video placed in front of the audience's eyes with perfect timing.  The content of your presentations—both in a web conference and an auditorium--can be greatly enhanced by visuals, but what if your visuals are subpar?  Will your presentation be greatly affected?

According to Dave Paradi, poor visuals can only lessen the impact of an auditorium presentation.  Paradi's example entailed a lecture by an esteemed academic and expert in his field.  While the studies and conclusions were well researched and told to the audience clearly, the visuals were poor and not used very effectively.  However, Paradi says that the content of the presentation was well received by the audience anyway.

Paradi's conclusion is that "great content will trump poor visuals."  The audience will leave informed and enlightened, but not to the extent they could have been.  For a lecture in an auditorium, I agree with Paradi.  When you stand in front of an audience, you are the presentation, not your visuals.  Your words—and body language—can only be enhanced by pictures, video, and such. 

For a web conference presentation, I disagree completely; great content can be sunk by poor visuals.  After all, in a web conference there is only your voice and visuals to drive the presentation.  If the graphs are confusing, the pictures blurry, and the documents not spell-checked, the participants can be greatly distracted from what you're saying.

However, I do like Paradi's solution, and it's even more effective for web conferences: create the presentation and the visuals separately.  Don't fire up PowerPoint and use it to create your outline and main points.  Don't look for pictures to talk about. 

Leave all but a blank page to write your presentation, and only afterwards find great visuals to enhance the content of your web conferences.

Beam Me Up Maranda Gibson

Star Commands

Tips for a Successful Webinar from Michael A. Stelzner Maranda Gibson

Michael Stelzner

I had a chance to speak with Mike Stelzner, author of Writing White Papers How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged, about a recent webinar he hosted, the Social Media Success Summit. The live online event spanned over a month and brought the brightest minds in social media marketing together and they never even had to get up from their desks.

"Social media happens to be the hottest thing on the planet," Mike stated. His summit brought together some of the biggest names on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and demonstrated the benefits and uses of these social networks to grow the buzz about your small business.

The most unique part of this event? It was a virtual conference. "It's a great way for me to impart a lot of knowledge on a lot people." Mike is absolutely right, virtual conferences can reach a large or small group of people worldwide. Mike was kind enough to give some tips for the business or individual looking to get involved in webinars on a small scale, or even the larger scale.

Have a helper
When you have a presenter, they should be able to be focused on just that, presenting. Assign someone else to keep an eye out for incoming questions, to sort through them if you're prescreening, as well as someone to field any connection questions. 

Speak live in a way that will sound just as great on a recording.
Be mindful that this seminar will be available for people to listen to at a later time. Maybe they missed the first day of your seminar; maybe they missed the last day, or maybe they are just interested in writing down some of the smart things you said. Either way you want to make sure that everything is going to translate into a recorded format while you're doing the live conference.

Keep your audience engaged
"Something as simple as a poll question can really get people engaged." Ask your participants their opinions. 'Would you do this?' 'Is this something you would like to see more of?' Make your participants part of the conference and not just quiet observers to keep them excited about the topic and more likely to come back for the next event.  Encourage them to interact with you via Facebook and Twitter. This will help them stay engaged and will give you instant feedback.

Provide different options to encourage questions.
Instead of just offering your guests or clients the old fashioned voice submission for questions, allow them to submit their questions via email, chat, or text.  It's not always an easy thing to get people to open up. Have some questions ready yourself in the event that you might not get any questions submitted. "When it comes to taking questions that are live, you can run into some real technical challenges if you're not familiar with the platform. So I always believe in having a backup plan in place, and maybe even some back up questions."

These are just some of the tips that Mike was nice enough to offer, and I hope that you apply some of them to your next virtual event or conference call. If you'd like to find out more about Mike Stelzer, you can visit him on Twitter, @mike_stelzner.

Podcasts, People! Maranda Gibson

What is the difference between a podcast and a recording of a conference call? Quick answer: there isn't a difference.  Longer answer: one way to look at it is a podcast is just your recorded audio conference call that's been "published."

And that's really all there is different between the two.  Has someone mentioned that it would be a good idea to make podcasts for the company; that it would be good advertising?  Have you had a brainstorming meeting to come up with podcast material?  Has someone been put in charge of making the podcast program happen?  (Was it you?)

Here's the good news then: if your company has been doing a lot of conference calls, then there's a good chance you already have a bunch of podcasts just waiting to be published!  Because what could be better content for a company podcast than its presentations about its products, industry news, or the exciting things happening there.

With content taken care of, it's time to edit and transform the conferences into podcasts.  Using a standard audio editing program, you can add the company jingle to the beginning, a few words from the CEO, or a general introduction.  Snip out long silences as well as any proprietary or secret information.  At the end, you can add a conclusion, contact info, product discounts, music, or just let the ending of the presentation be the end of the podcast.  It's entirely up to you.

For publishing, you can simply add it to your website, and do an email and Twitter campaign to promote the new "Podcast section."  You can also upload it to YouTube, or even iTunes!  The point is to get your podcasts out there and working for your company 24/7.

After all, a really great presentation shouldn't be heard just once.

The Great American Tweet Maranda Gibson

Great American Tweet

Are you Excited? Maranda Gibson

My best friend started a new job yesterday. She lives in an area of the US that's feeling the pangs of the economy, so finding a job that she can be happy about (and not just pay the bills with) has been a chore for her. After a long wait, she's really excited about it and hearing her has really got me to thinking about work and the passion that goes into our jobs.

Think about the first day you had at a new job. Was it the most exciting and nerve wracking day of your life? I remember my first day here, defiantly a ‘deer in the headlights' day, but still great. Talking to my friend really made me think about how long that excited feeling lasts. Do you still feel that way about your job? If you don't, are you doing anything to put the passion and excitement back into it?

I spoke to a client not too long ago who told me about his "spirit tree". I didn't know what it was and when I asked him to explain, there was a smile in his voice. He explained the spirit tree to me as something he has in his office that has little mementos (a bell from a Tampa Bay Devil Rays game, for example) hanging from the branches. He said whenever he needs a pick me up; he pulls something off his tree and remembers the day he got that trinket.

For me, I still get excited when I have a new project; I love a good challenge, and the people I work with help to keep me motivated when things get frustrating.  I think that everyone goes through a period when they feel the repetitiveness of their lives; get up, go to work, come home, cook dinner, and watch General Hospital. The important thing is that you find ways to put the passion and excitement back into what you're doing.

What puts the smile back on your face and excites you about what you do? Do you have something like the spirit tree? How about positive affirmations ("I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggonit, people like me")? What do you do? 

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