Word of Mouth Teleconferencing Maranda Gibson

Take a look at this Nielsen Ratings data about different types of advertisements and their effectiveness.  It's a bit of an eye opener, no?  I'd like to see a similar chart from as recent as ten years ago.  I'm betting it would look a lot different.

What really catches the eye are the top three consumer influencers:

  1. People they know
  2. Online strangers with opinions
  3. Company websites

How can you use this valuable information?  Since it turns out that a company's website is more important than ever, this is probably where you first need to concentrate time and attention.  Are all of the products available to inspect online?  Can the potential customer find all the information they want?  Are there answers to all their questions?  Can they easily contact you if they need to?

The website is a good place to start, but it doesn't address the top two on the Nielsen list.  A good conference call can help.  With reaching potential customers in mind, design a conference call they will want to attend, and make it about a topic in the industry that people are interested in.  Invite a guest speaker that they want to hear.  Provide a way for them to discuss the topic before and after the conference call, ideally on the website.

Email this enticing and free conference call invitation to all of your current and potential customers. Encourage them to invite their friends.  If all goes well, word of mouth should provide you with a good turnout.

But even after this teleconference is over, you're not done with it.  Take the recording of the conference call and make it available on your website for free download.  Then do another email campaign inviting anyone interested to stop by your site and get a free conference call.

Looking at the Nielsen list, how are your advertising efforts ranked?  Leave a comment telling us:

1. What types of advertising on the list you are currently doing.

2. How effective have they been?

Three Steps to a Simple Video Conference Maranda Gibson

Video conferences grow in popularity every day. More companies are using them and introducing first timers to the idea of a "video feed" while they make a presentation. The mere idea of this can be frightening. Most of us don’t like to be on display, and your standard sales or marketing manager probably isn’t used to the idea of being in front of a crowd of people.  Public speaking is the number one phobia of the average American and a video conference adds an aspect that one doesn’t expect in an everyday conference. 

I do a lot of demonstrations of products, so I’ve gotten used to the idea that I can end up on a video conference at any time. When I first started, it did scare me a bit. There are a million things that go through my mind, things that can go wrong, things I want to say. Don’t stutter, Maranda. Don’t stumble over the words. I’ve been doing these for over a year and I still sometimes get pre-game jitters.  Here are three things that I do before a video conference that help me get focused.

  1. Believe in the Power of Confidence.  Not just sounding confident, but looking confident as well.  You are the leader of this conference and you need to sound and look the part. Remember that most people will make a judgment off of how someone looks, so dress for success. Look nice, smile, and remember that the first time is always the worst and it will get better as you go along.
  2. Minimize Your Video Feed.  Don’t look at yourself as you go along. You can get distracted or start to destroy your build up of confidence by criticizing the way you look as you go along. Did I just make that face? Wow, what am I doing with me hands. Trying to change the natural flow of how you communicate can make you stumble, so don’t even look as you present.
  3. Practice Makes Perfect.  Define your set up area before hand. What kind of tone do you want to set with your meeting? Where are you the most comfortable? Is there anything behind you that will be distracting to others or something that you don’t want others to see?  A lot of people work from a home office, so be aware of anything that makes it more homey, like a pile of dirty clothes or a stack of children’s toys. Do a couple of run-throughs.   Make sure your system is set up properly and that you look the way you want to on camera. 

These are just a few suggestions that I have found work well for me when it comes to getting over the pre-conference nerves. 

What do you do to make the prospect of a video conference a little easier for you?

Stay Healthy This Flu Season Maranda Gibson

Flu season is not on the horizon, it's here!  Already we've hit the early wave of cold and flu viruses that herald the sick-season.  And if you watch the news even a little bit, we've got swine flu to deal with on top of everything else.  So what can you do to avoid getting sick over the next four months?  Here's a quick but good list:

  • Wash your hands… a lot
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible
  • Get a flu shot
  • Wash your hands—seriously, very often
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Use teleconferencing

Nope, I'm not joking about that last one, especially as it ties in so neatly with the one above it.  Using and encouraging the use of conference calls, web conferencing, and video conferencing can reduce the loss of productivity that flu season usually causes.  How can teleconferencing do this?  Well…

On one hand, there are times when a sick employee at home is feeling better, even though they're still contagious.  Well, they don't have to do nothing if they don't want to.  They can still attend the meeting, or brainstorm with their team.

And on the other hand, it's obvious that someone needs to stay home when they're feeling sick, but sometimes when someone feels okay, they might go to the office, even thought they could still be contagious.  This means that any sales call, meeting, or even water cooler chat can be an unsuspecting ground zero for the flu.  That one almost better employee can send five or ten others home with the flu!

But with teleconferencing available, that sick employee can stay home and still be a productive part of the office, and you and all your employees are protected from catching the flu… at least from that one person.

Done reading?  Good!  Now go wash your hands.

The First Step Maranda Gibson

Last month, I talked about Acronym Rehab and the representation that their repeated use can create. As a speaker, sales person, or presenter the use of these can cause confusion or a less professional appearance.  What other communication roadblocks can be created by the use of these in every day conversation?  As I've said before, it's one thing to text your son "k" or "btw" about something going on in your personal life, but it's another to send that sort of message to a customer or employer.

When it creeps into face to face conversation out of sheer habit, you may not realize it but it slows everything down, even if it is just for a few seconds.  When you speak to someone else, the brain is processing everything that is being said. Much like a computer, when you open an application, your brain has to find the information, open up the file, and execute it. The same general process occurs when you're communicating with someone.

If you're being spoken too and you're getting a lot of ABC's and XYZ's, it's going to slow down the time that it takes for your brain to process the meaning of what the other person is saying. Your brain has to break down and define the acronym, reset it into the sentence, and then process it. When you have a lot of extra information, it clogs your brain. The problem with this? The brain can't process quickly and what someone is trying to say to you is lost and by the time you decode the message, you might not remember what the point of it was the first time.

Cutting out the extra information in conversations will not only save you time, it might save you from having to start at the beginning and go through it again. 

What do you think? Does the use of three letter acronyms slow us down or speed it up? Are you ready to admit you have a problem and start to remove them from your face to face conversation?

Fire Burn, and Cauldron Bubble Maranda Gibson

Hex Messaging

Are You Listening? Maranda Gibson

We are a culture of multi-taskers, a society that proudly admits we can text and walk at the same time, and believe that driving with our knees while shoving a cheeseburger in our face is okay. When it comes to having a conversation with someone, it can be a drag if you are speaking, but they aren’t hearing you. I know lots of people who seem to think that being able to repeat back what you said to them means that they were listening, even if they are doing other things at the same time. Your ears are open to what information is being delivered, but are you engaged in the conversation?

If your customer makes a suggestion do you consider it and take it into account? Maybe it’s not just the request of one person—maybe it’s a change that will benefit all of your clients. It makes me think: Are you listening to your customers?

Sure, we can hear them, but are we taking it all in and giving that customer the time they deserve? If you’re on the phone with a client, is that your main focus or are you doing other things, like checking your email or texting your brother back about dinner plans?  Yes, multitasking is a great skill and is very beneficial to productive business practices, but there’s a point where it starts to take away from what should be your main focus—your customers.

Where do you draw the line between multitasking and "just listening"?

Comment your thoughts here and let’s figure out a good place to draw the line.

Building Barriers for Better Communication Maranda Gibson

Normally I'm not a fan of any barrier to communication, but today I'm going to make an exception with this caveat:  barriers to clear and open communication are bad, UNLESS it's done on purpose… for the purpose of communicating with a specific target audience.

Look at QR codes.  These graphic 2D images can contain contact info, URLs, or even just notes, but they can only be read by people with a decoder on their iPhone or other mobile device.  So it seems silly to put only a QR code on a billboard, but this is pretty common, especially in Japan.

Why?  Well, first of all, it's ideal for advertising to teenagers, or any other technophile group.  Second, it's mysterious, and the only way to satisfy the curiosity is to decode it.  Finally, when it's decoded, the information is automatically stored on the mobile device so that even the most unmotivated potential customer is spared writing down your message.

In other words, QR codes break through communications barriers, even as they create them.

Conference calling is another good example of this good type of communication barrier/barrier breaker.  They're a barrier because no one can simply pick up a phone to join a teleconference without first obtaining a conference code.  And conference calls break through the money, time, and distance barriers to immediate and effective meetings.

Like QR codes, conference calls help reach target markets.  Using a teleconference registration page on your website for example, provides you with participants that:

  • Have been to your website
  • Are somewhat familiar with your products
  • Are motivated enough to exchange contact information for a conference code.

This means that a conference call with these particular participants will be a far more effective use of time and money than say, simply buying some leads and cold-calling.

Putting my money where my mouth is, I'm going to put the QR code pictured above on a t-shirt to wear next time I go out.  The embedded message is one that speaks to my personal target audience: smart, tech-savvy, and has a good sense of humor.

(If you have an iPhone and want to read the QR code in this post, download the free “QR app” from the app store.  Or, you can simply click here to go to the decoded message.  Also, tell us about your QR code experiences.  Go here to QR code your comment to us!)

Power of Instant Feedback Maranda Gibson

Sometimes, the hardest part of a presentation is getting feedback.  So much time and energy is spent preparing for your conferences and presentations. You know your slides backwards and forward, you've done a mock presentation, revised, and practiced again. When it's all over and your conference is just a memory, you now have to sit back and wait to find out what people thought.

Sure, requesting an online survey after the conference is over is a great way to get feedback. There are a few snags to getting feedback this way.  Your audience is busy and while they fully intend on giving feedback for your presentation, it might take them time to be able to submit their thoughts. It could be days or even weeks after your conference is over and you want to get feedback while things are still fresh.

Have you given any thought to asking for feedback while the conference is in live?  Most web conference applications provide a way for you to ask for feedback through polls and allow asking more than one question.  You can update your poll from "How do you feel about…" to "What is a subject you would like to see more about" with a couple of key strokes and you can get feedback instantly. There's no waiting, all the information is still fresh, and the web conference tool will store your poll results as well, so you can go back and look up to see the results later on.

How important is instant feedback when you're having a conference? Do you want to know right away the things that need to be adjusted or corrected, or are you more of the kind of person who prefers to wait until after you're done to get feedback so as not to have any distractions when you present?

Cop Shows and Conferencing Maranda Gibson


The FBI agent walks quickly into the state-of-the-art offices that the team shares.  She finds the team leader standing near the entrance looking at a report.  "Sir, I've just come from the crime scene across town.  It looks like the cousin of the deceased has something to do with all this."  To which the team leader replies, "Good, head over there to talk to him."

Wow, that's a lot of travel and wasted time for what should have been a short phone call.  I've seen this happen on many of my favorite shows, but it seems like with police dramas in general--and the FBI/Mathematician show ‘Numbers' specifically--nothing is better than a photogenic group meeting, and cell phones always seem to be a last resort.

The truth is that on TV you've got to put your actors in the same room as much as possible to really get the most bang for the studio's buck—and to get the best ratings.  Though in reality, but just as true, we tend to call from the parking lot rather than go back inside and down the hall to ask someone a question; regardless of how cool the shot would look on TV.

I'd imagine that many more serial killers, kidnappers, and terrorists on TV would be caught faster if the police and FBI characters were allowed gratuitous use of teleconferencing.

So my question is how often do we do "something for the camera" rather than in a more efficient way?  Some examples of what I mean include postponing a meeting until someone returns from out of town, driving often and far for meetings, and typing long memos for the office (on TV, almost no one uses their mouse because it's not as interesting as a bout of serious typing!).

It's probably good then to ask yourself occasionally if what you're about to do is "for the cameras" or not.  Use that cell phone.  Start that conference call.  Communicate and collaborate now, rather than wait.  That is, if the goal is swift, efficient communication, and not an Emmy.

I've seen sparse and limited use of video conferencing on TV—which looks very cool to viewers on any show—but I've never seen a 30 person audio conference.  Have you?  If you have, leave a comment and tell me what show it was, which season, and even what episode if you remember.

Duck Calls Maranda Gibson

Duck Calls
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