3 Ways to Make Participants Pay Attention

3 Ways to Make Participants Pay AttentionI have two cats and like cats are prone to do, they get into things they shouldn’t. I love my cats but they are naturally nosy and they get into so much. I realized the other night, as one of my little beasts poked her nose around an electrical outlet that when she turned to check and see if I was watching her, which I was, that the glare that was on my face did not do anything to dissuade her from her exploration. It wasn’t until I waved my hands in a large gesture and made a sound at her like air leaking from a tire that she paid attention to me.

The message I learned from this situation was “cats don’t understand non verbal messages.” They are animals, responding only to the sound of the cat food hitting their bowls. If I want them to listen, I have to get their attention. In a lot of ways your participants or attendees on a conference are the same way, attending, but hungry for the information you’re about to lay on them. That is what they are going to respond to. You can get more of a response if you do three things that pet owners do.

  1. Big Gestures. Stepping in front of a crowd means you have to command their attention. People are going to do their own thing unless they have something to pay attention to. The way you get someone’s attention is by grabbing it right away. You have two minutes to make people sit up and pay attention, and then you’ve lost them to their laptops or smart phones.
  2. Give them treats. When my cats do something good they get a treat, maybe some cheese or a can of wet food. Throwing your participants an added bonus is going to make them stay focused and hang on your every word, just in case they might get another one.
  3. Don’t be afraid to get their attention. Most cat owners probably know the wonders and amazement of the squirt bottle of water. Cats hate water and it’s the quickest way to get their attention. While I’m not advocating pointing a Super Soaker at the crowd and going crazy (oh, God, someone please do this) I do think you need to figure out who you’re speaking to and get their attention in a way that is appropriate for those who are attending.

It may seem like a crazy way to look at your conference participants, but I don’t mean it a bad way. Hopefully your participants have the resolve not to wind themselves around your legs in excitement.

Kindle App Updates – and how we helped.

About six months ago, someone in our office sent an email to the Kindle/Amazon folks about a feature that would make their application even better on the iPad, specifically suggesting the ability to show books in two columns instead of one. The application team wrote back and said, “Thanks, we’ll look into it for you”. Today, on the new update for the Kindle application, guess what we have – two columns.

This is really cool to us, because while it may not have been solely our idea, they fixed our problem. Now, maybe there were a lot of people who were trying to decide between iBooks and Kindle for their ebooks, since both have a great reading experience. Maybe there were a number of people asking Kindle about this option. Personally, we like to think ‘you’re welcome’ when you open your update Kindle application.

Another update on the application is the integration of Shelfari.com into the books. This is really cool and finally there is an ebook app that integrates social interaction with other readers. There are several things that are shared within the app and it's just the beginning.

I think the folks over at Amazon are trying to beef up the social aspects of their e-reader application and give people the ability to share what they are reading. Not only is that good for them as a company (because many of us love to Tweet) but it’s great for authors. A very good friend of mine has his first novel available in the Amazon store and if someone new tweets about reading it, and that tweet encourages their followers to read his book, it helps him.

Since authors are, in essence, a brand, he could then find the people who are reading his book, see what they thought and engage in conversation with potential and current readers.

So check out the new Kindle update for the iPhone and iPad and when you’re enjoying the smooth and ease of that two column reading page… you’re welcome.

Blockbuster Files Bankruptcy

Blockbuster Files Bankruptcy

When I was little, the weekends that my mom did not have to work were the best weekends ever. She would cook a big meal and my dad, brother, and I would go to the local video store and pick out some movies for us to watch together. It was fun, getting to walk through these rows and rows of videos, picking out the VHS and then looking forward to fighting over the first movie to be watched.

It makes me sad to hear that Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 today. It’s really upsetting to see that some companies that are burned into my memory aren’t making it through the tough economic times. Blockbuster reports more than $900 million dollars in debt and can no longer pay interest to their lenders, and while things seem bleak for them now, it wasn’t always this way.

Blockbuster had an opportunity to battle back when they started to offer their online services. You could pay a monthly fee with Blockbuster, have DVDs shipped to you in the mail, and exchange them in the store, with no waiting for new releases—something that Netflix can’t do. Since Blockbuster has exclusive rights with many of the movie production companies they get first pick at new releases, putting them on shelves nearly a month before the competition.

This had great potential to step into the market that Netflix has the hold on, and provide some legitimate competition. This could have been the move that saved Blockbuster; this could have been what brought them up to speed with what people want – no waiting.

Where Blockbuster went wrong is they realized the potential they had with their online/in store marriage, raised the monthly rate, and then kept raising it. They were in debt, struggling to stay afloat, closing down stores, and saw a way out. So they raised rates, again and again, driving people away and into the arms of their competition.

NetFlix doesn’t really have competition for this part of the rental market and anyone who can come in and do it better; they have a chance to give NetFlix a run for their money. Blockbuster had a chance, they knew it, they got greedy, and their customers left.

What do you think has been one of Blockbusters biggest failures? Did they drive away business with high rates for the DVD to mail service, or have they just become a dinosaur in the battle of the movie business?

What do you think drove people away from Blockbuster? What do they need to do during their restructure to bounce back?

Gender and Birthdate Now Needed to Fly

Gender and Birthdate Now Needed to Fly

Starting November 1st, commercial airline passengers will have another security step to take before they can get on a plane. At least 72 hours before boarding, passengers will have to provide their birthdate, gender, and full name that coincides with a government document or id. Information is not readily available on the TSA or Homeland Security websites for booking or purchasing last-minute or unplanned flights same day, or within the 72 hour window.

Once given, the “Secure Flight Passenger Data” is sent to the TSA for cross-checks against watch lists and no-fly lists. All flights from November 1st on have to have the information on all passengers, but tickets purchased earlier than this date are not affected. Some airlines are calling and emailing passengers anyway to request the information.

Flyers will have to do this whether they buy their tickets online, by agent, or at the airport. If someone does not wish to give the personal information to the airline, they will not be issued a ticket, and will be unable to fly.

Protect Your Privacy

There’s a lot of conversation about privacy going on right now. I’m seeing it all over multiple blogs I read and everyone has something to say about it. When the Google CEO (even jokingly) tells you to change your name if you want privacy, it’s time to evaluate what we are doing with ourselves.

Now I want to be clear, privacy is a big deal and there are things that I don’t want published about me on the internet – it’s part of the reason why I deleted my MySpace page (that and I’m not a 15 year old anymore). However, I am not perfect when it comes to keeping my privacy under lock and key, and I probably have too much trust in companies.

When was the last time I really examined those terms and conditions that needed me to “agree”? Do I even know what I am signing up for? What if there’s a clause about the FBI coming by and demanding a blood sample? Did I just “agree” to that? When it comes to the privacy debate – there are two things going on:

  1. Companies shouldn’t lie or be shady. Since it’s the most well known, let’s take a look at Facebook as a perfect example. We signed up for Facebook with a thought about our privacy, and then suddenly – BOOM. Everything was changed. Suddenly, privacy was an “option” and not a “default” setting on your Facebook page. When a user opts to give you their information, it is your responsibility to be sure that they know when you are going to change things, give them an “opt-out” choice, and provide them with information to manually change their settings. The problem with Facebook is that they didn’t give anyone a choice and said “we are going to share your info and you can’t stop us”.
  2. We are ultimately responsible for what we “agree” to. Think about the last time you signed up for a service or social media site – did you actually read the terms of use, or did you just say ‘oh, okay, I’m sure this is standard stuff’ and hit ok? Would you sign a credit card agreement without reading the fine print? No, you wouldn’t. So why treat your personal information any differently? In the end, it’s up to us to know what we sign and who our information is going to.

I think in the end, we should all be reading what we’re agreeing too. But when you have a company that you’ve been a member of or subscribed to for years that suddenly changes everything you’ve ever known about that company, it’s not right. Companies have a responsibility not to sell your information, not to share what you don’t want shared, without a proper and complete warning about the whole thing.

But remember – if you don’t like it, you can always delete or cancel.

Have you been sold out by a company trying to increase their bottom line, or do you admit to making mistakes and not reading what you were signing? When was the last time you read that new iTunes agreement?

Conference Calls on iPhone

AccuConference iPhone App

Conference calls on the iPhone are a good way to meet with multiple people while on the go. With the AccuConference app, talking with multiple people on the iPhone can be accomplished almost effortlessly. This post will explain the steps you need to take in order to be conferencing within the next 10 minutes. While we think the AccuConference tools are the best means for conducting calls with multiple people, this application will allow you to connect to conferences hosted by any teleconferencing provider. Also, the iPhone has a built in capability for holding small conferences. T his method will be included in the lower portion of the post.

Conference Calls on iPhone - AccuConference App

  • Get the free AccuConference App from the App Store
  • Open the app and select “Add New Conference”
  • Fill out the fields (conference name, number, and code). If you would like to add other options such as conference date & time or other participants do so on the screen (optional). Save the information.

Now, whenever you need to connect to that conference, simply open the app, press join conference, and it will keep track of all of your codes and dial them for you. Your connection is reduced to one button.

Available in the App Store

Twitter and Microsoft Security Concerns

Twitter and Microsoft Security Concerns

It is a day of security warnings for computer users everywhere with both Twitter and Microsoft experiencing concerns after flaws were discovered in their programming.

Mashable reports that a Twitter bug was exposed last night, a security flaw that allows for an “onmouseover” attack. Basically, the security flaw will display third party websites and pop up ads, even if all you do it hover your mouse on the bad link. According to the Mashable reports, the flaw is mainly being used to launch pop ups and redirect users to inappropriate content.

Twitter announced that they have rolled out a patch to fix the problem, but the attack on the Twitter web interface is a reminder of security concerns. This is not the first time that Twitter has found itself vulnerable to the nefarious (if not ingenious) attacker; to the point that some of us have grown used to the “fail whale” that indicates internal problems with the Twitter servers.

Bigger problems seem to be going on with Microsoft who has warned of vulnerabilities in their .NET framework, affecting XP, Vista, and Windows 7. .NET is used to create websites and this vulnerability can be exploited to display encrypted text or even allow a savvy hacker to change the text. The official advisory from Microsoft addresses that they are researching the cause and how to address a fix, either rolling out a fix in their monthly updates, or with an “out of cycle” security update.

Microsoft is also warning that history has shown, once flaws are exposed publically there is a rise of attacks and assures consumers they are working as quickly as they can to resolve the problems. You can follow their security updates on Twitter to update as more information is uncovered and as they continue to work out a fix for the issue.

With all of the recent security concerns that seem to plague every corner of the internet, are you less likely to share any information? Do you think that these security concerns have always been this great of a concern or do these breeches just get more attention now thanks to sites like Mashable and the demand for social media responses from companies?

Leave the Boarding Pass Behind

We’ve gone from checking in at the airport desk to get a boarding pass, to printing out our own at home, and now soon we won’t need them at all. The TSA in conjunction with several airlines has been testing the use of smartphones to carry digital boarding passes. Passengers can receive their boarding pass as a digital barcode when they purchase a flight. At security they simply show an ID and have the barcode image on their smartphone scanned.

The first airport to use digital boarding passes was Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, December 2007. Continental Airlines first developed the encryption methods up to TSA standards, followed by five other US airlines. Currently there are 71 airports in the United States equipped for paperless boarding passes.

Since this method of boarding is still very new, there have been complications. Passengers going through security have discovered the battery on their smartphone is dead, the barcode unretrievable. Others have found security or gate checkpoints without a scanner, and had to wait while one was found.

Issues like these can be expected before a good, universal system is in place. But with current trends, the days of traveling paperless are just around the corner.

Fairness Bill for Cell Phones

Fairness Bill For Cell Phones

Opening up your mobile phone bill can sometimes cause hair loss – says a recent report. No, not really, but what can happen is that you see a new state excise or sales tax that wasn’t there the month before. No one really understands what these taxes are for, but there is currently a bill in Congress that could freeze new taxes for 4 years.

A letter written by the National Taxpayers Union claims that between 2003 and 2007 cell phone taxes have increased four times faster than another good and service. In the letter the group stated, “While family members are forced into paying more money, out of pocket, to communicate with one another, these predatory taxes are often squandered on projects that have little to do with improving the communications network.”

The bill is a bi-partisan effort that made it through the House Judiciary subcommittee and is called the Cell Tax Fairness Act of 2009, originally introduced by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Trent Franks (R-AZ).

The hope of the bill it not to do away with current taxes, but to stabilize the taxation for a while, banning new taxes for four years, and only on the state level. The bill is not designed to take revenue that states are already collecting, simply to prevent further taxes from being put in place.

Much of the wireless community supports the new bill and urges Congress to pass it before they recess for elections, so that Congress can protect consumers from new burdens. The wireless industry also believes that this could encourage innovation in broadband networks.

Consumers hope that the bill will be passed in a prompt manner to prevent more taxes from appearing on their cell phone bills without knowing what they are helping to fund or where they came from, while hair restoration clinics everywhere are holding their breath.

The Fight to Provide You Internet in the Skies

Places on this planet where you cannot get an internet signal are becoming rare.  However, you can still find yourself unable to check email or Facebook while flying between internet imbued destinations.  The reigning king of wireless in the skies has been GoGo Inflight Internet, but Southwest Airlines internet provider Row 44 plans to downgrade GoGo’s seat.

Row 44 secured $37 million in funding to expand their service to other airlines, possibly ones that are currently customers of GoGo.  The primary advantage Row 44 will bring to the table is not how passengers will get their internet, but how the internet will get to the plane. 

Most airline internet providers--including GoGo--use ground-based antennae to bounce the internet into passing planes.  Row 44 will use its new capital to lease more time on Hughes Network satellites.  Not tethered to the ground, Row 44 will be able to beam internet access to any flight, even while over oceans.