Plan Great Events

Having to host conference calls on the fly can be hard enough and now you've been put in charge of planning a major event. If you've never planned a major conference before, or if you're just not sure where to start, remember the basics:  who, what, when, and where.  Once you’ve defined the generalities of the conference, here are a couple of things that can help to make your next event extra special.

Have a guest speaker

Seek out someone who's knowledgeable in the field you're hosting your conference and find a way to get them involved.  A lot of people are more than willing to throw their hat into a ring for a good cause or for something with a good enough message.  Do some research, find out someone who would be willing to take a little bit of time out of their day and speak at your conference. Having a guest speaker will boost the interest in the conference and provide you better over-all interest, and give you a higher number of attendees as well.

Practice Makes Perfect

Doing a run through can make the difference between a great conference and a good conference.  Know your materials and how you're going to flow through them. If you're using a web conferencing platform instead of just audio, familiarize yourself with the platform before the conference begins.  Get with a customer service rep at the provider and go through a demo.  They are there to answer your questions and help your conference run as smoothly as possible.  Go through a mock conference with a co-worker and make sure that you know the different facets of the service provider you have chosen to use.

Have a Back-Up Plan

Everything should go as smooth as silk as long as you're prepared, but just like that old cliché says, you should expect the unexpected. Computers crash, PowerPoint's fail, and no matter what you should be ready for it. Plan ahead for the conference by sending out the slide show (if there is one) as part of a participation packet so that attendees have it in front of them and if something happens, they have a hard copy. It will also encourage them to read through the slides and prepare questions in advance.  As much as you want the conference to go well, so do they.

Will you use these steps to prepare for your next conference call? Am I missing something important? I’m sure there are a lot of quick and simple things that you can do to plan your next event and make it special. Comment your thoughts here and tell me how you plan for a great conference.

Office Education

Online Training

I don't know about you, but I've had more than a few jobs over the years.  Some jobs were consulting, others permanent, but they all had one thing in common: no matter my background and resume, there was a ton of learning to do in the first few days and weeks.

I know that most conglomerate companies have good training or orientation programs, but personally, my experiences have ranged from simple and straightforward self-education to frustratingly lacking in direction and support.

It used to boggle my mind—not sure exactly what that entails--at the quagmire a new hire had to wade through to get up to speed.  A great college education is wonderful, but it's just a foundation.  The industry has changed since the textbooks were written, and even if up to date, every company does things their own way.

And speaking of industry changes, what does an employee do about a process they've done for ten years, only to find they are woefully behind new methods and technologies?  I've never seen a job description yet that includes budgeted time and resources to keep someone up to date.  I know they're out there, and probably some even mean it.

A big issue is training costs and time, but there's a good solution.  A web conference could make it possible for an employee to go over manuals and training materials with a new hire, days or weeks before they are to step foot in the building.  In fact, one employee could do a training teleconference for an hour twice a day with an unlimited amount of new hires.  They wouldn't have to mess with setting up a training room or distributing handouts.  Talk about a time-saver!

Here's a cool thought: use a web conference to have a new hire “follow” an employee! The employee would just share their desktop with the new hire.  The new hire could watch them work all day long without the annoyance of squeezing another person into a cubicle.  And if the new hire had a question, they could simply type it out in the chat window so as not to disturb the employee.

Have you used web conferencing for a “follow-along” before?  Leave a comment and tell me how it worked out.

How to Be Like The Jetsons

Growing up, my brother and I always watched the Jetsons.  It was set in 2062 and when I was seven, that was a really long time away, but now, in 2009, we're staring down the barrel of about 50 years.  Watching some old episodes this weekend brought back some memories and also made me think about how things have changed. Invention is often propelled by convenience, cost, and creativity. In 1991, a group of researchers wanted to save pointless trips to the coffee pot, so they set up a web cam that would broadcast the current status of the pot (and catch the person who didn't reload the machine after getting the last cup).

It was such a simple idea and look at where it's brought us. Web cameras are almost a staple of any office set up.  It's used for anything from having important seminars to being able to have a "face to face" conversation with a far off family member. It makes you think, where can it go from here? Is there anything that we could use video conferencing to achieve that we aren't doing yet?

Blink-182 is currently on a concert tour that is taking them all around the world and right into your living room, by offering a webcast. It made me think of the power of web conferencing to change the whole way things are done. Can you imagine never having to leave your house again to see your favorite band in concert? I am no stranger to the science fiction movies that show people in 3-D environments. Imagine embracing that technology 100% and the way it can change the world.

Imagine being a doctor and having to do a medical procedure you've never done before. Of course, as a medical professional, you want everything to go smoothly. Picture yourself video broadcasting the surgery live to the most world renowned brain/heart/knee/etc surgeon in the world and announce what you are doing it as you are doing it, thus letting you learn from the best. Apply skills like how you are holding the scalpel at the wrong angle, make adjustments that won't only help what you are doing right then, but for all future surgeries.

I usually hate going for the cliché but the possibilities are endless when it comes to the powers of conferencing. It's already reaching out and bringing families together as well as saving business' lots of cash on travel.

Where are you planning to implement video conferencing in your business? 

Accent Your Conference Calls

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.

The Power of Presentation Visuals

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.

Tips for a Successful Webinar from Michael A. Stelzner

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.

Guest Post by Chris Garrett - 10 Ways Webinars Can Boost Your Business, Starting Today

Chris Garrett

Your business can benefit from teleseminars and webinars much more than merely holding your standard conference call meeting. Due to my lack of vocal confidence I resisted doing much of this kind of thing for a while, until I finally took the plunge. Now I regret holding off for as long as I did because my income and audience have vastly improved each time I have tried one of the many kinds of teleseminar or webinar I list below.

Check them out and see how they could fit into your business ...

1. List-Building Webinar

The first positive impact you can see from holding a webinar is email list opt-ins. This alone could be all the reason you need for putting one on. Even better, these are good leads - people who really want to hear from you. They are people who have taken an action and cleared their schedule for an hour. Much better prospects than someone who is only kinda-sorta interested in reading what you have to say.

2. Masterminds and Brainstorms

They say two heads are better than one, but what about 5 or 10 heads? 
I know many folks who have regular, formal masterminds and get a huge amount of value out of them. I on the other hand have a few people I get together with on an adhoc basis, but still find the experience indispensable.

3. Regular Call/Radio Show/Podcast

Sometimes all it takes is for your customers to get to know your voice in order for them to warm to you. This can be achieved by running a regular call, radio show or podcast. Put it on a specific and regular time slot so people can tune in each time, and that will grow familiarity, personal connection and trust.

4. One-off Buzz-Building Event

Rather than a regular time slot, what about a one-off? Events are a perfect way to build excitement, word of mouth, buzz and anticipation.  You can use the event for publicity, links, traffic, and to gain attention for a message, or product launch.

5. Authority Building Interview Series

Borrow credibility, expertise and authority from thought-leaders in your market. Interview personalities and get vital nuggets of wisdom to share with your prospects and customers.

6. Paid Membership Club

If you have access to lots of experts with great information to share, turn it into a revenue opportunity by charging for access and sharing the proceeds with your interviewees.

7. Online Audio Course

Put your own expertise into a curriculum and sell it as a course. You might think that this will eat into your product sales, consulting service or divert attention away from your core business, but in fact everyone I have spoken to who has done this has found the reverse, more people buy their consulting, products and find it a much easier sell because their prospects KNOW the company is the right one to help with their problem.

8. Q&A

Instead of answering the same questions over and over on email or one to one, put together a question and answers call. This will overcome sales objections, help customers with tricky challenges, and demonstrate your commitment to customer service.

9. Product Preview/Overview/Demonstration

Sometimes customers do not know what they do not know. Demonstrating a product can both educate in the use of the product and explain the benefits, but also serves as "proof" when the prospect can see the before and after with their own eyes. It does not have to be live or video, just a logical sequence of slides explained well can work just as effectively.

10. Digital Product

Finally, when you have all of these calls or webinars recorded, why not add a transcript and sell or giveaway the recording and booklet? 
You might use them as ethical bribes, or offer them for sale at a profit. This can be a quick and easy way to create information products so is well worth considering.



Think beyond conference calls and look at all the other ways you can benefit from webinars and telephone seminars. Are there any ideas that I have missed? What has worked for you in the past? Are you thinking of giving any of these ideas a try? Please share your thoughts in the comments ...

Chris Garrett is an internet marketing consultant and business blogger living in the UK. You can find him at his own blog, and he also writes for

Rethink Your Web Conferences Slideshow

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.

Questions for Effective Presentations

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.


What is the number one rule of PowerPoint presentations?  That’s right, “Less is more.”  So what’s the second rule of PowerPoint presentations, the one we most often forget?  It’s, “You are the center of the presentation, not your slides.”

I came across a great tip on the Decker Blog about the use of black slides in PowerPoint presentations.  Bert Decker rightly believes that a big problem with a lot of presentations is that the PowerPoint slides take over and become the point of the meeting, replacing the speaker.  And like many have said before, these presentations grow to have more and more slides with more and more bullet points, until eventually the speaker—and the meeting—can be replaced with an emailed attachment of that detailed PowerPoint.

Decker's solution?  Well, first use less slides of course, but his second solution is to insert the occasional all-black slide in there.  

Think about your last web conference.  What were you doing when the speaker had already talked about the bullet points showing, and was making a point before going on to the next slide?  For me, I was trying to listen while idly reading and re-reading the bullet points on the screen.  Yes, I missed part of what was being said.

So what if there was a black slide there?  With nothing to distract, I could have concentrated on the speaker much easier.  And if it’s a long time to the next slide, switch from PowerPoint to the speaker’s video feed.  A message will get across much more effectively if all we have to focus on is the speaker themselves.

Another great thing about a black screen is it’s also a definitive divider between ideas.  It shows that the previous section is over and now is the time to recap, to talk about what was covered.  And most important, a black slide tears attention and importance from the PowerPoint presentation to give it back to the speaker, the center of any presentation.