Turn Off Call Waiting and Other Tips

Attention to detail can make a world of difference. In a conference call, looking after the little details before and during can turn a good conference great, or at least keep it from going bad. There’s a list of 33 conference call tips from Corbin Ball that I recently read. Here’s a few of my favorites.

Call Waiting - On certain phones, the call waiting beep can be heard by the audience. And it’s especially annoying to the rest of the participants if you’re popular. Find out if your phone does this--usually the older landline models--and learn how to temporarily turn it off.

Identify Yourself - You can’t see your participants and they can’t see you--unless you’ve integrated the call with a video conference of course. Encourage everyone to say their name before speaking.

Identify Them - You’ve said your name, now say who you’re addressing. In a conversational or meeting type of conference call, it’s usually better to address a person than the group at large. So say your name, then say their name, then speak your piece.

Help Hotline - Unless you’re out-dialing, you have to distribute the dial-in number and conference code before a conference call. And even with out-dialing, you should make sure all participants have an external way to reach you--phone, fax, email, chat, carrier pigeon, etc--in case of any connection issues.

Rules at the Front - Even with old pros, it’s good to announce rules and basic etiquette at the beginning of a conference call. Some things to cover include identifying yourself and others, muting policy, time limits, pausing for rebuttals, no interrupting, and nice things like that.

Plus, it’s more genteel to do it at the beginning than to correct transgressions as they happen. So those are the tips that I thought were important enough to highlight. Which ones are your favorites? Have any tips you think should be on the list?

But Um, Like Actually... You Know?

Everything in moderation, and this includes words. When we speak, there are silences, breaks, and pauses that many people fill with filler words. I myself once had a problem with “in any case.” I don’t know how long it was until I noticed I was saying it a lot, but once I did, it was maddening. I can only imagine how it bugged other people.

A huge filler word used primarily by teens is “like”. They can pepper a simple sentence with “like”, sometimes where it’s more than half the words used. “Actually” is another filler starting to gain widespread usage, and there’s always a “you know” lurking nearby.

“But uh” is relatively new to the word filler scene, and it’s gaining strength. Out of the blue last week, I found myself filling up a conversation with “but uh”. So just like “in any case”, I made sure to stop. If you’ve noticed a particular word or phrase filling your sentences, you might be curious about how I managed to banish the space fillers.

Now if you’ve already identified a filler, you’re doing great. But if unsure, ask a friend or record a conversation. Even better is downloading and reviewing the recordings of your last few conference calls. Once you’ve spotted the filler, a) take notice of each time you use it, and b) try to choose a different word when you’re about to say the filler.

The best habit to form, however, is one of silence. When pauses occur that normally you would have filled, just let silence happen. Not only will it vastly decrease the use of fillers, but your words as a whole will have more gravitas and power.

Tell us your filler word in a comment.

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.

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.

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.

Opening Salvos from Providers of Location-Based Apps

Opening Salvos from Proivders of Location-Based Apps

It took a little time for businesses to realize the opportunities of using Twitter and quite some time passed before Facebook became a powerhouse, but it seems like smartphones and their location-based, GPS apps were recognized for their potential as soon as they came out the gate.  And yesterday, Skyhook Wireless opened fire on Google for allegedly interfering with Skyhook’s sales contracts, as well as infringing on at least four patents vital to its checkin or location-finding software.

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Skyhook claims Google contacted its customers, namely Motorola, saying that in order to make and sell the Google Android smartphone the manufacturers had to use Google’s location service and not Skyhook’s XPS program.  Skyhook said XPS had previously completed Google’s approval process.

Part of the vitriol behind this and similar struggles stem from the still developing location/mobile advertising market.  Controlling location data, checkin-style advertising, and other future uses of GPS smartphones is a huge opportunity now, even in the beginning stages.  And it appears to be only getting bigger.

Make Your Own Hotel Bed for Red Cross


When Marriot’s TownePlace Suites hotels asks you to make your bed, it’s not because they are cutting back on staff, or have been talking to your mom.  From now until November 1st, 2010, every time you make a virtual bed found on the new Facebook app, Make A Bed, Marriot will donate $2 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief.

Make A Bed is the second part of Marriot’s new “real giving” program serving those in need throughout the United States.  The first event was during the program’ inaugural year, ending with 1,000 blankets given away.

Marriot also wants to reward those that participate in the program.  After making a bed, you can register to win a Flip Video Camera.  And if you add the app to your Facebook profile and get four friends to participate, you could win a 7-night stay at any TownePlace Suites location.


Hurricane Earl to Disrupt East Coast

Late Thursday, Hurricane Earl will be within striking distance of North Carolina.  Earl is expected to turn northwards right before the coast and not make landfall, but that remains to be seen.   When predicted to make the turn, any delays in as little as a six hour time window will determine if the Hurricane will cross onto land or not, and at what force.

Earl had been classified as a Category 4 hurricane, but is now Category 3.  However, despite being downgraded, it is still a major storm.  Hurricane warnings are in effect in North Carolina, with tropical storm warnings up the coast.

Airlines have made announcements preparing travelers to expect delays or cancellations.  Continental Airlines in particular is offering penalty-free changes to itineraries affected up to and through September 5th.

Evacuation orders have been issued for islands along the eastern seaboard.  Coastal residents in general need to prepare for Earl, as even without landfall the hurricane’s effects will reach the mainland.

A fully charged cell phone is a necessity, and a smartphone can have multiple emergency uses.  It can be used to stay informed of Earl’s progress through weather websites with up-to-the-minute tracking.  Two-way, push-to-talk radios and cell phones are good to have as communications alternatives.  And some smartphone models even have a flashlight app.

Have an evacuation plan ready for the family, including rally points, and communication contingencies.  A Google Groups or similar collaboration site is perfect for emergency family planning and communication, and in case of separation can be used anywhere with internet access.

iPhone App Earns You Free Plane Ticket Today

Loopt Star is an iPhone app that gives you local and immediate rewards when you “check in” at certain locations.  For example, if you were to check in at a Starbucks, you might have a 10% discount waiting at the counter.  For today, if you check in at select locations in San Francisco or Los Angeles, you will receive a two-for-one plane ticket deal from Virgin America Airlines to Mexico.  Not only that, but you can get two tacos for $1 as well!

Checkins and check in rewards are fast becoming available in many places.  It was only recently that checking in at a location would simply get you in-game points or rewards.  But now businesses are realizing the potential of people with smartphones in their shops.  Using actual real-world rewards to encourage people to stay and buy, or return again is the natural and powerful next step.

Loopt Star is the real-world rewards version of Loopt, a previous iPhone app that used GPS positioning for users to check in and get points usable only within the app itself. Loopt Star is also one of the first apps to base itself on the new Facebook Places location sharing program.

Other GPS-location sharing, checkin apps not far behind with real-world rewards and discounts for their players are Foursquare and Gowalla.


Stealing Through iTunes-PayPal-Bank Account

It’s been reported today that many people have gotten their iTunes account hacked.  While this in itself would be a minor--and puzzling--bit of thievery, it can have much larger implications.  Most people have their iTunes account linked with PayPal.com for purchases of songs and videos.  And many of those same people have their PayPal accounts linked to their bank account.

After hacking into an iTunes account, multiple transactions are made through PayPal purchasing iTunes products.  The PayPal account is quickly drained then, if linked to a bank account, the charges are passed on to be paid by the bank.

It is important for everyone to check their iTunes and PayPal.com accounts to see if there are any unauthorized transactions.  Afterwards, change your password on not only the iTunes account, but PayPal and even the bank account.  Choose a password that has no meaning, mixes letters and numbers, and even uses misspelled words.  Ideally, a password should look like this:  sd9ow8vlwr89n.  But that would be hard to remember.

Signs of a hacked iTunes account include a great number of identical purchases, and of course, any downloaded songs of the band, ABBA.