AccuConferenceAccuConference

Dec
11
2007
7 Methods for Group Communications Accuconference

In the beginning, the most popular way for groups to communicate was simply "in person". But with the advent of technology, even as early as two millennia ago, man has devised new ways for groups to communicate without actually being together in the same room.

IRC (Internet Relay Chat)

Back when the internet was young and 28.8 baud modems were all the rage, Internet Relay Chat was the way for web-heads to communicate online. VOIP was still the internet equivalent of HAM radio ("I spoke with someone in Australia today!"), and ICQ was still a few years out. Created by Jarkko "WiZ" Oikarinen in late August of 1988, Oikarinen’s design was inspired by Jeff Kell’s Bitnet Relay, which had been designed as a way for researchers to chat on Bitnet mostly over mainframe servers. IRC’s slash commands were inspired by Bitnet Relay and they persist to this day in many other chat mediums. IRC’s leap into the public eye came when it was used by the citizens of Kuwait to contact the outside world during the Iraqi invasion of the early 90’s. While many today now utilize more modern means for internet person to person communication, when it comes to text based group chat, IRC is still king.

IM(Instant Messaging)

Instant messaging had its start in the 1970’s when it was developed to allow two uni x users to chat if they were both logged into the same server. The technology would then evolve to function on closed networks and then finally the internet. The first instant messaging program to enter the public eye was the "On-Line Messages" feature of "Quantum Link" for Commodore computers in the late 80’s. In 1991 "Quantum Link" would change its name to "America Online". Despite this, however, it would be a different company that would beat AOL to the modern (graphic user interface) IM market. An Israeli program known as ICQ would hit the market in 1996, followed by AOL Instant Messenger in 1997. Since then a number of other heavy hitters have joined the fray. Yahoo and Microsoft hold a heavy share of the market, and Google has recently come out with its own instant messaging service known as GTalk. Recently, these companies have begun to incorporate IRC chat room type functionality into their IM clients for group conversations. Unlike IRC though, these conversations are restricted to the user’s buddy list. This alone could be what keeps IRC as the leader in the chat room venue.

Smoke Signals

Laugh all you want, but when the electromagnetic pulse of the apocalypse hits wiping out all electronics, you’ll be glade you had a way to you’re your neighboring walled-in villages of the oncoming uber-mutant invasion. Hey, it could happen. As a technology, smoke signals were created by both the Chinese and Native Americans. The technique involved using a blanket to cover a fire then quickly removing the blanket to produce a large puff of smoke. Smoke signal codes were never standardized as a drawback of the technique was one’s enemies could see the smoke signals as well. Because of this, codes were agreed upon before hand by the individual senders and receivers. In China, smoke signals were used along the Great Wall to communicate between towers. Calls for reinforcements and warnings of enemy movement were vital for the wall to serve its purpose. Although modern technology has rendered the smoke signal all but obsolete, with recent events such as Hurricane Katrina still in mind, it’s easy to imagine a modern instance where smoke signals could be used for groups to communicate a call for help.

ConferenceCalls

The origin of conference calls can viably be seen as rooted in party line technology used in the first half of the twentieth century. Instead of each home having a private line, groups of houses would share a single line. The unavoidable perk/drawback of this was the ability for these neighbors to speak to each other simply by picking up their phone and chatting on their shared line. Technology in this case would go full circle as phones would move on to individual private lines, then turn around to once again add a feature to let multiple parties once again speak together in one communal phone conversation. Initially, the easiest way to do this was for a home to possess two phone lines, and a phone that would allow linking a call on both of these lines together. Today, the equipment is now mostly handled by the phone company and conference calling has become a feature of the phone service itself. For conference calls involving a multitude of people though, a conference calling service must be used, either through your phone company or a third party vendor. Such calls can involve the party line type functionality in which all participants can speak with each other, or a layout where only the host may speak, and the others only listen.

Ventrilo/Teamspeak

Group voice communication is a veritable requirement for any gamer who plays multiplayer online games. Ventrilo and Team Speak (competing programs) are a cross between VOIP, party line functionality, and IRC. In essence it is IRC that uses voice communication instead of text. With these services, a host server is established, which users can then log into using a client. Once logged into the server, the user may a join a chat channel and speak to the group of users within that channel as if it were a party line. The service is primarily used by gamers for gaining an efficiency advantage in their competitive games. If one team needs to type text to communicate, while the other team merely needs to speak, the advantage becomes obvious. This advantage has become such a commonplace necessity that "World of Warcraft ", the world’s best-selling MMORPG, has recently integrated this functionality into the game itself. While still primarily the realm of gamers, it is only a matter of time though before programs like these enter the public spotlight, as IRC did in the early 90’s.

CB (Citizens Band Radio)

For truckers, CB radios have been the chat room of the interstate for over 40 years. Invented by Alfred J. Gross, who also invented walkie-talkies, pagers, and cordless phones, CB radios first appeared in the late forties after World War II. What gave CB radios the edge was low price and ease of use offered by its hardware. For the first time, one didn’t need to be a specialist to chat with people over the radio. Similar to cutting edge technologies today, governing bodies at first tried to establish laws to regulate the new medium, but with users widely ignoring these regulations, most of these laws were eventually dropped. As with communication over the internet, a genre of slang has formed for CB radio use. Terms such as "bear" for police officers and derivatives of FCC recommended "10 codes" such as 10-4 are still used today. As can be expected though, CB radio’s popularity has waned in recent years obviously due to newer technologies such as mobile phones and the internet itself. Looking at the full story of CB radios however, it’s easy to consider that group communication over the internet is nothing more than just a little bit of history repeating.

Text Messaging

On December 3rd 1992, the very first commercial text message ever was sent in Great Britain from a personal computer to a phone on the Vodaphone network. Soon after, in 1993, the very first phone to phone text message was sent by a engineering student at Nokia in Finland. Today in Europe, 85% of all mobile phone customers utilize text messaging. In the United States that number is 40% but quickly growing. While the ability to send a short message of text from one user to another can be seen as a great convenience, it is in group communication that text messaging absolutely shines. Text messaging has been used to mobilize everything from urban militias, to instant protest mobs. Some executives in Hollywood have even blamed text messaging for supposed "box office slumps", since audience members can now spread word before the movie has even finished as to whether or not the movie is worth seeing. On the positive side, text messaging has been utilized in rescue efforts, and for virtual "town hall meetings" when members of a community have found themselves scattered by a natural disaster. With usage steadily on the rise, one can only imagine what the world’s most popular use of mobile group communication will be able to accomplish in the future. Government elections are a definite possibility.

While inventions such as the wheel, metal alloy, and the harnessing of fire are often mentioned as mile markers in our technology, it’s interesting to note that all along this time man has strived to improve his capability for group communication. If the technology continues on its current course, virtual telepathy may be the ultimate goal. Perhaps though, the greatest breakthrough has already happened: the ability to now be part of a limitless group while, at the same time, still maintaining our individual solidarity.

Dec
10
2007
Practice Makes Perfect Accuconference

If you are the main speaker for a conference call or web conference, you may want to practice before the day of the phone call or event. You can assure yourself that your audience will get the full impact of your message by taking the time to be well prepared. What you really shouldn’t do is try to conduct a conference call in an "off the cuff" fashion.

Prepare your notes ahead of time
Think about the main topic, what you want to say, and the length of the conference call as you compose your notes. Remember that people in other places will be listening, but not seeing you. They will likely be taking notes themselves, so you have to present your theme in a digestible fashion.

Practice going over your notes
Once you have your notes in good shape, it is time to practice saying them aloud. You cannot replicate what will happen during the call, but you can be familiar with what you want to say. You could tape record yourself reading through the notes and play it back to get an idea of how you might sound. Or you could ask a friend if you can could them and go over the notes. This person could ask you a few questions and give you feedback.

Aug
31
2007
Webinar Marketing II: Writing the Press Release Accuconference

Not every press release is created equal, at least not in the eyes of a search engine. If you decide to market your webinar through a press release, knowing how search engines work is critical. Below are some tips to help your press release rise to the top of the list when some company executive or manager surfs the web to keep up with the newest thing in the field.

  1. Use keywords in the title: Remember no one will be using the word "webinar" in their news engine search. If your company is well known, they may be looking for news on that as well. Use something like "Spud Corp. Offers Webinar for Hazardous Waste Engineers Handling Toxic Organic Compounds".
  2. Repeatedly mention keywords in the first paragraph: The first paragraph is where search engine rubber meets the road. It where they decide what the press release is all about. Use as many alternative spellings as you can, just in case a searcher might use "computer" instead of "IT". Whatever you do, don't use any keyword more than five times because the search engine then begins to think this is commercial span as opposed to a real news item.
  3. Put a worded hotlink to your site in the first paragraph: Most business news readers only scan the first paragraph, so no matter how much you want to put down all the info and then put the contact link at the bottom of the page. Don't do it. Associate your link with some well worded prose in the first paragraph where it is more likely to be seen and in such a way that it does not look like "marketing".
  4. Put some keywords in your hotlink: Search engines actually read the words in your hotlink not only to determine how to rank your press release, but also see if your landing page (which should be the webinar registration page) should be listed on the search engine.

Aug
31
2007
Webinar Marketing I: Getting the News Out Accuconference

As technology has advanced, making on-line training and information exchange simpler and more interactive, and as businesses and users become more familiar with online distance learning technologies, the webinar marketplace has exploded. The webinar industry is expanding at a rate of 20-30% each year. What this means to you is that search engines that are already swamped with webinar offerings will soon be more than swamped.

Let's say your company wants to move into the training field, or some other information-provider-oriented area. Because the Internet can reach an international, as opposed to local, audience and everyone saves on time and travel, let's say webinars are being considered as the medium of choice. As we know, it's one thing to create a great webinar and another to reach the people who might want to take it, especially with the crowded, ever growing field of webinar providers.

Of course your company can always simply list the webinar on its website and hope someone randomly types in the right key words and goes down low enough on the list of links on their search page and then is intrigued enough by the byline to click on the link and decide it is just what they have been looking for.

It can cost big money to register for Google AdWords or some similar search engine pay-for-placement/click utility to shunt potential users to your company's webinar. But did you know you can get great visibility by sending out a press release through Business Wire, PR Newswire, or Market Wire? Releases to these news providers get picked up by search engine news sites like Google, MSN, and Yahoo News. And the cost is a generally very reasonable flat rate AND it stays visible to search engines for 21-28 days.

Every day, companies and executives surf these news sites using industry key words to find articles of interest and if you word your press release right, you could reach your intended audience more quickly (and cheaply) than you might guess.

Aug
29
2007
White Water Rafting Accuconference

We are starting a new feature for our blog. We are going to post a picture of the week taken by members of the AccuConference team – so without further pause, here’s our first:

Aug
28
2007
Webinar, Webcast, Web Conferencing: What's the Difference? Accuconference

There's lots of talk these days about web-this and web-that. So much so that, for many of us, it can all be very confusing. In today's world in business and communications, the Internet is by far the major growth medium. Two of the most important and widely used means of communicating a specific message or sharing fast breaking news with others are webinars, also known as web conferences, and webcasts. Although their names are similar, webinars, web conferences and webcasts are very different communication mediums, each suited for different audiences or messages.

Webcasts are where audio and/or video content is streamed to many people over the Internet. Webcasts only allow you to hear and/or see what is being transmitted. There is no way to interact with the people transmitting the content. A good example of a webcast is when a radio or TV station simulcast their show over the Internet. Today a lot of companies use webcasting to make presentations for stockholders or potential investors.

Web Conferencing is a fully interactive, live conference that is held over the Internet in real time. In a web conference people at their personal computer and log into a host site, which generally has a wide variety of different applications that can be used to display and share information as well as audio, video, and desktops. A meeting then takes place between the people logged on.

Webinars are a type of web conference. Although many times a webminar is a one way transmission of information, generally a slide show. from a presenter to an audience who are attending over their personal computer, it can be designed to have elements of interactivity. Generally, in addition to logging on with a computer, attendees also call in on their telephones like is done for a conference call. Via the telephone, the presenter discusses the information transmitted to everyone's computer screen and participants can ask questions in real time over their phone. Like web conferences, a webinar is live and has a specific starting and ending time.

Aug
24
2007
Webinars, Webcasts, and Web Conferencing: Getting Your Info Out Accuconference

One of the more common ways of supplying information to a large and distributed group of users is called a web conference or webinar for short. This is where people sit at their computer, which is connected to a host company through the Internet. The host then provides information via various audio visual formats. Even up to a few years ago, information generally traveled only one way. From the presented at the host company to the participants personal computers.

Today, webinars can be much more interactive and combined with teleconferencing with participants responding over their own telephones. They can include slide presentations, live video, or a whiteboard that allows annotations by the presenter and/or attendees, depending on the sophistication of the presentation and the capabilities of the host site. There can also be provisions for live text chatting, polls that let participants vote on issues, and sharing of documents or spreadsheets.

Webinars are generally billed one of two ways, as a fixed “cost per minute” or on a “per participant” basis. Either way, this is one of the least expensive means of presenting the same information, simultaneously, to a lot of people who are widely distributed. Webinars are becoming popular not only in the training field, but also in the financial and business sector in terms of reaching a broader spectrum of stockholders and investors.

Aug
23
2007
Good Video Conferencing Etiquette – Putting Your Best Face Forward Accuconference

Unlike a teleconference, a video conference let's people see you or you and your team sitting across a table from them and interact almost as naturally as you do in a face-to-face meeting. Just as in the world of teleconferencing, organization and planning is the backbone of a successful videoconference. Because of technical issues, there are also rules of etiquette similar in nature to those in conference calling, but different because of the added visual element in the video environment.

In addition to issues like wearing the appropriate clothes and accessories that we talked about in a previous blog which was related to video job interviewing, there are a number of other things that are particular to the videoconferencing environment. Abiding by these guidelines will make your video conference work as you hope it will.

  1. As for conference calling, make sure you have an agenda for the meeting, distribute it to the participants in advance, and then stick to it.
  2. Be sure to get to the video suite early and check all the equipment to make sure it is working well and that you know how to make it work of have technical help at hand to do so. What ever you do, don't be late.
  3. Your camera settings should focus as much as possible on the people in the room and minimize showing a large expanse of table or wall. At all cost avoid having ceiling lights included in the view.
  4. Clothes with simple styling in muted colors help the camera stay focused and don't distract your audience from your face, which is what you hope they will be watching.

Aug
21
2007
The Video Conference Zone – The Twilight Zone Revisited Accuconference

So your starting up video conferencing at your company or university or non-profit organization and want to really know what you're in for and how to avoid the most common problems? Well go online and check out the video on the University of Washington TV's "How to" production video webpage. You can do this by going to "the video conference zone".

The video is a take off of the classic 60's television show "The Twilight Zone" and shows you, for real, what things that can, but shouldn't, happen in your video conference or distance learning class. It is really quite humorous and if you have ever video conferenced before or taken any distance learning classes, you will recognize some of the classic faux pas.

Of particular note are the great suggestions the moderator, a Rod Serling clone, has for video conferences in which there are multiple sites participating. One of the best is to have one moderator at each site who orchestrates that sites interactions and an "uber" moderator whose job is to be sure that all sites are cooperating and functioning so the video conference maximizes its return for all participants.

Even if you have done a lot of video conferencing, the "Zone" is definitely worth a look, even if just for the chuckle.

Aug
20
2007
Video Conferencing Tips for More Effective Meetings Accuconference

A good video conference is more than just knowing your equipment and making sure you are not wearing anything that will distract from your message. As in conference calls speech habits are important. Video, however, adds another important element. Motion and body language. These are also important to keep in mind so you project the image you want to send to the viewer.

  1. Speak clearly in a natural tone of voice and more a little more slowly than you might otherwise. Make sure there is a short pause between speakers because there is commonly an audio delay of about a second in transmission. As in teleconferencing, don’t let people interrupt or speak over one another and be sure to leave pauses between points to let people at the other sites speak up and express themselves.
  2. As for conference calling, keep all side conversations to a minimum. Concentrate on what people are saying at the other sites. Since they can see you, it is all the more important to show your respect by paying them your undivided attention.
  3. Be careful of where you put the phone. Do not place it near papers that might be shuffled or where other extraneous sounds might get picked up. In this regard. If you have a habit of tapping your pen on the table or drumming your fingers to release nervous energy, please remember the microphone will pick this up, and concentrate on trying to keep them still.
  4. Similarly, try to minimize body movements. Swaying or rocking or any other repeated movements or large gestures are distracting to people on the receiving end of the video and you don’t want your physical behaviors to be the topic of water color conversations on the other coast once your video conference is over.
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