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May
10
2011
Metered Vs. Stamped Mail: What Sends a Better Message Maranda Gibson

Here at AccuConference, we hand stamp everything. We don’t have a meter machine, despite the rising cost of postage and the amount of time it can sometimes take to stamp all of our new accounts and send them their welcome packages. A meter machine could probably save us a couple of cents on each letter we send, since it’s a bulk service, but we feel like the hand stamp lets our customer know a couple of things.

Using a real stamp lets the recipient know a real person stamped your envelope, not a machine. In a time when social media is being used to create connections with customers, the simple act of using a real stamp does the same thing that an active Twitter or Facebook account can do.

We feel like metered mail can look like junk. Not to imply that all metered mail is junk mail, but simple when you’re going through a large stack of mail, you typically look for the clear signs of what is considered junk mail. One of the things people look for the most is to see if something has a real stamp on it. If you’re taking the time and money to send out a flyer, why would you want to take the chance of it never being opened?

We also just don’t like the look of the meter stamp on the envelope. The pink on the white kind of burns our eyes – we prefer a good old fashioned stamp. It might just be because we have quite a few clients in Canada – have you ever seen the postage stamp for .75 cents (our going rate to Canada)? It’s really pretty.

Deciding if you want to use or meter for your mail is your decision, we just have always used regular stamps, and we always will.

(Image Used Credit to the USPS)

May
09
2011
Mississippi River Flooding Teaches Us about Communication Maranda Gibson

Tonight, it is forecasted that the Mississippi River will reach record flood stages in many places. For weeks, the residents in the 100 year flood plan have been urged to evacuate, including areas like Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee. Interstate 40, the major route between Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis has been closed for nearly two weeks due to flooding concerns. As the river crests and the waters run to the south, areas like New Orleans have been put on alert for potential record flooding.

In an emergency, communication is crucial to both residents and law enforcement. Communicating in a disaster requires constant updates of information and when the communication breaks down, it can be hard to keep the information flowing between local agencies and residents. It’s a combination of preparation, notification, and support that keeps people safe and gets the information out.

Planning - Preparation will save lives in the event of a flood. For example, weeks ago, the Shelby County OEM issued a notice through the National Weather Service that notified residents they should pack up important belongings and be ready to evacuate their homes at a moment’s notice.

Lesson Learned: The sooner you can get a date and time for your conference call set in stone, the better. It will give you plenty of time to get the information out to the people you want to invite to your conference call.

Notification - Using the media is crucial to saving lives in the event of a flood, and not just local media – it’s about communicating emergency messages where the residents are going to be reading. This includes Twitter, Facebook, and online through different services. Many highway departments are using Twitter for updates about flooding and road closings, including Arkansas and Tennessee.

Lesson Learned: Use different sources to get your information out to the people who need it. Email, Twitter, and Facebook are great ways to advertise your next conference. You can even build a registration page so that you can collect information from those who plan on attending.

Support - The Federal Communications Commission implements emergency procedures in order to keep 911 and other systems up in the event of an emergency. It is imperative that emergency services are still available and that people can get any help that they need.

Lesson Learned: Get to know your conference call provider. Call their customer support and see how long it takes for them to answer and see if you can get someone to explain the different features. Get a name out of someone and see if they are willing to be your contact person in the event of needing support. (If you need a conference call service that will do that for you, give us a call, and we’ll help you out.)

We can all learn a lot from the way the OEM handles a situation – planning, notification, and support. What are you doing in your business to prepare your participants for your next conference and let them know what is going on?

Photo Credit to ilovememphis @ Flickr

May
06
2011
Situation Room: A Break Down of Non-Verbal Communication Maranda Gibson

Image from the Official White House Flickr

It’s the iconic photo that will wind up in history books. As President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and other members of the defense team watched the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound; this picture has quickly become the visual representation of a historic moment.

This picture can give us a lot of insight into what the senior members of the White House staff were thinking, as this photo is clearly an inside look into what the staff was thinking. When they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, it is true because a photo freezes a moment and gives you a chance to study the non-verbal cues of a moment.

Notice that no one in the room is standing close enough to touch each other and that the majority of the men in the room have their arms crossed over their chest. This is a sign of aggression. When we feel aggressive, we do not want anyone in our personal space, and we cross our arms over our chest as a way to protect ourselves against something we do not want to see or hear. It is a protective measure.

It’s obvious that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is feeling a very strong emotion to whatever it is that she is seeing on the screen. Perhaps it was the moment that Osama Bin Laden’s face first appeared on the screen. Perhaps it’s the moment that the “kill shot” was recorded. We may never know, but Hilary’s hand over her mouth, is an expression of disbelief. The images she sees unfolding in front of her are so unfathomable, that she feels uneasy and distrusting.

President Obama’s sitting position indicates that he clearly feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. His back is slouched, his arms on his knees, and the thin, grim lines of his face. There’s a lot going on here. His posture indicates that he feels the weight of whatever is going on, but his face is the most interesting to me. First of all, it’s obvious that he looks tired. I’m sure that making a national security decision like this could keep you up at night. For me, the most telling non-verbal cue for Barack Obama is the shape of his mouth.

His mouth is shaped in a thin line, nearly straight across. I can identify two emotions from such a non-verbal cue: anger and concern. Clearly whatever is going on will change the world, it’s a decision that was made with great care, and now, to watch it unfold, it simply brings concern. President Obama, like all Americans, was affected by the attacks of September 11, 2011, and to be in a position where you get to see the man who was responsible, brought to justice, in my opinion would bring nothing but the original anger back to the surface.

We may never know what scene was being observed of the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, but this picture will be an iconic and important moment.

In business and relationships, we often wish for the ability to read the minds of others. It’s not a thing that we can do, but what we can do is read someone’s body language to at least get an idea of what someone is thinking. This picture is a perfect representation of how much body language can indicate in any particular situation.

Non-verbal cues are important to communication and while the subject matter of your video conference or meeting is probably not going to be as intense as watching a raid on the Most Wanted Man in America, your body language will say a lot about the way you’re feeling.

May
03
2011
Overcoming Fears & Have a Little Fun Maranda Gibson

Last year, I finally broke down and watched the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I have had a long time fear of Freddy Kruger and being able to watch that film was a big step in my growth. This weekend, one of the movie channels premiered the 2010 remake of the film and my friend and I decided to watch it – with one, fun little twist. We built a fort in the living room. Not just any fort, an old school dining room chairs and blankets fort. It dawned on me after I made it through the movie without hiding my face or screaming bloody murder that there was one very important reason why. I took something fearful and I made it fun.

While Freddy is just one kind of fear, there are a lot of other ones that people suffer through every day. By injecting a little fun into those moments, you can save yourself a lot of stress and turn a moment that is usually filled with nail biting anxiety into a moment of triumph. One of the biggest moments of stress for people is the idea of having to speak publically or do some sort of presentation. A little bit of humor can go a long way when you have a little mess up in your presentation.

  1. If you’ve ever tripped over your own feet walking out to the podium, instead of looking horrified, grab the microphone and declare that the clumsy portion of the day is over and everyone can stop waiting for you.
  2. If you’ve ever lost your place, admit it. When I was in New Orleans in March, I remember someone losing their train of thought and while the crickets filled the room, the presenter simply laughed and back up the slides, admitting to everyone, “Don’t know what happened there. Let’s try this again.”
  3. If you’ve ever stumbled over your words, just declare a new word thusly written and encourage everyone to tweet out the new word.

There’s not a person in that room that hasn’t experienced their own bad presentation so feeling bad over a simple stumble isn’t doing yourself any favors. Recover from it and create a fort in your brain where the things you’re afraid of don’t matter so much. Just remember that the fort is a safe place where humor is the thing that will beat back your fears.

May
02
2011
What Did You Say? George Page

If there’s one thing participants focus on the fastest, it’s when they can’t hear the presenter. Speaking too softly, mumbling, or garbling words are a few ways a speaker gets in the way of their own message. Well SpeakSchmeak has a few tips for speaking to be heard.

  1. Relax - When we’re nervous or tense, our voices sound unnatural. This leads to low volumes, abnormally high pitches, and even our words pouring out too fast to be understood. To avoid all that, take deep breaths and slow down. Before the presentation we can calm down by stretching our arms over our head, or even bending at the waist and just dangling to the floor.
  2. Open Your Mouth - The main cause of garbled words or mumbling is simply that we need to open wide. For practice, reading aloud helps us hear ourselves being unclear, and encourages us to enunciate and let our voices out.
  3. Improve Your Posture - Sitting up straight or standing tall doesn’t just help us look better, it properly aligns our bodies the way they were designed. With a straight spine, our lungs can fill with more air, our diaphragm can support our sound better, and our voices have a clear route out.
  4. Focus Your Voice - We may have good posture, be relaxed, and speak with our mouths open, but if we’re sending our words to the floor or just in front of us, we’ll still be unheard. We should speak out to, and focus our voices to where the ears are. If in front of an audience, we aim towards the back. If on a conference call, we make sure our mics are close enough and unobstructed.

Apr
28
2011
Listen Up, Listen Well George Page

Listening may seem like just one of several sensory input systems - it is - but it also is the lynch pin for much of what makes us be able to get through life. Listening well will help you remember more and more clearly. It will help you focus on instructions given and then later when you are following them. Listening helps with your personal and professional relationships.

Being a good listener is not something you are born with; you have to work at it. Since all of us are different, some may have to work harder than others. For example, if you are excellent with remembering faces, but horrible with names, this doesn't mean you have a bad memory; it means you are a bad listener. And if you have a tough time with faces… you might need glasses. The good news is that we all have the ability to become better listeners.

Here are some things to consider for improving your listening:

 

  • Accept everything the person says. Judging and evaluating the content of what someone is saying -- while they are saying it - guarantees that you will miss some parts. Take in everything, then examine it.
  • Don't get hung up on how they tell you something. Possibly you may not like a person's speech style, or their high-pitched voice. Ignore how they are saying it and concentrate on it.
  • Don't interrupt. It may seem obvious to point out, but often we formulate our responses and rebuttals even while the other person is still making a point. Let them finish, then it's your turn.
  • Get your body behind your ears. Make sure you keep eye contact. Lean forward to show interest. Try not to cross your arms.
  • Repetition of key points at opportune times is a good memory trick, but it is also a good way of letting the speaker know you are still following them. When they know you are paying attention, they will put more of themselves into what they are saying.

Apr
26
2011
Speechwriting Tips from JFK George Page

President Kennedy's words are burned into our minds and immortalized for time untold. Behind the man and his message was Ted Sorensen, JFK's advisor and speechwriter. In Sorenson's new book, he gives his perspective of the events of that presidency, as well as some basic rules he followed to make Kennedy's speeches so memorial. Carmine Gallo, Businessweek.com contributor, chose a few basic tips to sharefrom Sorensen's book. It doesn't matter if you are giving a keynote address, speaking in a small conference call, or expressing yourself in a letter, these rules can help your message go out clear and powerful.

  • Don't take a minute to say what you could say in a few words. Maybe even before they realize it, your audience could get bored and distracted as they figure out you have been taking too long to make your point.
  • Use words that describe specifically what you want to say. Don't resort to catch-phrases or clichés when a single or a few perfect words will suffice.
  • Organize your content in a simple, orderly fashion and clue your audience in at the beginning. Start with the theme or purpose of the meeting and how many major parts they should expect. Then verbally guide them as you go along. "Our third point of Organized Speeches deals with clarity."
  • Never forget the most important part of your speech is the ideas you are conveying. It doesn't matter how good it looks in a PowerPoint or how technologically advanced you're A/V equipment is, if you have a banal message, you will have a banal presentation.

These are just a few of the tips Gallo wrote about. Visit his article for more or go to the source in Ted Sorensen's book. Regardless, embrace these ideas and make your presentations shine. Your audience will thank you.

Apr
22
2011
How to Choose the Time to Host Your Conference Call Maranda Gibson

When sending out an invitation, you want to be clear on when your conference call will be held. You also want to be sure to schedule it during a time that you're likely to get the best attendance. That can be hard when you're dealing with participants from across the nation, or even across the world. How can you possibly schedule your conference call around the number of parties and where they are located to ensure the best attendance? Here are three things to remember when it comes time to schedule your conference call.

  1. Majority time zone rules. Where are most your participants located -- that should be the primary time zone for your call, even if it's not the time zone you are end. These are potential clients, customers, or colleagues and you want to make things easy on them.
  2. Avoid the lunch hours. Once you set your primary time zone for the conference call, remember that people who are trying to eat lunch are less likely to attend your conference call when it's going to happen during the lunch hour. Avoid scheduling the time for the conference call between 12 and 2 to give yourself the best shot at having a good turnout.
  3. Give yourself a time limit and stick to it. Do everything you can not to go over your set time limit. Not only will this make everyone very happy, but it will also help your image. Now, you'll be remembered as the person who remembers the importance of time limits, and not the guy who keeps talking when everyone is trying to move on to their next task.

It's not a perfect system, but it can help to get better attendance on your conference call. What are you doing to increase attendance on your conferences?

Apr
19
2011
How Good is Your Memory? George Page

Some people have eidetic memory: they can recall almost everything they've ever seen or heard or read. A photographic memory as it's sometimes called. These special people could attend or host a conference call, remember everything that was said, and go on with their day. However, even these memory masters have a need for conference calls with a good recording feature.

One obvious reason for any conference call to be recorded is to know exactly what was said, in what order, and who said it. If this was the only reason to use recording then the eidetic memory folk would have no need for it. So what possible use could they have for conference call recording? The simplest reason is that everyone with a photographic memory knows that the majority of the human race doesn't share their perfect recall gift.

We can only imagine how many times one of them has had that annoying conversation where they have to convince someone with a fuzzy recall of actual events or conversations about what really transpired. So while a conference call recording will help most people know what was said, it will also help eidetic memory people help their people know what was said.

That's not the only reason they and the rest of the world would want to use recording. Getting away from the basic reason of sheer remembering, recordings can also be used to multi-task. While being recorded in a conference call, you could make sure to summarize at the end and specify task items for teams and individuals in your company. You can have your meeting be accessed for playback, or simply crop it down to the summary and upload it. Then you shoot an email to all involved letting them know that there is a recording available for call-in playback. They all call in individually, listen to your recording, know exactly what they are supposed to do, and you get on with your day.

Think of all the meetings, emails, conversations, questions, and misunderstandings you can avoid just by putting your exact words in a conference call recording. It's like a bit of eidetic memory for us all.

{Image credit: (CC) Larry D. Moore}

Apr
15
2011
Have A Great Staff Conference Call Maranda Gibson

In business, we often find that things change rapidly and we have to keep our staff updated. One of the best ways to do that is with hosting a conference call with your employees. There are some important things to keep in mind when hosting these kinds of calls. Conference calls can get mundane quickly and when you don’t need to have one, there’s no reason to do so. Here are three tips for hosting a great staff conference call.

  1. Timely. Before sending out an invitation to participants for your next conference call, make sure you have planned it out. Studies have shown that there is only 23 minutes to get and keep your participants attention, so you need to operate within that time frame. Make an agenda and be sure to stick to it so that you can get on record with all your important information.
  2. Informative. It’s not always necessary to require a monthly meeting for your team or business if there’s no new information to present. When things haven’t changed and there is nothing new to announce, you might consider not holding the daily/weekly/monthly call just because it’s on the calendar. This will free up some time for your staff to work on other things, while also putting more importance on the conferences that you do need to have.
  3. Applicable. No matter what the subject your conference call is about, you should make sure that you give not only information, but how to apply that information once the call is over. Don’t just tell your participants what is new, but tell them how to apply it to their everyday business, and how it’s going to make a difference. If people can understand the changes, they are more likely to embrace them.

    When you follow these three simple tips, you can ensure that your conference calls have high attendance and you’re being the best host you can be. What kind of things do you do on your conferences to keep the attention of your staff?

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