A couple of weeks ago I (as the dutiful and wonderful daughter I am) went to my mother’s house to clean it for her while she was out of town. While cleaning up, I stumbled across these, beautiful “G” wax stamps that I used to seal my wedding invitations. It made me think about how when it’s something that we are excited about, that we put a lot of time into sending out an invitation. From birthday parties to wedding invitations, we put a lot of thought into the message these invites will send. We agonize about what the invitations look like and what we write on them. When it comes to inviting people to something that’s more “business” we forget that how we phrase the invitation is just as much a message as the invitation itself. When we send out an invitation, no matter what it is, what we send is going to affect the tone of the event you’re inviting people to.
Here are three ways that you can set the right tone with your conference call invitation.
1.) FlashCan Evites -These were cute and fun. It lets you create your own scenario using artist donated flash material. I played around for a few minutes and while they are a little on the campy side, it’s a great way to invite co-workers or close business partners to an informal or impromptu conference. The humorous tone of the invitation is going to let everyone invited know that they are joining a conference call among friends.
2.) Press Releases and Registration Page – To set a more formal tone with your invitations, publish a press release and include a registration link. The press release goes out online, or sent to individual agencies. The tone created is going to be a more serious tone, and may not be necessary if you’re hosting a training update or something with your co-workers.
3.) Handwritten Invitations – Yes, in this crazy technical world where everything can be sent out via email we should never discount the handwritten invitation. Handwritten invitations set the tone to the invitees that you are willing to invest time in them. There is a great deal of time spent handwriting and stamping individual notes, and as soon as that invitation reaches the client, they know instantly that you are willing to spend that time.
No matter what you are inviting someone too, it’s always important to remember how to set the tone. Since a conference call can be considering something that’s a business “annoyance” sending out creative invitations is one way to make your next conference call less of a bore and more of an event, without a dress code.
How are you setting the tone for your conference calls?
The story that’s been circulating for the last couple of days is from the New York Times about General James Mattis saying that “PowerPoint makes us stupid”. As someone who deals a lot with presenters, I have to say that I, very respectfully, sir, disagree.
Simply using a PowerPoint doesn’t make us stupid, but it does run the risk of making presenters boring and making audiences complacent. How many times have you been attending a web conference and you find yourself staring off into space or working on something else because you’re busy and you can “always look at the presentation slides later.”
It’s because a lot of presenters “abuse the power” of the PowerPoint. When you attend a conference or view a webinar, you often come up against the fact that speakers are reading off the slides. Just because you put your sentences into short bullet points doesn’t mean you’re not breaking one of the cardinal rules of presenting. PowerPoint presentations should be used as a guide, never as the meat of your presentation – that should be you.
With that being said, let’s talk about some of the other important things to keep in mind when putting together a presentation for a group.
Pictures should enhance a story, not tell it. I think the biggest “what were they thinking” moment comes from the presentation slide that’s been circulating the internet. Who can read that? It says nothing. If you’re relying on your slides to tell the story, you’re going to lose your audience almost instantly. It’s better to use them to support a story that you tell.
Not all subjects need slide presentations. Sure, the US Military has a lot of ground to cover and probably a short amount of time to do it in, but the everyday company doesn’t always need to have a presentation. There are some subjects that can be fully discussed just with a conference call. If you over saturate your audience with slides, they simply won’t mean anything anymore. For more presentation tips and tricks, check out some of my previous posts.
Presentations, like most things in the US, are all about the balance of power – when to use them, when to not, and how to use them in the right way. How do you determine when to use a presentation and when not to?
Ever wondered why saying “goo-goo-ga-ga” in a high pitched voice really seems to get a baby going with the kicks and giggles?
According to Science Daily, new research suggests that infants as young as seven months can be as sensitive to the tone of voice of a parent or loved one as another adult would be. Since infants don’t understand words they relate to the tone of a voice. It’s easy to forget that the tone of voice you take on a subject is just as important, if not more, than your body movements.
Conveying your emotions on a conference call is not nearly as easy as a game of peek-a-boo, but it can be if you’re aware of your tone. Here are some quick adjustments you can make to your tone so that you can make it a little more clear what you want your audience to understand, beyond saying, “I feel –this way-.”
Soft tones. Using a soft tone, while it might seem like it would be translated as a soothing sound, in public speaking, it’s one of the worst things you can do. Not only does it bore everyone, but it also doesn’t convey any confidence in the speaker. Instead, use a clear tone while speaking, speak loudly, and don’t be afraid to be excited.
The wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable. You need to use inflection to help your audience understand the topics you’re discussing are very important to you. Just be careful of what you’re emphasizing and why you’re emphasizing that word. Have a game plan in mind when it comes to what you might be asked and how to express yourself.
It’s not impossible to share your emotions with people when all they have to gauge is with your voice. Try out these suggestions on your next conference call or tell me what you do to convey your emotions on your conferences.
If you’ve read any of my posts, you know I consider myself to be a bit of an amateur chef. There is nothing like throwing some stuff together and making something great. With every success in the kitchen there are always failures. Things get burned, the flavors don’t come out right, and, what I consider to be worst of all, and things are just bland. There is nothing like cooking a meal and then tasting nothing. You stare at the plate and you wonder if you even put salt and pepper in the pan. Maybe you actually forgot – which, has been done before, and will be done again. You have to ask yourself, what’s missing?
Consider your last conference call. Are you looking at the history and wondering what went wrong? Sure it was okay but there was something missing. You expected more of a turn out or more feedback, and you didn’t get what you thought. You can’t do anything about it now, but you can think about what to do next time. What do you add to spice it up a bit?
Try adding a pinch of social media. Facebook and Twitter are huge and are the most likely responses for feedback. Since setting up accounts on both social networks are free, set up a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page for the conference. Give them out and the beginning of the conference and let participants know they should give you feedback there. On top of that add a layer of the visual element and let it melt. By melt, I mean sink into the other elements of your presentation. Use a PowerPoint or share your desktop to help show people all the delicious details of your conference.
If nothing else, always remember to never serve your veggies without butter and salt – and pepper, if you’re me. Lots of it.
There are a ton of things to consider when planning a conference. Believe it or not, one of the considerations that can give you the biggest headache is “What time?”. Here are three things to take into consideration when setting your conference time.
Be advised. Always alert participants that the time zones listed on the meeting invitation may not reflect their time zone. Be sure to note on the invitation what time zone you’re listing things in. For example, our company is in central time, so anytime you hear us refer to times, it would be CST. We note all the major US time zones on invitations and agreements, so hopefully; we can help keep things clear.
Special Considerations. When the US goes on Daylight Savings Time, everyone skips ahead an hour – except for the state of Arizona. As confusing as it can be for you, I’ve actually found it is pretty confusing for them too. When DST is in effect, it’s a good idea to note your invitation that the times reflect daylight savings.
International Participants. When setting up your meetings, remember when dealing with international participants they can sometimes be up to a day ahead of you currently time wise.
Knowing who is invited to your conference and where they are located makes the planning process smoother as well as helping things move along well. Being well prepared will help relieve your stress and make things go a little smoother so that you can focus on the reason why everyone is together.
Besides time zones, what are some other things to consider when planning a conference?
I had the wonderful pleasure last Thursday of getting to see @eddieizzard live at the American Airlines Center. Let me just say that if you like history, can handle a bit of naughty language, and don’t mind comedy that makes you think, Eddie is someone you should check out.
While it was a great show, what intrigued me most was what happened before the show began. You know how it goes, you get to a concert early, you always find your seat, and then you get something to eat or just hang out until the show starts. It’s exciting on one hand, but on the other hand, waiting for the show to begin is the thing that drags on and on, with nothing to entertain you. Eddie changed this up a little. He live streamed his Twitter feed on two big screens. Anything with @eddieizzard showed up on the screens.
The plus side? It was something to watch and it helped to pass the 30-45 minutes before the show started. It was also exciting to see that there were so many people around the world who were watching Eddie’s twitter feed. The buzz grew inside the arena. Posts from those who could be sitting across the arena to the person who could be at the end of the row expressed excitement and anticipation. One guy even proposed to his girlfriend.
The downside? Well, some people just want to be seen or, in this case, read. So there were a lot of really pointless tweets that made it into the stream, some didn’t make sense, some were just plain offensive, so you had to weed out the bad and pay attention to the good.
How can this help you? Share a web browser on your next conference and set up a Twitter page. Get someone to man the page and refresh the replies page. Are you using a hashtag? Search for the #text on Twitter web and watch the tags roll in. People always join conferences early; why not give them something to check out while they wait for everything to begin? Not only are you providing some entertainment, you’re also getting everyone’s mind focused on what you have about to come. Tweet some teasers, you know, if you’re about to unveil something amazing. Let the buzz gather and follow the topics of conversation. Address questions before your participants even have to answer them.
How can you use a live Twitter feed during your conference to make it better? What scares you about opening that door?
One of the things I love about customer service is that there is always a new way of getting a hold of someone. When online ordering became the big thing, I was very excited. Is there anything better than not having to pick up the phone and order a pizza? I hate calling restaurants. I hate speaking to airline customer service – nothing against them; I’m just a very flustered customer. It’s easier for me to do things online and I’m more comfortable with that. The more I order services and food online, the more I have different experiences.
Last Thursday, the office ordered lunch from a very popular sandwich joint here in the area. We eat early when we order as an office, so I went online, put in everyone’s order and selected a delivery time between 11 and 11:30. It was about 10:20 AM, so I figured that was at least an hour, it had to be plenty of time. I was wrong. Not too long after that I got a call from them, letting me know that it would actually be closer to 12:30. Two hours later. She said they were behind in deliveries. My question? Why could I place an online order for that time period? Should that be changed when that delivery time is no longer available? I think so.
This morning, I was ordering an airline ticket and this little message popped up asking me if I wanted to talk to a live person. No. No I don’t, I’m handling my purchase online. If I wanted to talk to someone I would have. If I need help, I promise I’ll call you. I think I’m more bugged by this because it implies that if you spend a certain amount of time on the site, you must be stuck. For me, I was trying to do a million things at once and I had something else to handle before I could finish my purchase. I don’t need you to tell me I need help; I’ll tell you when I need your assistance.
On a side note, my plane ticket purchase was made successfully, without the need for the airline rep to call me.
What about online ordering has made your life easier? Have you had an experience like above or do you simply skip ordering online a go to the real person?
Since Christmas Day, weary travelers have been trekking through airports worldwide with one thought in mind: How long is this going to take? The TSA already recommended that you give yourself one to two hours for security checkpoints before your flight, especially when flying to international locations or in to the United States. Since the failed bombing on Christmas Day, security is even tighter. Now, the TSA website states that "At this time, security checkpoint requirements for passengers departing U.S. airports remain the same. Passengers do not need to do anything differently, but they may notice additional security measures at the airport." Interesting, since the day that Joan Rivers can't get on a plane and people are detained for not exposing the amount of money they make seems like more than just "additional security measures". Taking my shoes off is an additional security measure, limiting the amount of liquid I can take on my carry-on bag is an additional security measure. Getting a full body scan is a bit more than an "additional measure" and a bomb sniffing German Sheppard is not the way I was to spend my time hanging out in the terminal. Good luck if you're trying to fly into the United States from another country.
Why are we still putting ourselves through the hassle? In the past it had always been about trying to close a deal or do some training but with conference call providers that can do audio, desktop and web sharing, I have to ask, what's the point of the headache when you can easily do something different? Set up a conference, stay in your office, and avoid the delays.
I can guarantee no one on the conference is going to mistake your white chocolate mocha as an explosive device.
Do you value time? Not your own, but someone else's. The thought for this blog post came to me this morning as I made what is usually a pretty calm commute into the city. Not once, but twice did I get cut off and nearly hit by people who were in a big hurry. It's not surprising to run into bad drivers but as the thought "I'm sure they are just in a hurry" crossed my mind, I quickly started to argue with myself.
Sure they are in a hurry but I am trying to get to work too. If that driver cuts me off and I rear end him, not only will he end up being late, even after all that, so will I. Frankly, that's not acceptable. We should be looking after each other when it comes to time that we spend doing things for other people. Something like a conference call can be set up days, weeks, even months in advance.
When it comes time to be ready for your meeting, you should be, but that doesn't always mean that you are. There are times when you don't get the numbers you need, when something happens in your personal life, whatever can happen, it very well might. Don't be afraid to reschedule. Send out an apology and let everyone know that you're sorry, but at this time you'll have to rearrange the conference for another time.
I firmly believe that people would rather reschedule a meeting than to have to listen to you when you don't really have anything to say. So what do you think? Is last-minute scheduling a good idea or a bad idea? Is it better to get everyone together and tell them you'll have to try again or should you just proceed as planned?
I read an interesting tweet this morning from @lanakila that was very thought provoking. It said "can anyone REALLY prepare for a conference call?". The answer to that question is yes, as long as you're looking ahead. The number one rule of conferencing is to not wait until the last moment. If you get an invitation for a conference, then you should put it on your calendar, and make sure you are aware of it.
For those hosting a conference call, be sure that you've been upfront about the subject of the conference. If you're on a team meeting for a new project, you want to make sure that the ones you have invited know that this is what the conference is about. Never assume that people will know that the conference call is regarding. You need to have the right people come with the right information in order to make it work.
If you're participating in a conference, make sure you read the details of the invite and think "how does this apply to me?". There's a reason you've been invited. Perhaps you're a member of the project team, and if so, what is your role? What information do you have that can make the conference a failure or a success? You could possibly be a department manager and you must now be responsible for informing your department of rule changes or new information.
Is there a better way to try to prepare for a conference call?
How do you prepare for meetings or conferences?