Extra Preparation

Last week, Seth Godin wrote a blog about how to prepare for the fall back of the 2%. A really interesting post that basically says you can make something as easy as pie, but there's still going to be a group who doesn't quite get it.

When it comes to conference calls, you can use a registration page to prepare for the 2%. Creating a registration page will create a link for you to send out. It will direct them to a sign up page that will gather information and allow them to register for the call. It will save their name, company, and email so that you'll know who to expect.

The registration page can also set up reminders to go out for your participants so that you can make sure each person received a notice that they signed up for the conference. Someone will always forget that they are supposed to be on the call, so having a reminder system in place is always a good idea.

For after the conference, the registration page not only stores who signed up for the conference but also takes a log of which of those people showed up.  This allows you the ability for the all important follow up. If the conference is a mandatory call for employees or business partners you have record of attendance so you can schedule a make up date. You also have a record of contact information to follow up with those who did not attend.

There is nothing you can do to "fix" the 2% but you can put something in place, even in a conference situation, where you can have that extra help.

How do you prepare for the 2%?

AccuDial iPhone Application Available

App Store It's clear that conference calls are a vital part of any business. More than likely you'll find yourself dealing with multiple businesses that use multiple conference call providers. With your week filling with different conferences to attend, meetings to go to, how do you keep it all together? You use your phone calendar to store your daily plans and until now there wasn't an application that helped you do the same thing with your different conference calls numbers and codes.

AccuConference is happily presenting our updated iPhone application, AccuDial. It's a free conferencing tool that's available from the App store or iTunes that can help you to keep all of your conferences together. It's pretty simple. Just download the application, enter a new conference, and plug in the information. Name it anything you would like and attach a date and time to it if you like. When it's time for the conference you can either sort by the name or the date to find the right conference for the day (or the hour).

This application is not limited for use by AccuConference customers and allows anyone with an iPhone to connect to a conference call hosted by any teleconferencing provider. To get started, simply download the application, select it from the home screen, click on the settings (the wheel in the top right hand corner) and start adding conferences. You can add up to fifty and if you need help figuring out what goes where, just click on “help” in the top of the screen to pop up some quick descriptions and suggestions on how you can use the different options.

Since it's free, there's no reason not to give it a try, right? Go on over to the App Store or to iTunes and download the application and give it a try. If you have comments or suggestions, you can leave them here.

Download Here

AccuDial Iphone App

The Future of Work

The future is tomorrow… but then I guess it always is, isn't it.  As far as the next big things of work and the workplace, we’re already seeing "the future", or more exact, the changing of the past.  In an interesting article by The Futurist on the Britannica.com, they have predictions of the future of work.  Going hand in hand with the article, I think that we who use conferencing are already working in the future.

It's not really stated in the article, but I believe that all the major changes—barring the generational changeover—stem from our ability to communicate and collaborate effectively despite distance.  For example, the second prediction says we’ll be working for smaller, leaner companies organized to take advantage of outsourcing and consultants.  The only way that could make sense financially is if conferencing is at the core.

The "what" and "when" of work in the future is made possible and regulated by conferencing technology.  If a company wants to have employees responsible for the big picture of the company in addition to their personal work and sell 24/7 in an on-demand, internet-driven marketplace, conferencing will have to be at the foundation.

Obviously the move towards smaller offices, home offices, and the like, located to take advantage of geographic, convenient, or financial benefits--rather than large, single location workforces for command and control purposes—will only be possible through conferencing—or teleporting.

So if The Futurist is a bang-on prognosticator and these visions of the future of work are going to come true, a company should adopt conferencing now to have a solid foundation to support all the changes to come.

For all of us already heavily leaning on conferencing, the future looks mighty rosy!  How do you think things will be in the workplace of the future?  Tell us about it in a comment.

Conferencing Backchannels

What is the point of a lecture or presentation?  In most cases, it’s to educate or inform the audience and influence them in some way.  So when we’ve put a lot of time and thought into what we’re going to say, we want to do everything possible to pull off a successful presentation.  One of those things we can do isn’t something we actually do… it’s something our audience does.

Backchannel communications is any form of exchange of information “behind the scenes” during a conference or presentation.  At many conventions, a Twitter-stream provides an overall backchannel for the convention participants.  And it’s not only for them.  Participants who couldn’t make it, and anyone else interested in the convention can follow the events, happenings, and impressions of the tweeters in attendance.

For presentations in general and conferencing specifically, a backchannel of communication for the audience can greatly increase conferencing benefits.  For one thing, people can talk about what we’re saying, even as we’re saying it.  They can post their thoughts, feelings, ideas, have an interesting counterpoint to make, more information, or a better conclusion.  Without really realizing it, all of them are collaborating every time they post or even read a post; and all this going on in real time.

The backchannel isn’t just for the participants either.  If we add a web conference to our conference call and activate the chat feature, we can get instant feedback by glancing at chat activity while we speak.  This can help us know when to clarify, when to move on, when they’re with us, and when we’ve lost them.

People seem to feel much more comfortable posting their questions on chat than having to ask them aloud.  And because the questions are posted when they’re thought of, they’re not forgotten by Q&A time.  Also, since we can see a question pop up, we can choose to stop and answer right then, ignore it, or work the answer into our lecture.

For a truly dynamic, controlled group discussion, you really can’t beat a good chat backchannel.  What other ways can we create a communications backchannel in our conferences?  How else can it be used?

Tips for Mastering Public Speaking

The most obvious difference between a conference call and a presentation in an auditorium is in one you have people in front of you, and with the other you don’t.  Looking past the obvious, there are far more similarities than differences between the two.  So when I found some tips on BusinessWeek.com about improving face-to-face public speaking, I knew they could help when we do the big presentation on a conference call.

  • "Believe in the Audience" – Most of the time, the audience is rooting for you to succeed, or at least to put on a good show.  To do this, talk about what they want to hear.  Research the audience beforehand, or begin the conference call with, "What do you want to hear about?"
  • "Say It Out Loud" – Your presentation will be spoken, so keep your practice sessions realistic.  Say it aloud and not just in your head.  Call up a friend to listen so you can get feedback on your "phone presenter" voice.
  • "Mimic the Situation" – This tip suggests you go to the location you’ll be presenting to get acquainted with the layout, and you can do the same for conference calls.  Do a test call with a few people to see how everyone sounds.  Try out the mute buttons, and use the lecture mode.  If there’s also a web conference, practice sharing your desktop and running applications.  Make your mistakes during practice.

How do you get over the fear of public speaking?  What tips can you share with us?

From Conventions to Teleconferences


In the Church of the Customer blog, Jackie Huba wrote about what it takes to throw a killer convention, especially as conventions and the like are taking hits from the recession and swine flu.  Looking over her list, I realized that many of her suggestions could be used to improve teleconferences and make them stand out.

The biggest example I can point to is avoiding the urge to skimp on the guest speaker.  For the convention Huba talked about, they pulled out the stops and got Seth Godin.  Now it might not be a good fit to get Godin for a particular teleconference—or too expensive—but his industry equal would be well worth the trouble; not only to draw attendees, but to give them their money's worth.

Bringing people together is the main point of a convention or teleconference, but we can enhance an participant's experience by taking things a step further than just putting them on a conference call.  A registration page is a good place to start, but instead of having that page as a stand-alone on our website, let's create a portal where they can read about the teleconference; its agenda and speaker—and read about the speaker—see who else is attending, provide a place for comments, download the agenda and other pertinent materials, and send in ideas of what they'd like to hear about.

It's great to get all that information, but now we need to put it to good use.  We can email a newsletter about the teleconference, and provide updates in the weeks beforehand.  We can set up a twitter for the teleconference and engage in pre-discussions about the topics to be covered.  All these things bring us closer to the future attendees, but make them a tighter group as well.

All this doesn't end when the teleconference does.  We can email or make available for download the recording of the teleconference.  We can arrange a post-teleconference Q&A with the speaker on a page on our website.  And if they're up for it, we might even have a discussion session with the speaker on twitter.  All while making ourselves available through twitter, forums on the website portal, email, and phone.

It's the little details that make a great convention, and it's the same for a teleconference.  Taking that extra step, providing another outlet to connect is how we can reach our participants on more levels than just talking at them.

How have you augmented your teleconferences?  Tell us about it.

Three Rules for Twitter and Conferencing


If you don't know what Twitter is by now then you should probably crawl out from under the rock that you've been underneath. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it's true. Read any blog and you'll be told that social media is the way of future enterprises. What better way to extend your arms worldwide and invite a multitude of people to get to know you and your business a little better than to connect with them via Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter?

Not too long ago, another one of our fabulous bloggers, George, wrote a blog about using Twitter while being on a conference call. From a small internal conference to the large conference where you're pulling out all the stops, Twitter is a really powerful tool to share ideas and thoughts while you're conferencing.

With that being said, there are some things that you should keep to yourself when you're Twittering while conferencing. In my observations of those who Twitter about conferencing, I have found a couple of things that maybe we should rethink when it comes to integrating Twitter into our conference calls.

Remember that companies who use Twitter use it in a way that allows them to search out people who might be talking about their company. If you're on a conference with a company and you tweet something about wanting to pay attention but you can't because you drank too much the night before (which I have seen many times), and the CEO of CompanyX finds that tweet, you might have just done yourself a lot of damage.  Twitter is for the most part an open forum, so be careful what you say and who's name you start dropping.

Secondly, and this one is very brief, I never want to know what telecommuters are (or not wearing) on a conference. Please do not share. Not just for my sake, but for your own too. The last thing you need is your boss finding out what you're doing when he's letting you work from home or a client seeing what you do in your self employed glory.

Finally, I'd like to address language. Now, I am no saint or angel but there is a time and a place. In your twitter stream in the middle of a conference call as you rant on about how much you hate conference calls is not an acceptable place to express ones anger with such colorful words. In my opinion, you should remember that you might have to answer for these tweets one day and if you're making comments about what an idiot someone on the conference call is or how you would rather be stabbed in the face, I don't think that's going to look very good.

Maybe it doesn't matter though.

What do you think? Is Twitter an open forum for anything or should you use some judgment in what goes out there while you're handling business?

Riddle me this:  As an employer, what action, if any, do you take if you happen upon one of the above mentioned tweets?

Expanding "Going Offline"

We all know what "going online" is, so it's not too tough to figure out what someone means when they say they're "going offline."  Basically, when the multiple emails back and forth between people get to be too confusing or inefficient, it's time to pick up the phone, call the person, and go offline.

Gina Trapani of BusinessWeek.com wrote a great article about the benefits of taking it offline.  Sure, you don't get the dense and hassle-free transfer of information like email or instant messaging, but a phone call can clear up a misunderstanding, convey urgency and tone, and in some cases can get something done faster than through internet mediums.

One point in the article that really jumped out at me was Trapani's example of an email sitting in ten different inboxes, waiting on different responses—with some responses even waiting on other responses—and with a message chain the size of a novella.

An email like this has gone far beyond what a simple phone call could clear up.  No, in this situation, and as soon as the topic goes beyond two people, it's time to start a conference call.  In about the same time as it would take to type out another reply, we can start a conference with the three or ten people involved.

A ten-person conference call may last longer than the five-minute phone call needed to clear up a well-traveled email or IM miscommunication between two people… but not that much longer.  And it can clear up a day's worth of emailing in relatively no time at all.

Try this experiment: next time you've got a complex situation and need to call more than one other person to straighten things out, start a conference call.  Then leave a comment and tell us how it helped the situation.

How to Wear Your Conference Service


A conference service is like your closet.

You've got your jeans and t-shirts, slacks, and Polo's, all hanging up in neat rows. In the back of the corner is a suit that you paid too much for but never seem to have the opportunity to wear.   It seems like a crazy analogy but think of it like this: You have different outfits depending on what event you might be attending. A conference service is essentially set up the same way, with different features and abilities depending on what kind of conference call you need to have.

The standard interoffice conference call with a couple of co-workers could be considered your jeans and t-shirt call; no recording needed, no Q&A sessions, and no operator needed. Invite some of your clients into the conference and you need upgrade the wardrobe to the slacks and button down shirt. You might add a pre-conference or record the conference.

A good closet, like any good conference service, is going to offer you a variety of features that you can use depending on what might be appropriate. What happens when you have that conference coming up that you feel like you need the full suit, tie, and vest?

Easy. Schedule an operator on the call.

Having an operator is a little known gem in the conference world.  Conference call services are set up in such a way that you are able to use everything that an operator can, but there are always times when you need that extra little something.

It's the nice suit that you have hanging in the back of your closet. You might only drag it out every once in a while, but when you do, you make a great impression.

Large events require something a little swanky. The next time you invite a large number of people to a conference call, you should add an operator to assist in the conference. The operator will do an introduction, turn the call over to presenters, and moderate the Q&A session for you. This operator is fully focused on making your conference go as smoothly as possible.

Not only do you look fantastic, but it takes the pressure of moderating the call off your shoulders and you can concentrate on the information being presented. You worked hard to put this conference together and you should get to enjoy some of the spoils.

You should drag out the suit and wear it on conference day, just for fun.

The Strength of Voice

Conference Call Voice

Conference calls are hosted for a variety of reasons, depending on how they can best be used by your company. Many companies began using conference calls to bring clients together, but have since branched out and are using conference calls to replace the old system of updating employees via email memos.  Using conference calls are a great way to update employees on new policies or changes and give them a platform for asking questions.

There is an overwhelming amount of information on the web about how to present on a "large" conference. But if you're the manager of the sales department just trying to keep your people up to date on corporate policies, you'll be hard pressed to find a useful "how-to" about that. Plus, most of the time, your standard department conference call isn't going to have all the fancy bells and whistles like PowerPoint presentations or video. You just need to get the info out there, make sure that everything is clear, and then get back to work.

Any information you need to relay needs to be done with your voice – no visual cues to back you up. No more pretty pictures or graphs explaining everything. It's just you and the telephone. How do you use your voice to stand out and keep the attention? Here are a couple of things that can help get you through your standard conference calls, and they could be two of the most important things I ever tell you.

Save the handouts. The most important thing on this conference is going to be keeping your listener's attention. You need your people engaged and invested in what you're saying. Send out handouts or email copies after the conference is over.  Since natural curiosity will prevail over the need to multitask, most people will focus on the handouts instead of giving you their full attention.

It's all in the voice. Remember college? Remember that professor you had who wasted your time by giving you a handout and then reading word for word from the page for an hour thinking that was going to help you retain the information (never mind the fact he would pop quiz you the next day.) Here it is, clear and simple:  Don't be that guy. Don't script your conference but have some bullet points of things you need to cover, and never read word for word from a page .There are two very simple things you can do on your next conference to keep interest where it needs to be.

What are some of your tips to keep interest on a standard audio call?