The Unseen Audience

For some strange reason, public speaking is one of a human's greatest fears.  Not so much for me; I rank sharks as much scarier than getting up in front of a bunch of people to talk.  Actually, making someone face jumping into a tank of sharks, but at the last minute giving them the opportunity to skip the sharks if they'll give a twenty minute speech could possibly cure anyone of their fear of public speaking.

But I digress.  Naturally, a conference call is much less terrifying a medium than an auditorium, simply because there's no one looking at you.  However, those "eyes" are still there—only now they're ears.  I found some great tips from The Eloquent Woman blog about speaking to an audience you can't see.

Stand Up – Even though you're probably by yourself during a conference call, put on your headset and walk around.  You'll sound more energized, and the better alignment of your diaphragm will make your voice more powerful.

Talk Visually – Like nodding to say "yes" over the phone, a lot of gestures and such can't be seen by the audience.  Tell them what you're doing, holding up, or picturing in your mind.

Outside Help – Have a friend listen in on the conference call.  Ask them to send you instant messages telling you to speed up or slow down.  They can also tell you if you're doing well—encouragement is always a good thing.

Raised Hands – When giving a presentation to an unseen audience, you can't see the puzzled looks.  Enable lecture mode so that people can "raise their hand" by indicating they have a comment.  Also, tell people to use twitter to send you quick questions or comments mid-lecture.

Which do you prefer, speaking in an auditorium or on a conference call?  Tell us why in a comment.

The Middle of the Night Idea : Make It Work

It's happened to everyone. You're sitting at your desk, lying on the couch, or even trying to fall asleep when an idea jumps into your head. You hastily reach for pen and paper to jot down this wonderful idea so that it can be remembered and cultivated the next day. You jot down something like “tethered picture” or “life path” or some other random combination of letters and when you get into the office the next day, all you can do is scratch your head and wonder what you meant.


It might come back to you, it might not, but if it doesn't, don't trash the idea.  Maybe your brain just needs a little coaxing to bring it back to the surface. It could be the greatest idea in the history of your company, it could be the cure for cancer, who knows, but don't trash it just yet.

Here is a suggestion: it's the perfect time for an impromptu conference call.

Send out an email to your co-workers, asking if they have a moment free to dial into a conference call for brainstorming.  Tell them the story of how the seeds of a wonderful idea were planted in the middle of the night and now you just need a little water to help it grow (remember humor is a great ice breaker!). If you are looking for an outside opinion, use your social network to get some feedback from the people who might end up using your product. Send out a tweet or a message to your Facebook friends and ask them to DM you or send you a message if they would like to help you brainstorm. Since these are often the people using or interested in your product, surely they would like to be a part of a new idea you've had.

Getting others on the conference call can not only help jog your memory, but can also be the key to another great idea looming around the corner.

Do you reach out to your community of friends, followers, and co-workers to help you build on, brainstorm, or remember a great idea? Why or why not?

Stay Healthy This Flu Season

Flu season is not on the horizon, it's here!  Already we've hit the early wave of cold and flu viruses that herald the sick-season.  And if you watch the news even a little bit, we've got swine flu to deal with on top of everything else.  So what can you do to avoid getting sick over the next four months?  Here's a quick but good list:

  • Wash your hands… a lot
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible
  • Get a flu shot
  • Wash your hands—seriously, very often
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Use teleconferencing

Nope, I'm not joking about that last one, especially as it ties in so neatly with the one above it.  Using and encouraging the use of conference calls, web conferencing, and video conferencing can reduce the loss of productivity that flu season usually causes.  How can teleconferencing do this?  Well…

On one hand, there are times when a sick employee at home is feeling better, even though they're still contagious.  Well, they don't have to do nothing if they don't want to.  They can still attend the meeting, or brainstorm with their team.

And on the other hand, it's obvious that someone needs to stay home when they're feeling sick, but sometimes when someone feels okay, they might go to the office, even thought they could still be contagious.  This means that any sales call, meeting, or even water cooler chat can be an unsuspecting ground zero for the flu.  That one almost better employee can send five or ten others home with the flu!

But with teleconferencing available, that sick employee can stay home and still be a productive part of the office, and you and all your employees are protected from catching the flu… at least from that one person.

Done reading?  Good!  Now go wash your hands.

Building Barriers for Better Communication

Normally I'm not a fan of any barrier to communication, but today I'm going to make an exception with this caveat:  barriers to clear and open communication are bad, UNLESS it's done on purpose… for the purpose of communicating with a specific target audience.

Look at QR codes.  These graphic 2D images can contain contact info, URLs, or even just notes, but they can only be read by people with a decoder on their iPhone or other mobile device.  So it seems silly to put only a QR code on a billboard, but this is pretty common, especially in Japan.

Why?  Well, first of all, it's ideal for advertising to teenagers, or any other technophile group.  Second, it's mysterious, and the only way to satisfy the curiosity is to decode it.  Finally, when it's decoded, the information is automatically stored on the mobile device so that even the most unmotivated potential customer is spared writing down your message.

In other words, QR codes break through communications barriers, even as they create them.

Conference calling is another good example of this good type of communication barrier/barrier breaker.  They're a barrier because no one can simply pick up a phone to join a teleconference without first obtaining a conference code.  And conference calls break through the money, time, and distance barriers to immediate and effective meetings.

Like QR codes, conference calls help reach target markets.  Using a teleconference registration page on your website for example, provides you with participants that:

  • Have been to your website
  • Are somewhat familiar with your products
  • Are motivated enough to exchange contact information for a conference code.

This means that a conference call with these particular participants will be a far more effective use of time and money than say, simply buying some leads and cold-calling.

Putting my money where my mouth is, I'm going to put the QR code pictured above on a t-shirt to wear next time I go out.  The embedded message is one that speaks to my personal target audience: smart, tech-savvy, and has a good sense of humor.

(If you have an iPhone and want to read the QR code in this post, download the free “QR app” from the app store.  Or, you can simply click here to go to the decoded message.  Also, tell us about your QR code experiences.  Go here to QR code your comment to us!)

Plan Great Events

Having to host conference calls on the fly can be hard enough and now you've been put in charge of planning a major event. If you've never planned a major conference before, or if you're just not sure where to start, remember the basics:  who, what, when, and where.  Once you’ve defined the generalities of the conference, here are a couple of things that can help to make your next event extra special.

Have a guest speaker

Seek out someone who's knowledgeable in the field you're hosting your conference and find a way to get them involved.  A lot of people are more than willing to throw their hat into a ring for a good cause or for something with a good enough message.  Do some research, find out someone who would be willing to take a little bit of time out of their day and speak at your conference. Having a guest speaker will boost the interest in the conference and provide you better over-all interest, and give you a higher number of attendees as well.

Practice Makes Perfect

Doing a run through can make the difference between a great conference and a good conference.  Know your materials and how you're going to flow through them. If you're using a web conferencing platform instead of just audio, familiarize yourself with the platform before the conference begins.  Get with a customer service rep at the provider and go through a demo.  They are there to answer your questions and help your conference run as smoothly as possible.  Go through a mock conference with a co-worker and make sure that you know the different facets of the service provider you have chosen to use.

Have a Back-Up Plan

Everything should go as smooth as silk as long as you're prepared, but just like that old cliché says, you should expect the unexpected. Computers crash, PowerPoint's fail, and no matter what you should be ready for it. Plan ahead for the conference by sending out the slide show (if there is one) as part of a participation packet so that attendees have it in front of them and if something happens, they have a hard copy. It will also encourage them to read through the slides and prepare questions in advance.  As much as you want the conference to go well, so do they.

Will you use these steps to prepare for your next conference call? Am I missing something important? I’m sure there are a lot of quick and simple things that you can do to plan your next event and make it special. Comment your thoughts here and tell me how you plan for a great conference.

How to Be Like The Jetsons

Growing up, my brother and I always watched the Jetsons.  It was set in 2062 and when I was seven, that was a really long time away, but now, in 2009, we're staring down the barrel of about 50 years.  Watching some old episodes this weekend brought back some memories and also made me think about how things have changed. Invention is often propelled by convenience, cost, and creativity. In 1991, a group of researchers wanted to save pointless trips to the coffee pot, so they set up a web cam that would broadcast the current status of the pot (and catch the person who didn't reload the machine after getting the last cup).

It was such a simple idea and look at where it's brought us. Web cameras are almost a staple of any office set up.  It's used for anything from having important seminars to being able to have a "face to face" conversation with a far off family member. It makes you think, where can it go from here? Is there anything that we could use video conferencing to achieve that we aren't doing yet?

Blink-182 is currently on a concert tour that is taking them all around the world and right into your living room, by offering a webcast. It made me think of the power of web conferencing to change the whole way things are done. Can you imagine never having to leave your house again to see your favorite band in concert? I am no stranger to the science fiction movies that show people in 3-D environments. Imagine embracing that technology 100% and the way it can change the world.

Imagine being a doctor and having to do a medical procedure you've never done before. Of course, as a medical professional, you want everything to go smoothly. Picture yourself video broadcasting the surgery live to the most world renowned brain/heart/knee/etc surgeon in the world and announce what you are doing it as you are doing it, thus letting you learn from the best. Apply skills like how you are holding the scalpel at the wrong angle, make adjustments that won't only help what you are doing right then, but for all future surgeries.

I usually hate going for the cliché but the possibilities are endless when it comes to the powers of conferencing. It's already reaching out and bringing families together as well as saving business' lots of cash on travel.

Where are you planning to implement video conferencing in your business? 

Accent Your Conference Calls

Conference calls, web conferences, video conferences… they make business so much easier, don't they?  And at their most basic, they are easy to setup and easy to run.  So if a no frills, simple conference call is easy, then does that mean a complex one is hard to do?

The answer is a quiet, dignified, "No."  Putting the extra touch and polish on a conference call is easy with a little forethought.  To get you started, here are a few ways to accent your next conference call:

Guest Moderator – Hiring an average speaker for a meeting or presentation can be costly; especially if they have to travel far to you.  With conference calls, travel isn't necessary.  And because a guest moderator only has to talk on the phone for an hour or so, their honorarium is much, much less.  Lower costs for you and less inconvenience for the guest means you are able to hire a much wider range of people including celebrities and industry superstars!

Why Not Add Video – Let's say you have two offices, one on each coast.  You're planning a meeting between them from their respective conference rooms, each circled round a speaker phone.  Obviously, you could make this happen with a simple phone call, but let"s improve on that.  Start a video conference, have a laptop and webcam at each table, and hook up the laptops to large monitors.  Now you don"t have two disembodied groups anymore.  Instead, your two offices are talking—and seeing who's doing the talking—as if they were just across the hall from each other.

PowerPoint Pizzazz – Among other things, web conferences have a singular feature going for them: you can put the contents of your entire laptop in front of any and all of your participants at the same time.  You can share a design—or video, website, graph, document—and they can study it as if it was on their computer… because it basically is.  Showing your participants something is much more powerful than telling them about it.  And that power is available in each and every web conference you do.

Tips for a Successful Webinar from Michael A. Stelzner

Michael Stelzner

I had a chance to speak with Mike Stelzner, author of Writing White Papers How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged, about a recent webinar he hosted, the Social Media Success Summit. The live online event spanned over a month and brought the brightest minds in social media marketing together and they never even had to get up from their desks.

"Social media happens to be the hottest thing on the planet," Mike stated. His summit brought together some of the biggest names on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and demonstrated the benefits and uses of these social networks to grow the buzz about your small business.

The most unique part of this event? It was a virtual conference. "It's a great way for me to impart a lot of knowledge on a lot people." Mike is absolutely right, virtual conferences can reach a large or small group of people worldwide. Mike was kind enough to give some tips for the business or individual looking to get involved in webinars on a small scale, or even the larger scale.

Have a helper
When you have a presenter, they should be able to be focused on just that, presenting. Assign someone else to keep an eye out for incoming questions, to sort through them if you're prescreening, as well as someone to field any connection questions. 

Speak live in a way that will sound just as great on a recording.
Be mindful that this seminar will be available for people to listen to at a later time. Maybe they missed the first day of your seminar; maybe they missed the last day, or maybe they are just interested in writing down some of the smart things you said. Either way you want to make sure that everything is going to translate into a recorded format while you're doing the live conference.

Keep your audience engaged
"Something as simple as a poll question can really get people engaged." Ask your participants their opinions. 'Would you do this?' 'Is this something you would like to see more of?' Make your participants part of the conference and not just quiet observers to keep them excited about the topic and more likely to come back for the next event.  Encourage them to interact with you via Facebook and Twitter. This will help them stay engaged and will give you instant feedback.

Provide different options to encourage questions.
Instead of just offering your guests or clients the old fashioned voice submission for questions, allow them to submit their questions via email, chat, or text.  It's not always an easy thing to get people to open up. Have some questions ready yourself in the event that you might not get any questions submitted. "When it comes to taking questions that are live, you can run into some real technical challenges if you're not familiar with the platform. So I always believe in having a backup plan in place, and maybe even some back up questions."

These are just some of the tips that Mike was nice enough to offer, and I hope that you apply some of them to your next virtual event or conference call. If you'd like to find out more about Mike Stelzer, you can visit him on Twitter, @mike_stelzner.

Podcasts, People!

What is the difference between a podcast and a recording of a conference call? Quick answer: there isn't a difference.  Longer answer: one way to look at it is a podcast is just your recorded audio conference call that's been "published."

And that's really all there is different between the two.  Has someone mentioned that it would be a good idea to make podcasts for the company; that it would be good advertising?  Have you had a brainstorming meeting to come up with podcast material?  Has someone been put in charge of making the podcast program happen?  (Was it you?)

Here's the good news then: if your company has been doing a lot of conference calls, then there's a good chance you already have a bunch of podcasts just waiting to be published!  Because what could be better content for a company podcast than its presentations about its products, industry news, or the exciting things happening there.

With content taken care of, it's time to edit and transform the conferences into podcasts.  Using a standard audio editing program, you can add the company jingle to the beginning, a few words from the CEO, or a general introduction.  Snip out long silences as well as any proprietary or secret information.  At the end, you can add a conclusion, contact info, product discounts, music, or just let the ending of the presentation be the end of the podcast.  It's entirely up to you.

For publishing, you can simply add it to your website, and do an email and Twitter campaign to promote the new "Podcast section."  You can also upload it to YouTube, or even iTunes!  The point is to get your podcasts out there and working for your company 24/7.

After all, a really great presentation shouldn't be heard just once.

Guest Post by Chris Garrett - 10 Ways Webinars Can Boost Your Business, Starting Today

Chris Garrett

Your business can benefit from teleseminars and webinars much more than merely holding your standard conference call meeting. Due to my lack of vocal confidence I resisted doing much of this kind of thing for a while, until I finally took the plunge. Now I regret holding off for as long as I did because my income and audience have vastly improved each time I have tried one of the many kinds of teleseminar or webinar I list below.

Check them out and see how they could fit into your business ...

1. List-Building Webinar

The first positive impact you can see from holding a webinar is email list opt-ins. This alone could be all the reason you need for putting one on. Even better, these are good leads - people who really want to hear from you. They are people who have taken an action and cleared their schedule for an hour. Much better prospects than someone who is only kinda-sorta interested in reading what you have to say.

2. Masterminds and Brainstorms

They say two heads are better than one, but what about 5 or 10 heads? 
I know many folks who have regular, formal masterminds and get a huge amount of value out of them. I on the other hand have a few people I get together with on an adhoc basis, but still find the experience indispensable.

3. Regular Call/Radio Show/Podcast

Sometimes all it takes is for your customers to get to know your voice in order for them to warm to you. This can be achieved by running a regular call, radio show or podcast. Put it on a specific and regular time slot so people can tune in each time, and that will grow familiarity, personal connection and trust.

4. One-off Buzz-Building Event

Rather than a regular time slot, what about a one-off? Events are a perfect way to build excitement, word of mouth, buzz and anticipation.  You can use the event for publicity, links, traffic, and to gain attention for a message, or product launch.

5. Authority Building Interview Series

Borrow credibility, expertise and authority from thought-leaders in your market. Interview personalities and get vital nuggets of wisdom to share with your prospects and customers.

6. Paid Membership Club

If you have access to lots of experts with great information to share, turn it into a revenue opportunity by charging for access and sharing the proceeds with your interviewees.

7. Online Audio Course

Put your own expertise into a curriculum and sell it as a course. You might think that this will eat into your product sales, consulting service or divert attention away from your core business, but in fact everyone I have spoken to who has done this has found the reverse, more people buy their consulting, products and find it a much easier sell because their prospects KNOW the company is the right one to help with their problem.

8. Q&A

Instead of answering the same questions over and over on email or one to one, put together a question and answers call. This will overcome sales objections, help customers with tricky challenges, and demonstrate your commitment to customer service.

9. Product Preview/Overview/Demonstration

Sometimes customers do not know what they do not know. Demonstrating a product can both educate in the use of the product and explain the benefits, but also serves as "proof" when the prospect can see the before and after with their own eyes. It does not have to be live or video, just a logical sequence of slides explained well can work just as effectively.

10. Digital Product

Finally, when you have all of these calls or webinars recorded, why not add a transcript and sell or giveaway the recording and booklet? 
You might use them as ethical bribes, or offer them for sale at a profit. This can be a quick and easy way to create information products so is well worth considering.



Think beyond conference calls and look at all the other ways you can benefit from webinars and telephone seminars. Are there any ideas that I have missed? What has worked for you in the past? Are you thinking of giving any of these ideas a try? Please share your thoughts in the comments ...

Chris Garrett is an internet marketing consultant and business blogger living in the UK. You can find him at his own blog, and he also writes for