Don't you hate to be on speaker phone? Hear static and poor connection noise at a conference call? Put yourself in your listener's shoes and make sure that the technology that you use is helping to transfer your message with the minimum of distractions.
You may want to consider a headset for your next conference call. This allows you maximum freedom, yet keeps the microphone close to your mouth and minimizes external noise that participants may hear from your end when you use a regular telephone.
There are many great headsets that are available and comfortable to wear. Many headsets have noise cancelling features that filter external noise and keep your call crystal clear. In fact many new phones come with headset options. Plantronics makes a nice selection of moderately priced and premium priced headset/telephone combinations. It may be time for you to consider using a headset for your next conference call.
If you are web conferencing, a head set is imperative as you will want to keep your hands free for typing, accessing an application or just appearing great in the video cam not with a receiver glued to your ear.
Recording your conference call gives you more options to reach your customers. Make the most of your teleconference by making your recordings available for replay, or broadcast parts of them in a podcast.
When you allow replays of your conference calls, you get another opportunity to market your company and its services to interested parties. People who missed the teleconference or those who want to hear it again can call in anytime to access the replay. You can also use replay to get information about who your audience really is. Advertise the replay, then see who chooses to listen to it.
If you have a podcast available on your website, you can use it to gather e-mail address. You can also choose to include the conference call in an online podcast library, or make it available for a limited time only. If you make the download time sensitive, you add a sense of urgency that encourages people to listen in now rather than taking their time.
If you really want to gather information, you can add an optional survey after the podcast. Be sure the survey is brief though, because you don’t want to overwhelm your audience.
Conference Calling typically saves a business 30% of their current travel expenses when used. What will you do with your savings?
- Will you let the savings flow to your bottom-line making shareholders sing your praises as a farsighted manager?
- Will you invest the money in laptops allowing your staff to telecommute from home two days a week keeping your workforce happy while being a good steward of the environment?
- Will you increase the bonuses to your sales staff, motivating them to even higher levels of performance?
- Will you buy yourself that red sports car you've been dreaming of?
- Will you reinvest the money in new technology for your office, enabling your entire staff to have webcams on their PCs for spontaneous video calls with clients?
The possibilities are endless! If you had been conference calling since January 2007, and normally would have spent, say, a meager $15,000 on travel expenses, you are estimated to have saved $4,500. Is this a sum too small to notice on your budget? If you're a mid-sized corporation, your travel expenses may be well over $50,000. A 30% savings here -- because you used conference calling -- translates into about $15,000! What could you possibly do with $15,000?
If you didn't teleconference in 2007, now's the time to plan ahead for 2008. You can start thinking about what you can buy yourself, your employees, or your company with the money you save on travel expenses in this upcoming year.
One reason to hold a teleconference is that all the key players cannot be present in one room. There are also times when not only the participants cannot gather, the planners can't always get together either!
Let's say you need to have a meeting of the minds with people in a faraway branch of your company. You may need to coordinate with people in that office to go over the agenda and goals for the meeting. You will likely be able to get all of this figured out through phone calls and e-mails, but it might be better for you to have a quick chat via teleconference to go over last minute details.
It's a cliché, but there often needs to be a meeting before the meeting. Since you have to get everything set for the teleconference anyway, why not get together with your fellow planners right beforehand? Using a Pre-Conference setting, meeting planners can discuss logistics right before a call and early arrivers will not be able to hear a thing because their lines will still be muted. Do a sound check, calm jitters, do all that you need to do right before the main conference starts.
You have the technology already in hand, why not set aside a little extra time to make sure things go smoothly?
Have you gotten on a conference call and the moderator hasn't dialed in yet? You called on time or maybe even a few minutes early, but you were waiting and waiting. Hold music is soothing, but when you are a multi-tasking executive your time is valuable and it appears it is being wasted by someone else!
Think of a conference call as a face-to-face meeting and present yourself accordingly. For all of your conference calls, I recommend that you, the moderator, call in at a minimum of five minutes early. This allows you to personally greet each participant as they arrive. It also gives you a chance to chat with the early attendees and break the ice.
If you are web conferencing and have your Webcam set up, don't use the few early minutes to apply makeup, comb your hair, or review your notes. Be smiling and ready to welcome each attendee with your eyes focused on the camera. Don't be caught off guard!
I also recommend that you check yourself in your webcam 10 minutes before your call starts to make sure you look the best you can. Once you're ready, forget about the camera and just consider the camera lens as the eyes of your participants. There is something welcoming about dialing in and getting a personal greeting from the host or seeing a smiling face.
Remember many attendees to your call will phone in five minutes earlier than the scheduled time of the call, so be on five minutes before that and start your teleconference off right!
Although teleconferences are all about the spoken word, they do have a written component: the transcript. Transcripts are highly valuable, for you and for the participants. You can use your transcript to build loyalty and get repeat business and the participants can get a clear view of your message.
No matter how good a person is at listening and digesting, the opportunity to pore over the details in written form is hard to resist. Even the most attentive person will admit that their mind wanders at times. That's okay, because you will be there to offer a transcript that is chock full of useful information.
You will have to decide whether or not you want to offer the transcript on paper or through e-mail. If you offer it in exchange for an e-mail address, then it only makes sense to send it through that medium. However there are some people who still prefer paper. The best bet may be to give participants a choice on how they would like to receive their transcript.
Some other uses for your transcripts:
- Give a transcript in exchange for an e-mail address
- Use transcripts to entice participants to fill out an evaluation form
- Offer customized transcripts by highlighting key passages, or break them up into segments for specific customers
Paper or digital, charge or no charge; put transcripts to work for you by offering them as a valuable post-conference tool!
Have you heard of podcasting yet? Podcasting is where you take a recording of your conference call and save it as a file that can be downloaded to iPods and other mp3 players.
If you are making recordings of your conference call, now's the time to check out if you can turn them into podcasts so people can download them from your website. There are online applications that will take your audio file and make it podcast-friendly. Some even have an online control panel. One that I've found particularly good is called FeedHoster. You can visit the site at www.Feedhoster.com.
Here'’s what they have to say about making podcasts from audio files:
"Podcasting support! Yes, you can also link to media files which will be added as enclosures in your web feed for automatic download by Podcasting clients. Don't know what enclosures are? Doesn't matter, we look after that...just know that you will be able to link media files to your feed and any subscribers with a Podcasting client (aka Podcatcher) will be able to automatically download the media to their media device. Imagine the possibilities!"
So if you are looking for ways to use the recordings from your conference calls, think about podcasting as a new way to cast your own net to a larger audience of prospects.
Today, twice as many companies are communicating via audio and video conferencing than five years ago. Between 2000 and 2006, a leading indicator of changes in the communications industry -- sales of conferencing equipment -- doubled from $2.84 billion to $4.33 billion. It seems more and more people are realizing how much they can benefit from conferencing. If you are one of these people, you should know that thorough organization and planning is required to ensure effective and productive communication. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth conference call:
- Ask participants to identify themselves when speaking.
- Provide participants with a conference agenda ahead of time and encourage discussion on weak agenda items.
- Watch the clock. Keep the conference within the expected time parameters.
- Allot time for questions. Designating a Q&A session at the end of the conference can help keep the meeting on track.
- Close the call with a summary of items discussed, decisions made, and future action agreed upon.
- Schedule a follow-up meeting if you run out of time, but still have points to cover. Be considerate of the fact that your colleagues have allotted a set number of minutes to the conference call.
- Follow-up the conference call with an email or letter reiterating major points, decisions made, and future assignments.
- Thank all participants for their time and input.
Every town, city, or county has matters that must be set before the public prior to a decision being made. Local governments do their duty by holding public forums, but quite often these forums are not well-attended.
Teleconferences are a very useful tool for municipalities looking to engage the public on issues that concern and affect the majority of citizens. There are many people who would hesitate to attend a public forum for any number of reasons such as bad weather, physically unable, lack transportation, busy schedules, the reluctance to give an opinion, or the feeling that they really can’t make a difference. You cannot get everyone to participate, but you may be able to broaden your audience if you use a teleconference to communicate with citizens.
With a two-way teleconference you can give voice to those whom you would not normally see at a town hall or city council meeting. Those who are afraid to give their opinion in person will be less inhibited if they are in their own living rooms. You will be able to really get a sense of public opinion about a topic this way. It will increase good will because residents will feel as though local government is really interested in connecting with them and values their thoughts and ideas.
It is the buzz on the Web – social networking, but just exactly how can you use social networking with conference calls? Here are a few suggestions to help you dive in and use social networking tools to boost attendance at your next teleconference.
First it's important to know of and to have accounts set up at some of the top social networking sites. We see lots of activity on Facebook, LinkedIn, Rover, and MySpace. Additionally, there are a plethora of other new sites that seem to be appearing daily in the social networking arena. Select one or two that you find easy to use and then harvest Outlook or your address book and start inviting people you know to be a part of your social network. It's easy. Many of the social networking services actually allow you to upload your Outlook contact files and then the services will send out automated invitations to people you know. I get lots of invitations and I haven't turned one down yet, so don't be fearful of rejection. Social networking is just that, socializing with others online and adding them to your network as they add you to theirs.
Second, once you have worked to build your network, now's the time to update your site with information about your conference call schedule. Facebook allows people in your network to see when you post something new to your home page. Other social networking sites have similar functions. Why not use the power of social networking to help you get your message out about your next teleconference. You may find that for the small amount of time you spend in getting connected with others using Facebook or LinkedIn, that the payoffs can be huge.