Most people don't have any idea what it takes to put on a successful conference call or audio workshop. What they DO remember, however, is how much fun they had, who they shared stories with, and having a good laugh. It is widely known that people relax when they are happy and they also learn faster and remember more. By being astute in your planning, you can make your next teleconference or audio workshop something to be remembered by making sure it incorporates many elements of "fun".
Most conference call organizers think that building in fun or irreverent activities will make people think they are being "silly", but when the teleconference staff starts thinking of and planning fun activities, they start feeling much more positive and energetic about the whole conference. If YOU are having fun, it becomes infectious and the teleconference attendees will join in. Take your teleconference seriously, but not yourselves! Below are some ways to infuse an element of fun into your next conference call or audio workshop and make your attendees really remember the good times they had there, the great information they received, and the great contacts they made.
- Use a title that promises fun AND reflects the theme of your teleconference. You can always have a serious subtitle. Try and reflect the promise of fun in your pre-conference communications.
- Open the call or audio workshop with a light-hearted opening that plays off its location, theme, and the nature of your audience. Remind attendees that the point of the conference is to meet new people, get new information, and most of all to have FUN while doing it.
- Make sure that you circulate the names of attendees and business names prior to getting on the phone, if appropriate. Better yet, depending on your teleconference and how much advance notice you have, ask each attendee to send you a one sentence blurb on a specific fun topic like favorite ice cream, food or pet and include this in the email introduction prior to the call that will list the attendees. If appropriate, you could even include the email addresses and phone numbers of participants so that contact and networking can be done after your event. This may not be appropriate in all circumstances but would definitely work in interoffice teleconferences or team events.
It all started just a mere 47 years ago in the 1960’s as a vision from American Telephone and Telegraph (AT & T) through its Picturephone device – the birth of teleconferencing. At that time, travel was cheap and many people simply didn’t understand that the Picturephone would be a workplace changing technology. It’s taken 47 years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on fuel consumption for the idea that grew out of Picturephone to become a real-world every day application embraced by millions worldwide.
There are three kinds of teleconferencing devices:
- Audio for verbal communication using the telephone.
- Video conferencing which uses the telephone for voice and video combined with the computer.
- Computer conferencing allowing printed media conferencing via computer terminal.
The uniqueness of teleconferencing is that participants can be widely spread over the globe and yet meet in a virtual office space for a rapid exchange of ideas at anytime.
The key benefits of teleconferencing are:
- Reduction of communication costs. As much as a 30% decrease in travel expenses is the norm for businesses which use teleconferencing regularl
- Availability of meeting information for people who could not attend a meeting. Our teleconferencing application allows for the recording of calls so all can benefit from the exchange of information even if they can not attend the meeting.
- Spontaneity of meetings. Due to limited cost for teleconferencing follow-up meetings can be held more frequently and on a more spontaneous basis allowing for a more collaborative approach in many areas.
In a conference call, the words you use and how you use them affect both how you and your message are perceived. Basically, people take one of two approaches: the I-centered in which you exert control over the conversation from the start or the Group-centered which encourages open participation from the entire group. The approach you use depends on your goal.
Let's take a look at some of the statements you might use in each approach:
- My experience indicates that the plan is workable/impractical.
- I agree/disagree with that idea.
- I would argue that …
- I'm in favor of/opposed to …
- I'd like to review the (budget, timeline, analysis, etc.).
- I have several thoughts on how we can solve this problem.
- Is there more to this issue?
- Interesting … go on.
hat else do we need to discuss?
- What do you recommend?
- I wonder if we should consider the (budget, timeline, analysis, etc.).
- Say nothing. Silence often elicits expansion on a statement or provides a void that encourages another person to speak.
Your choice of approach will depend on the purpose of the teleconference and your goals. You may find it necessary or beneficial to use different approaches at different points in the conference. If you are leading the teleconference, you might begin with an I-centered statement that defines the objective and parameters of the call. You might then switch to group-centered statements to elicit ideas and discussion. Ending the call with I-centered statements that specify any results, conclusions or work assignments allows you to reestablish control of the proceedings. Be aware of and use the power of language to ensure that your teleconference achieves your desired goals.
If you are the main speaker for a conference call or web conference, you may want to practice before the day of the phone call or event. You can assure yourself that your audience will get the full impact of your message by taking the time to be well prepared. What you really shouldn’t do is try to conduct a conference call in an "off the cuff" fashion.
Prepare your notes ahead of time
Think about the main topic, what you want to say, and the length of the conference call as you compose your notes. Remember that people in other places will be listening, but not seeing you. They will likely be taking notes themselves, so you have to present your theme in a digestible fashion.
Practice going over your notes
Once you have your notes in good shape, it is time to practice saying them aloud. You cannot replicate what will happen during the call, but you can be familiar with what you want to say. You could tape record yourself reading through the notes and play it back to get an idea of how you might sound. Or you could ask a friend if you can could them and go over the notes. This person could ask you a few questions and give you feedback.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, we have a bit of a break before Christmas and New Year's at least for personal travel, but business travel continues as usual. This time of year however, is the bane for the business traveler with longer lines to check in at the airport, huge queues to get through airline security and capricious weather forecasts. Not only is traffic in the airport heavier and especially as we approach Christmas, but with fuel prices rising the airline fuel surcharge is adding to the cost of tickets to every location.
Consider one business traveler I know who is going to Manchester, England for a two day training class. The fare was $1600 plus a $300 fuel surcharge and this was for regular coach class. It was 250,000 frequent flyer miles to upgrade to business class.
December is looking like a super month to try out conference calling due to the chaos at the airports and escalating travel charges. Additionally employees want to stay close to home during the December holiday period. Many families and friends have get togethers, church events, parties, and celebrations nearly every weekend before Christmas. And of course there's the time needed for shopping for gifts!
Give your employees the gift that they will love most this December - staying home with their families by using conference calling!
A teleconference is a great way for associations and nonprofits to get the word out to members across the country.
Think of topics that could merit a teleconference rather than a letter or e-mail. What do you get the most mail about? What do your members keep asking about? Are you launching a new initiative? Find something that will pique their interest and set up a teleconference on that subject.
There comes a time when you have to go beyond FAQs. A teleconference will allow membership in various places to connect with someone at headquarters. You cannot underestimate the value of such an interaction. You get to speak on something that they need to know and you don’t have to hope that every read the memo. Fielding questions from members lets you know what is on their minds and this could yield topics for future teleconferences.
"… According to the Travel Industry Association, average domestic air fares actually dropped 1.3 percent in August compared with August 2006. But other factors, especially a 6.5% rise in average hotel rates, drove up overall travel costs by 2.4 percent for the month."
From the New York Times 10/2/07 "Conference Calling as Plan A, With Flying as a Backup"
Travel costs are rising and so are travel headaches. Not only do busy executives have to hassle with longer lines at airline checkins, long flight delays, and security check headaches, but add a 6.5% increase in the average cost of a hotel room. There just isn’t a better time for executives to be looking for a cost efficient alternative to travel for some business needs.
Conference Calling is just one of the solutions that top executives routinely implement as a cost saving measure to improve the bottom-line. With travel expenses up nearly 2.4% for September alone, the squeeze to find replacements to business travel is top priority for concerned business owners.
It used to be that the technology that drove conference Calling and Web conferencing was expensive, hard to use, and spotty in stability, but with new advances and new technology this has certainly changed. Conference Calling is a truly viable consideration in light of the overall increases in the cost of business travel.
Conference calling gives you "Star Power". Well, maybe not the Britney Spears variety, but the power to use * key plus a command on your phone keypad to interact with your conference call attendees.
Here are a few "Star Power" commands to get you started:
- Use *1 to dial out of your conference call and then dial a new phone number to check with someone else on fact and figures. Your other parties will not hear this personal call.
- Use *2 to return to your conference call with a new participant. You can do this command after you have done *1.
- Use *3 to return to your conference call in progress without a new participant. You may have needed to check a date with your secretary before you got back into the call use *3 to stop the call from using *1 initially.
- Use *2 anytime during a conference call to start conference call recording. To be compliant with law, all participants will hear a message that the call is now being recorded.
These are just a few of the * key commands that can enhance your conference call. We have nine * key commands in all. When you set up your account with us we’ll even send you a laminated wallet card for easy reference.
Our "Star Power" using the * key will really work to enhance your conference call and put you in control of your conference call with one or two easy keystrokes.
Conference calling knows no bounds when it comes to connected people and getting the job done. No matter what your field may be, there is a way to use teleconferencing to your advantage. There are so many ways to use technology to meet your needs.
Here is one surprising example: The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance recently held a tele-winetasting as a way to promote a certain kind of wine. You may wonder just how an organization can hold a conference call event to push a product such as wine, but is quite possible.
The wines were shipped to participants in advance. Participants were responsible for chilling the wines and having them on hand at the appointed time. Those involved included the wine producers, food writers, and a wine consultant. These are professionals who are very interested in the product, so they knew how to prepare themselves and the wine to ensure that the tele-winetasting went off without a hitch.
During the event the participants tasted wines and compared notes -all without having to leave their homes or offices. The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance was able to accomplish their goal of publicizing certain wines without having to arrange for key persons to travel and meet in one location.
You want to schedule a conference call, what is the best day and time to call? Most of this depends on your business and the time zone that you are calling, but there are a few common sense guidelines that will help you to choose the day that may work best for you.
Stay away from Monday morning. Monday morning is usually reserved for putting out fires from the weekend or for tasking staff members for the week. If you need to phone on Monday do it after 2:00 PM when most of the heavy work load is out of the way.
Stay away from Friday afternoon. Some people will leave early on Friday or are working a compressed week work schedule and are off every other Friday, so it is best to steer clear of this day. If you must phone on Friday, do it in the morning around 10:00; after the morning crush, but not so late as to interfere with the plans of the day.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday may simply be best for your needs. If the teleconference is about tasking, Tuesday will be best so as to allow team members time to complete tasks for the week. If the teleconference is about accountability Thursday may be better as you will have more data from the week to review.
Wednesday is great for training, communications, reviews, and new directions or brainstorming sessions. People are in the swing of things on Wednesday and feeling more relaxed. They still have time to take on a new project before the end of the work week. Wednesday mornings seem to be better on this day than afternoons, but that may simply be from our experience.
Which ever day you choose, understand that the best day for you is most likely a personal choice driven by the needs of your business and your personal schedule. The best idea is at your first teleconference decide as a group the best day for your next call. You may find that the middle of the week will simply be the best for your team too.