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Oct
25
2010
Turn Off Call Waiting and Other Tips George Page

Attention to detail can make a world of difference. In a conference call, looking after the little details before and during can turn a good conference great, or at least keep it from going bad. There’s a list of 33 conference call tips from Corbin Ball that I recently read. Here’s a few of my favorites.

Call Waiting - On certain phones, the call waiting beep can be heard by the audience. And it’s especially annoying to the rest of the participants if you’re popular. Find out if your phone does this--usually the older landline models--and learn how to temporarily turn it off.

Identify Yourself - You can’t see your participants and they can’t see you--unless you’ve integrated the call with a video conference of course. Encourage everyone to say their name before speaking.

Identify Them - You’ve said your name, now say who you’re addressing. In a conversational or meeting type of conference call, it’s usually better to address a person than the group at large. So say your name, then say their name, then speak your piece.

Help Hotline - Unless you’re out-dialing, you have to distribute the dial-in number and conference code before a conference call. And even with out-dialing, you should make sure all participants have an external way to reach you--phone, fax, email, chat, carrier pigeon, etc--in case of any connection issues.

Rules at the Front - Even with old pros, it’s good to announce rules and basic etiquette at the beginning of a conference call. Some things to cover include identifying yourself and others, muting policy, time limits, pausing for rebuttals, no interrupting, and nice things like that.

Plus, it’s more genteel to do it at the beginning than to correct transgressions as they happen. So those are the tips that I thought were important enough to highlight. Which ones are your favorites? Have any tips you think should be on the list?

Oct
20
2010
Office Conference Etiquette Maranda Gibson

When conferencing from your desk, there are a lot of things that can be in your way or on your mind, even though you’re trying to conduct some business, and when you’re lost in your full-steam-ahead mindset, you could be bothering the others trying to work beside you. Here are a couple of ways to be polite the next time you have to take a conference call from your desk.

  1. If at all possible, take your conference call in a private area, even if all your conference rooms are filled. Not only will this cut down on the possibility to disturbing your neighbor, you’ll also be separated from your distractions like IM, email, and even Angry Birds. Let the people around you know you’re going to be on a conference. Tell your buddy at the desk beside you that you’ll be on a conference for a little while, so you may not be as fast to respond to emails or IM.
  2. Resist the urge to put the call on speaker phone. The people around you weren’t invited to your conference call, so they don’t need to hear it. If you want to be hands free, do that by a headset instead of disturbing your cubicle buddy.
  3. Speak in a normal voice on the conference. Just because it’s a conference call doesn’t mean that the ability for your to be heard has decreased that much. Speak in your normal voice in order to be hear.
  4. Make a funny sign to hang on your cubicle wall to let everyone know you're on a conference. Monsters and zombies are pre-approved by yours truly.

Having a conference call from your cubicle can be a bit of a distraction to your every day work environment. We’re used to getting up and going into conference rooms and being able to block out everything, but that’s not always a possibility, so we have to be able to keep ourselves focused, as well as not disturbing our buddies.

Oct
18
2010
MagicJack Blocks Conference Calls (UPDATE) Maranda Gibson

A few months ago, I let you know about the problems that some of our customers were getting when they were trying to connect to our conference services with MagicJack. The basic rundown is that we were told to simply email them to request that the phone numbers be unblocked. It has not turned out that easy and we wanted to update our customers on where we stand in the resolution.

  • We contacted MagicJack via email, as per their request, to ask our numbers be activated. In response, they asked for some additional information, information that applies to VoIP providers, like an IP address. Since we are not a VoIP provider, we do not have that kind of information to give them.
  • For a brief period in time, MagicJack customers attempting to dial in on one of our toll free numbers were being blocked, but those issues were resolved within 24 hours of letting our contact know.
  • MagicJack has let us know that an interconnection is required in order to proceed but since we are not a VoIP provider, we’re not able to connect to them in such a manner. Their response is “Unfortunately, if we cannot interconnect there is nothing I can do”.

What does this mean for you as a MagicJack subscriber trying to use AccuConference?

Unfortunately, this means that if you’ve been experiencing this interruption in trying to connect to AccuConference, for now, you will continue to get this message. MagicJack has provided no additional information on how we can resolve this, simply stating that we can’t interconnect, therefore, we cannot resolve the issue. We are continuing, on our side, to try to work everything out, but it doesn’t seem like it’s understood we are not a VoIP provider, so we cannot give them what they want to fix the problem. There’s no other solution for us.

For the time being, our hands are tied, but that doesn’t mean yours are. If you’re a MagicJack customer, please feel free to contact their customer service department and let them know that the numbers are being blocked. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission by visiting their website and clicking on “Internet and VoIP”. This will file a complaint with the FCC for “unlawful advertising” while the FCC is continuing to work out regulations and rules for VoIP providers.

Oct
11
2010
Encourage Great Questions Maranda Gibson

Most of the time, when it comes to ending a presentation or conference call, it’s always the same – “We’d now like to turn the floor over for questions.” Then this dreaded thing happens -- silence comes over the crowd and no one seems to have any questions. Everyone knows that the call for questions can be the quietest part of your presentation, when it should be the most collaborative moment you have. When else will you have all these great minds in a room together to pick each other’s brains and share ideas?

In my personal experience, the missing questions are usually related to it being a lot of information thrown at your audience at once, without any real time to digest things. It’s not until later; when you’re reviewing your notes that you’ll realize you have an entire list of questions.

As the presenter there are a few things you can do to help open up the possibility of getting some great questions.

  • Pass out an agenda to the participant prior to the conference. This gives them time to review the information ahead of time and they might even show up with some questions.
  • For long presentations, take periodic breaks for questions. The longer you give information, the more likely questions are to be forgotten. Your audience will be able to feel like they are staying “on topic” which will encourage questions.
  • Give multiple ways that participants can ask questions. Don’t give them the audio only option, also provide a chat box, or email to submit their questions. A lot of people do have stage fright that that could be preventing them from asking their question.

Three little things can change the outcome of your next conference and make it the meeting of collaborative genius you had been hoping for. What are you doing to encourage questions after your conferences?

Oct
08
2010
3 Ways to Make Participants Pay Attention Maranda Gibson


3 Ways to Make Participants Pay AttentionI have two cats and like cats are prone to do, they get into things they shouldn’t. I love my cats but they are naturally nosy and they get into so much. I realized the other night, as one of my little beasts poked her nose around an electrical outlet that when she turned to check and see if I was watching her, which I was, that the glare that was on my face did not do anything to dissuade her from her exploration. It wasn’t until I waved my hands in a large gesture and made a sound at her like air leaking from a tire that she paid attention to me.

The message I learned from this situation was “cats don’t understand non verbal messages.” They are animals, responding only to the sound of the cat food hitting their bowls. If I want them to listen, I have to get their attention. In a lot of ways your participants or attendees on a conference are the same way, attending, but hungry for the information you’re about to lay on them. That is what they are going to respond to. You can get more of a response if you do three things that pet owners do.

  1. Big Gestures. Stepping in front of a crowd means you have to command their attention. People are going to do their own thing unless they have something to pay attention to. The way you get someone’s attention is by grabbing it right away. You have two minutes to make people sit up and pay attention, and then you’ve lost them to their laptops or smart phones.
  2. Give them treats. When my cats do something good they get a treat, maybe some cheese or a can of wet food. Throwing your participants an added bonus is going to make them stay focused and hang on your every word, just in case they might get another one.
  3. Don’t be afraid to get their attention. Most cat owners probably know the wonders and amazement of the squirt bottle of water. Cats hate water and it’s the quickest way to get their attention. While I’m not advocating pointing a Super Soaker at the crowd and going crazy (oh, God, someone please do this) I do think you need to figure out who you’re speaking to and get their attention in a way that is appropriate for those who are attending.

It may seem like a crazy way to look at your conference participants, but I don’t mean it a bad way. Hopefully your participants have the resolve not to wind themselves around your legs in excitement.

Sep
21
2010
Conference Calls on iPhone Chilton Tippin

AccuConference iPhone App

Conference calls on the iPhone are a good way to meet with multiple people while on the go. With the AccuConference app, talking with multiple people on the iPhone can be accomplished almost effortlessly. This post will explain the steps you need to take in order to be conferencing within the next 10 minutes. While we think the AccuConference tools are the best means for conducting calls with multiple people, this application will allow you to connect to conferences hosted by any teleconferencing provider. Also, the iPhone has a built in capability for holding small conferences. T his method will be included in the lower portion of the post.

Conference Calls on iPhone - AccuConference App

  • Get the free AccuConference App from the App Store
  • Open the app and select “Add New Conference”
  • Fill out the fields (conference name, number, and code). If you would like to add other options such as conference date & time or other participants do so on the screen (optional). Save the information.

Now, whenever you need to connect to that conference, simply open the app, press join conference, and it will keep track of all of your codes and dial them for you. Your connection is reduced to one button.

Available in the App Store

Aug
30
2010
Communication Trends Maranda Gibson

Take a look at what you’re doing today to get a hold of your customers and friends. Is there anything that you’re doing right now that you hadn’t thought of doing a month ago? (Perfect example – FaceTime) How about two?  What about a year ago? How much has the way you communicate changed in the last 15 years? I know the answer – a lot. Things keep changing and eventually, there will be some avenues of communication that will be in a museum somewhere one day. Here are five communication trends I am starting to see.

  1. Social Media – Probably the biggest trend in past years is the growth of social media as not only a platform to communicating with friends, but also as a way to reach customers. It’s being used for everything right now – advertising, customer service, and marketing. It’s taking away the need to send an email to your cousin or to pick up the phone and call a local business to get an answer or help. You just send out a tweet and hopefully) the business will respond promptly.
  2. Decline of Emails – Currently, the use of emails as the preferred medium in an office is on the decline, despite the availability of emails through the mobile technology. The reason for this could be related to a couple of things:  more companies are adopting IM technologies that provide a quicker means of response and idea sharing, or it could be because companies are encouraging social media relationships with customers.
  3. Travel is stressful and expensive, and companies are cutting down on expenses. To keep the flow of business, there’s an increase in use of conference calls to get employees together, and saving the air travel dollars for special reasons.
  4. Less Tech-Speak – I’ve found that more places and people are coming down to their customer and client levels when it comes to sales.  Speaking above your customers head doesn’t mean that you’re going to get that client. What’s probably truer is that you’re going to confuse them, and if they are confused, they won’t want your services. More companies are trending to speak on a level the customer can understand.
  5. Decline of Automated Systems – While there are still plenty of these out in the world, I’ve noticed a slow decline of auto mated systems in the past six months. More customer service lines are opting to use the automated system to gather an account number and name, and then patching you into a live person.  In fact, a few have even done away with the auto operator on the whole. I hope this is a trend that continues.

There are a ton of other communication trends happening out there.  What have trends have you been noticing and embracing in your own communication?

 

Aug
25
2010
Conference Call Recording Maranda Gibson

I think we’ve reached the point where most businesses have a conference call service. Companies have found that a good conference solution comes in handy in the event of a foot of snow in Texas or in the middle of a volcanic eruption. With advances in conferencing technology, most services can provide much more than the standard conferencing ability, like out dial services and recordings. Recordings are a vital part of any service and you should know how and if your provider charges for the files. Once you’ve found that out, think about the different ways you can use recordings in your own business. Here are a couple of things I came up with:

  • Podcasts – You can call in to a conference line, record a podcast, and then post it on your website.
  • Replays – Did you host a conference that had a better turn out than usual? Have those that attended your conference told others about it and now they want to hear it for themselves? With a recording you can provide a replay of the conference that has everyone talking.
  • Snippets – Take the same recording and edit the MP3 to leave the most interesting parts. Use it as a marketing piece to showcase the highlights of your last presentation and entice people to sign up for your next.
  • Filing – Just keeping a record of a conference can be a good reference. If you review your files and find that you’re getting the same question a lot in your conferences and presentations, you can review and see what you’re missing or what you might need to word differently.
  • Back Up – Sadly, people do sometimes go back on their word. I once talked to a customer who used a conference call to defend her dissertation and told her that she had a specific amount of time to make some changes and report back. When they tried to give her a shorter deadline, she didn’t have a recording to back up what they had originally said.

When my customers don’t want to record, I remind them that it’s a free service with us. I always say that it’s better to have a recording and not need it than to need one and not have a copy. Conference calls are more than just picking up a phone to have a meeting and recordings are just one way you can make a service work for you. How are you using your conference service to make headway in business?

Aug
09
2010
The Big Joke Maranda Gibson

Anyone who’s ever been on a conference call, hosted a meeting, or even works in an office needs to watch this video right now.

I laughed so hard at David Grady’s perfect impression of a standard phone meeting. You start, you stop, someone joins the wrong call – honestly, it’s five minutes of humor that says, “Here’s what NOT to do on your next conference.”

After you watch that quick stand up and wipe the tears from your eyes – think about the last conference you tried to do. What went wrong? Was it filled with some or all the issues David makes fun of? Here are five things you can do for your next meeting that will keep it from becoming a big joke.

  1. Turn off intro tones.
  2. Mute participant lines with lecture mode for any conferences over ten participants.
  3. Set individual participant codes for repeating meetings for each person who will be attending
  4. That way you can skip the roll call and save time – just go back and check your conference history later.
  5. Set up different conference lines so each department can have their own “room”. This way you don’t have to worry about a participant calling into the wrong line at the wrong time. It’s especially useful when you have conferences that need to be secure.
  6. Send out a meeting agenda so that everyone knows why you are meeting. That way if you get interrupted you don’t have to start all over so that everyone knows why you’re holding the conference in the first place.

While it’s hilarious to think about all the funny things that seem to go wrong in conferences, it’s important to remember that it’s still a meeting and there’s business to be conducted. What are some of your funny stories and what did you do to prevent that same situation from happening again?

Aug
02
2010
5 Ways to Have Comfortable Presentations Maranda Gibson

There’s a reason why we all love going home. It’s comfortable and familiar. You know where everything is and you can stretch out in a chair that knows your form and weight. There is no second guessing in your home.

There also isn’t a group of people listening to some snappy conference call hold music while waiting for you to start a conference. It can be a little overwhelming, since conference calls are usually held away from your desk and you’re completely thrown off by the new surroundings. How many times have you been on a conference and heard, “Oh, one second, I don’t know where anything is in here.” Here are five very simple ways to be more comfortable in new surroundings.

  1. I suggest you stand up during your conference, but if you chose not to, make sure you sit in your own chair. Just like at home, your chair knows what you feel like and you’ll feel comfortable in your chair.
  2. Unless you’re “borrowing” someone’s space, choose your own room to hold the conference call. When you can, walk into each room and get a feel for it. I would hate to present in a room that didn’t have any windows, so I would never chose a room like that.
  3. Take at least 30 minutes before the call to poke around the room. I would even suggest planning on eating lunch in the office, the longer you sit in a room, and the more comfortable you’re going to be with it. You’ll know where the foot rests are for the conference table or where the table might squeak if you move too much.
  4. Use your own computer when you can. Out conference room computer set up is completely different from mine at my desk (my desk is Windows 7 and the conference room is Windows XP). Every time I go in there, it takes me like 15 minutes to get used to how things look. Use your own computer when it’s easy to take it into the conference room you selected – and if not, make logging in part of your 30 minutes of familiarizing.
  5. Always chose a room that has a door to close. Being able to shut the door will cut out any of the outside influences and you’ll be able to focus on what you’re doing without any interruptions.

Nothing is ever going to feel like your own desk and your own offices, but these are five very simple things that you can do in order to make yourself feel a little more at home in your conference room. What are you doing to get yourself ready for your next conference call?

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