Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Best Time for a Conference Call

How do you schedule your conference calls? Sometimes scheduling is easy, like when everyone is in the same time zone or only an hour apart. But what about bicoastal or international calls?

If your call just needs to link together offices that span North America, consider 10 or 11 AM PST (1 or 2 PM EST). This makes it a lunchtime call for those on Central Standard Time, but at least everyone can be in the office without worrying about arriving early or running late.

The frequently cited best time for an international conference call is 6 a.m. PST. At this time, the times around the world are:
  • Americas - 6 AM Pacific (Seattle, Los Angeles), 8 AM Central (Chicago, Houston) 9 AM Eastern (New York, DC, Miami)
  • Europe - 2 PM GMT
  • South Africa - 3 PM
  • Middle East - 4 PM (Riyadh)
  • India - 6:30 PM
  • Singapore - 9 PM
  • Japan - 10 PM
  • Australia - 11 PM (Canberra)
Sure, Los Angeles and Canberra get the shortest end of this stick, but at least it's the same day for everyone on the call.

Any other conference scheduling tips and tricks you'd like to share? Feel free to post them in the comments.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Enterprise Collaboration

Michael Sampson has just delivered a great roundup in his Enterprise Collaboration and Virtual Teams Report. I was hooked after just the first entry, which is an article examining common workflows and when teams are and are not necessary. The report links to many other articles on the "people" side of collaboration, the technological trends, and other collaboration insights.

Now that enterprise-scale businesses have turned their attention more fully to collaboration, I'm sure that similar articles about the dangers of over-collaboration will surface. Effective collaboration can certainly boost productivity, but collaboration just for the sake of using the new software will probably have the opposite effect.

Enterprise-scale deployment of collaboration tools requires robust conferencing services that can handle the demands of larger, more complex, and more secure meetings. Personally, I've used web conferencing on an enterprise scale for training, sales demonstrations, and inter-office meetings (much better than standalone audio conferencing when software and design questions are being handled). My other enterprise-scale collaboration has been limited to instant messaging, intranet resources, and project management systems, both of which suffered much more from a lack of adoption than a lack of features. (Functionality definitely shared the blame with human issues for the lack of adoption.)

How does your large business use collaboration tools? Are they helping or hurting your productivity? What's your workflow like? If you care to, leave me a comment and let me know. A related survey may be coming soon.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Presentation Tips (for Web Conferencing and Beyond)

Today's buzz seems to be all about presentation tips, so here are a few sites to help you start improving your PowerPoint presentations. Remember - web conferencing can seem impersonal enough to your participants who aren't accustomed to online communication, so do yourself a favor and make your presentation engaging.

Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen) on the Takahashi Method
I appreciated the move toward simplicity and away from reading lists of bullet points, but when you get to a slide that's just a number (as with slides that are just images), what is the point of even having the slide? At extremes, I think this method makes the visual part of the presentation irrelevant. Takeaway: Be simple, be innovative, but don't leave your audience with nothing to anchor them.

How I Made My Presentations A Little Bit Better from 43 Folders
This is a great article. The presenter seems to have found an elegant, simple solution to slide content, and he makes a great point - "...consider sometimes showing images and text that make an orthogonal point to what you’re saying aloud to the audience at that moment." People learn and retain more when they discover information for themselves, not when it's told to them, and better still they learn it on their own terms, in their own language. Trust your audience to put two and two together. Lots of other great links and tips in this article.

An older but still relevant list of PowerPoint tips, how-to's, and don'ts from cazh1
Mostly links, but worth a visit...I'd have had to list most of these here separately if this list didn't exist :)

How do you plan for your presentations? Do you use PowerPoint? Keynote? Something else? Have you ever tried these presentation templates? (I've read good things about them but they're not in line with how I currently approach presentation content.) What works to keep your audience interested and get your point across?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Cost of Free Conferencing

As a business, especially a small one, there are plenty of reasons to use some of the free tools that are available. If you're in an industry that promotes open source values and practices, you might have a reason to use only free and open access software packages and tools. If you're not, you might want to consider the following questions before you plan your next conference on a "free" platform.

1. Is the free conference call really going to be free?
Free conference calls can be legitimately free. To be free, though, these conference calls require that all participants dial one of a limited number of toll (potentially long-distance) access numbers in order to join a call. If your callers aren't local to the area of the free access number, each caller will pay for every minute of your free conference. Sometimes ok, but sometimes not.

2. What about toll-free access?
The host of a free conference call pays about 10 cents per minute for every participant who calls in using a toll-free access number. This is substantially higher than most standard (non-free) conference call providers' toll-free rates; those at begin at 3.7 cents per user per minute.

3. Will the free conference call support international users?
Probably, but each international user will have to pay for long-distance access to the call. International long-distance without calling cards or dial-arounds can cost upward of several dollars per minute (an expense that will be billed to each caller individually).

4. Will the free conference call have the features that I need?
Maybe. If you have fewer than 100-150 callers and don't need to do anything other than talk, probably. If you need recording, account records and live conference management, or roll call, entry/exit announcements, conference lock, and other in-call features, then probably not.

5. Will the free conference call service be available when I need it?
Not to scare you, but remember that free conference call providers across the country were recently blocked by several major carriers due to carrier billing conflicts. Is this something that you can risk when scheduling your conference call?

If your business depends on maintaining a seamlessly professional public face, you might want to go ahead and pay for your next conference call to best serve your clients and preserve your company's image. Even if you're just a tiny start-up, a professional conference call isn't beyond your budget (and it could well prove your business knowledge and dedication to your participants). Try our call cost calculator and see how much (or little) it would set you back.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Announcing Carnival #3: Audio Conferencing

The conference call. What can we do to improve it? How does your business use it? What about small businesses – is it worth it? VOIP or plan old telephones? Prepaid? Free? Submit anything you want – as long as it’s about Audio Conferencing.

There's a lot to be covered about this topic, so let's see what you've got!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Carnival Part 2: Not About Web Conferencing

Here are the leftovers from yesterday’s blog carnival (things that I couldn’t relate directly to web conferencing). Lots to look through, so enjoy! Thanks to everyone who submitted.

Editor’s Picks:

Christine Scivicque presents 5 E-mail Etiquette Mistakes to Avoid posted at The Executive Assistant's Tool Box.
Professionalism isn’t dead, even online. Christine offers some excellent tips that will improve your e-mail communications (and might just keep you from losing that lead).

edithyeung presents Know How to Ask for What you Deserve and Break the Glass Ceiling posted at Edith Yeung.Com: Dream. Think. Act..
Everyone has to be his or her own cheerleader and PR team, all in one. Edith Yeung presents a great piece on getting where you need to go in your career.

Jack Yoest presents Watch For Upwarding Leaping Monkeys posted at, saying, "Managers, are there monkeys leaping up on your backs? The monkey is the next move after the boss and subordinate part after talking — all too often the boss has the next move. The staffer has ‘delegated’ a task up to the boss. An upward leaping monkey."
I’m sure you’ve seen this take place in your office – upward delegation. How can you avoid it?

FitBuff presents I Can Stand My Stand Up Desk |'s Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog posted at's Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog, saying, "Anyone who spends most of their day sitting down, especially those working from home, should consider a stand up a desk. It's now been one month since I set mine up, and this article chronicles how it has improved my posture, productivity, and performance. Plus there is a short video to show you how to set one up yourself for free to try out."
This is way off-topic in some ways, but something that’s been of personal interest to me for quite some time. See how the stand up desk…well, stands up to its sit-down competition.

The Rest:

Jimmy Atkinson presents 14 Good Hosting Options for Hardcore Developers posted at Dedicated Hosting Guide. presents How to React to Criticism posted at Get More Done with Activity Logs, saying, "Receiving negative feedback is never easy. But when you understand how it can help you accelerate your career, you might begin to view criticism differently. One of the factors that distinguish expert performers from everyone else is how they interpret and use criticism. Instead of trying to avoid it, top performers welcome it and use it to significantly enhance their performance. In this issue we share a strategy you can use to benefit from criticism, rather than feel hurt by it."

Tom Stanley presents Finding The Right Information About Franchise Opportunities posted at Tom's Franchise Information Blog, saying, "If you are looking to buy a franchise business don't just jump right in. There are things you need research. This article will help you discover what to look for."

Jason Rakowski presents How To Deliver Technical Support That Delights The End User, Part Two posted at Learn Good Customer Service, saying, "For computer companies technical support can make or break you. If you are in high-tech this is a must read."

Matthew Paulson presents How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking posted at Getting Green.

Sagar Satapathy presents Startup Required Reading: Top 100 VC Bloggers posted at Bootstrapper.

Pushpa Sathish presents The Business Blogging Toolset: 100 Resources for Entrepreneur-Writers posted at Bootstrapper.

James Wong presents Make Money Online: Site Build It! posted at Online-ebiz.

Bhupendra Khanal presents Cost of Retention Vs cost of Acquisition posted at Analytics Bhupe, saying, "There is one cost, the cost to maintain quality of offerings and service. The terms like Acquisition and retention cost does not exist."

Moneywalks presents Ways to Avoid Procrastination posted at moneywalks.

Mike Harmon presents Planning an Business Trip posted at Basic Accounting, saying, "For Business Owners, a business trip can be a valuable tool and tax deduction. Typically however, the business owner gets to tax time and finds out there is a big tax liability due."

Matt Hanson presents Matt’s Creative Advertising Blog » Blog Archive » Custom Made Jingles, Commercials and Music for Television and Radio posted at Matt's Creative Advertising Blog, saying, "Looking for the right sound and company to produce that sound can be somewhat tricky, especially if this is your first run with TV or radio. There are a number of things to look out for in terms of getting the best price with a great sounding commercial."

Chris Tackett presents ITV Ventures Review - Honest Money Making Opportunity Or Scam? posted at Direct Marketing News, saying, "Do you realize that there are many more infomercials today as compared to 10 years ago? When you look at the television the commercials are aired in such a way to engage the viewer in their ‘wants’. My goal is to help you get the logical side before investing your hard earned cash into ITV Ventures."

Eric Hudin presents From iPhone to YouTube - The Viral Marketing Method posted at Everyday Marketing Ideas, saying, "Many businesses take advantage of the newest marketing method available: viral advertising. Different marketing strategies are employed by product and service providers, channeling popular and existing social networking communities online."

Chris Russell presents Enhancing Human Performance posted at Productivity Planner, saying, "Knowing why people behave the way they do on the job is the key to gaining commitment to continuous improvement. A manager must understand peoples needs in order to increase motivation and therefore meet the needs of the organization."

Stacey Derbinshire presents Leveling the Playing Fields posted at Starting a Small Home Business, saying, "The lifeplan of school, college, and get a job is the paradigm most are trained to follow. However, only a small percentage of those who follow this plan end up with any level of wealth or financial satisfaction in their secular life."

Carnival: Web Conferencing

Welcome to the August 15, 2007 edition of the business communications carnival, all about…web conferencing? Maybe bloggers can’t be choosers, but very few of the presented articles had anything to do with web conferencing or even distributed office or client relationships. So here’s what I’m going to do: today’s carnival features articles that relate to web conferencing, while tomorrow’s follow-up post will link to the other strong submissions, because there are a few that I just can’t pass up.

Pete Johnson presents How do you optimize remote teams? posted at Nerd Guru, saying, "This is an older article, but discusses some best practices I've found useful while working from home for 10 years for a large company."
There are some great tips in here that you can use for remote teams – or remote clients. Just because your medium is digital doesn’t mean your communication can’t be personal.

Maureen Farrell presents Ten Ways To Torpedo Your Sales Pitch posted at The Authentic Bartender Blog.
Beef up your sales skills with these tips – even some for PowerPoint.

Charles H. Green presents Deer in the Headlights Decison-Making > Trusted Advisor Associates > Trust Matters posted at Trust Matters, saying, "We've all been taken by surprise sometimes and frozen, unable to find a comeback or a response. But some people can. Why?"
Web Conferencing puts you in a sink or swim position because communication is instant. How will you handle tough situations?

Shawn Edwards presents Taking Care of Your Readers With Excellent Customer Service posted at Desty Online, saying, "Customer service is one of the most vital forms of communication a business came make: communication with its customers."
Keep these tips in mind when using web conferencing with your customers.

Luke Muehlhauser presents How to Make Ideas Stick posted at, saying, ""Sticky" ideas tend to have several of 6 core features. Here they are."
Improve your presentations with some sticky ideas.

Louise Manning presents Are you a good facilitator? posted at The Human Imprint.
Improve your facilitator skills and watch your web meetings improve, too.

That wraps up this round!. Submit your blog article to the next edition of business communications (theme: Audio Conferencing – more info in an upcoming post, but please consider posting something relevant to audio conferencing!) using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Reservationless or Reserved?

I've been compiling a lot of new information in preparation for our updated company site, which has re-alerted me to a lot frequently asked questions about conferencing and business telecommunications in general. Today's topic: the difference between Reserved and Reservationless conference calls.

Reservationless conference calls can be planned in advance, or they can be launched ad hoc. In other words, the "reservationless" part doesn't have to refer to your planning style - it just has to do with the options and features that are available to you in the call. A reservationless call is connected automatically rather than via operator assistance, so it is usually a substantially cheaper option. In-call features are usually of the IVR variety (press #3 for something, #77 for something else, etc.), which is rarely limiting (especially since most of these features are available in reserved calls anyhow). The biggest deal is that the host of the call has to know what he or she is doing, or at least have a cheat sheet ready to remember the features. Participants will usually need the call's conference code to connect to the call - not a complicated piece of information, but information nonetheless. Also, because everything is connected digitally rather than manually, reservationless calls can only support a certain number of users (which varies between providers, but is usually no more than a few thousand).

Reserved conference calls are used for high-profile calls, calls that are somehow too complicated for the reservationless system to handle, or calls that need to serve large groups (3000+). They are more expensive, but some services even offer call managers (real people, not digital tools) who will take care of all of the technical details so that the host can just talk. Any time that distributing a conference code would be inconvenient, you are hosting a very large call, or you are hosting a call with clients who require the extra touch of operator assistance, reserved calls are the way to go. As their name implies, you must schedule reserved calls in advance.

In sum:
Reservationless calls: quick, cheaper, small to mid-size
Reserved: pre-scheduled, special services, large

Do you have a question about a common conferencing term or technology? Post it in a comment and I'll do my very best to answer it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Carnival #1: Business Communications

Welcome to the very first edition of our business communications blog carnival. Our topic this time was very open-ended: as long as the article had something to do with business communications, it made the cut. A sincere "Thank you!" to everyone who submitted to this round. I definitely learned a lot from these posts - some great strategies and tips for meetings, general office communication, and even marketing!

When you’re done absorbing all of the tips, shorcuts, and advice from these articles, get your thinking cap on for the next round’s topic: web conferencing. How does your company use it? What works? What doesn’t?

Without further ado, may I present the submissions:

Adam Pieniazek presents Centralization vs. Decentralization | Adam Pieniazek posted at Adam Pieniazek, saying, "A post discussing the efficiencies gained from decentralized structures, and the control over communication gained from centralized structures."
**One of my favorites!

Andy Atkins presents Interaction Associates - Thought leadership and practical tools for collaboration. posted at Interaction Associates - Thought leadership and practical tools for collaboration., with some great tips on how to work together...better. Another one of my favorites from this round!

Renata Vincoletto presents Why Video Conferencing is good for business posted at A geek Family.

Krishna De
presents Making a great impression with customers posted at Krishna De.

Tristan presents 15 Tactics for Handling Verbal Attacks posted at The Synergy Institute, saying, "This article by Personal Development Trainer, Tristan Loo, is one of the most comprehensive and practical conflict management articles on the web."

Louise Manning presents Are you a good advocate? posted at The Human Imprint.
**Still another aspect of team leading/project management - great information!

Jim presents There are times when features are better than benefits posted at Jim Logan, saying, "There are times where speaking in features is a better choice than speaking of benefits."

edithyeung presents 7 Phrases Successful People Would Never Say posted at Edith Yeung.Com: Dream. Think. Act..
**Another favorite! I was already attuned to a few of these, but I found a few more to work on! (I know, I just said "but".)

Alexandra Levit presents 5 Steps for Coping with Criticism posted at Water Cooler Wisdom.

Charles H. Green presents Top Ten Things Not to Say in a Sales Call posted at Trust Matters, saying, "Here's how to blow that sale in one easy step!"

Chris Denny of Lead Optimize presents Lead » Blog Archive » End-to-End Online Marketing posted at Lead Optimize . com, saying, "Tighten up all aspects of your online marketing to turn your visitors into customers."

Warren Wong presents The Gap Concept posted at Personal Development for INTJs, saying, "Why is it so important to be the first or the best in a market? Here's the why you should be the first AND the best."
Warren Wong
also presents My Partner?s Not Doing Enough Work! posted at Personal Development for INTJs, saying, "Do you find that your partner's not doing enough work and are angry for having to pick up the slack? Here's how to handle it."
**Two great pieces from Warren, even though I'm an ENTP!

presents The Cure for Self-Consciousness posted at Everyone Needs Therapy, saying, "Some of us have to get past this before there are going to be any communications."

Terry Dean presents How to Influence Others posted at Integrity Business Blog by Terry Dean.

Barry Welford presents Apple versus PC - Now For The Real Mobile Web posted at StayGoLinks, saying, "The biggest impact of Apple's iPhone is that it makes the Mobile Web a NOW reality. The simple One Web Principle is no longer adequate as different mobile devices adopt different style sheets and front ends." presents » Blog Archive » Get More Done with Activity Logs posted at Get More Done with Activity Logs, saying, "Get More Done with Activity Logs
Using activity logs as part of your time management strategy can significantly increase your productivity."

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Games People Play ... At Meetings posted at Mad Kane's Humor Blog.

Bhupendra Khanal presents Top 10 Mantra for Professional Success posted at Analytics Bhupe, saying, "Success is not luck, its a decision."

Jimson Lee
presents 10 Reasons Why I Love Google posted at

The Free Geek presents The Enormous Gmail Productivity List posted at Free Geekery.

Susan Borgas presents Bloglines and Google Reader posted at Arts & Stuff, saying, "Even though I mostly post art related posts this story is to help people to understand Feed Readers, especially for those that do not comprehend how to use them. Also there is information about a script that allows advanced users see short feeds in full."

That concludes this edition. Submit your blg article to the next edition of business communications (remember: web conferencing) using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.