Friday, September 28, 2007

Plan Your Best Web Conference

Web conferencing is all over the news this week - it looks like it's really taking hold across the business landscape! I attended a few myself recently, and learned many new things about how to hold a good web conference (and how to hold one that's memorable for all the wrong reasons). Here's what I learned this week:

1. Use the Power of PowerPoint
There are so many resources online to help you improve your slides. Take advantage of them! This week I was subjected to 10 point font, slides with 12+ lines of text, unlabeled graphs, and the 2 slides/minute pace, none of which helped the presenter make his point. Overall, remember: less is more, graphics are great, and your words had better work for you.

2. Speak Up
Bad headsets and muffled microphones were in style this week. I should be so engaged by your presentation that I shouldn't notice your lousy audio quality, but just in case, test your audio beforehand to see what it sounds like. If every third word is just a burst of static, adjust or replace your microphone. Consider having separate audio and web rather than streaming it all over the internet - all-in-one seems more convenient, but it can be tricky for novices to get online audio to sound good, and those with slow connections could miss important words.

3. Plan...and be Polite
It was obvious that there hadn't been any effective planning for this week's worst web conference. The moderator kept handing off questions to the wrong host, the hosts weren't listening during the Q&A and didn't have their answers ready, and the session degraded very quickly as the presenters (one a c-level executive) looked more and more foolish.

Talk to your co-host(s) and moderator beforehand about how the event will be structured. Run through your presentation several times. Be prepared for Q&A, which means you have to be knowledgeable about your subject beyond your slide notes. Attendees are more savvy than you think they will be - web conferences have to work now that the novelty has faded. If something goes wrong during the event, be professional and recover quickly. Don't start placing blame during the presentation, especially if you are archiving your webcast for future downloads!

4. Use the Features
Something that all of this week's conferences did well was polling - using quizzes to keep the audience engaged and to tailor the content to the audience's interests. Some things that I could have seen a lot more of were screenshots and hands-on demos (especially in the smaller conferences); this week's presentations were very talk-y and didn't keep my scant attention very well.

5. Use Common Sense

Turn off your cell phone (c-level executive!). Deliver content that has value, rather than a summary of what's already available on your website, especially if that's where your participants registered for your web conference. DO NOT READ OFF OF YOUR SLIDES. Arrive early. Be confident and composed; while web conferencing offers a chance for more "informal" meetings, this is still a business setting. Friendly jokes, customized content, and time with individual participants can be great, but emotional outbursts and inadequate content or preparation are absolutely not!

I'll be attending more web conferences in the future, so I'll let you know how these next meetings go. If you have any web conferencing tips (or anti-tips) to share, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Carnival #4: Web Conferencing

Welcome to the September 26, 2007 edition of business communications. Below are the enticing submissions that related most directly to web conferencing and online workspaces. There are some great tips this week for participants and hosts alike! Thanks to all who participated, and happy reading!

Charles H. Green presents When On-message Marketing Makes for Off-trust Sales posted at Trust Matters.
Who knows your customers better - sales or marketing? Or does each department know different faces of the same customer? Mr. Green delivers a reminder to avoid over-branding at the expense of alienating your customers, something especially smart to think about when designing online presentations. You're presenting to people, after all.

Chris Tackett presents 5 Steps To Turn More Leads Into Cash! posted at Direct Marketing News.
Web conferencing can help with at least three of these steps. Key takeaway: prospects are people, and they don't like to be kept waiting.

Chris Russell presents Improve Employee Productivity - Put Your Policy and Procedure Manuals Online posted at Productivity Planner.
Why not record HR presentations and put them online so new hires (and veterans) can view them from their desks? No one likes to hunt for answers to important questions.

edithyeung presents How to Read People and Get Your Point Across? posted at Edith Yeung.Com: Dream. Think. Act..
Design your presentations to work for all learning types - an especially important point when dealing with online audiences who may already be multitasking.

Jay Deragon presents The Reputational Factors posted at A Relationship Economy..... With Whom & What, saying, "How do people establish trust in the virtual world where there is little, if any, physical interaction? The online social networks of human interaction are challenging the accumulated wisdom on how virtual human interactions can occur and subsequently how trust and reputation are established."

Dax Desai presents Google Spreadsheets - Part Deux posted at Dax Desai.
Collaboration isn't just for one-to-many presentations - one-on-one work can benefit, too. Here's an example using the freely available Google Spreadsheet app.

Pete Johnson presents Games remote people can play posted at Nerd Guru, saying, "When you have a team of people who work remotely from one another, conducting traditional teambuilding exercises is next to impossible. This article describes a word game using the Google search engine that can give a group a brief shared experience in 10 minutes and liven up participation in any teleconference by getting people talking.
Pete Johnson Chief Architect"

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Those Unspeakable Meetings posted at Mad Kane's Humor Blog.
Just some meeting humor, but a good point as well: try to communicate during your meetings, online or in person.

That concludes this edition our our business communications carnival. Submit your blog article to the next edition of business communications using our carnival submission form. The theme for the next carnival is: workplace collaboration. What's working, and what isn't? Does instant messenger help or hurt your productivity? What's the best collaboration tool - email, web conferencing, or plain old face-to-face meetings? Let's hear it all.
Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

International Conferencing for 3.7 cents

We've rolled out 23 new international local access numbers - view the whole list here: The international local access rate is just 3.7 cents/minute (USD). Supported countries include Australia, France, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

We still have our same global toll-free access numbers as well, with rates starting at 3.7 cents/minute (USD) as well.

What's the difference between local (toll) access and toll-free?
Local access (toll) calls are free to the caller, as long as the number is within the caller's local calling area. For example, if you live in London and call a London number, you are not assessed additional charges as long as the phone carrier considers the number to be within your local calling area. Local access calls are nearly always cheaper to the host than toll-free calls.

Toll-free calls are generally free to the caller (except for any caller-incurred fees stemming from use of a cell phone, payphone, etc.), but the host pays a higher per-minute rate for this convenience. International toll-free access is complex; in brief, a toll-free number from another country will likely not be a free call (for example, someone calling a French toll-free number from Norway will likely incur fees).

I am happy to try to answer any specific local or toll-free access questions you might have (just leave them in the comments). Enjoy the new access numbers - and the savings! If you're not yet a customer, you can receive a a free 100 minute trial or open an account instantly and get 100 bonus minutes for each account and sub-account.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Presently (Google's Presentation Tool)

I spent a little under 5 minutes throwing together a demo presentation of Presently, the just-publicly-launched presentation tool from Google. Give it a try here: and let me know how it works as an audience member.

What Presently includes:
Pre-designed themes
Flexible, click-and-drag editing options in your web browser
Font and formatting controls, including highlighting

What it does not include:
The ability to export to .ppt (key for many web conferencing services)
Live collaboration - I don't think. I don't believe that anyone can highlight or annotate during the presentation, but I will have more time to test later on.
Presenter controls - all you can do is view your roster, and audience members can scroll through slides at their own pace.

A screenshot:

It was fun to work with, but I can't call it 100% useful for my presentation needs until it has greater compatibility and more live controls. Overall, a strong B-. Definitely worth a few minutes of playtime, and definitely something to keep your collaborative eye(s) on.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Web Conferencing in Your Industry

I've been seeing a lot recently about telemedicine, web conferencing in senior living facilities, and other unconventional applications of conferencing technology. How is your industry using audio, web, or video conferencing - or how could you benefit from using it?

Today, The Common Scold published a brief piece about Law Firm Inc.'s recent findings on web conferencing use in American law firms. Two exciting highlights :

• 77% of firms are using web conferencing software

• 77% of those using web conferencing cited increased productivity, while 75% cited better client service and 44% saw improved processes.

To me, web conferencing is all about better communication than ever before. Why wait to fax or email a document and discuss changes over the phone when you can chat or talk about a document with the whole team all at once? Asynchronous collaboration can be a real pain, and it takes a lot longer for each person to review changes and information individually than for a team to do it all at once.

So, tell me: how has your business benefited from web or other conferencing?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Carnival: Audio Conferencing?

Welcome to the September 12, 2007 edition of the Business Communications blog carnival. I had a tough decision to make this time, but I’m going to be completely transparent about it: because this is a business blog that strives to present relevant, timely, conferencing and communications-related information, I was unable to include submissions that did not address conferencing or collaboration.

It is my personal goal to keep the information which I present here as streamlined and useful as possible to my readers. I am quite interested in receiving future submissions about business communication, especially conferencing tips, reviews, and techniques, but there are many other venues available (even through for other topics.

Without any further business on my end, here are the selected submissions for this (theoretically) audio-conferencing themed carnival:

Jay Gordon Cone presents Interaction Associates - Thought leadership and practical tools for collaboration. posted at Interaction Associates - Thought leadership and practical tools for collaboration.
How do you practice thought leadership, especially with a distributed team? This post features some useful tips on moving toward "collective intelligence", the optimal synergy that comes from successful teams.

Jason Rakowski presents Building Relationships In Business - Why It's So Important posted at Learn Good Customer Service
As you read this, consider too how web conferencing may be an important part of your customer service package - could your customers benefit from guided product demonstrations? How could other collaboration services make it easier for you to maintain these important relationships?

Luke Houghton presents 5 golden rules of making a presentation posted at Luke Houghton.
5 rules, up to and including: be prepared!

Phil B. presents The Right and Wrong Ways to Boost Morale « Phil for Humanity posted at Phil for Humanity.
Phil's recommendations include improving communication and allowing telecommuting to boost morale in his workplace, both of which can be accomplished through web and video conferencing, as well as other online collaboration services. Might the same be true for yours?

Christine Scivicque presents 10 Ways to Build a Better Team and How to be a Good Listener , both posted at The Executive Assistant's Tool Box.
Strong teams are critical to collaboration, while listening skills are indispensable for all types of conferencing (and meetings in general, of course). These articles are both very informative.

Raj Dash presents Bootstrapper » 11 Web-based Project Management, Collaboration and Communication Tools posted at Bootstrapper, saying, "Businesses that have a need to communicate online with clients or remote employees have a number of choices. Here are a selection of 11 online tools for project management, communication and collaboration."

Warren Wong presents Be A Good Manager By Letting People Learn And Grow posted at Personal Development for INTJs, saying, "Information on the common mistakes an new manager makes and tips on how to be a good manager."

Sidhusaaheb presents Google's Gaffe posted at I, Me, Myself.
How do you handle a distributed, international team? Cultural sensitivity evidently counts for a lot; here's one story, but I'm sure there are many worldwide.

Leon Gettler presents Top 5 email compliance mistakes posted at Sox First, saying, "Here are the top five email compliance mistakes: mistakenly assuming you can destroy the documents after the retention period ends, not including all email as a compliance asset, assuming it will be expensive, over-categorizing and making compliance a business goal."
Email compliance information for those of you who have to deal with Sarbanes-Oxley regulations.

Charles H. Green presents The Cold War, the Hot Line and Twitter posted at Trust Matters, saying, "Are you an effective communicator? (Or do you come across as a twit?) Twitter provides a striking example of why veto power, permission and relevance are critical keys to effective communication."

edithyeung presents Disempowering Phrases Successful People Never Say posted at Edith Yeung.Com: Dream. Think. Act..
Some things never to say during your conference calls or other meetings.

wilson ng presents MultiTasking for Productivity posted at Reflections of a BizDrivenLife.
Does multitasking make you more productive? Maybe you really should close Outlook and your web browser during that next web conference.

Steven Silvers presents PowerPoint presentation on news story about business school requiring PowerPoint presentation from applicants. posted at Scatterbox at
Caution: satire. PowerPoint seems to lend itself to satire quite well.

That concludes this edition. Thanks to all who participated, even if I was unable to accept your submission. Submit your (relevant) blog article to the next edition of business communications using our carnival submission form. Only articles that are directly related to web conferencing or online presentations will be accepted for this upcoming edition.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Promote your Webinar with Eventspan, Slideshare, and Insight24

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Eventspan; I just think it's a good idea.

Have you been to The site is still in alpha, but it looks to be fully up and running. Eventspan is (or will eventually be) a database of upcoming webinars. It provides "social media tools and tracking services to optimize the promotion of webcasts and webinars," primarily in the form of web event syndication and slick ad widgets. I'm hoping it will soon blossom into a great networking channel for webcasters, as well as a central clearinghouse for upcoming web presentations.

If your web event has already passed, consider uploading your slide deck to Slideshare so others can view it. If you've got a recording of the entire presentation, you can add it to the growing selection at Insight24. Both of those sites have been described as YouTube for presentations, so you get the idea...they're also great places to find inspiration for your next presentation (or marvel at text-heavy, busy slides).

There are, of course, many ways to promote your web presentations, but these sites seem to have a pretty far reach.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

42+ More Audio Conferencing Tips!

In preparation for next week's audio conferencing carnival, I've rounded up some more useful information on improving conference call productivity and quality.

Conference Call Etiquette (14+1 Tips) from Lyndsay Swinton
Ms. Swinton offers many useful tips here, including "
Do start the meeting absolutely on time; don’t reward latecomers’ bad behaviour by waiting for them...." and her final note "Do not sit on a leather chair. Ever." Click over to her article to find out what to do with late arrivals or what conferencing dangers are presented by the leather chair

Anna Zelenka's 27 Tips for Teleconferencing at Web Worker Daily
This is one of my all-time favorite posts on teleconferencing. Although her tips are geared toward people working from home, they're applicable to any conferencing setting. High points:
8. Make it a podcast or just record it for your own use. (within legal boundaries, of course) 20. Have a ready-made excuse in case you do get distracted. (her info here is priceless!) 26. Follow up by email. A recommendation that I made as well, but she gives some other compelling reasons to follow up on a conference call.

Power Conference Calls offers a lot of sage advice, including a great story about why you should keep quiet if something has gone wrong with your conference call, as well as a great way NOT to start your conference call (though I hear it happen all the time).

And don't forget my original post on this topic - Seven Simple Ways to Improve Your Conference Calls. I look forward to seeing more tips and best practices in the upcoming audio conferencing carnival!