Do you know how to plan a virtual event?
July 29, 2008 @ 10:07 AM | By Cambria Vaccaro

Cambria Vaccaro, Marketing Director, interviews InterCall’s very own Kim Winn, Product Manager for Event Services.

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What exactly does “event services” mean in the conferencing world?

Because the world of communications continues to evolve and expand, doing a virtual presentation can involve several types of technology, and often those are new technologies with which you may not be comfortable or familiar. 

Event Services is a professional team dedicated to successfully establishing, executing and delivering post-event details.  Event Services are platform-agnostic and customer service driven…meaning that whether you’re doing an audio call (like IR announcements) or integrating streaming video or web conferencing, the Event Services teams coordinate all the pieces that make the event work the way you want it to.

This kind of support allows you to concentrate on delivering the presentation while the Event Services team takes care of the rest.

How involved should a conferencing provider be in helping me plan my event?

The level of activity at InterCall depends on the actual event itself.  But here are a few guidelines we use to make sure your virtual events are delivered beautifully. When you’re planning an event at InterCall, here is what will happen:

  • An Event Consultant will immediately engage you to establish all your business and event requirements
  • An Event Consultant will schedule and attend a comprehensive hand-off call between, you, the Sales rep and the Event Producer dedicated to your event.
  • A dedicated Event Producer will work directly with you for all pre, during and post event details.
  • A dedicated Event Producer will be your event point of contact for all your event needs.
  • The Event team allows you to concentrate on an unforgettable presentation that you will deliver without worry.

July29virtualaudience Can you give me 3 “don’ts” for planning a virtual meeting?

  1. Don’t consider the technology last – While you’re planning your topic, audience, and invitations, you need to also consider the delivery method.  Giving yourself, your conferencing provider and your event staff time to research your needs and discuss your options is crucial to a successful event.

  2. Don’t proceed without an Event team – this is your “ace in the hole”.  InterCall’s Event Services teams help plan virtual meetings every day and are the professional. They will listen to all your needs and wants, help prioritize them, and provide a comprehensive solution, creating your ideal event.

  3. Don’t forget about followup – a critical part of your strategy is knowing what you will do after the event.  Whether you are following up with employees on a training you’ve delivered, or prospecting through a list of webinar attendees, or simply archiving the event for later use…all of these things are much more easily addressed if they are identified up-front and coordinated by your Event team during initial planning.

Stay tuned for Kim’s next post on Registration Services.

Kimwinn Kim has been in the conferencing industry for the past 9 years. She is a Product Manager at InterCall for Mshow Web Conferencing, Events and Registration. She is passionate about the ability to support dynamic, powerful events using audio, video and/or web conferencing. In her spare time, Kim likes to spend time with her 2 ½ year old son, 4 ½ year old daughter and husband. You can often find the Winn family riding bikes together, spending a day at the beach, or going to the rodeo together.

Cam_2Cambria Vaccaro is Director of Marketing, Corporate Communications and our “Industry News” blogger.  Cambria has been in the conferencing industry for nearly fifteen years, and has seen it evolve from a traditional video bridging service to include cool web features and remote communication services.  She is an avid runner, cook, wife and mother of two gorgeous girls.

Planning for Unified Communications
July 15, 2008 @ 10:40 AM | By Ken Kurz

July15ucplanning_2 For most enterprise companies, a fully-integrated Unified Communications solution is a huge project and is typically deployed in multiple phases spanning several months (if not years).  A well thought-through plan considers the business objectives your company must realize from a UC solution and always factors in the “readiness” of your network, server architecture, software, and even your organization’s resource ability to execute the plan. Readiness should also allow for the “x-factors”.  For example, What kind of additional resource utilization occurs when a powerful UC application supporting messaging, voice, video, and conferencing media is rolled out to every desktop in your organization?  A good plan considers the necessary cultural and service adoption factors - so that investments in your UC system are adopted and maximized by members of your user community.

Last week, I met with one of our customers to review the current status of their Unified Communications (UC) initiative. Much has been accomplished; just a few days prior to my visit, they completed rolling out the latest phase of the company- wide UC solution to their entire workforce (about 10,000 users). For this customer, the process started early this year and should complete early in the third quarter of 2009.

Here’s what has been accomplished: all employees have a UC desktop application that enables secure, auditable, enterprise Instant Messaging, Presence, and Click-to-Call Voice over IP (UC client-to-client voice). To support this rollout, the UC server pools were completely upgraded with new software and hardware, a new datacenter was brought online, the data networks were engineered to the forecasted usage levels, and new systems architecture was deployed utilizing geo-redundancy to support the multi-national user-base as well as providing failover survival capabilities. In addition, every user was given remote access so that all UC presence, messaging, and voice features were supported wherever the employee happens to be working.

In the coming months, the internal support team will be performing a series of utilization studies. Capacity evaluations will measure the utilization and performance of the new UC solution and the study will provide a capacity management and systems administration plan. During the evaluation, user-community internal support records will be audited for issues. Some adoption hurdles are expected, so the end-user study will contain training and adoption recommendations.

For now, it’s a major accomplishment that the foundations of a UC system have been brought online and are enabling every employee to “IM” or “UC-talk” with a fellow employee. But there is more on the way as this UC initiative has several future phases planned and funded. Federation with partners, vendors, or customers, has yet to be accomplished, but that phase will quickly follow on the completion of the above-mentioned capacity study. And by this time next year, the UC System will integrate with the company PBX so telephony functions like “click-to-call” to any phone number is possible.

I mention all this because I want to illustrate that this customer has invested wisely in an extensive amount of pre-deployment planning, and the successful rollout results are the obvious evidence of a solid plan.

Did you know that InterCall offers “UC Planning” services to our customers? These services grew out of our existing meeting consulting services and our extensive partner relationships with industry-leading UC vendors. InterCall’s UC Planning services are consultative in nature and designed to help you construct a sound UC strategy that is tailored to achieve your business objectives. For example, our engineering studies place UC engineers on your site with your team to evaluate your UC objectives and your communications infrastructure’s “readiness” to support a UC system. The result of the engagement is an extensive study and recommendation - to help define your UC plan scope, phases, requirements, and budget.

In my next posting, I’ll continue this theme. I may have some interesting research to share.  If you’d like more information on how InterCall supports Unified Communications, attend one of our free webinars this month.

Ken_6 Ken Kurz, Director of Unified Communications. Kurz is responsible for the end-user success of Unified Communications deployments; ensuring businesses have a more efficient, easier-to-use communications environment.

5 Annoying Conference Call Mistakes to Avoid
July 8, 2008 @ 07:15 AM | By Nicole Scheel

Phone Background NoiseOne of the most common questions I get from training colleagues outside of the conferencing industry is “How do you train over a conference call?  There are way too many distractions!”  While I can see where their anxiety may be coming from, I’ve put together a list of 5 ways to remove distractions from your next virtual meeting.

1. Eliminate Background Noise

I could write a whole post on this one!  Dogs barking, phones ringing, babies crying and the airport loud speaker all fall into this category!  The great thing about conference calls is that you can dial in from anywhere and still run training or meet with your team.  However these types of disruptions not only degrade your experience, they affect the whole call. 

So, if your cell phone has a mute button, use it!  Otherwise, most conferencing bridges have a touch tone command that you can use to mute your line.  If you are the leader on the call you should also have the ability to mute all lines except your own and then un-mute those lines for discussion.

2. Watch Out For Hold Music

Some offices and cell phone providers include a hold music feature.  It’s nice if you’re the only one on hold.  But if you put your phone on hold while in a conference, it interrupts the entire call.  Make sure to remind your participants that if they have hold music on their phone and their second line rings, they should not put the conference line on hold.  All participants on the call will be able to hear the hold music. If they love their hold music and are proud of it, feed it into the conference before the meeting starts!

July_8_boys_can_telephone_33. Be Cautious of Static

We all love our cell phones (mine is never more than a foot away from me at all times) but, a conference call is not always the best place to use one.  Ideally, everyone on a conference call would be using a handset plugged into a land line.  I know – that’s totally unrealistic.  Cordless phones, cell phones, headsets and wireless headsets are all very convenient but they can all cause static. 

The easiest way to clear this up is to have that person disconnect and dial back into the conference call without the wireless device or using a different phone.  If that person is unable to hear you over the static you can request an operator and they will be able to zero in on which line is causing the static and either mute or disconnect that line.

4. Test Your Speaker Phone

Using a speaker phone is often a great way to get feedback from a group of people.  These days, most speaker phones are full digital duplex and do a great job of delivering sound quality.    However, do make sure you test your speaker phone before the conference. Consider how many people will be in the room, how big the room is and if the phone will cause an echo into the conference.  If your speaker phone is equipped with microphones throughout the room, definitely test and use them.  If you’re the only one presenting, I would recommend using your hand/headset for the call and then using the speaker phone for Q&A so those in the room can hear the questions.

5. Beeps & Blaring Signals

If you are dialed into a conference call from your cell phone or home phone, you probably have call waiting enabled.  When you hear a tone notifying you that another call is coming through, that tone also plays into your conference call.  So, turn off your call waiting during your meeting.

Occasionally, you may also get a loud blaring sound into your phone.  This is usually feedback caused by another electronic device like a Blackberry or laptop.  If you get this noise, try moving away from those devices and the feedback should stop pretty quickly.

With most conferencing providers there should be an option to go online and manage your conference call in real time.  This is a great option that may allow you to see which line is causing the problem and fix it easily!  So there you have it – my top five recommendations to make your conference calls less distracting and more productive.  If I missed one that really bugs you, let me know and I’ll throw out some suggestions as to how to avoid it.  If these suggestions aren’t helping your call sound better, maybe what you need is an operator assisted call where someone can help control the noise for you! Remember that your conferencing service provider is there to help you get better sound quality.  So, give them a call!

Nicole Nicole Scheel is the Director of Training, and the “Tips & Training Blogger”. Nicole has been in training with InterCall for nine years and currently manages our internal and customer training departments, also known as InterCall University. When she's not training someone, you can find Nicole volunteering in her community or finishing her Masters in Training & Development at Roosevelt University.

Ways Our Office is Going Green
July 1, 2008 @ 08:04 AM | By InterCall Blog

Please Welcome Guest Bloggers from the InterCall Toronto Office: Cristina Lucas & Jennifer Cramb

3rs Since the start of our company’s recent green initiative there has been increasing awareness in our office when it comes to being green.  There are many ways that people can decide to reduce, reuse and recycle, but here are some of the steps we’ve found to be successful in all three areas.

Reduce
As our office is in a very urban part of the city, we are fortunate to have access to several forms of public transportation.  We all try to participate and have some options available such as the commuter train, subway, streetcars, buses and carpooling.  Each of these options reduces carbon emissions and, as an added bonus, we feel that it improves our quality of life.  With what would normally be a lot of time spent in the car in traffic, we can now prepare for meetings, read, socialize, and be stress free.

Our office has quite a bit of natural light available.  Because of this, it’s common for us to work without having to turn the lights on.  Each room has its own light switch and thermostat that allows us to control and maintain our energy consumption.  Our building has even installed sensors in the bathrooms so that the lights only turn on when it is occupied.

The main culprit in our “reduce” area is paper consumption.  There’s always someone you know in your office that “accidentally” prints off the entire sales database / inbox, or puts in paper the wrong way.  The best policy we’ve implemented to help reduce our paper use is having a duplex printer.  Our network team has assisted in updating everyone’s computers so their default settings include the duplex feature.  If your office doesn’t have a duplex printer, you can always reuse sheets by putting them back into the printer to reprint on the other side.  This is really good for those documents that you have to work off of but don’t need to keep forever.

Reuse
The reuse philosophy is one that commonly gets overlooked by people in the office place.  It’s easy to get your take-out food, use plastic forks and disposable cups.  With our office kitchenette, we are able bring in our own lunches and reuse dishware instead of paper and plastic alternatives, thereby allowing us to wash and reuse plates, cutlery, and mugs.

There are also more creative ways to be “friendlier” in the food court than you may think.  For instance, when getting coffee for the team, we keep the cardboard trays and take them back on our next coffee run. Some places will double-package your food, frst in its container, and then again in a bag. We skip the double-bag / plate, or bring our own substitute that we use on a daily basis.  We also use reusable bags when going to and from the office.

Recycle
Having someone on site that is diligent in educating and reminding others of our green responsibility is essential.  We affectionately refer to this person as the “office garbage picker”.  This person is our constant reminder that “Yes, that can be recycled” or “No, you don’t need to print that email”.  Creating signs can also help people understand the role they play in office recycling.

In order to be more efficient in recycling, we are approaching our building management to discuss options for composting or “green boxing”.  This is one thing that we are currently unable to facilitate on our own and need additional support for.

Being more aware and having good communication with your teammates is important to achieving the three Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle.  These are the things that have worked for us, but there are tons of ways to go green in your office. What challenges or successes has your office faced in going green?

West welcomes Genesys to the family!
July 1, 2008 @ 06:00 AM | By Cambria Vaccaro

Genesys_logo When I look at why businesses choose InterCall for conferencing and collaboration services, something that really becomes apparent is how many choices we offer.  With that in mind, I’m really excited about our latest news.

Our parent company, West Corporation, has acquired Genesys, and will combine it with InterCall.  West's conferencing segment will have nearly a billion dollars in revenue and become the #1 or #2 conferencing provider in every major global market.
What this means for you is that you will have an even broader and more powerful suite of services.  More choices….That’s what we always strive to give our customers.

InterCall and Genesys have much in common already.  Both companies share a vision to provide the best multimedia conferencing services to the market.  By combining InterCall’s global infrastructure with Genesys’ multimedia technology, integrated services and deep international presence, the two companies will be able to achieve what neither could in what will be a very short period of time.  Genesys also has already-established support and resources in broader global regions, which will further enhance InterCall’s ability to serve our global customers.

We will update you as we make changes to improve the service and the technology.  Stay tuned.  The best is yet to come.

Cam_2Cambria Vaccaro is Director of Marketing, Corporate Communications and our “Industry News” blogger.  Cambria has been in the conferencing industry for nearly fifteen years, and has seen it evolve from a traditional video bridging service to include cool web features and remote communication services.  She is an avid runner, cook, wife and mother of two gorgeous girls.

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