A Virtual Meeting Is (Virtually) the Same as Face-to-Face Interaction
October 28, 2010 @ 12:47 PM | By Cambria Vaccaro

“This here, let's change the font ...”
“...And the color.”
“Can we move the photo to the left of the page?”
“Then we'll have to move this text, too.”

Does this sound like a conversation in your office? The creative team gathers around a large monitor, crowding the art director and pointing. It's not ideal, but it usually gets the job done.

Now imagine if the whole team could sit at their respective desks, make the changes they see in their mind and then get feedback from the rest of the team. No fingerprints on your monitor and instant feedback on your designs. The creative process could go so much more smoothly. When that's done, send the marketing director an invite to the virtual meeting for final approvals.

This isn't an office of the future. It's a 21st century office today using a web conferencing service for real-time interaction across long distances—or across office hallways.

Anything you can do in a face-to-face meeting, from tweaking creative to closing sales, can be done in a virtual meeting, too.

Let's compare:

  • A face-to-face meeting offers file sharing as participants view the same computer screen.
  • A virtual meeting offers file sharing on each user's desktop—no more crowding, bad angles or the need for expensive projection equipment and a dimly lit room.
  • A face-to-face meeting lets a user take control of the computer desktop for web browsing or to make changes to files.
  • A virtual meeting offers the same functionality with each user at his own computer.
  • A face-to-face meeting lets participants pick up on important visual cues during a meeting—especially important in sales.
  • A virtual meeting can use web cams to capture participants, permitting everyone to see visual cues, like smiling or nodding. If you really want to take the video portion of a virtual meeting to a whole new level, you should check out video conferencing and telepresence.

What has your business been doing in face-to-face meetings that you can accomplish through a web conferencing service?

Cam_blog Cambria Vaccaro is the Senior Director, Marketing 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.

That's Your Excuse??
October 27, 2010 @ 04:16 PM | By Jill Huselton

Oh boy, for once my procrastination has paid off! All week I’ve been trying to think of what to write for my blog post, and this afternoon, instead of staring at a blank Word document, I checked out some news sites and found my inspiration.

CareerBuilder recently conducted a survey to find out how many people are fudging on their sick days and what some of the best excuses were for missing work. The survey shows close to a third of workers have played hooky from the office at least once this year, calling in sick when they really weren’t. Twenty seven percent of employers say there’s an increase in bogus sick excuses from employees due to continued stress and burnout caused by the weak economy.

Here are the top 12, which should give you at least a little chuckle.

  1. Employee said a chicken attacked his mom.
  2. Employee’s finger was stuck in a bowling ball.
  3. Employee had a hair transplant gone bad.
  4. Employee fell asleep as his desk while working and hit his head, causing a neck injury.
  5. Employee said a cow broke into her house and she had to wait for the insurance man.
  6. Employee’s girlfriend threw a Sit n Spin through his living room window.
  7. Employee’s foot was caught in the garbage disposal.
  8. Employee called in sick from a bar at 5:00 p.m. the night before.
  9. Employee said he wasn’t feeling too clever that day.
  10. Employee had to mow the lawn to avoid a lawsuit from the home owner’s association.
  11. Employee called in the day after Thanksgiving because she burned her mouth on a pumpkin pie.
  12. Employee was in a boat on Lake Erie and ran out of gas and the coast guard towed him to the Canadian side.

Fibbers (or stretchers-of-the-truth) beware! Even though most employers said they trusted their workers were really sick, some had their doubts: 29 percent reported they have checked up on an employee who called in sick and 16 percent said they have fired a worker for missing work without a proven excuse. Of the employers who checked up on an employee, 70 percent said they required the employee to show them a doctor’s note, half called the employee at home, 18 percent had another worker call the employee and 15 percent drove by the employee’s house or apartment. I’m having visions of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off go through my head.

For those of you who would want to call in sick, but feel the tug of your conscience, you can always go halfway. Use audio conference calls or web conferencing to take the one meeting you feel you just can't miss. If you're going the web route, make sure to unplug your web cam.

What’s your favorite from the list? Got any better ones?

Jill Huselton is a Senior Marketing Manager at InterCall

A Sign of the Times or Just Plain Rude?
October 22, 2010 @ 12:52 PM | By Sara Steele

In a world powered by emails, IMs, tweets, and Facebook chatter it seems as if our communication etiquette in the workplace is becoming less formal by the day. Twitter accounts only allow you to publish 140 character messages. And emails without a ‘hi’, ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ fly into my inbox all day long. With today’s numerous communication outlets it’s never been easier to write up a quick note, hit send and instantly share your message without really thinking about how it may be interpreted.

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of forgetting my manners in the workplace. I tend to start my instant messages without a greeting and often times will forget to thank someone after I receive what I need from them. It’s always easier for me to confront difficult issues via email rather than giving the phone call it deserves. There’s no doubt that all this technology has made us more efficient, but has it also made us rude?

In writing this blog, I came across Emily Post's standard rules of workplace etiquette. We all already know them, but here’s a friendly reminder to actually follow them! And, even if you aren’t sharing an office space, almost all of these can be applied to remote communications like audio conference, web conference or video conference calls.

  • Greet each other with a smile and/or hello.
  • Respect each other's privacy; knock before entering.
  • Focus on your colleague (not your smart phone) when you are in a meeting.
  • Be on time.
  • Identify yourself on the phone.
  • Pick up after yourself.
  • Speak quietly (but don't whisper!) in an open office/cubical environment.
  • Keep cell phones off or set to vibrate or silent.
  • Take personal calls in a private area.
  • Don't use IM or email to avoid a problem.
  • Keep shared calendars up to date and free of private appointments.
  • Use salutations, please, and thank you in emails.
  • Fridge rules: If you put it in, you can take it out.

Do you find yourself or your co-workers following or violating these rules, either virtually or in the office?

Sara Steele is a Marketing Coordinator at InterCall.

A Web-based Conference Can Overcome “User Error”
October 21, 2010 @ 08:21 AM | By Dan Uhlmeyer

Think a web-based conference is complicated? Afraid you won't be able to sign onto the meeting or use all the tools available to create an interactive, engaging presentation? Here's the good news: If you can use your computer for basic business (such as using Microsoft Outlook®, PowerPoint® and your web browser), you can participate in (or even host) a web-based conference.

In many ways, a web-based conference is much better than an audio conference—the technology has myriad ways to compensate for human error. Let's look at three common faux pas during conventional audio conferences—and how web meetings help you avoid them. Let's start with sign in.

Lost Phone Numbers
Did you ever get a call in the first few minutes of an audio conference? It's another participant, frantic that she lost the phone number and dial-in codes. With web meetings hosted through InterCall, whether you're at your computer or on the go, you can log in with one click. Web meeting software permits you to join meetings from Outlook, while the recent release features that allow you to join meetings from the Apple iPhone makes it easy to join a web-based conference from your smartphone with one touch.

Background Noise 
Ever have someone on a teleconference who couldn't find the mute button on their cell phone and couldn't remember the universal code of *6? Did they think no one else could hear their dog barking, dishwasher running or baby crying? Web meetings make it easy for the presenter or participants to mute a call with the click of a mouse. No codes to remember.

Clear Service 
Speaking of cell phones, did you ever listen to a conventional audio conference through your cell phone? Some providers recommend you not use cell phones with their service—an inconvenience for businesspeople on the go. A web-based conference provides the same crystal clear service for every user. Compatible with most computer systems and web browsers, InterCall's web-based conference options mean no static, no dropped calls and an opportunity for you to see and hear every minute of every meeting.

Is it time for you to make the switch to web based conference services?

Dan_2 Dan Uhlmeyer is a Sr. Product Manager and the "Web Conferencing" blogger.  He has nearly ten years of product experience in Web Conferencing and has managed several services at InterCall. When not punching on the keyboard, you can find Dan enjoying time with his wife and two children or running a marathon.

Day of the Living Dead
October 19, 2010 @ 02:57 PM | By Jill Huselton

Somehow, Halloween has gotten to be almost as commercialized as Christmas. Go to Target or Walmart and you’ll find aisle upon aisle with costumes, candy, inflatable pumpkins for your front yard, orange lights to hang outside and enough knick-knacks to fill your grandmother’s house a couple times over.

This week I got an email from Bud to Boss with “Are zombies invading your office?” in the Subject line. Given all the talk about trick-or-treating that’s going on at my house, it caught my attention and got me thinking. With companies reeling in their spending and head count, many people find themselves overwhelmed because they are doing the job of two or three people, in over their heads because they’ve been tasked with responsibilities they aren’t qualified for or unhappy with their current position but unwilling to look for a new job because there aren’t many out there to be had. In any of these cases, it isn’t doing the company any favors.

So what if you are a supervisor of someone who falls into these categories? Here's what Bud to Boss recommends for keeping the energy going in your workplace:

  • Recruit the living. Hire only those people who respond to your job postings and you might as well set up an office in the graveyard. Instead, actively seek out people who are enthusiastically and happily working in their current jobs, and then lure them away.
  • Check for vital signs. During the hiring process, ask questions that will draw out candidates’ attitudes. Do they speak excitedly about overcoming a challenge or dealing with difficult customers? Remember: You can train workers in most skills, but a bad attitude festers.
  • Zap their brains. Keep employees’ minds active by giving them assignments that are challenging and that tap their interests. When they complain about a situation, ask “What do you think we should do?” Train them to develop solutions instead of moaning. Don’t promote workers out of the positions that they enjoy and excel at; find ways to use those talents in new ways. Example: Make highly skilled employees mentors for new hires.
  • Isolate the infection. Zombies aren’t hard to spot. If you ignore the early signs of decay, one zombie will feed off your entire team. Soon, you’ll be facing an army of the undead. Better to confront just one. Be clear with your team members about what behaviors are unacceptable. And if they cross the line, remove them from your team. (Following your HR policies, of course, not violently.)
  • Seal the Pit of Nowhere. That’s where employees’ ideas die, neglected or mired in red tape. And when that happens, it also snuffs out other signs of life. Give your team a way to submit ideas, and follow up promptly on every one, even those you can’t implement.

The key to each of these points is communication. Whether you’re interacting face to face or through online meetings, keep them in mind so your department or office doesn’t turn into a place of doom and gloom.

Have you had success turning attitudes around? What tips can you recommend?

Jill Huselton is a Senior Marketing Manager at InterCall

Ha, Ha, Ha
October 15, 2010 @ 01:00 PM | By Jill Huselton

Since I work from home (yes, one of the benefits of working for a conferencing company is that it's easy to stay connected from anywhere), I try to get out during my lunch hour for a little face-to-face interaction. While I’m in my car, I’m able to catch one or two of my favorite shows from the local NPR station.

Recently on The State of Things, the topic was the role laughter and humor play in conversations. One guest speaker was a professor at North Carolina State University who talked about a study that looked at laughter in jury deliberations during a death penalty case. The other guest speaker, Rog Bates, works for the Carolina Health and Humor Association. Apparently laughter and humor are such a large and important part of our lives that it is worthy of an actual association.

The discussion got me thinking about laughter in the office I used to work in and even now during the audio conference calls and web conferences I’m in. The speakers on the show pointed out that laughter is used for:

  • Relieving stress
  • Breaking tension
  • Bonding
  • Making things ‘ok’

I would also add ‘just having fun’, but that might not be a true academic reason. I definitely agree, though, that I’ve experienced all these things plenty of times. In some cases, the laughter serves its purpose and does help people relax and loosen up. Other times, however, I’ve found it to sort of gloss over a controversial or uncomfortable situation, only to leave people feeling slighted or that an issue hasn’t really been resolved. And, when you are in a virtual meeting, if you aren't using a web cam, you don’t have the benefit of seeing people’s facial expressions to know if they are smiling or gritting their teeth.

What have you experienced with laughter in your office or online meetings? Would you say it is a must have, sometimes appropriate or there’s no room for it in business?

Jill Huselton is a Senior Marketing Manager at InterCall

3 Steps to Corporate Success
October 14, 2010 @ 12:35 PM | By Sara Steele

As featured in Smart Business Chicago | October 2010

Scott Etzler joined InterCall as president in 1998 when the company had less than $50 million in revenue. He has since led the company through double-digit sales growth each year to 2009 revenue of more than $1 billion. In this time, he has grown InterCall’s product suite from solely offering operator assisted calls to providing and managing advanced audio, web, video, event and now Unified Communications services.

So, what are his secrets to success? In an interview with Smart Business Online, ScottChicsetzler1101_00000012260  
details his strategic decision making process towards InterCall’s growth opportunities in the global conferencing and collaboration market. Here’s a look at what he has to say:

  1. Listen to the Market - The ability to identify opportunities begins with understanding the marketplace. This means listening to your customers and employees and evaluating industry trends—all of which can provide valuable perspectives.
  2. Assess the Potential - Once you identify opportunity in the marketplace, you need to assess the potential.  Basically, you need to determine how badly customers want it and what internal processes it will take to provide it. Use your customers to test the need in the marketplace as well as the potential revenue it could bring.
  3. Keep Questioning - Continue communicating with customers in your pipeline to keep gauging the need. That communication shouldn’t stop post launch. You need to keep monitoring and keep questioning the information you receive to ensure your timing and execution is on target!

This technique has proved successful for Scott Etzler and the entire InterCall organization, but is just one of the many perspectives. Read more about how Scott evaluates growth opportunities at InterCall and tell us what drives your business success.

Sara Steele is a Marketing Coordinator at InterCall.

The Great Debate: Is a Virtual Meeting as Good as a Face-to-Face One?
October 7, 2010 @ 03:05 PM | By Dan Uhlmeyer

The debate rages on: Will web meetings and telepresence ever replace face-to-face meetings for sales, marketing and building vendor relationships? Overworked salespeople, busy C-level executives and audio, video and web conferencing companies alike have been waiting for the time.

As technology advances and telepresence brings people who are continents apart closer than ever before, the number of people on the “yes” side of this debate grows every day. The facts face us: a 10-year study published out of UCLA in the ‘70s showed that only seven percent of our understanding comes from words. Forty percent is gleaned from the tone of voice. Another 53 percent comes from visual cues. It doesn't take much to realize how much you're missing in audio-only communications—hence, the need for business travel or a technology-based alternative: web meetings.

One major roadblock to effective teleconferencing, previously, was the lack of a visual component. People missed 53 percent of communication—the visual cues. This sometimes led to a lack of rapport, at best, and misunderstandings and disagreements, at worst. How can you close a sale or forge a relationship when you can't see the other person?

Today's web meetings bring the visual factor to the foreground and make it easier to get closer to business associates more quickly. In a virtual meeting, not only can you share information easily, but you can hone in on the other party's facial expressions through a web cam.

No More “Hiding” Behind a Screen
Additionally, audio conferencing often leads to participants multitasking or getting distracted. With so many visual cues provided by a virtual meeting, participants' eyes (and minds) stay on the task at hand. This multitasking also takes place in face-to-face meetings when people hide behind laptop screens. How can you get to know someone when their nose is buried in a computer? Only in a virtual meeting can you capture a participant's full attention for the duration of the conference.

Keeping these factors in mind, it's hard not to argue that a virtual meeting isn't as good as a face-to-face meeting. For many purposes, it's even better.

What have you found to be the most effective? Are you all virtual all the time or are you split?

Dan_2 Dan Uhlmeyer is a Sr. Product Manager and the "Web Conferencing" blogger.  He has nearly ten years of product experience in Web Conferencing and has managed several services at InterCall. When not punching on the keyboard, you can find Dan enjoying time with his wife and two children or running a marathon.

What’s Really on Your Mind
October 6, 2010 @ 06:43 PM | By Jill Huselton

There is an art to running a meeting. Whether it is virtual or face-to-face, if you don’t do it right, you make people annoyed, defensive, argumentative and sometimes unwilling to ‘play’.

I’m sure we can all recall meetings where you are sitting at a conference table kicking the person next to you because you can’t believe how poorly a meeting is going. Or if you’re on an audio conference call or web conference, you are furiously IMing your co-worker about what a painful meeting you’re on and wishing the host would get a clue. Ever accidentally send a chat message along the same lines through the web conferencing tool that went to everyone? Can you say ‘cringer’?!

I just came across a blog by Steve Roesler who provided some comic relief with 15 Useful Phrases at Work. I think #7 is my favorite. I know I would never be able to say any of these things out loud, but, holy cow, it sure would be funny to hear someone else say them. Talk about shock and awe. Can you imagine the reaction in a meeting if someone actually said, “I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.”

Have you ever been part of a meeting when someone said what was really going through his head? I would love to hear about it!

Jill Huselton is a Senior Marketing Manager at InterCall

It's not always easy working with a vendor or client on a long distance project. Costs can add up when you travel for face-to-face meetings, follow-ups and ultimately, the final contract that seals the deal.

After that's done, you may find yourself on the road again when you meet with vendors or clients to review the project at different stages or to receive final approval. What if you could do it all from your desk, using the collaborative tools available in today's conferencing software?

You can! A service like InterCall Unified Meeting® conferencing software lets you:

  • Share files for project updates; no more waiting for emails to arrive or squinting at fuzzy faxes.
  • Make changes to shared files and know everyone is on the same page—literally.
  • Use a virtual whiteboard for brainstorming at any step of the process.
  • Share ideas and resources through the web.
  • Create video presentations to sell your ideas to clients in a visually dynamic way.

Reservationless-Plus services offered through InterCall let you hold impromptu meetings when you need more than two people on a spur-of-the-moment call. With just a few clicks you can move an audio conference to the web for full-featured web browsing and collaboration “in the cloud.”

After all the meetings are over, the work is done and you've gotten final approval for the project, video conferencing software lets you see the very real smile on your client's face.

Think about your most recent project: How much time and money could you have saved using the collaborative tools in your conferencing software? 

Cam_blog Cambria Vaccaro is the Senior Director, Marketing 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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