Tips for the Holiday (or Everyday) Telecommuters
December 30, 2010 @ 09:54 AM | By Sara Steele

I love the week after Christmas because it finally feels like I can catch a breather at work. The emails and phone calls have subsided and I finally have time to focus on writing this blog post which I have put off for so long. Best of all, I knew the office would be slow today and with the snow starting to come down, I decided to stay at home and work remotely.

One great benefit of working for InterCall is that meeting remotely through audio and web conferencing solutions is an everyday business practice. Over two-thirds of respondents from a recent Cisco survey  believe their work improves when they work remotely. But, if you’re anything like me you may still need that little extra push and minimal distractions in order to be an efficient telecommuter. I’ve found all of these telecommuting best practices posted on NewsObserver.Com to be lifesavers, so I thought I would share.

  • Have a dedicated place, preferably a separate room in your home or apartment, for an office. It's not a good idea to have an office near the family TV set.
  • Forget about the overgrown lawn, some dead tree limbs, and a leaky faucet. Tend to these home chores in off hours or weekends, not during the workweek.
  • When working at home, it's easy to become a round-the-clock worker. Make sure you take breaks. Go out and have lunch.
  • Set a workday schedule, and try to stick with it. Some telecommuters work erratic schedules, but the more effective ones have a workday that is similar to the one they had at the office.
  • Avoid being a home office recluse. Telecommuters should meet with associates and friends for coffee breaks or lunch.
  • If you're a member of a professional or business group, continue to attend meetings. This is a good way to interact with others.

Do you find these tricks helpful when working remotely? Is there anything else you recommend to minimize the distractions that come along with working from home?

Sara SteeleSara Steele is an associate marketing manager at InterCall responsible for various corporate communication initiatives; including social media and channel marketing efforts. Sara began working with InterCall after graduating from the University of Colorado in 2006. In her free time, she enjoys running, skiing, and spending time with family and friends.

Webinar Software Saves You Money
December 28, 2010 @ 03:50 PM | By Dan Uhlmeyer

When you decide to host an event, whether it's a press conference, corporate announcement, investor relations meeting or a full-scale trade show, you'll find a lot of costs associated with the event—some obvious and some you may not consider. 

Travel cost (airline tickets, rental cars and hotel) is a no-brainer, but here are a few other costs associated with in-person meetings, even if business associates travel to your location rather than the other way around. 

  • Audiovisual Equipment: Unless you have a full-scale teleconferencing room set up, expect to pay for audiovisual equipment rentals—and the people to show you how to use it. If you do have a conference room, will it fit the number of people you're inviting? If not, add the costs of renting a conference room in a hotel in addition to the audiovisual equipment and staff to run the equipment.
  • Printed Materials: Planning to hand out press kits? Supplementary material? You want to make a strong impression, which might mean professionally-produced, four color brochures and other marketing material. All of this costs money. But if you host a webinar, no one expects to take home “dead-tree material.” You can show attendees anything you want through InterCall's sophisticated but easy-to-use webinar software, and they can print what they want.
  • Petty Cash Expenses: Whether it's treating your visitors to dinner and drinks at the best steakhouse in town after the conference or paying for traveling employees' three dollar bottled water at the airport, travel and meetings cost money.
  • Lost Productivity: A WorldCom study discovered that employees suffer 15 to 20 hours of lost productivity during each business trip, which averages out to a cost of $700 to $1000 per person.


Save Money with Webinar Software
Even top-of-the-line webinar software with all the features you need to organize and host meetings costs less than business travel. How much less? Why not use the InterCall travel cost calculator to find out?

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.

Enough with the Airline Fees Already
December 22, 2010 @ 09:47 AM | By Jill Huselton

When I prep for a trip, I can’t sleep and my stomach is in knots the night before I leave. I’m worried that my flight will be delayed, that I’ll get stuck in an airport somewhere or I’ll have screwed up my reservation and the name on the ticket won’t exactly match the full name on my driver’s license. Then I get all stressed out about whether or not I can fit four days worth of clothes into a carry-on suitcase, if I’ve got the right size bottles of liquid and what category toothpaste falls into because I am going to do everything in my power not to have to pay the bag check fee.

You know that same thought is going through the heads of a lot of other people, too, especially when you watch anxious passengers corral around the gate. Everyone wants to get on the plane as soon as possible so they get a spot in the overhead bin and don’t hear the dreaded words from the flight attendant, “We’re going to have to check your bag.” I always breathe a huge sigh of relief once I’ve gotten my bag in the bin and finally clicked my seatbelt. Then I watch in amusement as everyone else tries to stuff their bags in every which way and the looks of dismay when the latch just won’t quite close.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics , airlines have raked in more than $2.5 billion so far this year on baggage fees alone, up 22.5% since this time last year. That’s right—billion with a ‘b’. I don’t get fired up about too many things, but for some reason, this one makes me crazy. I mean, it isn’t like they aren’t making enough money these days: Revenue from cancellation and change fees has nearly doubled since 2007, adding up to about $1.7 billion in three quarters this year (again, another 'b').

Maybe this is naive, but can’t they just add $10-15 on to the price of each ticket and save everyone the hassle? While they might not get the full $25 from those who pay to check their bags now, they’d get extra money from those like me who want to fight the system and do whatever it takes to carry a bag on, even if that means I have to leave my hairdryer behind. (Ok, women might find this a greater sacrifice than men, but you get my picture).

Better yet, just avoid airports as much as possible and use web conferencing or video conferencing instead. I still have to travel once or twice a year, but all my other meetings can be held using a web conference. This way, my biggest stressor is deciding if I look presentable enough to use my web cam.

How would you vote? Pay a bit more for your ticket or keep the checked bag fee?

Jill HuseltonJill Huselton is a senior marketing manager at InterCall. She's been in the conferencing industry for nearly 15 years, working in operations, account management and marketing, mainly based in Colorado. Before leaving the Mile-High City, she hiked a 14er, one of her top accomplishments. Now she's traded the mountains for the beach and works from a home office in North Carolina.

The Over-Hyped and Non-Over-Hyped Words
December 20, 2010 @ 10:26 AM | By Kate Nelson

If you sit in enough meetings, either around a conference room table or on an audio conference call or web conference, you start to pick up on a lot of buzzwords that quickly get very annoying. My ‘favorites’ lately have been absolutely, unequivocally, share of wallet, laser focus and reach out.

LinkedIn recently compiled a list of business buzzwords. The site sorted profiles for U.S. users to get this list of top 10 words:

  • Extensive experience
  • Innovative
  • Motivated
  • Results-oriented
  • Dynamic
  • Proven track record
  • Team player
  • Fast-paced
  • Problem solver
  • Entrepreneurial

Sound familiar? Are you nodding your head in agreement or thinking, “If I hear that word one more time, I’m gonna….”

On the flip side, there are words that are quickly going the way of 35mm cameras that use a roll of film. Just check out www.savethewords.org to see which ones will soon be extinct—kicked out of the dictionary.

Here are a few that you can adopt and impress your colleagues with something they’ve probably never heard:

Boreism: behavior of a boring person
Example: My cubemate is only capable of boreism so I always keep my headset on to make it look like I’m on the phone.

Retirant: retiree
Example: We’ve hired a retirant to come in and consult on that project since no one knows how to do it.”

Scaevity: unluckiness
Example: After spilling coffee on her keyboard, accidentally shredding her project list and forgetting to mute her phone line as she chomped her chips during the call, Suzy realized scaevity does come in threes.

You can prevent their extinction by adopting and using these words as often as possible. Even if you don’t want to use them, it’s still fun to pick a few random ones and study their meaning.

I hope your “lubency” to explore this site results in an increase in your vocabulary and interest in old/new words! Maybe next year we’ll see a list of 2011 buzzwords that includes gleimous, jobler and pamphagous.

What buzzwords are your favorites? Which should be added to the 2010 list?

Kate_nelsonKate Nelson is a speech analyst is a member of the training team. She works with the North American and Indian call centers and provides speech, voice and accent modification training for all employees. She is a graduate of Auburn University with a BS in speech pathology and audiology and is a certified Compton P-ESL (Pronouncing English as a Second Language) trainer. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at Auburn University. She is married and has a 5 ½ yr. old son. She is a self-described “word-nerd” and loves music, oenology, studying other languages and being with her family.

I’m Not Gonna Try It - You Try It
December 16, 2010 @ 08:00 AM | By Sarah Murphy

He likes it! Remember Mikey and Life Cereal?

Amazing what great things you will discover when you try something new. The hard part is getting someone to take that first step and actually try it. Sometimes, like with Mikey, you have to put the bowl of cereal right in front of them.

Granted, trying a new breakfast cereal is a small investment, but when you are jumping into the world of web conferencing, the decision can be overwhelming, especially for the small business or the non-profit organization.

I recently attended an in-person information meeting for a nation-wide charity fundraiser hosted by a non-profit organization. This was the only in-person session on their schedule as the remaining ones were going to be conducted using good old audio-only phone conferencing.

After the presentation I asked the host if her organization had ever considered incorporating web conferencing into their phone sessions to recreate the visual impact her live presentation had. I couldn’t imagine those on the phone walking away with the same level of excitement or motivation like those of us in the room. Her questions covered the spectrum of concerns from financial to the unsure.

  • Oh it’s not in our budget. Is it expensive?
  • Isn’t that used in big companies?
  • Which product do we pick?
  • How do we learn to use it?

When I mentioned our free trial programs, I could see the thoughts running thought her head: 30 days to try it out, test, rehearse and practice at no charge. I followed that up with all the free training we provide to make sure those who are new to hosting meetings online have a successful start. Yup, the bowl of cereal was right in front of her.

Try it free for 30 days and you’ll be asking yourself what’s not to like, Mikey?

Sarah MurphySarah Murphy is a marketing manager at InterCall. With over ten years of experience in the conferencing industry, Sarah has worked with customers and products that cover all segments of conferencing, including traditional operator attended services, video and online meeting solutions.

How to Choose the Best Conferencing Software for Your Business
December 13, 2010 @ 01:12 PM | By Cambria Vaccaro

InterCall offers a broad range of conferencing software to fit the needs of everyone from solo-preneurs to SMBs to Fortune 500 companies. But which solution is best for you? Before you make a decision, it helps to assess your needs in a number of areas.

Features
If your conferencing software doesn't do what you need it to, you won't be happy with it. Decision makers should make a list of what you hope to accomplish with the software and what you'll be using it for. For instance, are you hosting webinars or web conferences? Do you want the room to be available with one click whenever you need it? What is the maximum number of people you'll need a room for at any one time?

Other features you may look for in conferencing software include:

  • Desktop sharing
  • Polls and surveys
  • Integration with other popular software such as Microsoft® Office Suite
  • Shared web browsing

Customer Service
When you consider conferencing software providers, make sure they offer the level of customer service and tech support you need. What happens if you have a problem? Is someone available 24/7 to walk you through troubleshooting? Is training provided prior to your first web meeting?

Ease-of-Use
The bloggers at Online Meeting Tools Review say it best when they write, “...if you want to present information online or have a virtual team-meeting you can’t waste time trying to figure out how to get a specific gadget to work. Meeting organizers and participants need easy-to-use software to operate quickly and smoothly.” 

For some users, this means having streamlined software that does what they want it to—and nothing more—similar to InterCall Unified Meeting. Other businesses require robust packages like Cisco WebExTM Web Conferencing, provided by InterCall. The world's most-used web conferencing tool is user-friendly and intuitive. With InterCall's tech support staff standing by, if you happen to have a question, you won't be stuck.

Cost
Budget is also an important consideration when you select the best web conferencing software for your business. Larger companies might be able to afford solutions that have every bell and whistle required by every department. Small businesses, on the other hand, typically want something that is reliable, simple and cost effective. That's why InterCall offers web conferencing solutions tailor-made for small business users.

If you still need help assessing what’s best for you, InterCall offers a simple interactive tool that can get you started.  Check it out and let us know what you think!

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.

A New Piece to the Unified Communications Puzzle
December 10, 2010 @ 08:00 AM | By Damon Martin

It’s been busy time for InterCall’s Unified Communications (UC) team, thanks in part to Microsoft’s recent Lync Server 2010 launch.

Last month we held two well-attended events in support of the Lync Server 2010 launch. Sponsored by Microsoft and coordinated by InterCall, the events featured speakers from Microsoft, Polycom, Dialogic and our own UC group and covered everything from features and benefits to product demos and complementary solutions. You can also take a look at some pictures from our Lync launch events—head over to Facebook, become a fan and check out our album!

Wedged in between our two Lync launch events was Microsoft’s global launch in New York on November 17. We were there for the big kickoff and took away some of these key ideas:

  • Lync 2010 completes the family of Office products, ushering in a new era of communications
  • Lync is the linchpin of Microsoft’s Unified Communications solutions
  • Businesses that have already deployed Lync are seeing reduced costs and quick adoption rates

Perhaps the most important idea we heard at the launch was that Microsoft’s goal is to deliver UC on the customer’s terms. That’s a goal we share here at InterCall. Whether you’re looking for hosted, managed on premise or hybrid solutions, we work with our clients to deliver Unified Communications in the way that works best for them. We also don’t support the “rip and replace” mentality, which means we analyze your environment to determine which solutions will integrate with your existing infrastructure.

Other global launch highlights: It was great to see Bill Gates “drop by” (virtually via a Lync meeting) and we were pleased to have InterCall listed as part of the Lync Partner Ecosystem during the presentation given by Microsoft corporate vice president, Gurdeep Singh Pall.

On the same day of the global launch, we wired a press release debuting our new services in support of Lync. If you haven’t heard about our professional services for Lync, including planning, deployment and management solutions, go ahead and give it a read. And stay tuned for upcoming information about the release of Office 365.

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. Comment on the blog and let us know what you’d like to hear next regarding UC!

Dan Damon Martin is vice president of sales for West UC Solutions, InterCall’s dedicated team of UC specialists. Based in Wichita, Kansas, Damon oversees InterCall’s systems integration and consulting services. When he’s not working with InterCall customers on their UC strategy, Damon enjoys spending time with his family, boating and reading.

Bring out the Holly
December 9, 2010 @ 09:20 AM | By Marty Dunne

This weekend, I trudged up and down our basement stairs over sixty times while I muscled all the holiday trimmings to our living room. It’s an exhausting exercise but has a very BIG payout at the end. This year, that was a BIG glass of red wine that went along with the first look at my wife’s extraordinary decorating accomplishments.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—or is it? It’s a time for overcrowded shopping malls and paper cuts from freshly sheered gift-wrap. It’s a time for commercialism at its best and TSA-enhanced pat downs at their worst. It’s the Christmas season with all the hectic trimmings. This year, I wonder if I will even make it to January 1 without spending ALL my children’s college savings and without completely forgetting my wife’s tireless requirement for a little holiday jewel.

What I wish to comment on is in response to an article on the Huffington Post. Author Inder Sidhu, senior vice president of strategy and planning for worldwide operations at Cisco, suggests technology can save us from all the Christmas chaos—technology is the answer to a better holiday season. Additionally, if you are smart and make technology part of your New Year’s resolution, you have a fighting chance to keep the holly-jolly spirit all year long.

For me, the answer is delivered in the form of Cyber Monday. To those unfamiliar, Cyber Monday is Black Friday’s evil twin, only it’s shopping online. I think online shopping is great and only evil for the unrealized affliction puts onto my credit card with each new site I surf and shop. Sitting on my sofa and clicking a few buttons to rid myself of the burden of busy malls is GREAT. I’m a big fan! Avoid the crowds and still get the deals? This is a no brainer.

Technology, this holiday, is also providing an alternative to travel. Baggage fees, TSA pat downs, delays, overcrowded airports, hours in the car on the jam-packed interstate be gone! This year, millions of Americans will fire up their web cams and meet with family and friends via Skype, Apple ichat and other video-related solutions. Cisco has even begun to market a consumer-geared video conferencing unit called the Umi. It is fun and the size of a 32 inch HD-quality TV.

This holiday season, the future is calling. Have you answered yet?

MartyMarty Dunne is executive vice president of sales for InterCall. His commitment to working and playing hard results in his ability to lead a fast-paced, energetic, goal-achieving environment with over 325 field sales members in 26 offices in North America. Because Marty has worked for InterCall since 1994, he has been involved in virtually every development of conferencing’s life cycle. People often attribute Marty as the guidepost of InterCall’s street reputation, inspiring the most passionate and high-energy sales team in the industry.

Wrap It Up!
December 3, 2010 @ 08:26 AM | By Sarah Murphy

Ah, how I love Cyber Monday! No getting up at the crack of dawn for the good deals, no crowds, no lines, no parking lot mishaps. I finished my holiday shopping online and best of all...one click of the mouse got me free gift wrap.

This time of year also brings another type of wrap-up—the end of the year wrap-up meeting. Many companies take time between now and the end of the year to gather their teams, department or entire division to recap the year and look ahead to the next.

Even though many of your employees may be across the country or the globe, a web conferencing solution can easily bring you all together from the comfort of your own desks. So have some fun with it! Recognize employees, celebrate successes and wins from 2010 and set the stage for what’s to come in 2011. Yes, there were challenges during the past year, but it’s not the time to dissect them—highlight the lessons learned and move on.

Keep the wrap-up meeting short, sweet and interactive. With a web conferencing solution, you can easily interact online by letting participants share a story, show a picture from their PC or have fun with some department or corporate trivia using online surveys or question and answer functionality. Most solutions come with a web camera component, so use it to show your enthusiasm and gratitude as you celebrate the end of another year together.

And don’t forget about those on your team who are still out on the road for the next couple of weeks working towards a strong finish. They are out there with their mobile devices, smart phones and tablets. Make sure they too can easily participate in your end of year wrap-up and be ready to hit the ground running in 2011.

Sarah MurphySarah Murphy is a marketing manager at InterCall. With over ten years of experience in the conferencing industry, Sarah has worked with customers and products that cover all segments of conferencing, including traditional operator attended services, video and online meeting solutions.

Put the Spotlight on Training in Your Company
December 1, 2010 @ 01:51 PM | By Nicole Scheel

If you’re in the training industry, then the letters ASTD (American Society of Training and Development) mean something to you! It is “the world’s largest association dedicated to workplace learning and performance professionals.” It’s pretty much my go-to place when I need some training advice, new ideas or want to research a topic. Over the years, and through my membership, I’ve made some great connections with training colleagues and have established strong partnerships.

So when ASTD declared that December 6 – 11 is Employee Learning Week, it made me jump to action. As ASTD says, learning should be year round; however, it’s nice to have a few days that put learning into the spotlight. This will not be our first time participating in the learning week—it is something we try to highlight every year. This year we’re partnering with our parent company as well as its other entities and sending daily messages with different learning tips and tricks. For example, on Tuesday we’ll be sharing how writing things down helps us remember key facts; we’ll be linking to an article by Dustin Wax that emphasizes this topic.

We like to focus on new things each year to keep it fresh and exciting for our employees. Last year we showcased one of our training teams daily via a Brainshark recording that we sent out to our employees. The year prior to that, for each employee that attended one of our online classes, their name was entered into a raffle for gift cards.

The possibilities for shining the light on training are endless. What will your company be doing for this year’s Employee Learning Week? What have you done in the past that others might be able to replicate?

Nichole_blog

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

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