Look Out, Here It Comes
January 31, 2011 @ 02:15 PM | By Jill Huselton

Ok, here it comes. The next round of winter weather is going to make traffic come to a standstill, close schools and generally wreak havoc on your normal routine.

My conference calls today started with people out west and moved east, just like the weather. I talked with a co-worker in Denver who said it took her an hour and half to get to work because of a little bit of snow on top of ice and another co-worker in Kansas City who had to cancel her appointments today when her husband went out to check the conditions and slipped on the icy driveway. One of my teammates is in Chicago and preparing to juggle work and kids on Wednesday in anticipation of schools being closed. Finally I reached Boston where another person in my department is just clearing her driveway to remove last week's snow so she can get ready for the storm heading her way.

Year after year, we deal with the white stuff. Sometimes it is a welcome distraction, but most of the time it is just irritating. There are no snowdays in the corporate world, and business must move on. In spite of your best efforts, though, schedules end up being rearranged, meetings are changed and even travel plans get postponed. Now comes the reminder about conferencing services. When you are stranded at home or can’t make it to the all-important meeting, don’t forget that technology can overcome Mother Nature; just pick up the phone, hop on the web and get your stuff done.

When last week’s storm hit the East Coast, my friend in Washington, D.C. spent 11 hours in her car trying to get home from work (it normally would take her 45 minutes). Most people want to know what happened when she had to go to the bathroom; my question was why didn’t you avoid the weather altogether and just work from home by having your meetings remotely. (If you’re curious, she said survival instincts kicked in and she didn’t have to go.)

Let’s hope this is the last big storm of the season (I won't be holding my breath). I mostly wish this because I’ve seen people on the news re-using the terms ‘snowmageddon’, ‘snowzilla’, and ‘snowpocalypse’, and I just can’t take hearing them again. I also wish this because I get really annoyed when my meetings are disrupted. I’m sure I’m not the only one, so save yourself some stress and be ready to conference.

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.

You Know Everybody Does It
January 28, 2011 @ 12:51 PM | By Sarah Murphy

No not that! I’m talking about multitasking. We all do it. Why? To get more done in less time. Multitasking seems to creep into many parts of our day, from the extreme case of texting while driving to the less hazardous act of getting hair and nails done at the same time while balancing the checkbook. However, multitasking can be more counterproductive because the brain can only focus on one thing at a time.  

One popular opportunity to multitask is during a web meeting. Why do we think that behind the web conferencing “curtain” we are protected from getting caught multitasking? But yet we do it and at times get caught. How many times have you heard someone say, “Sorry, can you repeat that question?” That’s a sure sign of someone doing more than one thing at a time.

Here are my top tips to help minimize multitasking and maximize effectiveness of your web meetings:

  1. Make sure the right people are attending the meeting.
    Most web conferencing solutions integrate with your Outlook® or Lotus® Notes Calendars. Not only can you send out your connection details using your calendar but also take the time to state the purpose of the meeting, who is key to the progress of the meeting and why. All this is contained in one meeting request which has a better chance of getting read compared to just another email.
  2. Put the agenda up on the screen. 
    Prepare a PowerPoint® slide or application share a document outlining the agenda and goals of the meeting.  This keeps your meeting on track and also alerts your meeting participants to when their key topics will come up for discussion.
  3. Do some online polling or surveys to get immediate feedback from your participants.  Keeping them engaged or better yet “on their toes” to make decisions minimizes the chance for their minds to wander to something else.

Lastly, multitasking is a hard habit to break, so to be on the safe side—record those meetings as a back up. You never know who may need a “review” of the information and a recording saves you the time of repeating yourself.

What other tasks are you doing or know others are doing while attending a web meeting? Have you ever been called out?

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.

InterCall, a “Cloud” Pioneer
January 26, 2011 @ 01:50 PM | By Rodney Horton

The “cloud” is everywhere these days. It’s probably the latest overused term in the world of IT, so please bear with me here while I cover InterCall’s experience in the cloud. This isn’t something new to InterCall; it’s simply customers leveraging our infrastructure and unique offerings to deliver great service to their own clients, partners and colleagues instead of building their own service internally—and it’s available on-demand, regardless of location.

InterCall has been in the cloud for many years, making us somewhat of a pioneer in cloud services.  The cloud may have been known as a service provider, ASP, hoster or a combination of all of them. We’ve moved along the continuum of IT marketing terms as time has passed, but the fact is we’ve been delivering a hosted and managed service to customers since 1991.

2011 will be the biggest year yet for InterCall product development teams, industry partnerships and business investment into the cloud. It has always been at the heart of InterCall’s business model, and I plan to post some upcoming blogs to discuss product timelines, how the cloud can help your business, benefits of the cloud model and other cloud-related topics.

Stay tuned and I’ll see you in the cloud!

Rodney Horton imageRodney Horton is senior director of hosted services for InterCall, the business unit for UCaaS and other hosted UC and collaboration solutions. Rodney spends most of his time providing direction and support to the hosting services area of InterCall by working with internal teams and external customers to develop solutions that will enable companies to save time and money through the adoption of cloud-based UC. When he’s not working with InterCall customers on their UC strategy, Rodney enjoys spending time with his family, traveling and exercising.

Critical Talent Crisis: Assessing New Demands in Healthcare
January 26, 2011 @ 10:40 AM | By Mike Zuccato

The Healthcare Reform Act will potentially see up to 30 million new people enter into the healthcare system which will necessitate dramatic changes in the way resources are allocated and care is delivered.

Join us on Wednesday, January 26, at 2:00 PM EST as our panel of experts addresses this urgent issue.

Our distinguished executive panel will share their perspectives on the demand for talent and their leadership strategies for developing the critical talent necessary for the future.

  • JC Heinen, SVP leadership and talent development global practice at Lee Hecht Harrison
    • Lee Hecht Harrison is the global talent development leader in connecting people to jobs and helping individuals improve performance.
    • JC has applied her 30 years of consulting and coaching expertise towards helping healthcare organizations implement successful talent and leadership development strategies.
  • Michael Rowan, FACHE, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Catholic Health Initiatives
    • CHI is the nation's third-largest Catholic healthcare system with headquarters in Denver. CHI is a faith-based national non-profit health organization system that operates in 19 states and includes 73 hospitals; 40 long-term care, assisted- and residential-living facilities; two community health-services organizations; and home health agencies.
  • Dr. Donna Lynn, president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Colorado Region Kaiser Permanente Colorado
    • Kaiser Permanente Colorado has more than 525,000 members in the six-county Denver area, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
    • Kaiser owns and operates over 20 full-service medical offices and is Colorado’s largest group medical practice organization.
  • Joe Cabral, senior vice president and chief human resources officer, North Shore-LIJ Health System
    • North Shore services seven million people in Long Island, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.
    • North Shore operates the largest “corporate university” in the healthcare industry—the Center for Learning and Innovation.

Interested in attending? Register now for our panel discussion>>

We have many other exciting topics planned for our webinar series this year featuring top subject-matter experts.

Be sure to join us on February 16 at 1:00 PM EST for our next webinar, “Managing People You Rarely See,” featuring Corinne Miller.

Mike Zuccato imageMike Zuccato is the senior Internet marketing manager at InterCall responsible for various online marketing strategy development and ecommerce programs. Mike has over 15 years of online marketing expertise having worked previously in the financial services and media industries. In his free time, he enjoys participating in sports leagues and spending time with his wife and two sons.

Did I Really Just Send That?
January 26, 2011 @ 09:41 AM | By Sara Steele

Last week’s episode of Modern Family  taught us all the harsh lesson of once you click ‘Send’ you can’t take it back. In case you missed it, Gloria and Jay are about to go on vacation, but their plans are interrupted after Gloria accidentally sends an insulting (and very personal) email to Claire. Instead of heading to the airport, they take a detour by the Dunphy’s house to apologize and try to do some damage control.

We’ve all done it at one time or another. You know those times when you type up an email, enter the recipient name in the ‘to’ field and click ‘send’?  After the email has most likely already arrived in the inbox of our recipient, we realize that we shouldn’t have clicked send so soon. It can be an embarrassing and even disastrous mistake. This simple slip-up could cause major turmoil in our personal and professional relationships and maybe even harm our careers.

In a recent US News article, they outlined the 18 work email mistakes most commonly made and some tips to prevent them. Here are my top five email mistakes that I’ll blushingly fess up to.

  1. Composing the note too quickly. Don't be careless—write every email as if it will be read at Saint Peter's Square during the blessing of a new Pope. Be respectful with your words and take pride in every communication.
  2. Forgetting the attachment. If your email includes an attachment, upload the file to the email before composing it. This eliminates the embarrassing mistake of forgetting it before hitting ‘send’ and having to send another email saying you forgot to attach the document.
  3. Hitting "reply all" unintentionally. This is a biggie. And it's not just embarrassing; depending on what you wrote in that email, it can ruin your relationship with a co-worker or even your boss. Take extra care whenever you respond so you don't hit this fatal button.
  4. Emailing when you're angry. Don't do it. Ever. Recall buttons are far from a perfect science and sending a business email tainted by emotion is often a catastrophic mistake. It sounds cliche, but sleep on it. Save the message as a draft and see if you still want to send it the next morning.
  5. Sending to the wrong recipient. This wasn’t on the original list, but I felt like it needed to be included because it’s one of my most infuriating mistakes. Always check and re-check what’s in the ‘to’ line and hopefully we can avoid mistakes such as the one Gloria made.

What are your email horror stories? How do you avoid committing the email mistakes we all fear could be disastrous?

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.

Bluwhath, I Can’t Talk Today – Part 2
January 25, 2011 @ 09:22 AM | By Kate Nelson

In my last blog post, I talked about some techniques to use when you are feeling tongue-tied and just can’t get your mouth moving the way you want it to.

In addition to warming up with tongue twisters, here are two other things you can do to make sure you sound clear and confident in your next meeting.

Proper Breathing Techniques: Breathing from the Diaphragm  (from Susan Berkley)

No matter if you are a public speaker, voice-over artist or anyone who wants to sound their best, proper breathing is key. To help you discover how to breathe for good speaking (and good health), Susan talked with respiratory therapist Peggy Nicholson, a leading expert on proper breathing technique. According to Peggy, to enhance our performance we should breathe deeply from the abdomen or diaphragm, whenever possible. But most people have no idea what this means.

Here's how to find your diaphragm:

  1. Place one hand just above your stomach and the other on your upper chest.
  2. Purse lips slightly as if to whistle.
  3. Exhale slowly through pursed lips while slightly contracting the stomach muscles. It's not necessary to force all the air out.
  4. Inhale slowly through the nose.
  5. Pause slightly to allow for better oxygen exchange in the lungs.
  6. Repeat. Exhalation should be slightly longer than inhalation.

The diaphragm should do at least 80% of the work of breathing. In order for you to get the most out of this muscle, you should practice breathing from the diaphragm several times a day to ensure that you are not breathing superficially from your upper chest.

Complete Word Production Exercises

Improve the clarity of your speech by completing the words below so the final consonant sound really pops at the end.  It might feel like you are exaggerating or speaking artificially at first and that is OK—any change feels odd in the beginning. Practicing a strong final consonant will allow you to use varying degrees of intensity to suit your needs. These exercises are from a wonderful book called The Voice Book by Kate Devore and Starr Cookman. 

stop

bob

ripe

ebb

right

ride

help

tube

keep

stub

concept

load

late

bold

felt

loved

awake

big

Next, practice using the sounds /t, d, l, n/.  When these sounds appear at the beginning of a word, most people form them strongly, so we are going to focus on the middles and ends of words, where people tend to let these sounds slip.

T

beauty

eight

later      

bright

D

meadow

divide

tidy

invaded

N

Phoenix

been

sunny

fireman

L

alligator

wall

biologist

feel

Last, practice the following words with final consonant clusters:

act

under

looked

end

raked

kindly

inject

fender

balked

binding

liked

winding

stopped

build

kept

kneeled

slipped

fooled

Put it all together!  Practice the above pronunciation techniques in the following paragraph:

When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act like a prism and form a rainbow.  The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors.  These take the shape of a long, round arch, with its path high above, and its two ends apparently beyond the horizon.  There is, according to legend, a boiling pot of gold at one end.  People look, but no one ever finds it.  When a man looks for something beyond his reach, his friends say he is looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

Tip! You don’t want to sound like you are over-pronouncing your words when you are speaking naturally but these exercises will bring awareness to complete word production. 

So what do you think? Have you tested these techniques to see if they make a difference for you?  Do you have other suggestions about things you’ve used?

Kate_nelsonKate Nelson is a Speech Analyst and works out of the West Point office and is a member of the WP 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.

Bluwhath, I Can’t Talk Today – Part 1
January 21, 2011 @ 09:51 AM | By Kate Nelson

Do you ever feel tongue-tied, out of breath or sloppy when you speak?

We all have had those moments, and this feeling can occur at the most inconvenient times—an interview, a conference call, a meeting with clients for the first time. Many psychological factors contribute to feeling tongue-tied:  a case of the nerves, inadequate preparation for a conference call or face-to-face meeting, lack of confidence when you are in a public speaking environment and so on.  No matter what you do, speaking is probably a regular part of your job; we use words everyday and it’s frustrating when those words become obstacles that we can’t seem to overcome. Why is it that you can speak eloquently one day and the next you feel as though each statement takes extra effort? 

Susan Berkley, a well known voice over artist and CEO of The Great Voice Company, is a big believer in the connection between psychology and voice. The two are more intertwined than we realize. We sound the way we feel; something in our voice may give away our emotions or we may stumble, become tongue-tied or draw a blank when a word is on the tip of our tongue.  Luckily, these issues do not affect us every day, but when they do, it’s embarrassing and we hope our audience does not walk away with a bad impression of our speaking abilities. 

Below are some tips on how to avoid becoming tongue-tied:

  • Tongue twisters are a GREAT way to warm up the voice and all the muscles you use for speaking (there about 72 of them).  Warming up these muscles, along with practicing clear pronunciation and proper breathing, will help you sound articulate and polished.  
  • Proper breathing techniques – these help us relax and are good to practice before that big presentation!  Once you learn how to breathe properly while you’re speaking, you’ll feel more comfortable in your speaking role and your confidence will increase.
  • Complete word production (CWP) exercises – these help us articulate each word clearly without over-pronouncing the final sound.  Speech clarity improves greatly when we consistently pronounce final consonants.  Final consonant deletion (FCD) is a quality killer but is an easy mistake to correct. 

Tongue Twisters! 

Let’s start with some tongue twisters.

How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?
The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.
Can you can a can as a canner can can a can?

Read these for accuracy, not speed.  If you can read them accurately with a fast speech rate then more power to you!  Here’s a link to find more to practice (you can even read them in your native language if it isn’t English): http://www.uebersetzung.at/twister/. Bookmark the site and use it before your next big presentation or if you are feeling a little nervous.  Have fun!

Kate_nelsonKate Nelson is a Speech Analyst and works out of the West Point office and is a member of the WP 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.

Look Who’s Talking
January 18, 2011 @ 09:40 AM | By Sarah Murphy

As the winter storms crisscross the Midwest and East Coast they have brought travel to a standstill and have many of us working from home. Just the other day I was on an audio conference call and the leader’s cat was meowing in the background. As an animal lover, it made me smile; however, not all interruptions are like a meow—some are more of a roar.

We’ve all experienced “those” interruptions. You know what I’m talking about, things like:

  • Interference from the participant using a cell phone in a wind tunnel.
  • Unexpected broadcast of hold music from the participant who pressed hold instead of mute.
  • Stopping every couple of seconds to ask “Who just joined?” after the “beep beep”.
  • Calling out for input from a specific participant only to learn they left the call early.

The list goes on and on. So what can you do as a meeting leader to minimize, or dare I say prevent, these common interruptions? Use a web conferencing solution that has integrated online audio controls.

I know, when you hear the term “web conferencing” you automatically think of having to show or share something online for your audience to look at. These days, though, the web part of conferencing means so much more. It allows you to SEE your audio conference. See who’s talking. See who’s just joined. See whose line the background noise is coming from. See who’s on the call in real time.

What’s more, not only can you see your audio conference, you can also control it with a click of your mouse! Mute those lines making noise, lock the meeting for extra security, easily identify who is speaking, know who you can call upon for questions and even turn off those “beeps”!

So why not take the next step and use the web to manage a better audio meeting? Any experiences you want to share about how having this functionality would have made your meetings more productive?

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.

Be Considerate of Your Fellow Conferencers
January 14, 2011 @ 02:00 PM | By Jill Huselton

We get questions all the time from customers wanting to know etiquette and best practices for audio conference calls, web conferences and video conferences. This week, Twitter was a flurry of tweets from people talking about a recent article from Inc. Magazine, 11 Do's & Don'ts of Video Conferencing Etiquette. I thought they were right on and wanted to share them.

While these tips specifically address video conferencing, may apply to audio conference calls or online meetings using web cams. I’ve listed them below, but you might want to also check out the pictures that go along with each point—they give you a little context and a chuckle (my favorite is the picture that goes with tip #5 that shows people making shadow puppets from the projector light).

Do be courteous to other participants
Be punctual and introduce yourself before speaking so that everyone knows who’s talking and can address you by name. Take note of the other speakers so that you can also address them by name. Lastly, turn off the sounds on your smart phone and absolutely no texting.

Don't make distracting sounds
Your focus should always be on the person or people at the other end of your video conference. Avoid typing on your keyboard, turn off all sounds on your phone, and close yourself into a room with no or minimal background noise.

Do speak clearly
An audio check should be done before the virtual meeting begins to ensure that everyone can hear you. Know your material – uncertainty will cause you to mumble. Speak naturally but slowly and annunciate each word.

Don't shout
Avoid screaming. If someone can’t hear you, then adjust the level on the microphone and make sure it’s not covered by your clothing or something else. Yelling will cause viewers to turn down their volume and potentially miss what you have to say.

Do keep body movements minimal
If you’re someone that talks with your hands, practice keeping them put. Hand movements can distract your audience. Also, keep head movements to a minimum as well as jerky movements forward or back.

Don't interrupt other speakers
Wait for an opening in the conversation before putting in your two cents. Cutting other speakers off is rude. Another option is posting pending questions by instant message so that every comment is addressed.

Do maintain eye contact by looking into the camera
Keep your focus on the camera. The worst thing is having your audience look at the top of your head because you’re typing or looking down at notes – or worse – at your Blackberry.

Don't carry on side conversations
Chances are if you wouldn’t do it in a face-to-face meeting, then you shouldn’t do it in a virtual one. That includes tuning out of the present conversation to talk to someone else sitting next to you, on the phone, in an IM chat, anywhere and anybody not in the current meeting.

Do dress appropriately
Striped shirts or shirts with intricate patterns do not transmit well on camera, because they are visually distracting. Red, white and black are also poor choices. Go for a pastel or other light colored shirt.

Don't wear noisy jewelry
Jewelry should be small and simple. Big jewelry can be distracting to those tuning-in and it can also bump against your microphone. Also, stay away from dangling ear rings and shiny eyeglass frames.

Do be yourself and have fun!
Relax and have a good time. Be lively, break the ice with a joke, and make viewers laugh. It’s uber easy to tune out in a face-to-face meeting, so imagine how easy it is in a virtual one. The more fun you interject, the more people will stay focused and interested in what you have to say.

Think this covers it? What else would you add to the list?

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.

It’s about the People, not the Place
January 11, 2011 @ 10:31 AM | By Sara Steele

According to an article on NewObserver.Com, about 2.5 million people, excluding the self-employed, work from home. And some studies estimate that up to 50 million American workers could easily telecommute to work.  It is expected that twice as many public sector employees as private sector workers will telecommute during the next several years.

There’s no doubt that companies of all sizes are increasingly beginning to understand the business value that comes along with remote working environments. New Media Campaigns, a Carrboro-based web development company experienced this first-hand. When confronted with the possibility of losing one of their top website developers, they had two options: 1.) let him go and spend time and money on replacing him or 2.) allow him to telecommute from his out-of-state home. Ultimately, the company chose the latter in order to keep their talented employee. Since this time, they have opened the door for other employees to telecommute and even view the virtual office as the ‘cornerstone of the company’s long-term success.’

Unlike New Media Campaigns, many companies are still skeptical of telecommuting, believing that it will impair the productivity, company culture and work environment. However, if telecommunication is done right, then employees can actually achieve better work performance and quality of life and save the company money. Here are some interesting findings from a recent Cisco survey about their employees:

  • Employees spend about 63 percent of their time communicating.
  • About 40 percent of its employees are not located in the same city as their manager.
  • The average employee telecommutes two days a week.
  • About 60 percent of the time saved by telecommuting is spent working, with the balance on personal time.
  • Two-thirds of those surveyed said that their work improved.
  • Four out of five respondents reported an improved quality of life as a result of telecommuting.

So, what is the key to success? First of all, hiring disciplined and self-sufficient employees is a must so you know they can be trusted to work on their own. Secondly, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with the right remote meeting technology. InterCall's audio, web and video conferencing solutions  make it easy to do just that by providing you with simple and cost-effective solutions to connect with anyone in the world.

How about your company? Do you have success or horror stories about telecommuting to share?

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.

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