Pull Your Chairs (or Phone Lines) Together
November 29, 2011 @ 10:01 AM | By Christina Todisco

Last month I wrote about one of the great features of our reservationless conferencing service, Record & Playback. Another handy feature is Sub-conference. Have you ever tried it or been on a conference where the leader used it? If you are simulating small-group collaboration remotely, this is a feature you definitely need take advantage of. It’s ideal for breakout sessions, small group work, sidebar discussions and training seminars.

I’ve participated in several internal training sessions where this feature has been used, and it really is just like being in a classroom and pulling your chairs together with a few other people to work on a project. All the trainer had to do was tell us what our sub-conference numbers were and the phone commands to move our lines into the sub-conference. Within a few seconds, I was in a separate ‘room’ with my co-workers and we were able to complete our project. Our trainers were using a web conference, so when it was time for us to go back to the main conference, they just chatted a message to all the participants. Again, within a few seconds, we were all back together in the main ‘room’.

Think you might use this feature to make your conference calls more productive? Here are the instructions so you can give it a try.

Starting a sub-conference:

  1. Assign your participants to a sub-conference number between 1 and 15 (your conference call can be broken out into as many as 15 sub-conferences).
  2. Press *9 to be removed from the main conference.
  3. Press 1 to start a sub-conference.

Joining a sub-conference:

  1. Press *9 to be removed from the main conference.
  2. When prompted, enter the sub-conference number that was assigned to you.
  3. Press # to join your sub-conference.

Rejoining the main conference:
Press *9 to be placed back into the main conference.

Switching to a difference sub-conference:

  1. Press *9 to be placed back into the main conference.
  2. Press *9 again to be removed from the main conference.
  3. When prompted, enter the sub-conference number.
  4. Press # to join your sub-conference.

Returning a specific sub-conference group to the main conference:

  1. Press *9 to be placed back into the main conference.
  2. Press *9 again.
  3. Press 3 to request a specific sub-conference group to return to the main conference.

Returning everyone to the main conference:

  1. Press *9 to be placed back into the main conference.
  2. Press *9 again.
  3. Press 2 to return all participants to the main conference.

See how this works in your next team meeting or training sessions. It’s a good way to make your remote meetings more interactive and engaging so your participants will get more out of it. After you've used it, come back and let me know what you think!

Christina TodiscoChristina Todisco is a marketing manager at InterCall and has been in the conferencing industry since 2002. Christina currently provides product marketing support for InterCall’s audio services, reporting and invoice solutions and InterCall Online. When not working, Christina enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, family and friends.

What are you thankful for?
November 22, 2011 @ 11:25 AM | By Sara Steele

Thanksgiving has almost arrived and just in time! While sitting down to write this blog post, I can’t seem to stop my mind from wandering towards the long weekend I have ahead of me. I am really looking forward to spending time with family, chowing down on turkey and mashed potatoes and just taking some time to relax. This holiday, I have so many things in my life to be thankful for—my family, my friends, my job and my health. But, I admit it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget to be thankful for those small things in life, such as conferencing.

Some people may cringe at the idea of a conference call, but to me it represents flexibility in the workplace and for that I am thankful. By meeting virtually, you can spend more time with your family over Thanksgiving, avoid slow-moving traffic on a snowy morning or connect with your global counterparts in a moment’s notice. Conference calls are no longer what you may think of as being tiresome phone conversations. By incorporating the web into all your audio conferencing calls, you get more interaction with your audience through better audio controls, presentation sharing and video.

In honor of the Thanksgiving spirit, I’ve counted down the top five web conferencing features I’m most thankful for.

#5 – Mute participants – Ever been on a call and been distracted by the obnoxious noises of a child screaming, keyboard typing or phone ringing? The active speaker icon within the web interface identifies where the sound is coming from and with a simple right-click you can mute the guilty participant’s line.

#4 – See who’s joined your call – I recently experienced the value of this feature first-hand when an unknown participant joined my internal conference call. Because InterCall’s audio conferencing is integrated with all of our web conferencing platforms, you can easily identify who’s on your call and disconnect a line, if needed.

#3 – Application sharing – Whether you’re collaborating on a document, sharing a PowerPoint® presentation or taking notes, providing a visual helps keep your audience engaged. You can even grant control to authorized participants to edit your shared documents while in the meeting.

#2 – Dial-out –By hosting and joining calls with InterCall’s integrated web conferencing, you never have to dial an 800 number again! After you click the URL to join, you’ll be prompted for your telephone number and the audio bridge will immediately dial out to you.

#1 – One-click scheduling –You can make scheduling easier by sending participants an invitation from your Microsoft® Outlook® or Lotus Notes® Calendar. All your account information is populated into the invite, providing one-click access to start or join your meeting.

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.

Global Warming in the Office
November 18, 2011 @ 02:46 PM | By Anusha Karnad

What is global warming? It is often debated, but lately even scientists who said it wasn’t real are changing their views. Global warming is when the earth heats up (the temperature rises). It happens when greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, water vapour, nitrous oxide and methane) trap heat and light from the sun in the earth’s atmosphere, which increases the temperature. This affects people, animals and plants. Those that cannot take the change evolve or become extinct. There are lot of contributors to global warming, and it is increasing day after day.

It is November here in India. Winter arrives every year with chilling waves of cold air and sprinkles of water from the sky most days. For the past two to three years, we’ve seen warmer days, even in winter, which is alarming to many of us and indicates that the earth heating up.

Can we avoid this? Maybe not, but we can surely try to make a difference.

Regardless of your opinions on global warming, there’s no denying that we can all do things to at least save our resources, starting in the office where we spend most of our days.

Earth-Recycle-Web

Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Educate yourself and others about global warming.The more facts that you have, the more you can persuade others to make simple yet effective changes in daily behaviour.
  2. Influence your colleagues and management to replace old phones and email instead of printing documents.
  3. Encourage your company’s facility team to provide recycling bins, composting, etc.(15-25% of people do not recycle).
  4. Use compact fluorescent bulbs, are better for the environment. And, when a room is empty, remember to turn off the lights.
  5. Before you print, decide if it is really worth printing or maybe you can save an electronic version to your desktop. If you do have to use paper, go with those generated from recycled paper, then recycle it when you’re done.
  6. Switch off ovens, microwaves or coffee pots when you’re done and unplug them when not in use.
  7. Speaking of unplugging devices when not in use, that goes for electronics. Even when they are turned off, they use energy. So make sure to unplug chargers, laptops or speakers when you aren’t using them.
  8. Place a few indoor plants in your cubicle, entrances or pantry areas to get some extra oxygen flowing, not to mention adding a decorative touch.
  9. Cut back on plastic by bringing your lunch in a paper bag (instead of plastic) and get a refillable water bottle. In my office, our HR team has given out metal water bottles so we can reduce our use of plastic ones.
  10. And last but not least, cut your carbon emissions by working from home a few days a week or replace a trip with audio conference calls or online meetings.

Have you ever experienced the calmness, the coolness and the serenity of nature? Do you take a week off to relax in the lush green nature? Help preserve that by implementing even just a few of the tips listed above.

How does your office treat the environment? Do you have recycling policies in place? How about travel guidelines that ask you to consider conferencing instead of travel?

Anasha KarnadAnusha Karnad is a post call services lead at InterCall in Bangalore. She’s been with InterCall since 2009, working in customer service, training for new hires and account management where she helped customers with billing and service related questions. Anasha's background is in training voice, accent and soft skills for customer service agents.

10 Tips for More Effective Meetings
November 16, 2011 @ 11:16 AM | By Jill Huselton

As Anusha mentioned in one of her previous blog posts, we’re fortunate at InterCall to have an excellent training department that offers courses on a variety of topics—from managing your inbox to becoming a better manager.

Since I work from home and InterCall’s employees are located all over the world, meetings are held online instead of in a conference room. While online meetings are the next best thing to being face-to-face, talking to your computer screen creates a different meeting dynamic than when you are staring at someone from across the table. So, I figured I could probably learn a few things if I attend the Facilitating Effective Team Meetings class.

According to a recent Microsoft survey of 38,000 workers in 200 countries, 5.6 hours each week are spent in meetings and 69% feel meetings aren't productive. I’m sure you’ve been to a meeting that you felt was a total waste of time because the host wasn’t prepared, there was no clear agenda or no one could stop talking about the topic that was supposed to be ‘taken offline’.

Agenda-603334

Here are some helpful tips I learned that you can use to make your meetings more productive.

  1. Know why you’re having the meeting and your expected outcomes – Don’t have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. Have a purpose and know what you want to accomplish.
  2. Build an agenda with time allocations – Identify the areas you want to focus on and how much time you’ll spend on each topic. Send this out prior to the meeting to all the participants so your meeting stays on track.
  3. Establish ground rules – Let people know what you expect from them (stick to the time allocations, full participation, etc.) and review the agenda.
  4. Designate a note taker and timekeeper – Stay focused on leading the meeting and appoint others to take notes and watch the time. It’s too challenging to try to do it all yourself and your participants will appreciate having your complete attention on the agenda. If you’re using a conference call service, record your meeting so you can go back to it if there are questions.
  5. Lead the meeting – Take charge and keep everyone focused. That means shutting down sidebar conversations and asking people to give their opinions.
  6. Encourage full participation – Do this by asking directly for feedback, create break-out groups or sub-conferences if you’re all on the phone. If you have on-site and remote participants, make sure to include the remote participants in the discussion.
  7. Stay focused – Don’t be afraid to ask people who go off on tangents to save it for another meeting. Your participants will be happy that you’re keeping everyone on task.
  8. Summarize to verify agreements and action items – Recap the meeting to make sure everyone knows what was agreed to and who’s responsible for what.
  9. Follow-up on assignments and agreements – Send notes so people are reminded of who needs to do what, by when and don’t forget those who missed the meeting. If you recorded the conference, include the playback link for reference.
  10. Evaluate your meetings – Ask for feedback from participants and see what you can do differently next time.

I will admit that I haven’t put all of these into practice, but I have started emailing an agenda prior to the meeting and screen sharing it during my web conference. It has actually made a big difference and made my meetings more productive. I’ve also stated sending out notes after the meeting, which really helps keep me organized.

How about you? Do you use any of these suggestions in your meetings? Any other tips you would share?

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.

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Top Ten Reasons Reservationless-Plus Stands Out From the Crowd
November 4, 2011 @ 10:30 AM | By Christina Todisco

Often people ask me to distinguish what makes InterCall great compared to the abundance of other audio conferencing providers in the industry. Why should companies choose to use InterCall when they have a wealth of other options that will connect them at a potentially lower rate? Can something as simple as audio conferencing really vary that much between providers?

The answer to that question is an overwhelming YES! And to prove it, I’ve counted down the top ten reasons why InterCall’s award-winning Reservationless-Plus®  audio conferencing stands out from the crowd. 

#10 – InterCall Lounge – No one likes having to wait on hold for a conference call to begin. To help ease this frustration, InterCall features on-hold music from new, up-and-coming artists.  Discover new songs and download music while you wait at www.intercalllounge.com.

#9 – Diverse pricing plans – InterCall offers flexible and diverse pricing plans, so you can easily find a solution that works with your usage and budget. Per minute, named user, multi-media, committed minutes and bundles are a few great options to choose from.

#8 – Flexible Call Flow – Our extensive feature set  makes starting and hosting a Reservationless-Plus call a cinch. As a participant, you can start the conference as the leader when your host is running late by using third-party conference start. Or add customization to the call by recording a personal message for your participants to hear when joining your conference.

#7 – Industry Expert –With a strong customer base, including 86% of Fortune 100 and over 20 billion minutes executed in 2010, InterCall is the world’s largest conferencing service provider. As the market leader, we have the technology and experience to keep you connected globally.

#6 – Integrated Productivity Tools –Save time and boost productivity by downloading InterCall’s FREE Mobile Assistant and Outlook Plug-In . These tools allow easy access into your meetings with a single click of a mouse or tap of the screen.  Or, you can take your meetings to the next level by using one of InterCall’s five web conferencing  solutions— all fully integrated with Reservationless-Plus.

#5 – Global Network Access – Simplify your global connections with a single international toll-free number set for all your offices located around the globe. InterCall’s Reservationless-Plus with Global Network Access provides advanced audio quality with 24/7 global support.

#4 – Local Language Support - InterCall speaks your language whether it be French, Italian, Japanese or Mandarin. With sales and operations centers in 83 countries, multi-lingual operators in 19 different languages and invoicing options in 26 currencies, InterCall is the #1 conferencing provider in all regions across the globe.  

#3 – Voice Over IP (VoIP) – In the game since 2003, InterCall is the pioneer of IP trunking solutions. Compared to our competitors, we offer the best VoIP solutions  across the board with complete transparency to the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

#2 – Audio Quality – Through our strategic partnership with Ditech Networks , InterCall brings our customers the Voice Quality Assurance enhancement. This technology ensures sounds are crisp and clean through voice quality monitoring, echo control, noise cancellation and others.

#1 – InterCall IP Conferencing Platform (IICP) –A single platform vertically integrated with multiple technologies allows us to maintain millions of conferencing participants with the best quality

I hope you will weigh your options and take these items into consideration when selecting a conferencing provider. What other features do you see as being ‘must haves’ from your conferencing service? 

Christina TodiscoChristina Todisco is a marketing manager at InterCall and has been in the conferencing industry since 2002. Christina currently provides product marketing support for InterCall’s audio services, reporting and invoice solutions and InterCall Online. When not working, Christina enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, family and friends.

What’s a Traffic Jam Worth?
November 3, 2011 @ 11:15 AM | By Jill Huselton

According to a recent study, the answer to this question is $100 billion. Yep, billion with a ‘b’. Crazy, right?

I’m sure we can all recall a time when we were stuck in a long line of traffic, due to weather, overturned semis or trains crossing a track, and thinking about all the other things we could be doing. (Actually, not to rub it in, but I have to think really hard since I’ve worked from home for the last three years. I know there were plenty of times in the past when I wanted to pull my hair out because no one was moving, but I think I've buried them.)

Traffic

Based on a study of traffic and congestion, the time we spend waiting in traffic is getting worse and there’s no sign of improvement. By 2020, we’ll waste a whole work week trying to make sense of the vanity plate in front of us or wishing we had more coffee as we watch the cars go nowhere fast.

  • 1982: 14 hours/year/person
  • 1992: 28 hours/year/person
  • Today: 34 hours/year/person
  • 2015: predicted to be 37 hours/year/person
  • 2020: predicted to be 41 hours/year/person

Anyone trying to go anywhere in the most congested cities listed below can already tell you what it’s like to lose that work week to traffic. The study rated the cities around the U.S with the worst traffic and it isn’t pretty.

Most congested cities:

  • Metro DC: 74 hours/year/person
  • Chicago: 71 hours/year/person
  • LA: 64 hours/year/person
  • Houston: 57 hours/year/person
  • NY/NJ/CT: 54 hours/year/person
  • Baltimore: 52 hours/year/person
  • San Francisco: 50 hours/year/person
  • Denver: 49 hours/year/person
  • Boston: 47 hours/year/person
  • Dallas/Minneapolis: 45 hours/year/person

The old theory was to avoid rush hour and drive later in the day or at night. It seems that a lot of people have caught on because it is estimated that 40% of delays occur in mid-day and over night. There goes that idea.

So what can you do? It may not be feasible for you to work full-time from home, but how about a couple of days a week. That would cut your wasted time each year in half. Or, if you have to endure the sea of brake lights, make the most of it and plan your meetings during your travel time. It’s easy to join an audio conference call on the road with your mobile phone (hands free, of course). You can even join online meetings with apps for your phone or tablet.

What’s your strategy? If moving to South Dakota isn't an option, have you tried staying home or rearranging your schedule to take meetings on the road?

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.

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