Why October 24 Should be National Conference Appreciation Day
October 31, 2013 @ 01:03 PM | By Jill Huselton

WorkingWeek

How often in the last month have you asked yourself where the time is going? I think I say it at least once a week, usually when I look at my to-do list and see that only half of my tasks have been checked off. I realized I must not be alone in thinking that there is not enough time in the day when I found out two special observances that take place on October 24: “40-Hour Work Week Day” and “National Take Back Your Time Day.”

Between work and Halloween preparations, the significance of October 24 can easily be lost. And given that I’m a week late in talking it about only reinforces how important it is that we all take time out to mark these occasions—next year. In the meantime, here are some ideas about how conference calls can help you properly celebrate these occasions not just on the 24th, but every day:

40-Hour Work Week Day

In 1937, the 40-hour work week was enacted under FDR’s New Deal. This law established a maximum standard work week of 40 hours in the United States. While it’s great getting out of work at a reasonable hour, there is usually quite a bit of work that needs to get done after hours—and conference calls are a great way of speeding up the process. Teams can gather over great distances using conference calls so that everyone can be on the same page. This increases communication and saves time in the process since it helps prevent problems before they arise.

For those who do not like to adhere to a 40-hour work week, conference calls are also the perfect way to bring the office home. Using conference calls, teams can have instant meetings when important information needs to be shared, so that issues do not have to wait until the next day to be resolved.

Take Back Your Time Day

Conference calls also play a huge role when it comes to leaving work at the office and having time to rest during days off. By using this technology, team members are able to host and be a part of meetings across the country without having to spend time and energy traveling, thus having more time to spend taking care of daily responsibilities.

With conference calls, making the most of time in the office and at home can be an easy goal to achieve. We want to know, how do conference calls make your life easier?

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.

What Monsters Are Lurking on Your Conference Call?
October 31, 2013 @ 11:01 AM | By Dennis Collins

Halloween

This year, Halloween falls on Thursday. That means workers throughout the country will pick up their phones to engage in conference calls and online meetings on one of the most festive days of the year. Unfortunately, many people don’t even have to dress up for Halloween because their conference call behavior is a monstrosity in and of itself.

So, open up a bottle of wolfsbane and wrap some garlic around your neck. We’re going to take a look at some common monsters you might find lurking on conference calls throughout the world this year:

Dracula

As a creature of the night, Dracula likes having conference calls well after dark. Keep in mind that your clients or team members might be working in different time zones and could be sensitive to late calls. Likewise, Dracula isn’t a fan of the early morning when the sun comes up. Pay attention to what time it is where you are calling from, as well as the time zone you are calling into.

The Headless Horseman

Aside from being completely terrifying, the Headless Horseman is also one of the most confusing people to engage in a conversation with. This is because during online meetings, the Headless Horseman doesn’t take the time to include a picture with his profile. By forgetting to use a picture, callers have absolutely no idea with whom they are speaking. It is a common, yet unprofessional mistake that can be easily fixed by putting a head—or a pumpkin—in the allotted space.

The Ghost

Ghosts are really good at disappearing. They are also really good at telling you they will be on a conference call, only to leave you hanging. Therefore, the Ghost creates mistrust amongst their co-workers and is directly responsible for wasting time. While the ghost might follow up with an apologetic email, their behavior is hardly excusable. Yet all it takes is a quick email or SMS to let participants know that they will not be able to join. Taking five seconds to do so could save a whole business relationship.

In the spirit of the day, we want to know, what type of monsters have you encountered over conference calls?

Dennis CollinsDennis Collins is the director of marketing for Conferencing and Collaboration at InterCall. In this role, he directs a team that provides strategic marketing support for product launches, external communications, competitive positioning and channel/sales communications. His career spans a wide range of communications, marketing and operations experiences including being a digital video pioneer as well as spending 13 years with technology PR firm as partner and COO. Entrepreneur does not escape the list; Dennis also started his own ad agency and founded an award-winning gourmet dessert café.

Traffic Delays an Even Bigger Problem Today
October 30, 2013 @ 10:31 AM | By Dennis Collins

Intercall_v9-largeIn 2011, we published a blog post entitled, What’s a Traffic Jam Worth?” about how much time Americans spend each year in traffic, the impact on productivity, budgets and the environment.  The study rated the most congested cities in the US and showed that in 2011, commuters spent up to 34 hours in traffic each week with escalating travel time and costs associated with daily commuting continuing to rise each year, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2012 Annual Urban Mobility Report.

By 2020, it is estimated that the average American will spend 41 hours in traffic each week—the equivalent of an entire work week!

As the cost of living goes up each year, families face growing pressure to meet the demands of a busy work schedule.  Many families now have second and third vehicles.  Gas prices and larger automobiles are common, taxing not only our pay checks, but the environment as well.   For a 20-minute trip, Americans plan to spend 1 hour in traffic. 

Any efforts to reduce travel time by adjusting the time of day for travel haven’t worked.  40% percent of traffic jams occur mid-day and overnight.  While commuting costs, travel time and the size of the traffic delays will only continue to get worse, it’s not all bad news.  Many Americans have discovered ways to proactively use this time in their vehicles to get more done.

Further ways of eliminating traffic need to be considered such as work from home policies and family friendly working hours, conferencing calling and online meetings. 

Below you’ll see the data from the 2011 and 2012 mobility reports, which demonstrate how much time from cost consuming traffic jams are really worth, along with ideas to maintain productivity throughout this growing trend. 

Share this Image On Your Site

Dennis CollinsDennis Collins is the director of marketing for Conferencing and Collaboration at InterCall. In this role, he directs a team that provides strategic marketing support for product launches, external communications, competitive positioning and channel/sales communications. His career spans a wide range of communications, marketing and operations experiences including being a digital video pioneer as well as spending 13 years with technology PR firm as partner and COO. Entrepreneur does not escape the list; Dennis also started his own ad agency and founded an award-winning gourmet dessert café.

Use Real-Time Collaboration to Resolve Unexpected Emergencies
October 29, 2013 @ 07:20 PM | By Sarah Murphy

Imagine you are a head caterer out taking care of business around town when you receive a message on your cell phone that something has gone wrong. A very important tray of sandwiches that was supposed to go to a business downtown was delivered uptown by mistake. As a result, a lot of very hungry people are now waiting for sandwiches, and a lot of very full people who want cookies just got more lunch. What are you to do in this situation?

Instead of panicking, here is the solution. You pull up your list of contacts on your mobile device and get everyone on your team on the line with a conference call. Since you can see exactly who is in the meeting, it is possible to determine who is free to help in this situation. You can call out team members by name and instruct them what to do in order to get the job done.

Whether you are a caterer, police chief or school administrator, if you are in charge of managing a team of employees who are scattered across different locations, conference calls are essential for bringing groups together and strategizing in real time. Today’s conference calls even come with the ability to engage in smaller breakout sessions for the purpose of organizing and strategizing privately. This way, individual departments can discuss logistical issues and report back to the larger group when they reach a course of action.

Emergencies will happen from time to time. This is unavoidable. It’s how you deal with it that counts, though. When your team has the ability to gather as a whole unit no matter where they are, solutions can be generated and tough jobs can be accomplished.

Have you ever engaged in a last minute conference call in order to get a job done? Tell us in the comments section below!

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.

Conference Heroes: The Mighty Moderator
October 25, 2013 @ 03:10 PM | By Dennis Collins

When you think of great leaders throughout the modern era, names like Winston Churchill, FDR and Margaret Thatcher all come to mind. These people are celebrated not only for their achievements, but for their amazing speaking abilities. They led through the power of their words, and as a result, people didn’t just listen when they spoke—they took action.

When a group of people gather for a conference call, the conversation has the ability to go in many different directions. Due to the propensity of people to spiral off onto tangents, a conference can easily become a tremendous waste of time. Yet when a powerful moderator is involved, a conference can be one of the most efficient ways of conducting business. When this type of moderator speaks, people get excited and listen.

Even with today’s advanced conference capabilities, such as the ability to see exactly who is present and speaking, a call still needs to be led in the proper direction. This becomes especially true when callers branch out into separate groups, only to come back together at the end and make a collaborative decision. Therefore, it is vital that someone takes charge and follows an agenda and sees to it that all points are covered.

If you are supposed to assume a moderator role in the coming weeks but are unsure of your oratory capabilities, rest assured that today’s conference services can teach you considerably as they allow you to record your conversation and play it back to study after the call. It is a great way to identify skill sets to improve upon in a zero-pressure environment so that the next time you engage in a conference, you can sound just like Winston Churchill—and not like the Bashful Buzzard.

Do you have any strategies for leading an effective conference call? Please feel free to share your techniques in the comments section

Dennis CollinsDennis Collins is the director of marketing for Conferencing and Collaboration at InterCall. In this role, he directs a team that provides strategic marketing support for product launches, external communications, competitive positioning and channel/sales communications. His career spans a wide range of communications, marketing and operations experiences including being a digital video pioneer as well as spending 13 years with technology PR firm as partner and COO. Entrepreneur does not escape the list; Dennis also started his own ad agency and founded an award-winning gourmet dessert café.

Six Ways to Prepare Your CEO for Video
October 24, 2013 @ 12:46 PM | By Eric Vidal

At the enterprise level, online video is quickly becoming one of the most widely used marketing strategies. Therefore, CEOs are more excited than ever to get in front of the camera, share information and demonstrate their thought leadership.

The video, however, will only be as effective as the amount of preparation that is taken beforehand. While most CEOs are industry experts possessing a wealth of knowledge, many are not schooled to present effectively and engagingly online, including staying on message. Since you want your leader to appear in the best possible light, here are some tips to keep in mind before the camera starts rolling for your next online event.

1. Make sure your CEO knows his or her role in the video

Even a well prepared CEO still needs to pay attention to the basic script. Especially when other parties are involved, make sure he or she knows when to begin, when to stop speaking and how to appropriately respond to others who are also part of the event. It’s important to create a script that is true to your CEO. Employees and other stakeholders have come to expect a certain communication style from your leading executive. Make sure your script reflects your CEO’s personality.

2. Remember that appearances matter

Your CEO should put some thought ahead of time into what he or she will wear on camera. Just as his or her appearance dictates the tone of an office, your chief executive’s attire on camera will set the tone for the event. Oftentimes, viewers will associate as much with a leaders’ appearance as with what they say. For example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is known for wearing a hooded sweatshirt and maintaining a casual approach during presentations. Apple founder Steve Jobs will forever be associated with a long sleeve black shirt and jeans.

3. Make sure the setting helps, not hurts, your video

Remember that people will tune in to listen to your CEO’s message. Keep the background simple, so that it does not distract the viewers or cause any undue interference. If the setting is an interview, choose a library or a stage. Do not go overboard trying to impress your audience with the scenery. The focus should remain on your leading executive.

4. Plan for the shoot

Once you have a setting figured out, spend some time thinking about cinematic aspects such as lighting. While you do not have to bring in a master cinematographer to enhance your set, basic lighting can really make or break a production. Stay away from fluorescent and natural lighting, if possible. Be mindful of shadows and how light will play off of the CEO to make him or her look as good as possible.

Another aspect you will want to account for when it comes to your online events is acoustics. Make sure that you do not film in an area where the CEO’s voice will be lost due to high ceilings or echoes. You should also make sure to pick a place in which background noise can be minimized. The sound of a microwave and laughter from the kitchen can ruin the mood of a presentation.

5. Prepare ahead of time

Have your CEO review the script beforehand to make sure he or she is comfortable with the language. Make sure it flows properly, and there aren’t any words they’ll stumble over. The cleaner the script, the fewer takes will be required on set. This will save money and time, and will ensure a smooth production.

6. Involve the audience

If your CEO is addressing a live audience, regardless of whether it’s in-person, online or both, he or she should takes questions. When there’s an online audience, they should be encouraged to ask questions, and a “virtual concierge” should be assigned to relay their questions to the speaker. The CEO can acknowledge the person who submitted the question and direct the answer to in-person attendees and to the camera.

Tell us, how do you get your CEO prepared to go on camera?

Eric Vidal Eric Vidal is a Director of Product Marketing at InterCall and is considered a leading voice and expert in virtual business, which expands from marketing to collaboration to learning. He has more than 15 years experience in developing, implementing and optimizing strategies in these areas for numerous organizations and Global 2000 companies. As the director of product marketing for InterCall’s event services, Eric manages the strategy and initiatives for the virtual technologies that include virtual environments, streaming, event management services and operator assisted services. Previously from WebEx, Eric managed the virtual classroom product, as well as brand advertising and new media. Over the last several years, Eric has held management positions at Cisco, WebEx, IBM, BBDO Worldwide and Macromedia.

Who is Contacting Your Contact Center?
October 22, 2013 @ 12:24 PM | By Marcus Schmidt

When most people think of contact centers, they think of consumers calling into sales or customer service agents. Those same consumers might be chatting with agents on-line, or communicating through any number of different channels. These are all business-to-consumer (B2C) scenarios, and while they are spot on, many people might miss whole other audiences that can benefit from contact center solutions.

As I talk to our customers, I find many of them using contact center solutions – like our ControlMaxx product – as solutions for servicing internal customers. Teams like IT helpdesks, HR benefits teams, or even procurement teams are supporting their organizations and need ways to provide service. I’ve also discovered customers using contact centers handling requests from business partners like franchisees and vendors.

Here are three things to look for to help you locate internal contact center opportunities:

  • Teams that have many inbound requests coming to a few people
  • Need to route requests to people with special skills (e.g. healthcare benefits vs. retirement benefits)
  • Use of special applications that would benefit from a caller ID driven “screen pop” to retrieve information and display it on the agent’s screen

Building more business-to-employee (B2E) or business-to-business (B2B) contact centers shouldn’t be overlooked as ways to impact your business with better communications solutions.

Marcus SchmidtMarcus Schmidt is the director of product management at West IP Communications. In this role, he’s part of a team that charts the future direction of West IP Communications products as well as guides the go-to-market activities around our current offerings. Prior to joining West Corporation, Marcus held several roles in product management and marketing including over 12 years of experience at Microsoft Corporation. He has a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering and a M.S. degree in Industrial Management from South Dakota State University. When he’s not thinking about the future of unified communications, he’s probably tuned into a sporting event, reading a new novel, researching a vacation destination, or playing with some new technology gadget.

If you think your elderly clients are the only ones who might have difficulty hearing you over a conference call, think again. The truth of the matter is that hearing loss regularly affects people of all ages. Unfortunately, traditional conference call technology has never been able to adequately cater to the 10 percent of the population who is hearing impaired. For the hearing impaired, it has traditionally been all but impossible to engage with a group of people in real-time over the phone without assistance.

For companies, this can be a major problem. Given the global of nature of business, companies rely on conference calls to share ideas and communicate in real-time For participants who don’t speak the language of the conference host, interpreters can be used to bridge the language gap. But what about communicating with those who are deaf or hard of heard?

Many businesses have found the answer thanks to a technology called Relay Conference Captioning (RCC). RCC presents a running text-based dialogue on the screen while a live, trained “captioner” records and translates for the hearing impaired . This technology takes a running telephone dialogue and turns it into a chat room-type of conversation. By scrolling up and down, a user can read everything that was previously said and transcribed. Participants can also chat questions or comments to be read by the captioner into the meeting.

For more information on how your company can provide a conference solution for those who are hearing impaired, please click here.

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.

5 Tips for Virtual Career Fairs
October 17, 2013 @ 02:57 PM | By Eric Vidal

Hosting a traditional job fair can cost your company a lot of money. Your organization will likely have to pay for the facility, equipment, supplies, permits, insurance and security. This can significantly drive up the cost of a single recruit. In fact, Recruiting Scope, an online resource for recruiters, found in a recent study that a median cost per recruit to attend an in-person job fair is $121 vs. $19 per recruit at a virtual one.

Virtual can speed up the recruiting process, since you can interact with candidates before you proceed with interviews, and it’s easy to escalate candidates you’re interested in. It’s also generally easier to arrange meetings with hiring managers since there’s no travel involved.

Let’s take a closer look at five ways that your organization can leverage a virtual recruiting environment to improve the hiring process:

1.  Grant access to real-time information, right away

During the hiring process, information gathering is a two-way street. Not only do your company’s recruiters and hiring managers have a lot of questions, so do candidates. Recruiting centers allow candidates to view presentations, download materials, and even speak with company representatives. And after the hiring, your virtual center can streamline onboarding.

2.  Engage with potential recruits or new hires

You want to maximize the level of candidate engagement before people are brought in for interviews to ensure that they are perfect fits. A virtual recruiting environment allows you to get a better understanding of candidates before you engage. You can view documents they’ve provided, interact via chat and Skype, and even hold an instant meeting.

3.  Make your prospects comfortable and secure online

One of the primary challenges in any online interaction has to do with establishing both comfort and security. The enhanced security of a virtual recruiting center, such as the ability to enter a private chat room with company representatives, can reduce the likelihood of losing a potential employee due to security concerns or lack of information.

4.  Tell your own story

A virtual recruiting center can make use of existing templates and your brand in a unique environment that will showcase your company, or custom visuals can be designed. For example, one major online employment company targeting healthcare customized its recruiting center with a visual theme that incorporated images of medical professionals. Whatever your brand image or target audience, your recruiting center can address it.

5.  Design your recruiting events to suit your needs

While a physical job fair will only reach candidates at a specific location, a virtual career fair expands your reach to anywhere in the world. One global professional services firm held a two-day virtual career fair that spanned 40 countries, yielding 20,000 registrants and 10,000 attendees over the course of 48 hours. Virtual recruiting allows candidates from any time zone to engage with your organization when it’s best for them.

Instead of a job fair that lasts a specified length of time—one day, one week or one month, for example, you can present an online recruiting center that’s open on an ongoing basis, cultivating candidates 24/365.

Virtual recruiting environments can reduce costs and eliminate the need to travel, speed up hiring and improve your access to the global talent pool—so you can find people with the right skills, whenever and wherever you need them.

Eric VidalEric Vidal is a Director of Product Marketing at InterCall and is considered a leading voice and expert in virtual business, which expands from marketing to collaboration to learning. He has more than 15 years experience in developing, implementing and optimizing strategies in these areas for numerous organizations and Global 2000 companies. As the director of product marketing for InterCall’s event services, Eric manages the strategy and initiatives for the virtual technologies that include virtual environments, streaming, event management services and operator assisted services. Previously from WebEx, Eric managed the virtual classroom product, as well as brand advertising and new media. Over the last several years, Eric has held management positions at Cisco, WebEx, IBM, BBDO Worldwide and Macromedia.

Is Recreational Traffic Affecting Your Network Performance?
October 17, 2013 @ 02:30 PM | By Account Deleted

Chances are that right now, somewhere between 30 to 90 percent of your organization’s WAN capacity is being consumed by recreational traffic. That means that a significant portion of every dollar spent on your network resources is being wasted. More than that, business application performance can be severely impacted as well. So whether it’s the download of a YouTube video, an update to a Facebook status or access to an iPhone or Android app, every connection to the network during peak periods affects the performance of business-critical applications.

There’s no arguing that employees have a need and want to stay connected to the world, and sometimes to goof off – and largely that equates to a drain on your network resources. Sometimes, that ‘investment’ is even good for overall productivity. That said, that argument is a bit thin when key business processes are slowed down as a result. So what’s the IT organization supposed to do to maintain a user-experience amongst impending network Armageddon?

First, you need real-time visibility into your network traffic. By understanding traffic related to an internal application as compared to web content, you gain a clearer picture as to the traffic on your network and when / where this traffic is originating.

Second, once you understand what applications are consuming the most bandwidth, you then need to prioritize your network traffic identifying those applications that are most critical to your business during peak business hours.

Third, you need to make sure that inappropriate web content is not accessible via your network. For capacity reasons, for liability reasons, you name it, there are plenty of reasons.

Optimizing the user-experience of business-critical applications contributes to employee productivity and allows the organization to meet your customer needs more efficiently. In other words, the IT organization is aligning the company’s business priorities with network performance – and that contributes directly to overall business results.

You’ll never really win the war against non-business critical use of network capacity. But to minimize the downside, you need an application aware network that intelligently manages QoS, you need in depth managerial reporting tools, and you need unified threat management tools. That way, the capacity you have is directed towards what’s important. That means the not-so-important stuff gets the short end of the stick – which sounds just about right.

To learn how InterCall and West IP Communications can help you optimize your business-critical applications, visit our solutions page.

Robert WiseAs EVP for West IP Communications, Bob is responsible for guiding long term business strategy, partner relationships and day to day management and operations, ultimately helping the company maintain its position as the leading hosted IP Communications and UC company in the industry. Prior to his current role, Bob was Vice President of Business Development and UC for InterCall and part of West Corporation. Bob also led West Corporation’s acquisitions of Smoothstone IP Communications, SKT Business Communications Solutions, and PostCTI. His skills and leadership have been instrumental in building services, solutions and strategic partnerships that continue to advance the firm’s position as a leader in the Unified Communications industry. A law graduate of Loyola University, Bob joined the company in 1998 and served as General Counsel for several years before becoming Vice President of Marketing. Additionally, he served as President of Genesys SA, a global conferencing service provider acquired by InterCall in 2008. Before joining InterCall, Bob practiced corporate law and was Vice President of Imagination Entertainment Corporation.

Chefs’ Conferences Can be the Recipe for Success
October 15, 2013 @ 03:53 PM | By Christina Todisco

This probably sounds like a typical scenario: a group of business executives have gathered in the main conference room at corporate headquarters to connect with employees around the country and discuss an array of important issues. What may not be a typical, though, is what’s on the agenda: a new type of tomato sauce, an update about the chicken scarpiello recipe and important information about allergy compliance in the kitchen.

Large enterprises in the commercial food industry have the challenge of ensuring conformity in kitchens all over the U.S.—and the world. The meatballs at an Olive Garden in Boston, for instance, must taste the same as the ones in San Francisco. With so many kitchens and chefs to account for, executives need a way to discuss important issues and ensure compliance at the same time.

A conference call could be used in the restaurant industry to hold regular culinary compliance meetings, which ends up saving the company from having to pay travel expenses. Other conference calls could be held as needed to ensure that all kitchens are following the same rules, regulations and recipes.

Your Very Own Cooking Channel in an Online Meeting
Your Very Own Cooking Channel in an Online Meeting

As an added bonus, it is also possible to engage in an online meeting to share photos of dishes, edit recipes in real-time and discuss important documents related to local health codes. Talking on the phone and sharing over the web are done simultaneously, making the meeting more effective.

For restaurants looking to increase communication with customers and capitalize on their increasing desire to know where food comes, these conference calls can be opened to the public or promoted as a webcast to discuss ingredients and food quality. Customers have a lot of questions about the food they consume, and this type of activity would be a great way to connect.

Is your restaurant chain using conference services to discuss important issues or to reach out to its customers? We want to hear about your experiences below.

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.

Signs You May Want to Move to a Cloud-based Communications Solution Part Two
October 14, 2013 @ 04:09 PM | By James Whitemore

In part two of the discussion surrounding whether or not some organizations might be better-served by moving to a cloud-based communications solution, we've got two more signs that can help you make the call.

The organization is thinking globally. While managing a communications infrastructure within North America can be challenging, it’s nothing compared to what you’ll face in the wider world. Incompatible technologies, Byzantine regulations and legal requirements, varying billing practices and more can take the simple of idea of getting users on the same communications platform and turn it into a complex nightmare.

Then there’s the question of achieving ROI. In North American applications, PSTN centralization via SIP trunking is often viewed as a way to pay for projects. That’s going to be a whole lot more difficult when you go international.

Cloud-based communications providers face those same challenges, of course. But they’ve already solved them, so you don’t have to. It’s the fastest, most direct way to enable a global communications network.

Every day is “bring your device to work” day. The so-called “consumerization of IT” has had a huge impact on organizations. Between users accessing the network with their own smartphones, tablets, phablets and other devices, and downloading their own apps on those devices rather than staying with the organization’s standards, management and support requirements have spiraled out of control.

This is another area where hosted communications providers can make a difference. Because of their broad experience they are able to fully support the range of tools users need (devices and apps), making it easier for users to do their jobs. If there is a gap, the cloud provider will have the resources to close it quickly, helping maintain a greater degree of standardization while improving security. Users are happy because they can work where, when and how they want. And IT is happy because they are left managing a single provider rather than a plethora of devices and apps.

Recognize any of those signs in your organization? Then once again it just may be time for you to look to the cloud for communications. Are there any other signs we missed?

James WhitemoreJames Whitemore is senior vice president of sales and marketing at West IP Communications, the team that delivers InterCall’s unified communication services. InterCall and West IP Communications are both a part of West Corporation. James holds a B.A. (Hons) degree in Business from Newcastle University in the U.K. and currently resides in Boulder, CO. In his downtime, James is an avid skier with an enthusiasm for traveling and car collecting.

While many business technologies seem to be moving headlong into the cloud these days, one area that has been slower to change is communications. Whether you’re talking about direct calls between two individuals, conferences between several co-workers or large-scale webcasts to the entire organization, the communications function is so core to the way business is conducted that IT and business leaders alike are often reluctant to abandon all that nifty hardware and cabling in the locked closet in favor of a solution hosted somewhere “out there.”

Not saying that isn’t the right decision for some. But with the realities and speed of business today, many organizations might be better-served by moving to a cloud-based communications solution. How do you know if yours is one of them? Here are two signs that can help you make the call.

The need for change is already past due. You know the feeling. The organization has outgrown the system’s current capacity, or it will soon. Or perhaps your sales force is clamoring for a true unified communications solution that your current technology can’t deliver. Whatever the problem, it’s urgent and you need to make a change ASAP to serve the business.

If you’re planning to replace the old equipment with a new on-premise solution, “ASAP” probably means “in 18 to 36 months.” At least by the time you get done talking to the stakeholders, determining requirements (including projecting out for several years despite having no clue what the economy, technological innovation or other future factors will bring), comparing vendors, sending and reviewing RFPs, installing and configuring equipment, provisioning users – you get the picture. It’s a long, arduous process.

You can bring that time-to-working-solution down considerably, however, by moving your communications to the cloud, because many of the steps will have already been accomplished by the cloud provider. Sure, you’ll still have to determine the requirements and seek out RFPs from the providers. But the bulk of the infrastructure itself will already be in place and operational in their datacenters, which means you can be up and running with your new solution in half the time – or less. And with a significantly simpler pricing model (along with fewer “hidden” charges) it’s a whole lot easier to calculate the cost and project the ROI.

The other good news is your communications platform will always remain current. If there is a new advance or disruptive technology introduced, a good cloud provider will make the upgrade (if it makes sense) so you’re never stuck paying for yesteryear’s technology tomorrow.

The business requires greater flexibility or scalability. Let’s face it. If you could reliably predict the future you’d be using that talent to select Lottery tickets. Since you can’t, you need to be able to make adjustments to your communications solution as the business’ needs change. Sometimes large ones.

Look at the impact unified communications has had on organizations – starting with the fact that voice communications are now managed by IT instead of a separate group of telecom specialists. The wider use of video between individuals and groups is taking up more time as well as network bandwidth. Increases in the number of remote offices, not to mention mobile workers overall, has made it even more difficult to keep up with user demands – especially when IT is already being asked to do so much more with so much less.

Using a cloud-based communications solution allows IT to shift the bulk of the heavy lifting to the cloud provider. You simply send an email telling the provider what moves, adds or changes need to be performed and they take care of it – most of the time with no more involvement from your team. Which frees your team to focus its time on higher-priority projects that will help advance the business.

Recognize any of those signs in your organization? We'd love to hear your feedback!

James WhitemoreJames Whitemore is senior vice president of sales and marketing at West IP Communications, the team that delivers InterCall’s unified communication services. InterCall and West IP Communications are both a part of West Corporation. James holds a B.A. (Hons) degree in Business from Newcastle University in the U.K. and currently resides in Boulder, CO. In his downtime, James is an avid skier with an enthusiasm for traveling and car collecting.

Don’t Let Your Business Shut Down Like the Government!
October 10, 2013 @ 03:01 PM | By Christina Todisco

You have to be living under a rock if you don’t know anything about the federal government shutdown. Each side has a goal for the outcome, but no agreements can be reached without communication. This is a perfect example of the major consequences that result when government officials do not communicate. Can you imagine if your company acted like the government and just quit working because no one would talk to each other? Some people may welcome a bit of time off, but sooner or later, everyone wants to get paid. And what about the customers and partners who depend on the company’s products and services?

So how can we avoid the same situation the federal government finds itself in? Try hosting a conference to gather all levels of your staff and discuss key strategies as often as possible. By doing this, everyone involved will have a chance to share important ideas that could prove to be crucial for your organization. By hosting a conference, you can invite key members located anywhere in the world, which means employees of other branches or franchises can join.

Additionally, by using a unified online meeting, your team can share all the documents they need in order to edit and strategize in real time—meaning no good idea will be lost due to miscommunication. Unified meetings are safe, efficient and reliable for exchanging information over the web.

Does your organization have a history of success using conference calls and online meetings? We want to hear your story. Please tell us in the comments section below.

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.

Conference Calls: A New Prescription for Your Health Care Plan
October 10, 2013 @ 09:17 AM | By Christina Todisco

Obamacare? Affordable Care Act? Are they the same, different, real or imaginary? Did you see the interviews on Jimmy Kimmel's show? It is obvious that many American’s have heard so many stories, they don’t know what the actual name of the law is, let alone what it really means.

For health insurance companies, this is both a problem and an opportunity. When customers become massively confused, they tend to make poor spending decisions. This could lead to customers switching plans out of panic or searching for alternative coverage customers need to be well informed of what will actually happen during the upcoming health care reform. Otherwise, churn rates could start to increase.

The opportunity exists, therefore, to bring customers together in groups and answer questions via conference calls. By hosting public conference calls or webcasts where current and potential customers can dial in, large amounts of people can be addressed at once. Additionally, these customers can ask questions and receive clarification about issues that matter to them from a trained representative.

Moreover, key executives can join a conference and voice their opinion about important company decisions while gaining the ear of those they represent. This is a trend that is spreading throughout many major industries, from professional sports Miami Dolphins Host Fan Conference all the way to the government sector Conference Calls: Bridging the Gap between Politicians and Constituents. Now more than ever, executives want to connect with their important constituencies, especially customers and employees.

HR teams can do the same thing. They can use conference calls to have small department or office meetings to answer employees' questions. By having these remote meetings, they can include subject matter experts from the insurance companies or benefits firms who can help explain the new policies. This way employees can make more informed decisions.

To find out about you can use conference calls to help facilitate conversations about the changes in health care, please click here for ore information.

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.

Bridging the Gap between Politicians and Constituents
October 9, 2013 @ 06:18 PM | By Jill Huselton

Even after President Obama delivered his recent speech addressing whether or not the U.S. should participate in a military intervention against Syria, everyone is still talking about the issue. And, as a way to extend the debate outside of Washington, the conversation is taking place between elected officials and constituents using conference calls.

Today’s technology has enabled politicians to use conferences to directly correspond with the citizens who vote them into office. A conference call is a great way for politicians to answer questions in real-time and engage directly with voters about key issues on both a local and national level.

A recent example of this new type of direct dialogue took place on September 9, when Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, R-Montana, hosted a conference call for constituents of the Fourth Congressional District. And nothing was off limits during the call.

“Our offices in the Fourth District and in Washington have received hundreds of calls and emails regarding the situation in Syria,” said Hartzler prior to the meeting. “I have deep reservations about the wisdom of launching an attack. I also have doubts about U.S. interests in the matter.”

As this case proves, conferences can act as a way for both elected officials and citizens to drum up support and ask questions when a call to action is needed. It can be a crucial component in ensuring that everyone has a fair chance of voicing their opinion to an elected official.

Right now, hosting a public conference is not a mandatory procedure for governing authorities. However, it is a trend that is gaining popularity amongst voters. Whatever your stance on Syria and other topics, convening conference calls between representatives and constituents is one more way to to make sure your voice heard.

Tell us, if your elected representatives were to hold a public conference, would you participate?

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.

Miami Dolphins Host Fan Conference
October 9, 2013 @ 03:40 PM | By Christina Todisco

Fans are the lifeblood of any professional sports organization. They spend money to sit in the stands through all kinds of weather and purchase merchandise that is essentially free advertising for their favorite franchises.

Yet oftentimes, there is a tremendous disconnect between those who invest large amounts of time, money and energy into a franchise and the high-ranking employees who run the teams. Fans have surprisingly little say in decisions held by upper management. The Miami Dolphins, however, are changing this.

On August 20, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross reached out to season ticket holders and fans through an audio conference. The call lasted for almost 30 minutes and covered subjects such as current players, Miami’s recent trip to the White House and what it would be like to see the Dolphins win it all this season. It was the latest call in a series of conferences that have taken place throughout the summer as the team prepares to start this year’s regular season campaign.

Aside from hearing directly from upper management in a relaxed setting, fans who attend these conference calls are granted access to
players past and present, as well as television and radio personalities.

As the Miami Dolphins have proven, companies are using conferences calls to connect with customers in new and exciting ways. Due to the large amount of people that can use conference services at the same time, it serves as a viable platform for high level executives to mingle with customers and fans in a productive and cost effective setting. Through the use of trained operators, calls are easily monitored so that callers are given a fair chance to speak and voice opinions.

If you are tired of spreading ideas from the top down in your enterprise, then start from the bottom up and invite your customers to a conference call today. After all, the best ideas often come directly from those who use your products or services the most.

Do you have any experiences where you’ve been part of successful outreach programs? Share them below!

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.

Top Five Reasons to Take Your Audio Call to the Web
October 8, 2013 @ 10:28 AM | By Sarah Murphy

We’ve all been there: your team is on an important conference call with a client, when all of a sudden the phone chimes and someone from your office interrupts asking for “Chris.”

“Uh… I think you have the wrong call,” you stammer, hoping the interruption didn’t considerably disrupt the flow of your conversation.

But the truth is, this type of hiccup can take all of the steam out of a conversation—and many times it can create the impression of unprofessionalism. The board room or a conference call is not a place where you want to get in the habit of making mistakes. When your team gathers for a conference call, it needs to know what it’s doing to prevent costly errors.

Yet these 20th century problems can easily be alleviated by using today’s web conferencing services. Here are some features that internet-based conferencing from your desktop or mobile phone can afford you:

  1. Lock your Call - To prevent a problem such as an unwanted guest interrupting an important meeting, today’s web conferencing services come equipped with the ability to lock a session once all meeting attendees are present so that nobody else can enter—even with a password. This prevents interruptions and can keep third parties from listening in on important executive conversations.
  2. See Who Is Calling - It can be incredibly frustrating at the beginning of a call when everyone goes “around the room” to introduce themselves and you are left wondering whether that third speaker is Sara or Tara. Fortunately, with web conferencing, you are able to see who is in each conference, even before joining the call. Moreover, you can figure out if the CEO is actually on the call, allowing you to change the direction of your presentation on the spot.
  3. Avoid Dialing Altogether - One of the worst mistakes you can make on a conference call is to dial into the wrong conference—or get so tripped up with entering the access number and passcodes that you end up late to the meeting. By using a web conferencing solution, you and your guests can simply click a link that is sent in the invite and the meeting will call out to you, meaning you can say goodbye to manual dial-ins.
  4. No More Muting Problems - Sometimes a person on a conference call will ask a question, and his or her response will be followed immediately by silence. That’s because the person answering is continuing to rant on, not realizing that he or she has muted the line. This problem can be traditionally attributed to the lack of visibility as to who is on mute during a call. Today’s web-based tools, however, provide the ability to see not only who is speaking, but who is on mute.
  5. Create Dynamic Sub-groups in Real Time - Suppose you are in the middle of a large conference call, and you want to engage in a private conversation with a key executive—but you do not want to leave the meeting altogether. Strategizing and brainstorming can take place during a meeting by entering into a sub-group apart from the main conference. This type of private communication can be established either through text message or voice command.

Do you engage in web conferencing? Tell us about the benefits that you have discovered in the comments section below.

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.

Conferencing ProtoCall: Watch the Clock - Part Two
October 4, 2013 @ 01:32 PM | By Sarah Murphy

In many ways, your clients and co-workers evaluate how you use online meetings or conference calls as a way of getting a bigger picture into how you handle business. So when you are late to a call, just know—they are probably judging you. And the question lingering in their minds will most likely be whether you will be able to meet deadlines or leave them hanging.

There is no set amount of time that one must wait before disconnecting from an abandoned conference call. Therefore, since each person differs in terms of patience, it is crucial to always show up on time. Some people might wait out five or even 10 minutes for you to join. Others will hang up after the first minute. Until you learn how your meeting participants operate, it is poor etiquette to test these waters. And, after being late for a few too many minutes, you would be wise to send a courtesy email and bail out, rather than jumping on the call flustered and full of excuses.

Another thing to pay attention to is if you join a conference 15 minutes late, be mindful of the time you have already wasted. If a meeting is set to go from 3 to 4 o’clock, make sure it still ends at 4. It is impolite to ask for more time unless you are on great terms with your clients or co-workers or you are really into a project. People are busy, and you do not want to waste someone’s time during a call.

Just like with most things pertaining to office etiquette, proper phone manners will go a long way. If you pay attention to punctuality and make it a good habit to be mindful of others who are counting on your time, then you will notice just how many people abuse others’ time on a call.

So, how long will you wait for a someone who is late for an online meeting? We want to hear directly from you. Please let us know in the comments section below.

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.

Don’t Allow a Lack of Resources to Hinder Your IT Organization
October 3, 2013 @ 03:17 PM | By James Whitemore

In a recent survey conducted by ZK Research included in the whitepaper titled Top 10 Drivers of Hosted Communications, 38% of the respondents suggested that the #1 reason why organizations have not yet deployed hosted Unified Communications (UC) is the lack of a trained IT staff. Wow. That’s a sobering statistic, isn’t it? But seriously, why is this considered a barrier? I’d suggest this is an opportunity for the enterprise organization to explicitly focus its existing IT staff on projects offering the chance to create competitive advantage in the market – all by leveraging the expertise of a qualified Hosted UC provider.

Most enterprise organizations struggle to manage the migration to an on-prem UC solution due to the existing IT workload and specific skills deficits. While the opportunity to play a part in the deployment of a comprehensive UC environment is an exciting one filled with new learning opportunities for your IT team, you also have to ask yourself the question of whether or not managing UC tools can be a competitive advantage for your organization. Instead, could that capacity be applied in other ways, ways in which you can focus on points of strategic differentiation and advantage? The most direct route to get the capabilities your organization needs without overtaxing the IT team is by teaming with a qualified provider of hosted UC solutions; one that can establish a foundation for innovation by leveraging an application-aware network to enable voice, video, data, IM, email, conferencing and other real-time collaborative applications.

Leveraging the capabilities of a qualified UC provider to outsource this non-core function can significantly reduce the complexity, increase the speed, and increase the likelihood of success for your UC deployment. So don’t allow capacity constraints or expertise deficits delay your organization from realizing the benefits of a hosted UC solution.

James WhitemoreJames Whitemore is senior vice president of sales and marketing at West IP Communications, the team that delivers InterCall’s unified communication services. InterCall and West IP Communications are both a part of West Corporation. James holds a B.A. (Hons) degree in Business from Newcastle University in the U.K. and currently resides in Boulder, CO. In his downtime, James is an avid skier with an enthusiasm for traveling and car collecting.

Conferencing ProtoCall: Watch Your Language on Conference Calls - Part One
October 3, 2013 @ 09:15 AM | By Christina Todisco

We all have moments of questionable behavior. After all, nobody is perfect. But in some professional situations, mistakes cannot be taken back. When poor judgment is exercised in the wrong situation, such as with a client, reputations can be reflected on an entire organization—and not just an individual. And nowhere is this more important than when engaging in audio conference calls.

By and large, one of the most important things to pay attention to is your language when you get on the phone with a client or colleague. It doesn’t matter if you consider your client an old friend; professionalism is still necessary. Therefore, avoid profanity, slang and distasteful jokes—whether you consider them to be offensive or not. You work hard to maintain your reputation. Why, then, would you put it on the line for the sake of a cheap laugh?

Remember that conversations can be fun and easygoing without venturing into the realm of “racy.” After all, the last thing that you want is
a lawsuit coming back your way. You never know who might be listening on the other end of the line. As the old adage goes—don’t talk money, politics or religion outside your family.

In order to prevent saying something that you might otherwise regret, it is important to know exactly what you want to say before you get on the line. Even if this means scripting your conversation before you pick up the receiver or taming the inner joker inside of you, it is worth the few minutes.

Further, it will help you from being unprepared during a call. One thing you want to avoid is “winging” it on the phone. Even if you have a good rapport with a client, always prepare to speak with a company higher-up who might be listening in unknowingly on the other end. Remember that, aside from your reputation, the reputation of your colleague or client is on the line, too. You wouldn’t want their boss to get a bad impression of your relationship.

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.

Huddle Up: Is Your Fantasy League Communicating?
October 2, 2013 @ 03:15 PM | By Jill Huselton

It’s that time of year. All across America, legions of football fans are busting out the beer helmets and nacho platters, readying their living room for football season. However, it’s time to put down the scouting reports, mock drafts and injury updates and take a second to consider what could make or break a successful fantasy season—league communication.

Let’s face it: most fantasy leagues start out strong. Emotions run high as everyone is still in first place. But by week three or four, if left unchecked, communication issues will begin to surface. At this point, owners that fall behind are less apt to update rosters or respond to important trade offers. By the end of the season, teams still in the race usually wind up playing amongst themselves, while the losers are left to fall by the wayside.

An audio conference call, however, is a way around this. A scheduled conference call amongst owners at various intervals will boost morale and prolong interest levels. It is more than just a way to get out of doing yard work; a conference call is a way to keep dialogue going during the doldrums of a fantasy season.

With the right conference services in place, it is possible to hold a meeting right from your smartphone. Whether you need to step out of your home, the delivery room or the office, with mobile technology you can make sure that your priorities are straight this season. You can even hold a private conversation within a conference to facilitate private trading in real-time.

League commissioners who want to ensure an enjoyable fantasy football season should take a moment to consider how a routine conference call—whether weekly, bi-weekly or monthly—can add a professional touch to a fantasy football league. By taking care of basic communication, the league stands a much greater chance of going strong from week one to week 17.

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.

« September 2013 | Main | November 2013 »