Add Better Conference Call Habits to Your New Year’s Resolutions
December 30, 2013 @ 01:37 PM | By Sarah Murphy

NewYear

With the start of the new year comes the inevitable list of resolutions: eat less, exercise more, call mom once a week, keep the smart phone away from the dinner table. Sure, chances are that many of these will fall by the wayside come Valentine’s Day, but it’s only human to try. While you’re jotting down ways in which you can be a better spouse, stay fit or stop biting your nails, why not think about how to improve on conference calls as well? After all, next to home, the workplace is where we spend the most amount of our time.

Here are some possible conference call resolutions for 2014:

Don’t be late: If you wind up scrambling for conference IDs and passwords at the last minute, or find yourself lost in an endless maze of commands, you may have an unwelcome reputation for being tardy. To avoid this, keep everything organized or, better yet,take advantage of today’s services that enable everyone to join the call simply by clicking on a direct link in a calendar appointment.

Choose your environment wisely: While you may think no one can hear the loud co-worker flinging jokes your way, the sound of weights clinking against each other while you conference at the gym or the crunch of your salad as you snag bites between smart remarks… they can. Not only can this ruin a conversation, it can damage your relationship. To prevent this, plan ahead and consider using mobile conferencing to have more control.

Make every word count: If you have a habit of using poor language, choosing ineffective words, or just letting the conversation slide by without you, studying your performance is a great idea. Today’s conferencing services enable you to record previous conversations and play them back, so you can prepare yourself for next time.

Stay on-point: In order to make the most of your conversation, designate yourself or someone else as a moderator. This person is responsible for creating an agenda, calling for order and moving the conversation along when it gets carried away.

So, what are your conference call resolutions heading into 2014?

Sarah MurphySarah Murphy is an associate 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.

Technical Difficulties Can Ruin a Conference Call
December 27, 2013 @ 12:15 PM | By Christina Todisco

Obama

Recently, President Obama took part in a conference call hosted by nonprofit Organizing for Action in order to address criticism surrounding the technical difficulties of Healthcare.gov.

In an ironic twist, however, the unthinkable happened: the conference call was affected by a wide range of technical issues. Connection problems, outages and low-quality audio ruined the opportunity to communicate in real-time about the issues facing the Obamacare exchange. The call was a disaster.

When the game is on the line and you need to look good in front of an audience to show your leadership and demonstrate your authority about a particular issue, you need to make sure that the network infrastructure facilitating the operation is of sound quality. After all, there is much more at stake than simply the matter up for discussion. There is your reputation and customer trust. Clients want to know that you are a reliable business leader, capable of planning and following through with brilliant solutions to their needs.

In order to make sure your call operates flawlessly, make sure your conferencing service has built in redundancy through the use of various network providers and the ability to link multiple bridges at once to eliminate connectivity issues. Your conference call provider should offer maximum uptime and have operators standing by to assist callers in the event that something does go wrong. The last thing that you want is to have stranded callers wondering what is going on with no indication of whether or not it will resume.

What is important to you when it comes to evaluating the reliability of a conference call provider?

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.

Epic Conferences: Einstein, Curie, Bohr and the Solvay Conference of 1927
December 26, 2013 @ 05:14 PM | By Jill Huselton

Albert

When you think of all star lineups in 1927, the first names that might pop into your head are probably Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. But look at this epic conference lineup, which gathered in Brussels for the Fifth Solvay International Conference on Electrons and Photons and the newly discussed quantum theory: Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Niels Bohr capped a list of 26 attendees, 14 of which went on to become Nobel Prize winners.

Just imagine how much planning and expense must have gone into such a monumental event. Of the three aforementioned scientists, Einstein hailed from Germany, Curie from Poland and Bohr from Denmark. One has to wonder how much they paid for train fare, hotels, post-conference chatter over a pint of ale and roast duck. Furthermore, how many other innovators opted not to attend for financial reasons? How many simply couldn’t set aside their research – or their families – for that much time? Perhaps one of the greatest ideas was never heard due to these obstacles.

Unfortunately, many of these problems still plague people today when trying to gather for conferences. The cost of travel and lodging is still exorbitant, as executives can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on airfare, cars and hotels—not to mention meals. Yet conferences are still a crucial part of staying in touch and exchanging information, so a reliable and cost-effective solution is required.

Conference calls are one of the best options for gathering large groups together and facilitating crucial debates and conversations. You can even create sub-groups during the call to allow for private, simultaneous discussions without losing anyone from the call.

Have you had any epic meetings take place over a conference call? How much money have you saved by gathering your team over the phone instead of around a table?

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 a Short Week. Do Your Clients Still Want to Chat?
December 24, 2013 @ 10:38 AM | By Christina Todisco

Holidays_work

It’s 4:00 on a Tuesday during a holiday week. But while the rest of the working world is decking the halls with boughs of holly and gorging on cookies, you are in front of your computer fretting about whether to even email your team to see if the conference call you are coordinating for them and your client is a go or not.

What do you do in this situation? Should you have the call or should you ask to postpone until the next week?

Rather than listening to the proverbial angel and devil on each shoulder, let your client make the decision for you. Perhaps she is in the exact same boat as you—eager to get home to family but worried about perception. Or perhaps she wants to tie up all loose ends at the office so she can enjoy the long weekend with a clear head. The best thing to do is bring up the matter lightly and then leave the ball in her court. Your client will appreciate the fact that you respected her enough to let them decide.

As with all questions of business etiquette, the most important thing is making the client feel as if she’s the most important thing in the world to you. That’s not to say you should spurn your inner Bob Cratchit and volunteer to stay late on Christmas Eve, but the client should believe you would if she really needed you to.

What other quandaries does the holiday season cause when it comes to office etiquette? How do you deal with them?

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.

Know When to Take Your Call Offline
December 19, 2013 @ 02:05 PM | By Christina Todisco

Feud

There is nothing more awkward for a dinner guest than having to endure an argument by a feuding host couple. So, just as you wouldn’t want to look over and find your guest pushing a pile of peas around awkwardly on the plate, it is extremely poor conference call etiquette to put a participant in the same boat.

Unfortunately, this type of situation happens quite frequently during a conference call. Whether it is two members of the same team arguing about a new marketing venture or your client airing the company’s dirty laundry, we have all been in situations where we found ourselves asking, “Why is this part of the conference?”

In order to prevent these situations from occurring online, consider the following:

  • Make sure your key executives and meeting participants are on the same page about a topic before ever getting on the phone.
  • Ask to schedule a follow-up call if the conversation between your team members is getting testy.
  • However close you might be to a group of stakeholders, remember that a conference call is not a group therapy session. Never air your dirty laundry or get so into the weeds that you don’t know which way is up.

Consider this: your clients and colleagues need to see a unified, put-together package. It can be extremely frustrating for them to deal with even one person who is contentious or combative during an important conference call. Dealing with two people who cannot agree, however, sends a clear message to whoever has to bear witness that the company in question is not serious enough to work out all points of conflict before sitting down to negotiate.

To avoid these pitfalls, remember to think before you get on the phone. Communicate with your team prior to your conference calls so that you are all on the same page. If you find that you are still at odds by the time a call starts, it is better etiquette to politely request a time change than to send a leaky ship out to sea.

Have you ever experienced a situation like this? It is a cringer, right? Tell us about it!

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.

When Texting about a Meeting is a Good Thing
December 18, 2013 @ 11:41 AM | By Jill Huselton

Coffee

Picture this: you are standing in line for a coffee when your cell phone buzzes, informing you via push notification that people are waiting for your important conference call to start. Looking at your smartphone, you can see exactly who is already on the bridge and you can communicate with them directly through SMS to let them know you will be calling in just as soon as you get your latte. With the push of a button, you have the ability to start and manage your meeting right on-the-go.

As the above scenario shows, text messaging is rapidly gaining in popularity at the enterprise level. In fact, 32 percent of people who utilize text messaging have used it to close a deal. And 79 percent of bosses are in favor of business texting. With open rates of 99 percent compared to the 33 percent of email, it is an enticing feature that executives everywhere currently leverage.

Due to the overwhelming majority of people who prefer to text, many telecommunications companies are now offering specific data plans to accommodate this feature. Which means that text services are a popular, cost effective method of transmitting important information in real-time. And as a result, 82 percent of companies now allow for employees to use personal mobile devices at work.

In addition to SMS service, calendars and dial-in numbers are all accessible right in the palm of your hand through the power of unified communications (UC). Smartphones and tablets are now equipped with all of the tools necessary to exchange real-time information during the course of a conference call. In fact, it is possible to engage in audio and text at the same time—and to see exactly who is speaking. And it can be done so seamlessly that those on the other end would never know that you are nowhere near the conference room.

One such solution that allows users to manage conference calls directly from their smartphone is InterCall’s MobileMeet. Complete with SIRI integration and one-touch access for dialing in to a call, MobileMeet facilitates ease of use across multiple accounts.

MobileMeet is available for everyone who joins a meeting using InterCall’s conference call services, whether you have an account or not. You can get more information or download the app now to get started today.

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.
Vision

It’s safe to say that the West team is thrilled that we have maintained our Leader’s Quadrant position in the just-released 2013 Gartner Magic Quadrant for UCaaS, North America. For us, it serves as confirmation and validation that our vision and ability to effectively execute it are compelling. The bar for inclusion among the elite providers continues to rise and holding on to this spot is not at all assured. As we’ve seen, companies with solid histories can fall quickly and dramatically over the course of a single year.

There are two dimensions that Gartner evaluates UCaaS providers along: completeness of vision and ability to execute. I like the balance of the two and the dynamic tension that results from them. I think it means that a good story about the future of UCaaS is absolutely required, but it is not sufficient. We believe that UCaaS providers must be exceptionally good at specifying, provisioning, deploying, and supporting the products and services that flow from that vision or story. But on the flipside, all of this competence must be in the service of a larger goal, a destination towards which we’d like to take our customers. West is among the few that can pull this balancing act off over the long term.

As rewarding as recognitions like this are, our ultimate focus remains on our clients, both today’s and tomorrow’s. It simply has to because leadership, we believe, results from people responding to our vision and then becoming convinced that we can help them realize the benefits of that vision. Building that vision requires something few providers are willing to do, however. Fully committing to our relationships with customers allows us to gain their trust and confidence. Over time, we gain a deeper understanding of their organizational challenges, ultimately leading to product and service enhancements to better meet the current and future needs of our customers.

Achieving a great position in a report as prestigious as Gartner’s is a terrific thing, but it is not our goal. Rather, it is an outcome of how we choose to approach the market and of how we choose to work with our customers.

*Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service, North America, Daniel O’Connell | Bern Elliot, 05 November 2013

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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. West IP Communications was recently recognized by Gartner as a Leader in their magic quadrant for UCaaS for its strong vision to transform the ways in which businesses communicate, its innovation, agility and, most importantly, its unwavering focus of delivering results for its clients. Prior to his current role, Bob was Vice President of Business Development and UC for InterCall, the leading global conferencing provider in the market and part of West Corporation and led West Corporation’s acquisitions of Smoothstone IP Communications, a leading IP telephony and hosted network provider, SKT Business Communications Solutions, a UC professional services provider, and PostCTI, a leading provider of UC components, systems, professional services and hosted services in Europe. 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.

What’s on Your Conference Call Holiday Wish List?
December 12, 2013 @ 02:47 PM | By Christina Todisco

Charlie-brown-christmas-tree-office

It’s that time of year again to hang the stockings on your cubicle wall, set up your 3 ft. faux Christmas tree and deck the office with boughs of holly. It’s also time to begin putting together a holiday wish list so that when FedEx Santa walks through the doors on Monday morning, you get every communications solution you need for an efficient 2014.

As 2013 winds down—the year that’s been filled with countless conference calls—buckle yourself in tightly as we explore three items that we suspect will pop up on conference call holiday wish lists across the country:

  • A comfortable chair: Sometimes conference calls seem to last forever and if you’re not comfortable, all you’ll be able to pay attention to is the agony in your lower back. Look for something comfortable, but not something too comfortable so that you slouch and slack off or worse yet, doze.
  • A reliable mute button: With a steady mute button that you feel comfortable using, you don’t have to worry about cracking a joke to whoever is nearby when someone on the line says something deserving. You also don’t have to worry about people hearing you cough or eat your lunch.
  • A complete call visibility solution: This would help you pay more attention to the content being discussed rather than wondering who in the world is actually talking, or worrying about page of the presentation they are on. Such a feature would help a caller focus more on the business that needs to get done.

What do you think? Will any of these make your list? What else would you add?

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.

How to Recover from These Three Conference Call Hiccups
December 11, 2013 @ 08:38 AM | By Christina Todisco

ConferenceCall

Let’s just start out by saying we have all been there. From botching the CEO’s last name during that pressing conference call to missing the call altogether, we have all had those moments in which our heart starts to pound, our voice cracks and we wish we were  home catching up on an episode of “Breaking Bad.”

But it’s OK. And here’s how you can recover when the following mishaps take place:

You Forget the Call

With so many meetings flooding your Outlook calendar, not to mention a web of double bookings, it’s a miracle that you make any call at all. But when you miss that incredibly important meeting—that one with the high-profile prospect you are so desperately trying to reel in—it can feel like the credibility of your company (and your reputation) is slipping away. Before spiraling into a mess of panic, take a deep breath and strategize. Keep in mind that an unplanned, frenetic call to this big fish to apologize will probably sink you even deeper. Conversely, you need to be calm, well-rehearsed and transparent.

Once you have collected yourself, call and discuss the situation. Give the reason for the missed meeting, apologize and move on. Then, get right to the solution and reschedule the call; do not expect the client to give you the “make-up” call on the spot. Alternatively, give the client ample time to prepare for the next meeting and schedule the call around his or her tasks. When you are done, leave yourself a reminder in an obvious location and solicit the help of at least one coworker to remind you when the next call is. After all, one missed call is a mistake. Two missed calls are just simply unprofessional.

You Prepared for the Wrong Call

This time, you remember that important call but the call winds up not being what you planned on. For instance, you prep for a conference call about implementing your company’s new product within your customer’s organization. The problem is this client only wants to talk about the questions that came up on their last invoice.

In this situation, instead of trying to shift gears on the spot, apologize that you had planned for a different agenda and ask for a time to reschedule so you can get the right subject matter experts on the call. Also ask to continue with what you had planned or if there is another time to go over the new offering.

You Forget to Push the Mute Button

The “mute” button is perhaps one of the most dangerous features of the conference call experience. Since it exists, callers are tempted to push it so they can vent to coworkers about the party on the other end, laugh when a call goes unexpectedly or multi-task with others in the room. But the “mute” button is something that should be avoided at all costs because forgetting you are live can spell disaster.

In the event you say something inappropriate when you thought you were muted—and are met with contention or aggravation on the other side—there is nothing to do except own up to your slip. A simple, “To be honest, we are a bit shocked the conversation has headed in this direction” or “Do you mind if we have a moment to regroup?” assures the receiver that you know they heard you. But, it also brings a degree of honesty to the conversation. The worst thing you can do is let your slip up escalate the call. Instead, ask for a brief recess and reschedule the call for when things have calmed down.

While there are many missteps that can make an otherwise productive conference call go awry, the right tools can preclude these mistakes. For example, robust conference call technology can aptly tell you when you are muted, grant you visibility into who is in the call and send calendar reminders to your cell phone to remind you of when a call is about to take place. Tell us… do you have the right conference call tools in place?

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 Are the Remedy: No Mo’ FOMO
December 6, 2013 @ 03:15 PM | By Christina Todisco

Addicted

You’ve heard the crazy stats about how often people check their smartphones one study found 58% of respondents check at least every hour. It is all the result of FOMO (fear of missing out), which before long will undoubtedly be a new psychological condition if it isn’t already.

If you are faced with needing to be out of the office, whether it is to run to the bank on your lunch break, pick up your kids from school or travel to a client meeting, conference calls can be just the thing to relieve your anxiety. Not only do they break down geographical barriers, lower expenses of all kinds and obliterate logistical obstacles, but they also help make sure you never miss out.

Thanks to conference calls, you can remain in constant communication with your team throughout the entire life of a project. If you are stuck in morning traffic, snowbound in the suburbs or even dealing with downed telephone lines, your blood pressure does not need to hit the roof fretting about not being included in an important discussion. Thanks to mobile conferencing, you can remain in the loop right over your cell phone – on the highway or in your bathrobe or while running to drop the kids at school.

When it comes to international or cross-country business, meeting with clients across the globe no longer require plane tickets, hotel reservations and days away from home traveling with a twelve-pound laptop. Instead, through an online meeting you can meet with your client in Spain to collaborate as if you were working on the same computer, sitting side by side. You can share documents, edit files, interact in real time and even make an entire desktop available to your colleagues in Hong Kong and London. The whole team can look at videos together, share photos and keep up-to-date with important budgets and schedules.

With conference calls, it’s all about breaking down whatever barriers stand in your way in order to get a job done. Whether you are forced to wait for a herd of cattle crossing a back country road on your way to work or Godzilla, you can rest assured that the work can still get done in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

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.

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