4 Conferencing Trends Revealed at Enterprise Connect 2014
April 29, 2014 @ 08:13 AM | By InterCall Blog

In early March, InterCall and West Corporation teams headed down to Orlando, Florida to join IT, telecom and networking professionals at Enterprise Connect, the leading expo and conference on enterprise communications and collaboration. While a slew of new products were unveiled and a wide variety of industry trends were discussed, a few stuck out more than others.

 

Enterprise Connect 2014

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When It Comes to Being Green, You Can Talk the Walk
April 25, 2014 @ 09:29 AM | By Jill Huselton

With conferencing, there’s no better way to show your support for Earth Day.

On April 22, people from more than 192 countries celebrated Earth Day, the annual event that raises awareness about environmental issues, encourages conservation and promotes global peace.

At InterCall, we’re big fans of Earth Day every day. But more importantly, we’re fans of doing whatever we can to encourage environmentally friendly behaviors all year long. For us, green practices aren’t just items on our to-do list—they’re an important part of our responsibility to help preserve the planet for future generations.

The key message of Earth Day is sustainability. And in a lot of ways, InterCall’s business revolves around helping individuals and businesses tap into a more eco-friendly way of life. With the right conferencing solutions, it’s possible to substantially improve the quality of business communications and support being green at the same time.

Green Meetings
Celebrating our Earth every day is the InterCall way!

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Conference Call Global Minutes - Examining the 2013 Data
April 24, 2014 @ 02:15 PM | By Dennis Collins

There hasn’t been a bigger force changing businesses in the last 10 years than globalization. To make the most of that level of globalization, firms around the world have to work together. From Shanghai to Cape Town, companies must be able to connect with each other.

That fact in turn has driven demand for more sophisticated conferencing and collaboration tools.  We were curious if conferencing usage would identify any trends or even reinforce notions about regional and cultural nuances in the global economy. So InterCall reviewed and analyzed more than 20 billion conferencing minutes across 197 countries in 2013 to see what the data could tell us about international work habits.

We accumulated all the data in an infographic which is broken down below.
Click here to see the full infographic.

Here’s what we found:

October Is the Busiest Conferencing Month on Earth

Three busiest conferencing months of 2103.View and embed full infographic here.

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The 5 Things Taxes and Video Conferences Have in Common
April 15, 2014 @ 10:29 AM | By Jill Huselton

April 15th looms large in the minds of U.S. taxpayers. Even though it arrives on the same day each year, Tax Day sends many people into full-blown panic mode—especially if they have waited until the last minute to file their returns.

Video conferences can make people feel that way, too. The proverbial “shoebox full of receipts” is to the last minute tax payer, what a quickly approaching conference date is to an event host. Regardless of how much planning you have done, the video-conference host often asks him or herself: will my event fall flat?

5 Things Taxes and Video Conferences Have in Common

We’ve heard both of these scenarios many, many times. Therefore, we couldn’t help but draw a parallel between taxes and video-conferences. They have more in common than one might think:

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Top 3 Dos and Don'ts of Conference Calling
April 10, 2014 @ 12:30 PM | By Jill Huselton

When it comes to conference calls, small talk can feel like a pointless exercise that doesn’t contribute anything to the topic at hand. But small talk is important because it lays the foundation for the rest of the call—and if you blow it, you can easily sabotage the objectives you hoped to achieve from the conference. 

Small Talk on Conference Calls

Why Small Talk Matters in Conference Calls

Time is a precious commodity and it’s natural for conference callers to want to immediately jump into meatier matters. But small talk has its place because it facilitates the exchange of basic information, builds rapport and gives call participants the opportunity to ease into the conversation.

Think of it this way: if the conference call is a house, small talk is the foyer. Everyone knows that the group will eventually end up in the dining room or living room, but there has to be an entryway—the space designed to transition guests into the main living area. It would be awkward to enter the house through a main room, even if the architecture allowed it.

Conference calls are constructed in a similar manner. Small talk opens the door to more substantive conversations. So like it or not, you’re going to have to learn how to talk small (and how to do it well) if you want to upgrade your conferencing skill set.

Dos and Don'ts of Conference Calls

In audio-only calls, the absence of physical cues and eye contact can make small talk even more challenging. With that in mind, here are a few dos and don’ts to help you convert small talk into a springboard for a successful conference. 

Do ….

1. Do ... Listen more than you talk in conference. 

People who monopolize small talk conversations are irritating. To avoid turning off other meeting participants, live by the general rule of listening more than you talk during this initial portion of conference calls.

2. Do ... Ask simple questions.

When it’s time to talk, consider asking general, non-business-related questions that build rapport and establish the backgrounds of others on the call. For example, by simply asking where the other participants are located you can stimulate a short conversation that uncovers valuable information about other callers.

3. Do ... Remember names of conference call participants.

It’s common for people to introduce themselves during small talk. Make an effort to remember everyone’s name and try to associate it with their voice to avoid embarrassment later in the conversation,. (Hint By using web conferencing services that integrate with the audio call, you can see who’s talking to help keep it all straight.)

Don’t ...

1. Don't ... Talk business at the begining of the conference call. 

Try to avoid jumping into business topics during small talk. There will be plenty of time for that later and by discussing business topics before everyone has joined the call, you can create confusion because some people won’t be up-to-speed—even if they joined the call on time.

2. Don't ... Gossip on conference calls. 

Gossip about competitors or other topics isn’t appropriate for small talk. Remember: your goal is to create a connection and establish a foundation for the rest of the call, not to trash other individuals or companies.

3. Don't ... Discuss politics, religion or sex in conference.

It’s just common sense that you should avoid controversial topics during small talk. If you’re going to offend other call participants, make sure it’s due to a legitimate business reason—not because you thought an off-color joke would make a great ice-breaker.

Finally, the rule of thumb for small talk is to make the conversation as inclusive as possible. If you choose to strike up a conversation about an exclusive experience you had with one or two other call participants, you will instantly alienate everyone else on the call and miss an opportunity to set an inclusive tone for the rest of your conference.

Tell us about your strategy for kicking-off a conference call. What topics for small talk have you found worked or failed?

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.

Free Conference Call Services - 5 Reasons they are NOT a Bargain
April 1, 2014 @ 09:15 AM | By Tonya Hottmann

Running a small business can be expensive and cutting corners is sometimes a necessity. So, free services can seem very appealing. When it comes to business critical applications, however, free generally means low quality and inconsistency which can leave a bad impression on your customers and hurt your profits. There are some crucial factors to weigh before selecting “free," especially with essential business communications.

You want to be able to control the message and how it is delivered. Free conference call providers don't offer this capability.

Free conference calls can be frustrating and unproductive.

 

With the future of your business on the line, you shouldn't take chances with an unreliable service. Here are the top five reasons free conference calls are NOT a bargain:

1. Free Conference Calls - What message are you sending?

Ever join a call where all you hear is crackling, humming or bad echoes? How about finding yourself asking others to repeat themselves quite frequently? It’s likely a free service that doesn’t provide professional quality technology, which is where free providers have cut corners.

The success of your business is on the line with every call you make. Because the point of a conference call is to communicate, it’s worthless if you can’t hear what others are saying. When you are on a call with a prospective investor or key client, do you really want to risk your reputation with unreliable service?

Bad reception equals bad perception.

2. Free conference calls are never really free.

“Free” conference calling services are based on toll numbers, not toll-free, so they are subject to long distance charges, taxes and other fees. Who pays those charges? Everyone on the call pays. Yes, even your customers during an important client meeting pay for the privilege of joining your call. Since these are U.S. based toll numbers, any international participants will be subject to exorbitantly high long distance charges.

“Free” conferencing services emanate from a loophole in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Rural areas have traditionally high infrastructure costs for wireless and phone carriers, so the carriers often team up with “Free” services and provide them access to their rural lines.

This method of “traffic pumping” helps them generate more volume to pass on to carriers as a fee. You may not know it, but the phone number you are dialing is in a remote area that will almost always be a long distance call for all participants. Plus the carriers can pass on these fees to all customers in higher rates. There are several court cases currently pending on the legality of this business model.

Do you really want your customers footing the bill?

3. No room for growth with free conferencing services.

As your business expands, so do your communication needs. Most “free” conference call services are geared to very, very small businesses with minimal calling needs. If you need to reliably share slides, have multiple numbers or require call security, a trusted, well-established service provider will offer the best solutions.

As your business grows and you add international customers or locations, a provider with a vast global footprint will be able to effectively and cost efficiently assist you with your communications needs.
Many organizations see substantial productivity improvements and cost-savings by integrating all their interactions into one unified communication solution, which combines both online and offline connections. Find a service provider that can handle multiple solutions, both on premises and cloud-based, which will offer the best variety.

As you plan for growth, find a communications provider that you can grow with you.

4. Good luck finding any extra conferencing services or features.

Full service conferencing providers offer additional features such as free mobile apps, easy calendar integration, detailed conferencing reports, sub-conferencing for breakout sessions, muting, disconnecting, on demand playback of recordings and much more. Before committing to a service, ask yourself questions such as:

  • How important is it that I can control the conversation?
  • Will I need to playback my calls later?
  • Do I need to host or join meetings from the road?
  • Will I need to quickly schedule and join meetings?
  • Will I ever want to have professional introductions with operator lead calls?

Think of the types of calls you will have in the future, any special requirements you’ll need and plan accordingly.

5. With free conference calls, connection isn't guaranteed.

“Free” conference call providers rely on the infrastructure of others, so there is no guarantee that your call will actually be connected.  Your conference information would be subject to outages, peak time and service availability.

Trusted providers not only own the infrastructure they operate, they operate at fractional capacity to ensure peak times are covered and service delivery is consistent.  They can also provide technical assistance and support as needed to ensure all your calls run smoothly.

What good is a call when it can’t be connected?

The Bottom Line – There’s no such thing as a free call.

While free can be appealing as a method to cut costs, it is important to decide where saving a few pennies actually impacts your business.  Conference calling services account for less than 4% of the total cost of a meeting. 

An estimated 5 million labor hours are spent per year in meetings.  How productive can your meetings be when you have to ask people to repeat themselves, rejoin dropped calls or hunt for conference codes?  

Free conference calling services don’t provide the level of professionalism, advanced services or room for growth that experienced providers do.  Communication is the most vital element of your business and central to any type of transaction.  

If you can’t be there in person, you need a professional alternative that reinforces your business value. Spend management is essential for all businesses, but the lowest cost isn’t always the best value. After all, would you really want brain surgery performed by the cheapest surgeon? The same holds true with communication providers.

Tonya Hottmann imageTonya Hottmann is the director of marketing at InterCall, responsible for eCommerce and small business. Before joining InterCall, Tonya ran a boutique marketing consulting firm for 10 years. She has worked in the digital and technology marketing sector since 1997, growing start-ups and launching eCommerce solutions. In her free time, she enjoys reading, sports and traveling.

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