Stop. Collaborate and Listen.

ReadyTalk Collaborate Mode for better meetingsReadyTalk plays an important role for teams who want to collaborate during meetings. Unlike webinars with only one or two presenters, collaborative meetings require that several people share control of the meeting to present slides, jointly edit a document, share their desktops, etc.

Recognizing that it can be a hassle to promote each participant to “co-presenter,” ReadyTalk recently began rolling out a new feature, Collaborate Mode. This enables you to start any of your meetings in a “Collaborate” or “Present” mode. Present mode will mirror the experience you are used to (all attendees join as participants) and Collaborate mode will automatically promote your participants to the co-presenter role.
As a co-presenter, others in your meeting with be able to:

• See the participant list, so you know who is on the conference
• Chat amongst individual participants or in a group to foster additional communication/collaboration
• Share their desktop or applications for a more collaborative working session

Giving participants access to these features immediately saves time and gets the meeting up and running quickly. It also maintains the flow of the meeting by allowing different folks to take control and share as needed.

We understand that not everyone needs (or wants) this feature so we’ve only enabled it for a subset of accounts. But, we’d love to turn it on for you! If you would like to try out this feature, send an email to your account manager or help@readytalk.com.

Meetings! Meetings! And More Meetings! How Much are They Really Costing You?

Are you running from meeting to meeting? Are there clear agendas, action items and decisions being made in all these meetings?  Do you even know why you were requested to attend? Are you losing precious time waiting for people to join your online meetings? 

These are all frustrating occurrences that are happening in offices all over corporate America.   The expense of bad meetings is costing American companies billions of dollars in lost productivity and it is negatively affecting the corporate culture. 

How many hours do you spend in meetings a week?  Are customers, prospects and vendors complaining that they can never get a hold of you?

According to The American Genius, "an astonishing $37 billion is wasted on meetings every year in the United States."* 

You wouldn't waste corporate resources anywhere else in the company so why is it happening with meetings?   Now there is a way to tell how much you are spending on meetings with the Cost of Weak Conferencing Calculator and then check out the Online Meetings Like a Boss blog for 8 tips for running a great meeting.  

*http://agbeat.com/business-news/biggest-productivity-drains-work-much-cost/

Technology Tools for Remote Workers

Telecommuting, remote work and flex schedules are rising in popularity. On a recent webinar, Out of the Office: Tips and Best Practices for Working Remotely, Kristin Thomas of FlexJobs shared some impressive stats on the increase in remote work:

• Telecommuting increased 80% from 2005 to 2012
• FlexJobs saw a 26% increase in remote jobs posted in 2014 over 2013
• 64 million U.S employees (50% of the workforce) have jobs that are remote-compatible
• 83% of HR professionals said telecommuting would be more prevalent in the next five years
• 34 million people “occasionally” telecommute. This is expected to swell to 63 million by 2016.

In Improving Your Remote Work Experience, we shared some checklists and tips for remote workers as well as tips for their colleagues and managers. During the webinar, Abby Wall of ReadyTalk, shared some great technology tools that help be a successful remote employee.

Here’s our list of top technology tools for remote work. We’ve suggested categories of tools and a few in that category but keep in mind, there are lots of options out there:

Audio and Web Conferencing: Hosting and joining audio and web meetings should be easy and should start quickly. Look for tools that integrate with your other tools, like Outlook, Google and Salesforce. Example: ReadyTalk

Instant Messenger: Allows you to quickly chat online with colleagues. Examples: Jabber and Peer.im

File Sharing: Whether in the office or out, employees need to be able to access and share files. Examples: Dropbox, ownCloud, and Box

Group Calendars: Syncing up schedules can be a challenge. Having shared calendars can often help. Examples: Google Calendars and TeamUp

Private Social Networks: Private social networks ensure you always have a space to share photos, collaborate on a group project. It can aide in keeping colleagues connected on personal and professional levels. Examples: Yammer, Tibbr, and Jive

Time Management: Without the distractions of an office, remote employees can lose track of just how long they’ve been working on a task or project. There are apps to help. Examples: Rescue Time, Remember the Milk and Focus Booster

Project Management: Keep a major project moving forward can be a challenge whether you’re in the office or not. These apps keep everyone on the same page. Examples: Basecamp, Jira, Trello

Note Taking: If you work remotely or on the go, a cloud-based note taking app can be extremely helpful for sync notes across multiple devices at any time. Examples: Evernote and OneNote

Time Zone Converter: If your team is located internationally, bookmark a time zone converter to ensure that you’re not scheduling a meeting in the middle of the night. Example: timeanddate.com

Other Enterprise Tools: Depending on your business and your profession, you may need access to a variety of other tools, such as Salesforce (CRM), Hootsuite (Social Media Management) and others.

For more on working with remote colleagues, check out the recording from the webinar, Out of the Office: Tips and Best Practices for Working Remotely.

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Improving Your Remote Work Experience

02.10.15 Remote Work Infographic

Being a remote employee can be both rewarding and challenging. You’re often reliant on in-office colleagues to communicate important details, miss out on social functions and watercooler gossip. But, you also enjoy more flexibility in your schedule, uninterrupted time and no commute. There can also be challenges for folks who work in the office but have remote colleagues–instant responses may not be possible, reading body language isn’t possible and it can be difficult to establish personal relationships.

That said, for most companies, the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely far outweigh the negatives, which explains why it is rising in popularity. Currently, 34 million “occasionally” telecommute, and this is expected to increase to 63 million by 2016.

Today, two remote work experts joined the ReadyTalk customer webinar series to talk about how to improve the remote work experience for remote and in-office employees. During Out of the Office: Tips and Best Practices for Working Remotely, Kristin Thomas of FlexJobs and Abby Wall of ReadyTalk shared ways to improve how you work from a distance and tips to help remote colleagues stay connected, engaged and part of the team. You can check out the webinar recording below.

To help you get started, we compiled a few checklists as well as a handy infographic. Also, be sure to checkout Technology Tools for Remote Workers.

Tips for Working Remotely:

• Communicate: Make sure everyone on your team knows your hours and how to reach you. Establish “rules” around when and how often you connect and what an acceptable response time is.
• Create a home office: Set aside a dedicated space and minimize the distractions so you can work effectively.
• Rely on technology: Technology tools, such as web conferencing, IM and file sharing, can help you stay connected and give you access to information you need.
• Have a back up plan: Sometimes technology fails. How will you work when the power goes out?
• Decide what is most important: Prioritize your work day
• Define success: Whether it’s creating and completing your to do list or an empty inbox, know what your success looks like as well as what’s important to your manager.
• Structure your work day: Set a schedule for when you’re available for phone calls, emails, etc. and time to focus on projects.
• Be bold: It can be easy to sit silently on mute during a conference call but your contributions are important. Be sure to speak up.
• Make the most of time together: Take advantage of opportunities to meet with colleagues in-person and use the time to build stronger relationships.
• Be connected: Leverage technology to make it easy for your colleagues to reach you.

Also check out: 5 traits you need to work at home.

Tips for Working with Remote Colleagues:

• Make it easy to connect: Be sure to include dial-in information in meeting invitations so everyone can join easily (check out ReadyTalk’s Outlook and Google integrations, which add meeting details in one click). This will also help your meetings to start on time.
• Create an agenda: Share the agenda in advance but also share it in real-time using web conferencing. It will keep the meeting moving forward and keep everyone on the same page.
• Include everyone during the meeting: Give remote attendees and opportunity to contribute. Use a web conference to share what you are project in-room. If you draw something on the whiteboard, snap a picture and include it with the post-meeting notes.
• Audio checks: Make sure remote colleagues can hear everyone in the room speaking. If it’s a large in-room presentation, repeat the question back so the folks on the phone hear it before you answer. Also, be sure that in-room participants aren’t sitting right next to the phone while typing, eating or making other distracting noises.
• Check in: Throughout the meeting, you can check in with remote participants using web conferencing features, IM or verbally. These check-ins help everyone stay connected.

Tips for Managing Remote Employees:

• Accountability: Let the work speak for itself.
• Right people: Determine which roles are right for which kind of flexible arrangement.
• Goals: Link flexibility with business goals then set individual goals and outline plans with a plan to review and revise.
• Establish norms: Create communication protocols, determine schedules and set expectations.
• Technology: Ensure employees have access to all the technology tools (web and audio conferencing, IM, file sharing, etc.) needed to be successful.
• Opportunities to contribute: Give time and virtual space at meetings for everyone on the team.
• Create ways to connect: Build trust and group cohesiveness through team-building activities.

For more on working with remote colleagues, check out the recording from the webinar, Out of the Office: Tips and Best Practices for Working Remotely:

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How to break up with your provider in 7 steps

Last week, I wrote about how, if you’re in a bad vendor relationship, there’s no time like the present to break up. Well, this week I’m sharing 7 steps to actually breaking up:

1. Keep your distance

It is very advisable to maintain some distance from your provider before you actually break up. This has many advantages. On one side, you will gain some emotional distance, which is important to be able to go through the steps listed below.

On the other side, your provider may sense that something is about to happen and will hopefully prepare themselves.

Just cut off contact for a week before (in some cases you may need to cutoff contact for 30 days before you can move on). Do not give too much information, just say you’re busy.

2. Be sure about your decision

Chances are that you were thinking about leaving for a long time. You have come to the conclusion that you don’t fit together, have different expectations about conferencing or were unable to resolve or get to the bottom of your conflicts. Maybe you have simply realized that you no longer like your provider.

To help you with making the decision, I suggest that you make a list of all the reasons why you want to leave, and write a possible solution beside it. Then go through your list and reflect whether or not you have done everything you could to solve the problems you’ve had.

By knowing the reasons for leaving, you will on one hand be prepared for questions your provider might ask, and on the other hand they may help you to cope with the break up yourself.

3. Do it in writing

Always notify your provider that you are leaving in writing – send a letter or an email.

4. Be prepared

This is anything but easy. You have to be well prepared—you have to know what to say in advance.

You must realize that your provider may be shocked. Even if the break up announced itself a long time ago for you, it will come out of the blue for them. The “no contact” before can soften this.

5. Always be clear that it’s absolutely over

This is the most difficult part: Never, ever let there be any doubt that your partnership is over.

You’ve made your decision. Stick to it whenever you talk to your provider. Never give any hope. The clearer you are, the better and easier it is for the provider in the long run.

6. Give an opportunity for closure

When you leave your provider, that provider often remains in a state of shock for several days. Often they cannot remember what was said, let alone understand the causes or your reasons that led to it. In this case they will seek closure.

By closure I mean a resolving conversation about the reasons for leaving your current provider.

7. Help them with no contact

The “no contact rule” is one of the most important premises for healing from a break up.

But sometimes the urge to call or meet is so strong that many can’t resist.

Do not continue to hold conferences with them. If they call or email you, keep the response short and non-personal. Never call, email or text message first, not even to ask how they’re doing.

ReadyTalk is here to help your through it, read about how we can help you transition from your current provider so that it’s not so painful.