Category Archives: Tips & Tricks

Video conferencing etiquette 101

Looking for the key that unlocks productivity and innovation at companies? Video conferencing is your answer, letting employees scattered across the globe to collaborate via face-to-face interaction. However, just like phone decorum calls for a "hello" and "goodbye," video conferencing requires its own set of manners.

To ensure you make a good impression on your boss and co-workers, here are some video conferencing etiquette guidelines:

Look presentable 

Just because you can call into a video meeting in your bedroom doesn't mean you can get away with wearing your pajamas. Treat the call like any other business meeting and wear what you would sport to the office (and maybe move from a stack of pillows to your desk). And please, wear pants, too. Even though screens will show only your upper half, you never know if the camera could fall or you'll need to get up for some reason, as Entrepreneur magazine pointed out. It pays to be prepared. 

Have a tidy background

Be conscious of your background before joining a video conference. Make sure the space behind you is clean and free of clutter; otherwise the meeting participants will be focused on the dirty dishes littering the table behind you more than your talking points. Use an even, face-level camera angle, too, as anything else is distracting. 

Set up good lighting 

You don't need to become a lighting expert before you dial in to a video meeting, but you should make sure the room will be bright enough for all callers to see your face clearly and without shadows. 

Keep your microphone muted 

You never know what's going to be amplified by your computer or headset microphone – your finger tapping, a fan running in the background, a dog barking, a car speeding down the street, etc. It's polite to keep your microphone on mute when you're not talking. 

Make eye contact 

It's human nature to have your eyes fixed on your beautiful face in the box at the bottom of the screen instead of on your webcam. However, looking directly into the camera is important because it helps you connect with your audience. 

Fight the urge to type

You may want to type notes during your video conference, but resist the temptation, the Wall Street Journal advised. Not only could it create noise if your microphone isn't on mute, but also other people may assume that you are working on something unrelated to the meeting. 

With these tips, you can have pitch-perfect video conferencing manners. 

How to set fourth quarter goals the right way

 

The fourth quarter has started, and it’s time to set goals for what your company wants to achieve by the end of the year.

But not every goal is effective. The way you designate and describe your targets has a big impact on the likelihood you’ll reach them. Read on to learn how to set goals the right way in the fourth quarter:

Be realistic

Fourth quarter business is up against a set of obstacles not seen during the rest of the year, such as budgets running out and the holidays causing a slowdown in activity. Set goals that reflect the realities of the season, and let your company’s performance in fourth quarters past guide the goals you set this time around.

As author and business coach Marla Tabaka noted in an interview with Inc. magazine, if you usually have a slow season in the fourth quarter but have established more aggressive targets than ever before, you’re just setting yourself up to fail. Instead, set goals that are more realistic; the satisfaction you and your team feels once you achieve them will be a positive motivating force that helps you start the next year strong.

Connect the goals to employees

People are more motivated to achieve goals when the targets in question align with their personal ambitions.

The Executive Guide to Goal Setting from software firm AchieveIt cited an example of this principle at Coca-Cola. The company wanted employees to achieve goals that helped them fulfill the company’s mission statement, which was to increase shareholder value. However, some employees felt too disconnected from shareholders to feel motivated to achieve these goals. In response, Amy Bergin, a former training consultant for Coca-Cola, designed a program that involved having employees set their own goals and then link these goals to the corporate mission to establish a more personal sense of motivation. Look for ways at your organization to more closely entwine employees’ individual goals and companywide ambitions.

Consider phrasing

The goals that are more likely to be achieved are those that use specific language. Instead of simply vowing to generate more leads, quantify how many you hope to have by the end of the year, and in which industries or verticals, for example.

“The moment you focus on a goal, your goal becomes a magnet, pulling you and your resources toward it,” said goal-setting expert Ryan Blair in an interview with The Balance. “The more focused your energies, the more power you generate.”

Empower your employees the best you can by establishing goals that use clear and specific language.

Follow these tips to help set your team up for success in the home stretch of the year. Now go hit your goals out of the park!

7 webinar preparation tips

Webinars offer dynamic ways for businesses of all types to generate leads and establish themselves as thought leaders. But preparation makes all the difference in whether your webinar is a productive marketing channel or ultimately a waste of time. 

To help you put on a stellar webinar that adds value to both your audience's lives and your company's bottom line, follow these tips:

1. Keep the webinar to the point 

When you have a camera in front of you, it can be tempting to treat the opportunity like a Hollywood audition. However, webinars where the presenters go on and on about themselves or their services turn off viewers. Be sure to establish your webinar's goal – for example, teaching clients tips for successfully using cloud software or sharing important news about your company – and then, stick to the script. 

2. Give more than a sales pitch 

In our digital age, audiences are smart; they know when they're being given a sales pitch, and no one wants to feel like they're so blatantly being sold something. Webinars that are too sales-y or self-promoting can decrease audience engagement. 

3. Craft a catchy title 

Your potential webinar audience is constantly being confronted with grabs for its attention. The internet is saturated with content, so remember what you're competing against when designing a webinar. A catchy title will hook viewers – best practice is to keep it to no more than 15 words. 

4. Make it easy to register 

With all the media vying for people's attention, if people have to complete a complex registration process for the webinar, they're not going to bother. Include only registration fields that truly are necessary. The more fields to fill out, the less likely people are to register. 

5. Properly promote the webinar

Use a multichannel approach to most effectively promote your webinar, with campaigns on email and social media. For best results, start marketing the event at least two weeks in advance. 

6. Send a reminder 

Everyone's to-do list is miles long these days, so ensure your webinar hasn't been forgotten by sending a reminder email to people who have registered 24 hours before the event. 

7. Practice, practice, practice

Before you say "action!" practice your webinar presentation more than once. Do a full run-through with the tech to make sure everything goes smoothly the day of. 

With these tips, you can knock your webinars out of the park! 

4 Ways to Improve Communication Today

What’s the #1 issue that causes business failure? Miscommunication. That includes lack of communication, not providing enough or accurate information or just not understanding. It’s also costly. In fact, estimates are that miscommunication costs $37 billion every year. Ouch.

improve communicationWhether this is due to select individuals or a businesswide breakdown in communication, companies don’t have to settle for less when it comes to speaking with and engaging their employees.

After all, a Holmes Report study found that companies with excellent communication strategies experience 47 percent higher returns for shareholders, less employee turnover and more satisfied workers overall. So how can you improve communication at your company?

1. Restructure your hierarchy

Far too often, the main problem regarding poor communication at companies is select individuals who are bottlenecks. That means they don’t pass on important information. If you can, restructure or dismantle your current management hierarchy with leaders who value good communication and actively share information.

2. Lead by example

If you want your team to communicate better, change needs to begin from the top down. Lead by example if you want to create lasting change at your organization. Show your employees what is expected of them by consistently giving feedback, asking for it in return and keeping lines of communication open at all times.

3. Empower your people

Are there consequences for sharing bad news? Maybe that’s why there are communication gaps around the office. And really … would you rather not know bad news or know it and be able to do something? The consequences for not understanding bad news could be catastrophic for your business.

4. Have a communication strategy

So your company has poor communication. Do something about it! Funnel resources, effort and time into reinventing your company’s communication strategy. Your internal communications team, for larger companies, or HR department for smaller ones might be a good place to start. While it might be a challenging transformation process at first, the results will be incredibly rewarding.

A strategy includes having tools available to enable — not hinder — communication. The tools you choose should depend on your culture and what your people need as well as thinking through an array of tools.

Need more tips?

We have a plethora of resources available from general ideas about when to use email and meetings to active listening.

Viva La Revolution: Remote Workers Need Communications

About fifteen years ago, I got up at 5 a.m. and used the company’s VPN to update our external website indicating there was a snow storm in Portland, Oregon and we’d have reduced customer service hours. My manager at the time, the VP of Corporate Communications, was on a task force helping to determine disaster recovery procedures for our company, including communicating with customers and employees. She fought hard to ensure I had VPN access. Fought because at the time, only a handful of employees had access. The company was more willing to give her access instead of the person doing the work: me. IT was concerned about remote working policies, something HR hadn’t had a chance to address.

But that day, fifteen years ago, our website was updated and disaster communications were completed. My VP called every couple of hours to let me know what was expected. I updated the website. Communication worked, even though I was remote.

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, that story isn’t so unusual. There used to be gates and issues with getting access to work remotely. Typically executives and senior leaders were given access, even if they weren’t the ones doing the work.

Fast forward to today. It should be easy to work remotely, but typically … it isn’t. Here are a few questions to consider on improving your remote working situation … and revolutionize it. Heck, we all need the communications revolution, even when we’re in the office.

1. Is it easy to communicate and work?

man attending webinarOur workforce right now is teeming with different needs: digital natives (Millennials), digital transplants (Gen Xers) and people who grew up typing … not on a computer (Baby Boomers). Some places still have the Silent Generation, those who remember WWII, working. The technology introduced in their homes when they were children was the radio. Most likely their family got a television when they were teenagers.

That’s a difficult challenge to meet — digital experts who expect technology to work and people less comfortable with that technology who get easily frustrated with it.

The perfect solution is something that’s easy for all of them. What’s easy? Can you just click something and it works? Technology is so good many of the solutions these days offered are all about one click. One. Even communications.

That means the technology needs to be intuitive. In other words, people who have never used a product need to know what to do. People don’t want to read instructions. In fact, if your technology needs instructions, probably time to rethink it. You shouldn’t need a manual to start a video meeting or wait on the AV guy. If it’s easy, users will adopt it. Wouldn’t you?

2. Is it fast?

I recall the days where it took a minute to connect to the Internet and look at emails. Those days of modems are long gone. In fact, we’re consuming more content on our smartphones than ever before. That means technology, like websites, needs to be super fast. If it takes more than a few seconds for something to happen, I don’t know about you, but I run out of patience.

Communication needs to be even faster. I want to instant message (IM) someone to get a quick video downloaded. I’ll pop my head over the cube and ask if we got a customer to review a story. The faster the better.

Does the communication platform start instantly or almost instantly? Can I communicate with someone quickly to get something done?

3. Does it make you feel good and smart?

Here’s a tricky one. When people use technology, they don’t want to feel dumb. They want to be able to use technology and feel smart. Confident.

I love Photoshop. Although I’m good at jumping into new technology and figuring it out, Photoshop took a while. It took classes. I learned tricks from friends. I’m still learning things about Photoshop and I’ve been using the tool for more than ten years. When I ask co-workers, they don’t want to use Photoshop. Why? It’s hard. They can do a few things in it, but really they don’t like using it. They don’t have time to take classes and in the meantime, it makes them feel dumb.

Okay, so that’s a photo / design tool. Communication demands people feel good. That actually adds to the experience of communicating. If we just had a terrible experience trying to use software to communicate, the conversation isn’t as meaningful. And typically we grouse at the beginning of that meeting about the stupid technology that didn’t enable me to join a meeting on time. That’s a communication detractor. Those barriers need to be removed.

4. Does it add more to your communication?

I had an interesting discussion with the chief strategy officer of ReadyTalk recently. And he brought up something that’s so true and something we take for granted: communication is about grok-ing. What’s grok? It’s to understand deeply and completely. Although I’m a writer, I don’t know of an English word that really nails it the way Heinlein’s “grok” does in Stranger in a Strange Land. Grok involves a lot of things: active listening, empathy, rapport, trust, intuition and connection. We’re all seeking the ability to grok each other, even in business meetings. It’s the human condition. We’re put on this earth, really, to grok each other — our spouses and partners, our friends, our children, our parents, our teachers ….

A guy I work with, Tim, had a brilliant observation in a meeting the other day. “When we trust each other, we get beyond the why and get to the how.” He meant people are ready to roll up their sleeves once they grok each other. Good communication enabled that to happen with the team he’s on. Instead of asking whether their salesperson did a number of things, their engineers worked to fix the things she said were issues. They trusted them, the engineers, to do it. Everyone wanted to help. Teamwork Nirvana.

When you’re remote, you need that more grok-ing. I worked remote for a while. Most of team was in Atlanta, except for me and three other people. I heard about team lunches and them working late together. I worked late, too … but what I didn’t have is working late with them in the office. That experience isn’t unusual. My husband works remote now and he complains about one issue and one issue only: communication. In fact, that’s the number one issue businesses are facing: communication. It’s the lack there of and miscommunication that are the biggest problems.

Video communication is a great way for remote employees to grok each other. So is the phone. Face-to-face discussions. Email. IM. Forums. The list of communication is endless. More than anything, it’s about the mix of communication.

It’s the nuances that really drive those connections, from seeing a smile to hearing a sigh. They all drive to what we’re grok-ing about each other.

Putting it all together

Easy to use, fast, that makes people feel good and enables true understanding. That’s what ReadyTalk is doing and why we’re so busy. After all, it’s our job to help you flourish and be productive. And we care about that. Really and truly.