The Evolution of a Serial Entrepreneur and How to Manage a Remote Team

Cisco WebEx and Influencive are teaming up to bring you real-world tips for taking your remote business to the next level. Check out the advice below or and don’t miss our Facebook Live discussion at the bottom of the post to learn more about how to build and manage a remote team effectively.

Operating a business is so different today than it used to be. When I first entered the world of entrepreneurship as a 16 year-old entrepreneur in the suburbs of Massachusetts, I didn’t even know I was an entrepreneur.

I was selling products on Ebay as a way to make money because I didn’t want to work at a grocery store, but after a while someone told me that I had started a business and I didn’t even realize it necessarily. This was the start of my entrepreneurial journey.

Ever since my eBay days I have went on to build, grow, and exit multiple businesses which have led me to founding Influencive.

With the way that technology continues to advance, the way that us entrepreneurs conduct our day-to-day activities also continue to evolve. Ten years ago, social media and networking online is nothing like what it is today. Now, you barely meet people in person first anymore because it happens online. The first impressions you give someone are online and are even more important today than they have ever been.

Social media and networking has evolved immensely over the past few years but an area that has allowed entrepreneurs like myself to build and manage a remote team is through software tools and apps like Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark.

Without technology, I don’t think I would be nearly as “successful” as I have been. These types of tools are used by my team and I use them to communicate on a regular basis, but also use them for meeting clients. Having apps like this on my desktop or mobile are important for me to stay in the loop and in communication with team members as needed.

At Influencive and my other companies, most of the team members are remote. Managing a remote team can be tricky. Here are 3 ways to help you manage a remote team.

1. Have Open Lines of Communication

When you have a team spread out over time zones and countries, it’s important from day one to set expectations that your team is able to communicate with each other. The days of telling your employees and co-workers to just email each other are dwindling by the day. If you do this, you are going to create more work than necessary. I don’t know about you, but I get more spam than ever before and it’s increasingly difficult to find important emails.

What we do at Influencive to help minimize our daily emails to each other, is we have a chat group that we communicate and message each other in. This helps increase our productivity almost tenfold because we can ask questions right away, send documents, and can even do calls as needed. We know that if we want to contact anyone, we can just send them a message. Then people can reply on their own time instead of being constantly interrupted with in-person water cooler talk and other shenanigans that has been proven to reduce productivity.

If you are still relying on your email inbox for communication, find a messaging platform or chat group you can use with your team to help minimize the amount of emails you send.

2. Implement Weekly Check-In’s

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve started to get away from actually holding meetings with my teams. We all have 1000’s of thoughts going through our brains at any given time and holding meetings daily with your team usually only hurts them because most meetings aren’t very productive.

As a matter of fact, most 1 hour meetings could be done in under 10 minutes. Crazy right?

When you have a remote team, one way to set expectations and maintain order and productivity is to implement weekly check-ins with your team. Everyone has different schedules and work better during different hours of the day.

For that reason, sometimes a scheduled meeting is pointless because schedules shift, people are on sales calls, in-person meetings and etc. I’m not a big fan of set weekly meetings for that reason.

Instead, all communications can be done through Cisco Spark. And the check-ins can happen when and if they are needed rather than having meetings just to have meetings. This saves the team time and money.

3. Promote Autonomy

One of the benefits of having a remote team in the first place is not having a team member be location dependent. You can pick people to be a part of your team no matter where they live. This is a major advantage to have.

Rather than relying on the uber competitive talent pool in the city of the founders, you can look elsewhere to add to your team.

Something that you need to implement from day one is that you want to give all employees autonomy. They all need to feel a part of the team, but they also need to feel that freedom to make mistakes and take risks. Now, this doesn’t mean go out there and make the company look bad, it just means employees need to feel that they can make some decisions and their boss isn’t looking over their every move.

A quote I really like is:

“If you don’t trust your employees to work from anywhere, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.”

This is so true. You need to trust your team to get the job done and if you don’t trust them to work from the beaches in Bali or from the coffee shop down the street then you probably shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

Allow them autonomy and the ability to do their job from wherever they want. Just make sure that they actually get their work done. If they get their work done, and are the best at what they do, then you shouldn’t have anything to complain about.

With the power of the internet and remote collaboration tools like Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark, location is irrelevant so stop using location as an excuse and instead use it as an advantage.

Want to know more? Check out our live discussion from the WebEx Facebook page below.

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Meeting Place. Workspace.

Project management is all about bringing people together to get things done. But when dealing with your collaboration technology seems like a separate job in itself, moving a project forward can feel impossible.

Thankfully, Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark make the process of working together easier (and more fun). Project managers can make one space for teams to meet, collaborate and even whiteboard. That way, everyone can spend less time connecting to meetings and more time working toward the finish line together.

Ally Taylor is a project manager specializing in employee communication for IoT and apps at Cisco. In the fast-moving world of tech business, Ally has to stay on top of updates from multiple teams in real-time.  Go behind-the-scenes to see how this busy project manager rocks her work day.

 

Learn more about how Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark work together.

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How to Unplug on Your Summer Vacation

It’s a yearly tradition in our family. We pack up our camping gear and make one last frantic run through the local grocery store before we head into High Sierra Music Festival. Bring your sleeping bag and join our family to disconnect from your 9-5 responsibilities. Oh, and don’t worry about bringing your phone; you won’t need it out here.

I treasure this annual chance to disconnect, but I also understand the hesitation to do so. The business world is more connected than ever before. I know the feeling of not wanting to miss a thing, especially with how face-paced today’s work world can be – “What if I miss a cool marketing opportunity with my team?” It’s like work FOMO.

But the technology that tempts us to constantly connect also gives us the freedom to take a break:

  • Collaboration tools mean that I can trust my team to jump on any time-sensitive opportunities without missing a beat.
  • With the right tools, everything will be waiting for you when you return. Your teams can record meetings with WebEx so you can jump in without missing a beat.
  • With Cisco Spark, everything you need to catch up is in one place. Find where you left off and scroll down – it’s that easy to get up to speed.

It might seem like even if you can step away from work, your mind will always be at the office. Check out these tips to overcome the temptation to take the worries of work with you.

Before you go:

  • Communicate with your team. Let them know when you’ll be heading out and getting back.
  • Recap and fill your teams in on the status of your projects.
  • Leave contact information to connect people who may need to find the right resource.
  • Make a note about your trip in the Cisco Spark space associated with those campaigns. It’ll be easy to pick up where you left off.
  • Set your ‘out of office’ in email and in Cisco Spark. Be sure to include when you’ll return and a contact to answer any immediate questions.

When you get back:

  • Block off an hour of time to get caught up. Reserve time on your own calendar to read emails, scroll through Cisco Spark, and watch any recorded WebEx meetings.
  • Connect with your teams for any high priority messages.
  • Let your Cisco Spark spaces know you’re back and catching up. Use this time to ease back into work.
  • Keep your vacation photos handy! Take breaks during the day to remember the great times with your family.

Being able to relax, recharge and get a new perspective is going to help you a lot more than chiming in on small things during your time off. Be brave and don’t check email; maybe even turn off your phone!

Enjoy the show, enjoy the music. You literally earned it.

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The future of digital teamwork: 5 ways to get ahead

Work teams that once huddled together in conference rooms are now meeting in virtual settings from multiple locations around the world. Employees are also sharing information through various messaging platforms and social media tools. The right unified communications (UC) systems can create real business value for organizations.

The latest team collaboration tools should offer searchability, a well-designed user experience, easy integration with business applications, and easy access to the most relevant information.1

Organizations can gain the type of on-the-go connectivity they need through the use of secure cloud-based business collaboration solutions. Cisco Spark is a cloud-enabled UC service that provides the accessibility and security that teams need to collaborate via a single platform.

Here, we explore five ways Cisco Spark helps businesses maximize the benefits of digital teamwork:

1. Remain in control with end-to-end encryption and security.

Think about all of the data, files and sensitive communications that companies exchange throughout the workday. There’s no question that digital technologies have helped unlock information barriers. But who holds keys to a company’s cloud security? Typical business messaging platforms compromise security by directly accessing an organization’s content. So what’s at stake?

Consider this: 40% of organizations have online team meetings that involve financial data.

In addition, one-third of organizations have meetings where employees share private customer or patient information, and approximately one in five organizations have web meetings that involve trade secrets.3

When it comes to security, companies can’t take shortcuts. Cisco Spark offers several key security features, including:

  • HTTPS to encrypt data in transit between devices and servers, which protects the identities of the senders and receivers of the encrypted content.
  • Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol for all media, such as voice, video, and desktop share.
  • Data that stays encrypted when it’s in transit to cloud servers, when it’s in use, and while it’s in storage.
  • Encryption of all content using dynamic keys from the key management service (KMS).

2. Seek a solution that grows with you.

Why invest in technology if it’s not easily adaptable to your growth or expansion plans?

For example, 66% of executives “have felt that limitations of their software programs have negatively affected their company’s growth.”4

Unfortunately, delivering digital collaboration capabilities using premises-based infrastructure can be very challenging because they lack the flexibility your company needs as it grows. Cisco Spark moves all of this complexity to the cloud, so businesses can quickly connect via phone, video, or messaging wherever they’re located. Cisco Spark also includes customizable plans that allow companies to easily upgrade from plans that offer video calling to plans that also offer video conferencing.

Plans offer the ability to: 

  • Meet with up to 25 people.
  • Instantly initiate meetings with a single click.
  • Join a scheduled meeting from any device.
  • Schedule meetings in Outlook by using @spark or @webex tags.

Video conferencing plans offer the ability to:

  • Meet with up to 200 people.
  • Join on any device, Cisco phones registered to Cisco Spark, Microsoft Skype for Business endpoints, third-party standardsbased video endpoints, and more.
  • Access to a personal room for each user with his or her own meeting URL.
  • Schedule meetings within the platform (no integrated, hybrid system needed).
  • Add @webex to an Outlook invitation to automatically populate the body of the invitation with information to join a WebExpowered meeting or add both @spark and @webex to the location field. A flexible, customizable collaboration solution frees IT resources to work on projects that are more innovative and growth focused.

3. Move quickly between communications tools and devices.

Today’s on-demand economy keeps employees on their toes. They’re constantly moving from one device or communication tool to another.

In fact, 49% of small and midsize businesses say they need to be available at all times to meet the demands of today’s digital economy.5

Having access to multiple communications tools helps team members get better work-life balance, stay on top of project deadlines, and respond quickly to customer needs. How do companies increase accessibility to these collaboration tools?

Cisco Spark acts as a bridge between mobile and the office, freeing the workforce to:

  • Receive calls that are identified as business related. This helps maximize that users are prepared for business calls if they’re answering a phone outside the workplace.
  • Switch quickly from one device to another during a meeting— advantageous for users who need to leave a meeting early, but want to remain connected. With Cisco Spark, users can turn a phone call into a virtual meeting with one tap, or move a video call from a conferencing room to their mobile phone and then to a new meeting room.

4. Consolidate project files and communications in one space.

Anybody who has worked on a project knows how hard-to-find files and miscommunication between team members can impact project goals. Sometimes individual team members choose their own filesharing and collaboration tools without checking in with IT or even each other.

For example, 90% of organizations collaborate using Dropbox, Google, Skype, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networking sites.6

This can create confusion and inefficiencies if key team members miss relevant conversations, messages or document updates. Features to consider in a collaboration suite include the ability to:

Download the messaging app on a phone or tablet to remain connected while away from the office, including access to video calls and shared screens.

  • Create an unlimited number of team work spaces as needed.
  • Name work spaces based on specific projects, teams, or even a specific sales territory.
  • Get creative with whiteboarding or annotate existing documents. These features are particularly valuable for business units or groups within an organization that are working on specific projects. They also ease the pain of new-hire onboarding and training because organizations can keep all of their hiring documents in one easy-to-access place.

Keep existing systems with third-party integrations and support.

If you’ve already invested in a number of tools and communication systems, you may want to know how you can bring everything together and get more value out of your investments.

Your question makes sense: Modern business projects or work tasks that required two or three systems in the past now can take place over five to 10 applications or more today.7

Cisco Spark integrations bring together the tools organizations need—including those they may use outside of Cisco Spark. Other key features to consider include:

  • Self-enabled integrations, bots, and APIs that can be customized to existing processes and work streams.
  • The ability to integrate with Dropbox, Google Drive, Sameroom, and other apps.
  • A system that’s “open” and works with many developers for access to integrations and bots. (Bots can send automated notifications, respond to questions, and even be an in-app assistant.)

To learn more about how Cisco Spark brings together the digital tools organizations need in a secure, mobile environment, visit www.webex.com. If you’re interested in a free trial, visit: https://www.webex.com/pricing/free-trial-DG1.html.

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Does Your Team #MeetBrilliant?

Leaders understand their teams better than anyone and that business magic happens when they have the freedom and space to bring their best work to life. When you have great meetings,  brilliant ideas are shared, plans are made, and work moves forward. That’s what we like to call #MeetBrilliant.

Now, we’re pairing WebEx Meeting Center with another powerful tool, empowering your teams to create, share and do more whenever and wherever inspiration may strike.

With the addition of Cisco Spark to WebEx Meeting Center, teams now have access to secure, reliable workspaces in the cloud. With the power to meet in personal workrooms with unique URLs, teams can now join work sessions, message one another, upload files and even engage with interactive “whiteboarding” to visualize new concepts. All while still using the crystal-clear video and audio of WebEx Meeting Center.

Imagine all of the possibilities when work moves at the speed of your team. When ideas can be shared in real-time and feedback can be instantaneous. When you can simply answer a phone to join a meeting without the hassles passwords and access codes. When your teams can count on Cisco security, reliability and service.

It’s time to move beyond imagining and embrace the realities. Take advantage of our 30-day free trial of Cisco Meeting Center with Cisco Spark and give your teams the tools and space they need for brilliant meetings.

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Bringing Tech to the Classroom – 3 Strategies for 2017

Back to school doesn’t have to mean back to the same old classroom experience. The start of each school year means one more year of innovation has passed and our classrooms should evolve with our digital world. The days of all learning happening within the bubble of one room with just one teacher are gone; our connected world gives students access to learn beyond traditional boundaries.

Overcoming Concentration Hurdles

Distraction can feel like a losing game in the classroom (or in any interaction with students), but even more so in the screen-laden world of our children. That’s why teachers should meet students where they already are – 70% of children under 12 are using tablets and almost 40% start using mobile tech before kindergarten.

When kids walk into a classroom to see mobile devices, they are not only comfortable with the tech, but excited by the innovation. Any teacher knows when children are excited and comfortable, they are engaged in learning. It’s a “hands on” learning environment with a touchscreen twist, making abstract ideas tangible and within reach.

Visually Engaging with Video

We’ve all heard the term “visual learner,” but did you know all students retain visual information more easily than auditory info? Studies show students recall 65% of what they see but only 10% of what they hear. In a learning environment where 100% of the curriculum matters to make the most of a child’s education, teachers should take this research into the classroom.

Video conferencing and access to online videos can greatly enhance even the most established lesson plans. Through video, students from anywhere in the world can take a visual tour of the Great Wall of China or see inside the machines that make the Hoover Dam so powerful. Video conferencing opens the door to invite students from around the world into the classroom. Imagine students learning about a culture from students their own age living it every day. By tapping into our students’ visual learning skills, we can step outside the classroom and enhance learning.

Collaboration Beyond Boundaries

As our world evolves, so too does the profession of teaching and its importance. A Texas study showed that an effective teacher is 20 times more likely to boost student performance than any other factor. It’s essential, for students and teachers, that we give these teachers the tools to seek out the most current information for their students and connect them with leaders in the fields they teach.  Tapping digital collaboration tools is one way teachers can seek expertise beyond their own knowledge.

I saw the power of collaboration outside the classroom in my own son’s excitement. As a fourth-grader, he was tasked to build a sandcastle – and not just any sandcastle. With the help of experts and engineers in San Francisco, he designed a sand-constructed roller coaster. Of course the project was fun – his teachers knew these beach-loving children would jump at the chance to work in sand, one of their favorite mediums – but the value added by the experts will last much longer than their sandy creations.

As I send my son on to his last year of elementary school, I’m hopeful that the passion of the teachers he’s had so far and the exciting tech innovations will make this 5th grade a year of engagement, excitement and, most of all, learning.

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3 Moments of Clarity through Video Meetings

Sometimes you get so used to things just working that you forget about the amazing convenience of the tools we now have at our fingertips. As part of the Cisco WebEx team, I experience that more than most when it comes to video meetings. On a daily basis, I collaborate with people located across town, across the country, and also across the world. Of course, with video, we’re able to connect face-to-face, which helps develop our relationships and we can make decisions faster – not to mention we cut down on travel costs. This is when I had a few moments of clarity – at the airport, where I was able to appreciate the tools at my fingertips that helped me look like a professional.

I was scheduled to return from a conference on the same morning that I was leading a quarterly project meeting with the global team.  While it would be a busy day, I should have had enough time after landing to get to the office and lead the presentation from one of the conference rooms.

As you may have guessed, that’s not how things worked out. My morning layover flight wasn’t delayed — it was cancelled. I knew I couldn’t reschedule the meeting — it had to happen that day. I knew I’d be fine, though, presenting from my mobile phone from the airport.

 

Moment of clarity number 1: Confidence in my meeting tool
It could have been a major setback. It would have been a major setback if it hadn’t been for the ease of using Cisco WebEx. I had zero anxiety about a situation that would surely be ulcer-inducing for most.

While I sat in the terminal, I noticed a man a couple of seats away who seemed to be having a work-related conversation. There he was, preparing to join a meeting from the airport. And he wasn’t using Cisco WebEx. Things went OK. His meeting got started a few minutes late because he couldn’t find the meeting codes, another participant had to download a plug-in, and he said he couldn’t share his video from his mobile phone, but overall it wasn’t too bad.

Moment of clarity number 2.  Makes me look professional
This guy was trying to position his new one-man design shop as an established, trusted company. It was almost time for my meeting to start, so I couldn’t stick around to find out how it went. As I went to find my own quiet space, I had a renewed pride that I get to work with Cisco WebEx. It’s a reliable product that comes with a reputation of professionalism, so I could depend on it.

Moment of clarity number 3. Simplicity – Started the meeting on time
I joined the meeting with a click of a button in my phone app — not just on time, but a few minutes early!  For my meetings with Cisco WebEx, I don’t have to worry about those issues. It just works.

One of our partners in London, Sheila, entered the meeting from her Skype for Business account, because Cisco WebEx meetings integrates seamlessly with the third-party solution.

Shameless plug: Cisco WebEx is built to provide excellent audio and high quality video, so — even though I was at the airport on my mobile phone — it felt like I was presenting in person. The team joining from the office was able to start my meeting in my personal room before I even joined because I gave them alternate host privilege. It was easy to see everyone’s expressions, so I could tell when I needed to provide additional detail or clarification.

While I didn’t enjoy the delay flying home, the experience allowed me to appreciate what I take for granted so often. Whether your team is spread across the globe or sitting in separate corners of the same city, an established video conferencing tool that provides reliable and secure service is important to look like a true professional. Cisco WebEx is simple. I connected to my meeting smoothly in a single click, so I could focus on what matters: Leading a successful meeting for my colleagues.

Learn more about Cisco WebEx video meeting capabilities.

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#CiscoChat: Lead Your Team into the Future of Collaboration

Business magic happens when teams have the freedom and space to bring their best work to life.  When you have great meetings, brilliant ideas are shared, plans are made, and work moves forward. That’s what we like to call #MeetBrilliant.

But to make all this happen, you need a strategy. During our @WebEx #CiscoChat on Twitter in July,  Cisco’s own Jens Meggers, talk about the future of business collaboration, shared tips on getting mobile meetings right, and discussed the importance of creating a great user experience for employees.

As Cisco’s Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Cloud Collaboration Technology Group (CCTG), Jens is responsible for managing Cisco’s cloud-focused portfolio of voice, video, and web conferencing that delivers a robust and scalable infrastructure to millions of customers.

Jens believes that great leaders understand that their job is enable their teams to be successful and produce great results, not the other way around. By adopting this new mode of thinking, leaders can bring their business into the future of collaboration. One where technology is seamless, automated and intelligent technology connects helps employees get their job done without getting in the way.

Check Jens’ unique perspective in his Two Minute Take video and catch the highlights from our #CiscoChat in the recap below! Have your own brilliant meeting tips? Share them in the comments or give us a shout at @WebEx on Twitter.

 

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Work Smarter On-the-Go

Staying in the loop with work can sometimes be a challenge. And if you work on-the-go, it can be even harder to stay on top of email, attend every meeting, and get face time with your team. But if you have the right technology, being mobile doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

James Cho, our inside sales manager, gives his own Two Minute Take on how he stays productive when bouncing from meeting to meeting throughout the work week. He uses Cisco Spark and WebEx to connect with his team – with his pup Scooter in tow.

Learn how world travelers, commuters and remote workers can stay up-to-date with Cisco Spark from anywhere.

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Faster Collaboration for Global Teams

When an opportunity presents itself, great teams know that collaboration is essential to bringing the best work to life. But when your team is located across the globe, staying on the same page can feel like an uphill battle.

Nate Franklin, a product marketing manager, works with an integrated global team on cutting-edge, fast-paced projects. In his Two Minute Take, Nate talks about how the right technology tools keep work-streams moving quickly, and his team’s unique culture alive.

Learn how to bring teams closer together with real-time connections through Cisco Spark and WebEx, so you can work seamlessly with people across the world.

 

Learn more about how Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark work together.

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Small Changes, Big Productivity

If your team needs a big boost in productivity, you don’t have to overhaul all your tools to get results. Finding small changes in the way you collaborate and communicate can make a big impact.

In her Two Minute Take, technical adviser Mackenzie Guy shares simple advice on combining your collaboration apps to keep everything in one place. Instead of spending time learning new skills or replacing entire systems, your team can focus on work and let the app do the heavy-lifting.

A few simple tweaks can go a long way when it comes to productivity. Cisco Spark lets you keep what works, and unify your collaboration experience.

 

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Why We Love Video Conferencing and You Should Too

 Years ago, there was a TV game show that tapped into its contestants’ deepest fears – snakes, bugs, heights, you name it – and placed them in situations where they had to come face-to-face with them. In the end, they walked away with a bit of cash, making it worth their while. And while most aren’t forced to confront their greatest fears during the work day, there is a one part of it that seems to strike a chord of fear.

Video conferencing. (cue dramatic music)

From worrying about how they look on video to public speaking anxiety, people seem to want to “call it in” more often than they wish to hop on a video conference. But in a 2016 study, Wainhouse Research found that approximately 90% of all respondents had used video conferencing at least once in the prior month. So it’s safe to say it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Though I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t always a video conferencing fan, I’m now proud to say I’m now a full-fledged advocate. But if you find yourself still a bit shy of declaring your love for this platform, then read on to see the top three reasons our team loves video conferencing and you should too.

Reason 1: Face-to-Face Connections Matter

 I work from home at least three days a week and if a meeting falls on one of those days, sure – I could easily call in. But, there’s something a bit disconnected about collaborating with essential team members over the phone. Facial expressions and body language go a long way in communicating, and an audio-only experience means you miss out on big cues from your team.

The face-to-face connections I’m able to establish with my teams when we use WebEx for example, are critical for establishing strong team rapport. Video conferencing encourages engagement and also foster a community of togetherness.

Reason 2: Finding Focus is Easier

Raise your hand if you’ve ever stolen a moment to daydream or multi-task on a conference call! Yes – my hand is up too. But as I’ve embraced video conferencing, I’ve become more focused in my meetings, because I can see my teams and they can see me.

While some people shy away from video conferencing for this exact reason, it’s more of a selling point to me because it encourages everyone to be as focused as possible to accomplish meeting goals.

Reason 3: Because Real-Time Should Be An Option for Everything

At any given point during the day, I can use a variety of apps to change my home thermostat setting, order household essentials or even send flowers to my wife – all in real-time. And when you’re working with others, ideas can fly fast and furious. So why not share those ideas and follow-up details, in real-time too?

With video conferencing, you can.

Instead of a dreaded flurry of emails, presentations and updates in my inbox after a conference call, I take full advantage of Cisco Spark’s real time sharing options. In my team’s own private Spark room, we use real-time messaging to always stay in the loop with each other. And the Cisco Spark Board feature lets us literally sketch out all of our creative ideas – even a stick-figure Picasso like myself – all in real-time.

As I said – I’m a full-fledged video conference meeting fan. And I know I have some fellow ones out there. Leave me a comment and share why you love video conference too.

 

 

 

 

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Presenting Data More Powerfully with 3 Easy Tips

#1 Make your slide title a news headline

Every journalist knows that if your headline doesn’t reflect your story’s juice, readers will surely overlook your article.  Well, the same principal applies for presenting the ‘story’ of your data.  To immediately engage your audience, create a headline that reflects your single most important piece of information.

Elevating your most important message to the headline (a.k.a. the slide title) has two advantages a) it makes your data memorable and b) it makes your audience lean in and want more information. Yes, it’s that simple.

Here is a generic headline. Notice: in order for the audience to learn anything more about the Olympic results, they have to squint their eyes and wade through rows and rows of data. Why make it so difficult?

SLIDE 1

20140122_before02

Here is the same data presented with an active, content-rich headline that tells us upfront what the big news is right away. Unlike the above slide, it doesn’t make us work hard to figure out the message:

SLIDE 2 

20140122_after02

If you’ve ever used the words “comparison” or “overview” as a headline for your charts, we are talking to you! While there might be occasional need for broad language, you are probably missing an opportunity to give power to the message within your data. Try asking yourself: where is my key message? What is this slide about? If you can’t answer this question in the title, then this could be a red flag.

Bonus tip: Whenever possible, the title should include a unit of measurement and a time period to give the audience context.

 

#2 Use callouts to pinpoint your main message

Callouts are simply an added shape that stands apart from the chart but draws attention to the chart’s key message.  Callouts are married to the headline. They work together to illuminate the main message. While the headline tells us the most important nugget of information in the chart, the callout points right to it.

In the example of slide 2 above, the callout is the blue circle to the right of the chart. It points out the exact same message as the headline. Again, both the headline and the callout reinforce each other and the main message of the slide.

 

#3 Color controls eyeballs

Color is the easiest way to differentiate the critical data point (that carries your main message). This is where you want eyeballs to go first. As you see in slide 2 above, it is best to go with a monochromatic color scheme that is clean and simple. When you add a simple contrast color to one data finding, you illuminate it immediately. Your audience will see your main message in one glance.

Although color itself doesn’t add meaning or value to your data, its presence makes a big impact. Consciously or not, when people look at a data display and see visual differences like color, they immediately try to determine the meaning of those differences. Too much color will confuse your message (a very common problem). Used sparingly, color is a great tool in telling your story.

Remember: Your audience will remember 4 slides in a 20-slide presentation. Make them count.

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Post originally published on The Presentation Company’s blog here.

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A DON’T-MISS WEBINAR: Using Data Visualization to Tell Your Story

We had a wonderful game plan this month to offer a free webinar, crammed with useful data visualization techniques. Unfortunately, it’s not to be…just yet.

Life had other plans for presentation expert Janine Kurnoff. Her future data wizard (Liam) decided to make an early appearance in the world. At the moment, the only data she is visualizing is pink skin and the sweet smell of her newborn.

In September, when Janine is tired of changing diapers, she will teach some of the incredible techniques for storytelling and data visualization that she uses to train the world’s top brands such as Facebook, HP, Instagram, Nike, and Oracle. These include:

  • How to tell a story with data that can be understood in a glance
  • Clever visual tricks to think “outside the chart” using photography, icons, eye-catching text, and more
  • How to dodge the most common pitfalls with charts and graphs

So until then, we want to leave you with four particularly good nuggets about telling a story with data…

Step 1: Determine Your Story First

There is no understating how important it is to craft your story first. When we are sitting on mounds of data, our inclination is to immediately get charting. After all, doesn’t our data contain all the evidence we need? Doesn’t our data speak for itself? No, it doesn’t. And if you do present your data upfront, without critical analysis and an idea of the story you want to tell, it’s value will evaporate.

Step 2: Write Headlines that Report the News

Insights that you glean from data amount to more than just facts. It helps to see the charts, tables, or graphics you put on each slide as a news story. And doesn’t every news story need a headline? Writing headlines forces you to clearly display your most important data insights. You’ve already determined your story (step 1), so this is kind of like coming up with the chapter headings. And each of these headings must move along the story.

Step 2: Write Headlines that Report the News

Insights that you glean from data amount to more than just facts. It helps to see the charts, tables, or graphics you put on each slide as a news story. And doesn’t every news story need a headline? Writing headlines forces you to clearly display your most important data insights. You’ve already determined your story (step 1), so this is kind of like coming up with the chapter headings. And each of these headings must move along the story.

Generic heading
Heading that reports the news

Step 3: Use callouts to highlight important data insights

Now that you’ve determined your story and created bold news headlines, it’s time to get down to the details of data visualization. We love callouts because they are one of the easiest ways to draw attention to your most important data. During the webinar, we’ll dive into the details about how using color, shapes, and sizes will give your data impact.

No callouts
Callouts identify critical information

Step 4: Get rid of the noise!

Visually, you are doing your audience a huge favor if you minimize or delete any clutter on your slide. Start with any chart labels. Only include labels that are concise, necessary, and informative. Do they make your data easy to read? Are axis labels easy to understand? Do they make sense with the story you are trying to tell?       

Axis labels are unabbreviaited; chart uses heavy gridlines and vertical axis
Axis labels are abbreviated; amount of gridlines has been reduced

Missed any of the previous webinars hosted by Cisco WebEx and The Presentation Company?

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