Debunking Remote Work Myths

Work from home. Telecommuting. Remote workers. They’re all just fancy words for people that work in pajamas with dogs at their sides, right? Well, while my lab Fletch sometimes makes a surprise appearance on a video call, remote work is burdened with misconceptions that I set out to debunk:

Misconception 1 – “Are they even working?”

Remote workers are often accused of “phoning it in,” only half listening to meeting conversation as they surf the internet, watch television or answer other emails. The truth is, studies show remote workers report being more productive – 91% in one study – than their office-dwelling peers. Working remotely also encourages having more detailed communication with managers and team members to clarify objectives, which is not the mark of a lazy person.

Misconception 2 – “Is that even a real job?”

Just because remote workers are surrounded by the comforts of home when they work doesn’t mean that they’re not working a “real” job.

Cisco and many other respected brands, including Amazon, Dell, Apple and Wells Fargo, support remote work. And this trend is growing; a survey by Global Workplace Analytics found that 40% more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago.

Misconception 3 – “Do you ever leave your house?”

The beautiful reality of being a remote worker is that – well, we can work remotely from wherever our happy work spot may be.

I do have a home office and it where I work from most often. But tools like WebEx and Cisco Spark provide flexibility that gives me the freedom to hunker down in my favorite local coffee shop to work and even attend meetings.

Misconception 4 – “That must be really lonely.”

Though remote workers may be physically alone when they do their work, video conferencing enable us to become expert collaborators, connecting with teams in real-time.

Personally, I love the interactive drawing and whiteboard feature offered by Cisco Spark. Our team uses it to share graphics and outline concepts, all in real-time. And whatever devices we’re all using – cell phone, lap top, tablet – Cisco Spark allows us to share files and message one another and engage in occasional “virtual” water cooler talk. Again, all in real-time.

Misconception 5 – “You must find it hard to turn off.”

In the age of collaboration (rolling over first thing in the morning to check emails, anyone?), this is an issue that we are all working on. Regardless of your work environment, work-life balance is critical. Though this can seem like a challenge if your home is your office like mine, it’s not impossible. It’s all about pacing.

What works for me is creating barriers between “work-mode” and “family-mode”. For example, I don’t work during dinner time and I don’t check emails until I’ve dropped my kids off at school. For you, it may be designated a certain area of your home as a place you don’t enter until it’s time to work.

What do you enjoy most about being a remote worker? Share with our community on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

 

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

From Salesforce to Hewlett-Packard, The Presentation Company’s Janine Kurnoff has taught some of the world’s biggest brands how to tell more compelling stories through data visualization. After taking a break to care for her newest (and cutest) data wizard Baby Liam, Janine is ready to put on her training hat once again and provide the opportunity to learn her time-tested techniques that will take your data storytelling to entirely new levels.

During a free live WebEx webinar on October 25, we explored including some best practices, including:

  • 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 other visual effects;
  • How to dodge the most common pitfalls with charts and graphs.

Couldn’t make the live session? Watch the WebEx recording by clicking here and entering the password “Webextpc25”. Or, catch some key highlights and takeaways below!

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?

WATCH NOW:

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Productivity Can Be Simpler Than You Think

“Be more productive.” While this is a simple thing to say, between busy home lives and just the day-to-day office routine of meetings, conference calls and client catch-ups (and some social media scrolling if we’re all honest), maintaining a certain level of productivity can be a challenge.

  • On a daily basis, Care@Work notes the average worker is interrupted every three minutes, taking another 23 minutes to get back on task.
  • Harvard research also shows that people spend almost 47 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing.

All of these distractions not only cause employees to be less productive, but also costs companies some pretty big money in lost revenue. In fact, the total soars into the billions when employees aren’t engaged with their jobs, according to a Gallup poll.

Obviously, there are many ways to go down an unproductive path during the workday. But all hope is not lost! More research shows that people who live busy lives tend to do better on tasks of memory and tasks of reasoning.  So it’s good to be busy! The key is learning how to stay busy and engaged, without tipping into the territory of stress.

As a team lead, I’m all for helping others be more productive at work. In that spirit, I’m sharing a few things that have worked for me and that my team members have said work for them.

Clock Work

It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Set your clock 10 minutes ahead of schedule first thing in the morning so you have an extra 10 minute to get organized before you dive into whatever is on your calendar for the day.

Zero Inbox

No, I’m not saying you can just delete everything that arrives in your inbox each day. But, taking immediate action on the emails you receive can save you a lot of time.

When you receive a new email, reply to it, forward it or set a meeting to follow-up on the subject matter. Adding a task to your to-do-list (or best of all deleting it) is ok too.

Check It Off 

Making a list of all of the things you want to accomplish not only helps prioritize your day, but if you’re like me, you’ll find literally checking an item off of a to-do-list extremely satisfying.

When making a list, develop a system that works for you. It could be a color-coded one or maybe using icons helps you better. And if you find the list is getting too long, scale it back to what you can take on for the day.

Find Your Work Happy Place

Gallup found that 58 percent of Americans, believe workers who work remotely are just as productive as those who work in a business office.

Thankfully, technology has made it possible to pretty much take your office on-the-go. Apps and programs like Cisco Spark and Cisco WebEx make it possible to work and meet in real-time, share updates and documents, set up individual meeting rooms and more so everyone can review updates on their own and remain on the same page.

Throw Yourself a Party

Look, everyone deserves to treat themselves a bit when they accomplish their goals and get more done during the day. So celebrate your productivity throughout the day.

For starters, take five minutes to relax after completing a task. Go grab a snack, listen to a few songs, call your mom or best friend for a quick catch-up – whatever helps you recharge and refocus on your next task, do it!

 The great thing is, what helps with stay productive is not set in stone. Discover what works for you and run with it. Do you have any tips and tricks for getting things done? Tells us your favorites in the comments below.

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Caregivers Find Balance Using Technology

Has anyone ever asked you what your typical day looks like? As an art director, I rarely have one. And with the added responsibility of being a working caregiver to an ailing parent, typical doesn’t quite describe any of my days.

My time is typically accounted for during the week. If my life was an accountant’s ledger, then work and caring for my mother are the debits and credits. This is not a complaint; it’s just how the books have been reconciled for me.

Shortly after my father passed away in 2010, my mother and I began to realize how heavily she depended on him. She would get easily confused and often break into her native tongue, French, which pointed to signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. As her dementia increased rapidly my immediate reaction was to grieve. But, I had to quickly gather my feelings and develop a plan to stay engaged professionally while taking on the new role as caregiver of an aging parent.

The truth is, there’s no handbook — this and every situation is unique. But I’ve found a few ways to stay balanced during the process and I hope these simple tips help others on the same journey.

Find Your New Work-Life Balance

For most people, caring for an aging parent means finding more flexibility in your work schedule. For me, having the capability to be mobile and work a non-traditional schedule has been a life-saver.

Luckily, I’m not alone. According to AARP, 61% of caregivers also work. And the 2015 American Time Use Survey showed that the share of workers doing some or all of their work at home grew from 19 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2015. Many companies are beginning to catch on and offer more flexible work arrangements for employees caring for aging parents.

Not sure where to start? Talk to your HR department to educate yourself about your company’s policy and learn about the benefits available to you as a caregiver. Reach out to employee support groups if they’re available to you — sometimes, talking to someone who has walked the same road is the best way to find solutions.

Communicate with Your Team

For me, it was critical to be up-front with my colleagues about my new responsibilities. Letting everyone know what I was grappling with was a huge benefit in the long run when it came to accountability and communication.

I’ve worked with my team and manager to make arrangements for working outside normal hours so I can attend doctors’ appointments or make unexpected trips to the hospital. My transparency with my team has made it easier when things pop up unexpectedly. And it’s had another side effect. I have felt a wonderful outpouring of support from my colleagues, and this has lightened my load emotionally.

Make Technology Work for You

The ability to work remotely helps both businesses and employees and there are almost limitless things you can accomplish from afar using technology.

Collaboration technology has been vital in my process of staying connected to work. While I love working on my laptop for design projects, I’ve found that using the Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark apps on my smartphone or tablet helps me shift seamlessly between “work mode” and “caregiver mode.” For example, when my mom is seeing her doctor, I can hop into a WebEx meeting or check my Cisco Spark conversations for project updates, all on my iPhone from the waiting room. I don’t need to tote around a heavy bag or rely on Wi-Fi.

Being a caregiver is not easy. But, there are ways to cope if you find yourself in a major life transition like mine. Talk with other people who are experiencing the same things. Rely on your supportive network of family and co-workers. And use technology to your advantage to keep your professional and personal houses in order. Being there in person is always better, but in the end, the ability to contribute and work with your team – allows you to “show up” – wherever you may find yourself.

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Our Favorite Moments in 2016

It’s that time of the year, folks! We’re taking a look back at 2016 to reminisce about our favorite WebEx moments on social media, on our blog, and in the news. From big product announcement to pranks on Twitter, these were definitely some moments to remember.

Gartner names Cisco a Leader in the Magic Quadrant for Web Conferencing

There’s a reason WebEx is trusted to host 20 million meetings each month!

For the 8th time, Cisco WebEx was recognized by Gartner, the world’s leading IT technology and research and advisory company, as a leader in the Web Conferencing Magic Quadrant. Gartner reports that Leaders in this year’s Magic Quadrant have robust, scalable products with a wide range of features, a large installed base, acceptable financial performance and good distribution.

This is a huge honor and we couldn’t be more proud of our team for making WebEx one of the top tools in the industry. View the full report here.

Experts schooled us on productivity

 This year, we launched a webinar series featuring experts from a range of disciplines. We wanted to bring our followers some valuable lessons on staying productive and make the most of collaboration tools. The results were awesome.

Big thanks to all the presenters who shared their expertise during fun, interactive presentations! If you missed the webinars this year, you can catch up on webinars hub and follow along in 2017.

Cisco Spark kept us talking

We love the collaboration WebEx enables, and Cisco Spark lets you do even more.

As the all-inclusive platform for everything teams need to message, collaborate, meet and call, Cisco Spark “sparked” its own news during the year. Taking center-stage as Cisco’s chat platform, Cisco Spark news at Cisco’s Partner Summit revealed new capabilities that had the industry buzzing in 2017.

Look out for more news in January.

You fell for it on April Fool’s Day

Last but not least, our favorite moment on social media this year had us laughing out loud. On April Fool’s Day, we “launched” WebEx, a phony set of filters to help you “enhance your presence” during a video conference.

All jokes aside, we know our followers are online meeting pros who know how to put their best face forward. We just can’t resist a good prank every now and then.

Here’s to another great year in the books! Look out for more collaboration, innovation and fun in 2017.

 *Gartner, Inc., Magic Quadrant for Web Conferencing, Adam Preset, Mike Fasciani, Whit Andrews, November 10, 2016. This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available from Cisco here

 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 or other designation. 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

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