Summertime is here once again and like you, we’re all in the mood for pool dips, ice cream, and barbeques. But as the saying goes, “the show must go on,” which means taking care of work responsibilities.
Selecting collaboration software for your organization can feel overwhelming, with a bunch of spec sheets to pore over and budgetary constraints to keep in mind throughout the process. When picking between these options, the best route is usually to evaluate each one holistically.
Why the holistic approach is the best way to buy collaboration software
That means looking beyond how the solutions compare on functionality alone. You’ll also want to scrutinize these five characteristics:
- Usability: Is there a steep learning curve? How easy will it be for team members to buy into a completely new collaboration suite?
- Pricing: Is a free trial available? Will I be billed annually or monthly? How flexible are the plans?
- Ecosystem: Can the platform in question be paired with the tools you already rely on, or will you have to craft complicated new workflows?
- Security: How is data encryption implemented? What access controls are available to administrators to manage access to meetings?
- Hosting: Are they situated on-premises or in the cloud? What support services and quality assurance measures can customers expect from the provider?
Can we all agree that one of the best benefits of working remotely is skipping the morning traffic jam, powering up your laptop, and jumping on a Webex from the comfort of your own home? And for businesses, the perks of collaboration technology are clear – including increased productivity for global teams. As we continue to re-think how remote teams are shaping the future of work, one other benefit that can’t be ignored is the positive impact remote workers have on the environment.
Whether you dread them or delight in them, meetings are a part of everyday work life. And while unproductive ones can be seen, at the least, as an annoyance, the cost of meetings like this can be astronomical; as in costing companies more than $37 billion annually.
Technology can be the great differentiator between dynamic and mutually rewarding meeting experiences and unfruitful gatherings where ideas become stuck and conversation stalls. Do you know what tech your meetings are missing that could be slowing down progress? Take a look below and see how WebEx tools can help fill in missing meeting pieces.
The “Gather ‘Round the Conference Call” Meeting
Meeting attendees hunkered around a conference speakerphone, jockeying for space and hoping their input is heard.
WebEx conferencing that fosters face-to-face connections with remote team members, which in turn, promotes better idea sharing.
An interactive meeting where everyone is seen, feels engaged and has a voice.
The “Can Everyone See This?” Meeting
A meeting attendee, only partially facing their audience, sketching out a potentially ground-breaking idea, as others struggle to see it.
Interactive WebEx “white boarding” that allows teams to share and collaborate in real-time with key visuals.
An engaging visual representation of possibilities, plans and progress discussed during the meeting.
The “We’re Sorry – Your Password is Incorrect.” Meeting
The irritation of remembering (and entering) complicated passwords when trying to join a video meeting or conference call.
The ease and simplicity of connecting to a meeting with the touch of a button.
Remote team members who can join the discussion quickly, no matter where they are, on the device of their choice.
What technology is missing from your meetings that would empower your teams to achieve more? Have a more detailed look – and explore other WebEx tools that lay the foundation for easier and more reliable meetings – with a free WebEx trial.
From music players and computers to televisions and data storage, technology trends are constantly evolving. And since this also includes the technology we use to collaborate, this means meetings have evolved as well.
From the traditional “gather round the conference room table” events from the 1960s to the collaborative work spaces of today, join us for a fun “wow, remember when?” trip down business memory lane as we look back at the way we use to meet and the new tech-driven ways we collaborate today.
Check out the infographic below, then get started with better collaboration for free.
In business, disjointed team collaboration tools set the stage for meeting frustration, less productivity and potentially negative bottom-line impact. But introducing better collaboration tools can reverse these trends, leading to richer collaboration experiences for brands who want to move business forward.
So how does a company do this? Say hello to integrated collaboration.
Follow along as we meet teams from “Disjointed Enterprises” and “Continuous Collaborators, Inc.” and see what happens when one keeps with the meeting status quo – and the other embraces a “collaboration for all” mantra. Then explore how to bring teamwork to your team with a free trial of Cisco WebEx.
At WebEx, our team is always looking for fresh ways to create a better user experience. If you manage or use collaboration tools for your business, you know that a seamless user experience is essential to keeping everyone connected and making sure tech tools are adopted by your team. And when your tools work together, everyone can spend less time troubleshooting and more time collaborating.
We’re excited to share just a few of the coolest new features we’re rolling out that integrate WebEx with some of your other favorite tech tools. Check them out below and give them a try during your next meeting!
Background audio noise detection
WebEx Meeting Center now automatically detects background sounds like knocking, typing, sirens and dogs barking. You’ll be prompted to mute your microphone after detection, to help eliminate distraction and keep the meeting focused on the task at hand.
The noise detection functionality distinguishes between users who are actively speaking and background noises, so you won’t be cut off mid-sentence if Fido chimes in.
MacBook Touch Bar support
Mac users using the WebEx Desktop App can now access meeting controls directly from their MacBook Touch Bar. Just click the button in the Touch Bar to use some of the most popular WebEx functions, like audio mention, mute/unmute, start/stop video and more.
Easy controls at your fingertips. What’s not to love?
Google Calendar Integraion
If you use Google calendar to keep track for your work week, you can now schedule and start Personal Room meetings more easily with the Cisco WebEx Scheduler, which you can download here from the Chrome Web Store. You can also. Simply schedule and add join information by typing @webex in the “Where” line of your Google Calendar invite.
This type of compatibility means you can use WebEx with other productivity tools you love.
Cisco WebEx app for Slack
Last but not least, Cisco WebEx is now available in Slack. Add the WebEx app to a Slack channel and quickly share your WebEx meeting or Personal Room URL with your team. Simply type /webex to share your WebEx Personal Room link.
Want to know more? Follow us on Twitter @WebEx to stay up to speed on the latest product updates, or share your ideas for features you’d like to see!
It’s that time of the year again! The days are shorter. The weather is cooling down. And your manager is asking to see your team’s 2018 plan ASAP.
When there’s a lot on your plate between work and home, staying productive and efficient is non-negotiable. Add in the logistics of coordinating a remote team and the stress can add up quickly. But those end-of-year deadlines don’t have to bring your team down. Follow this simple guide for streamlining your workflow to get that annual plan wrapped up. Hint: the key is collaboration.
Step 1: Create a work space
First things first, you need to assemble your key players together in one place. And I don’t mean a conference room.
To work together fluidly, you need a virtual workspace. Create a Cisco Spark room and include everyone who will contribute to the planning process. You can use it to chat about updates in real time, share documents, review feedback, and even add bots to help you with scheduling and project management. Label the room and ask your team to use it for annual planning only, so conversations stay focused and on-task.
Step 2: The kickoff
Next, schedule a WebEx session to kick things off. Share an agenda in advance to keep the meeting structured. Ask your team to turn on their video – having some face-time can go a long way in rallying everyone around a common goal and help ensure you’re all on the same page.
Consider preparing a few slides with an outline of the plan and share your screen during the meeting. Have everyone weigh in with initial ideas about what’s been working, what’s not, and what the priorities should be for the next year.
Before you close the meeting, be clear about the expectations and next steps. What should be included in the plan? What are the deadlines? Recap team assignments so everyone can divide and conquer.
Step 3: Sharing is caring
Now it’s time to get to work. After your meeting, share a recap in the Cisco Spark room to reinforce the next steps and deadlines.
As each member of your team fulfills their assignments, have them share updates and documents in Cisco Spark. It’s a lot simpler than searching through lengthy email chains to find attachments or links.
Collaborate in real-time via chat or call team members directly, all within Cisco Spark. Bouncing ideas around in as they come up will help move things forward quickly, and you can keep your team in-the-know if things change.
Step 4: Review and revise
Once your plan is drafted, it’s time to start editing. Set up another meeting with your team to review the plan together as a group. Ask yourself a few essential questions along the way. Does the presentation tell a clear story? Did we accomplish what we set out to do? Is our data presented in an impactful way?
Make edits in real-time during the meeting, and continue any follow up via Cisco Spark if you need to add finishing touches.
Step 5: The final presentation
This is where all of the team collaboration will pay off. It’s Showtime!
Schedule a meeting with your manager/stakeholders over WebEx. Have everyone fire up their video and share your deck (just be sure to share your application instead of your entire screen to avoid any distracting notifications). And don’t forget to record the meeting – you can send out a link so anyone who missed out on the presentation can catch up.
Step 6: Celebrate! And keep the conversation going
After you’ve nailed your presentation, congratulate your team and pat yourself on the back. Now that your annual plan is in place, you can keep the work moving in Cisco Spark. Create new rooms for individual projects and initiatives once your plan is approved, and check back in throughout the year.
Having the best collaboration tools makes a big difference when it comes to planning, and every team has a different style that works for them. How does your team approach planning and workflows? Tell us in the comments below!
The weekly update. The customer presentation. The on-the-fly team meeting. Every type of meeting has its own purpose, but how can you tackle them efficiently and effectively every time? The key is to keep the conversation going.
If you work remotely, you know this can be especially hard. When your team is spread out, you need a strategy to keep everyone connected before, during and after each meeting. And with the right tools, your projects can move forward and everyone can stay connected.
Not sure where to start? Check out our handy guide for using Cisco Spark and Cisco WebEx to keep your team collaborating, whether you’re giving a big presentation over video conference or sharing daily updates over chat.
Have your own collaboration tips and tricks? Share them with us in the comments below!
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.
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.
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.
#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?
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:
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.
Post originally published on The Presentation Company’s blog here.
May 04, 2018 — Webex Team