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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3 work styles that might be hurting your business

The number of available communication and collaboration tools has exploded over recent years, keeping team members connected and working together across city, state and even country. But while nearly half of those recently surveyed by Forrester Consulting reported that they need technology to connect with their colleagues, nearly all of them have had that technology fail them at some point.

Can you say work stall?

For teams to accomplish anything using these online communication tools, reliable, secure and compatible systems that alleviate communication obstacles are an absolute must. Unsure how unreliable, insecure and incompatible systems can derail a team’s progress? Take a look at the checklist in the “3 Work Styles That Might be Hurting Your Business” to identify – and fix – the technology causes that make a team less productive.

 

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Webinar: Teams are Trending: How to Spark True Teamwork Online

While teamwork remains a relevant work trend, after studying 2016 work trends, Deloitte discovered  organizations are moving away from more traditional structures to form dynamic networks of teams, regardless of where team members may be located. So while one team member is working from an office in Dallas for a client in Miami, it’s entirely possible for them to be working with team members in Chicago, New York and London.

And the key to all of this? Technology!

Thanks to increased use of new digital and online tools, teams separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles are still able to connect, create, work and “do” more. It’s no surprise then that 85 percent of the executives Deloitte surveyed noted a compelling and meaningful work environment was just  as important as employee engagement.

But what are the best ways to use technology to create these desired environments?

In our next webinar, “Teams are Trending: How to Spark True Teamwork Online,” Meghan M. Biro, CEO and founder of TalentCulture, Meghan Biro will outline how videoconferencing and online meetings keep teams engaged. She’ll  also discuss the best ways to optimize digital environments for maximum creativity, performance and more.

This is a “don’t-miss” event for leaders looking to help their teams do their best work in a digital network. Be sure to register now for this March 30 event, kicking off at 12:30 p.m. PT.

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Generate More Qualified Leads with Online Meetings

Customer connections have a huge impact on any business, but even more so for SMB owners and operators. As in-person meeting obstacles like travel distances and scheduling conflicts loom, many have turned to using online meetings and video conferencing solutions to engage with their customers, explore new business opportunities and generate more qualified leads.

After surveying businesses with 250 employees or less, IDG Research Services that business communicators (marketers, trainers and educators) focus intently on these critical customer connections. They also discovered online meetings and video conferencing systems help simplify communication on complex topics and following-up with customers, contributing to the “human factor” of doing business.

Want more insights? Get more survey results, discover other desired applications of online meetings and video conferences and see how even the best technology depends on the human factor in the latest infographic from IDG Research Services and WebEx.

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Online Meetings Increase Productivity with Less Resources

Online meeting tools have literally changed every aspect of the mobile meeting game. The ability to flexibly connect with teams, partners and clients on almost any device can lead to many business gains, especially when it comes to productivity. And even in the face of challenges like different video conferencing formats and network reliability, SMB owners using paid versions of online meeting tools find these they make easier to overcome these challenges.

In a recent survey, IDG Research Services surveyed businesses using paid versions of online meeting services, like WebEx Premium. And while their findings showed that WebEx Premium services users were more likely to count a dispersed workforce or fewer resources as challenges to in-person meetings, they also found these same users cited productivity as a “top business” and personal benefit of using WebEx Premium.

Increased productivity with fewer resources? Yes, it’s possible and a new infographic from IDG Research Services and WebEx takes a colorful and stat-rich glimpse at how WebEx Premium helps SMB owners do more with less.

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5 hurdles to successful online meetings – and how to overcome them

Think about the best meeting you’ve ever attended. What made it so successful? Odds are, your team collaborated, made decisions and moved a project forward. This kind of progress should be the goal any time a meeting is called.

In reality, challenges often arise that keep your meetings from being productive. And some of these roadblocks can be more difficult than others. When expectations are high, it is important to know how to course-correct so your team can reap the benefits of a successful meeting.

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work life marathon
Work-Life Balance is a Marathon – Not a Sprint

I wake up each morning at 4:30 a.m., often hitting the pavement for a run. It’s early, but these mornings motivate me and are a great time to think. And the other day, I realized that starting my day with a workout is a critical part of achieving the work/life balance that my family and I need.

I also realized this balance is definitely not a sprint, but a daily and personal marathon that takes practice, discipline and thoughtful planning.

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See Cisco Spark Live in Action!

When it’s time to keep your teams on task and working together to achieve better outcomes, what communication tools are you relying on?

If you’re ready to see a secure, customizable ecosystem of communication tools in action, join us for our weekly live “deminar” of Cisco Spark!

During the deminar, you’ll receive an up-close look at Cisco Spark’s essential product building blocks, including unlimited workspaces that enable video calling, screen and file sharing, how to use the Cisco Spark app and more. You’ll also learn how organizations just like yours use Cisco Spark to create secure and unified experiences for individuals and teams.

Registration is open now, so be sure to sign up to join our team every Tuesday at 10 am PST.

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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 Spark room 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 Spark, and watch any recorded WebEx meetings.
  • Connect with your teams for any high priority messages.
  • Let your Spark rooms 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.

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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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The future of digital teamwork: 5 ways to get ahead

Advances in how we work, where we work and the tools we use to get the jobs done have opened new opportunities for collaboration across continents. As meetings move from cramped boardrooms to virtual settings around the world, organizations that adapt will build the foundation for success in the workplace of the future.

More than 40% of organizations say they exchange financial information during virtual meetings and through digital channels. As sensitive information like customer data and patient info speeds around the world, security and control are more important than ever. And just as technology tackles security, so too does it work to meet the needs – ever-growing and changing – of the organizations powered by Cisco. Almost half of organizations say they need to be available at all times and 66% of organizations say a solution that isn’t scalable doesn’t work for them.

Is it possible to connect the world’s organizations quickly and securely for the best possible virtual workflow? With Cisco Spark, a cloud-enabled UC service, business of all sizes can maximize the benefits of digital teamwork via a single platform. Click through the guide below to get started.

 

 

 

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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?

WATCH NOW:

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#WebExPoll Results: Your Teamwork Habits Revealed

On the third Thursday of each quarter, many businesses observe “Get to Know Your Customers Day.” After realizing that yes, this is an actual thing, the WebEx team grew even more curious about our customers and kicked off our next #WebExPoll Series, dedicated to understanding their meeting and productivity habits.

So what did we discover? Overall, you guys send a lot of emails, get more done in the a.m. versus the midnight hour and are pretty good at juggling the collaboration tools you need to get your work done. Oh – and we love how easy you find it to take meetings from home using WebEx for your video conferences.

Take a colorful look at fun facts we discovered about you and be sure to follow @WebEx on Twitter to join the conversation.

For those early morning meetings across different time zones, 75% of you would hop out of bed and take the meeting from home.

Speaking of starting early, 64% of you shared that morning is your favorite time of day to get the most done.

And you’re all about finding ways to collaborate with your teammates. Because 52% of you use 1-3 collaboration tools daily.

And…Cisco Spark is one of your go-to tools to make things happen. Over half (53%) of you would trust Spark over email to send urgent and confidential documents. We’ve got your back.

We were sorry to hear that most of you are glued to your inbox. 55% said you check email constantly and 49% you send between 50 and 100 emails a day! That’s a lot of typing, folks.

But even when you’re busy, you love finding time to meet with your team face-to-face. For 44% of you, video is your favorite way to meet.

No matter how you like to get things done, finding a way that works for you is what matters most. Learn how Cisco Spark can work for your team.

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Three Ways to Spring Clean Your Digital Life

In spite of the recent winter storms that tagged the country last week, today marks the first official day of spring. In addition to the warmer days that lie ahead, today is also a perfect day to indulge in a bit of spring cleaning – but we’re not talking about a bit of dusting around the house. Today is also the perfect day for you (and your teams) to knock out a bit of digital spring cleaning as well and we’re sharing a few tips to guide you along.

Dust Off Your Digital Work Life

Any one of these tips – or combination of them – will fast track your digital decluttering.

  • Find yourself shifting pass the same apps on smartphone or tablet? If you’ve stopped using them or have turned to other products, then delete them! An added bonus? Eliminating unnecessary apps and files, helps your device could run faster.
  • There have been times I’ve realized I have dozens or even hundreds of unopened email in my inbox. Since selecting all and hitting the delete button is not a reality for many of us, revisit the “Zero Inbox” method to keep your inbox as clutter free as possible.
  • When you’re prompted to change your password for an email account for example, consider changing passwords for all of your work-related accounts. From internal intranet sites to your 401k provider, save yourself some time down the line by taking care of it now.

Get Your Team in the Declutter Game

When everyone gets in on the digital declutter game, your team will already be set to hit the ground running when it’s time to connect and work together.

  • Now that you’ve applied the Zero Inbox method, instead of a starting another long email thread filled with attachments, get the entire team onboard with an app like Cisco Spark to share information, whiteboard, edit documents and screen share.
  • Have your teams look at all of the meetings and invitations currently on their calendar. If there are some they never find themselves attending or are just simply meetings they don’t need to attend, they should delete them to ensure their calendars are as up-to-date as possible.
  • As a leader, do you know what your team members spend their time on each day? Help them optimize their energy and prioritize their day by auditing their time and helping them refocus.

Cultivate Creativity

What does all of this digital decluttering leads to? A fresh new digital environment prime for cultivating the most creative ideas and solutions teams have to offer.

  • One of the easiest ways to cultivate deeper levels of creativity is to welcome new members – and their ideas. Set up a video meeting with Cisco WebEx and tap into the fresh ideas colleagues across town or around the world may have to share.
  • After this deep digital spring cleaning, be sure to keep your digital life nice and tidy. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes each to prioritize your workload, clean out your inbox and check your Cisco Spark work rooms for team updates.

How do you plan on decluttering your digital life today? Share your best tips with us or how these helped you below.

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Case Study: Digitization Equals Empowerment for Open Access College

With just 200 staff members and approximately 2,500 students, Australia’s Open Access College (OAC) may be small in number, but their efforts to educate remote students are mighty.

Largely working with students between five to 18 years old, OAC specializes in connecting those isolated due to illness or distance. While OAC leaders were accustomed to using audio conference technology, it was costly and largely a “one-way” method for teachers to interact with students. Wanting to use a more interactive online platform and expand access to connected learning – all while lowering their costs – OAC used Cisco WebEx to open up new educational doors through digitization.

For a quick look at their challenges and the A+ outcomes WebEx helped make possible, check out this case study.

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