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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Have Open Lines of Communication

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

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

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

2. Implement Weekly Check-In’s

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

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

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

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

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

3. Promote Autonomy

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

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

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

A quote I really like is:

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

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

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

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

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

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Bringing Tech to the Classroom – 3 Strategies for 2017

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

Overcoming Concentration Hurdles

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

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

Visually Engaging with Video

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

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

Collaboration Beyond Boundaries

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

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

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

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#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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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

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, you’re invited to explore some of these incredible 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.

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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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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Find Success in 2017 with a Message that Matters

As a kid, I dreamed of being a VP at a bank. After all, everyone had a “safe” job in my family and it seemed like the right path to follow. But since I was five years old and made my first $.10 selling a drawing to my neighbor, an entrepreneurial spirit has always lived inside me. Today, I admit to being a bit obsessed with helping entrepreneurs achieve success, which is why I was so honored to take part in a recent WebEx webinar, “Find Success in 2017 with a Message that Matters.”

While that’s a pretty big title, the webinar focused on one thing – discovering the one word that helps entrepreneurs nail down their passion, their purpose and their personal motto for 2017 and beyond.

My one word came to me in a point during my life when I was experiencing a lot of success – but found that something was missing. After a bit of reflection, I discovered that writing down the things that were important to me spoke a lot to my core values and “believe” was the word that popped off the page.  Believe is a huge concept to try to box into one thought and I did consider adding something to it. But regardless of what business I’m running today or where I may be in the next decade, I know I will always believe in what I’m doing and who I’m working with. So believe it was.

In the spirit of helping others, I wanted to create a blue print that would help others find their word and create a more powerful impact on their lives as well as their businesses. On the webinar, I outlined how the one word is not just a resolution for 2017, but it’s about what an entrepreneur is about and who they are. I also shared how to find your “one word” by listing all of the things in the world that make you happy – from songs to books to family and hobbies – and finding the connective tissue between them that helps you find your word.

The webinar was a lot of fun and a great exploration of how to put your one word to work this year. But if you missed it, no worries. Catch the replay here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @EvanCarmichael and tell me your one word and how you’ll use it to make 2017 your best year yet.

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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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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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online meeting survival guide
The online meeting survival guide: 4 troubleshooting tips

It’s important to be prepared for any meeting — and online meetings are no exception. The value of video conferencing and webinars is well established. But online meetings have different things to consider than when meeting in-person.

Users responding to an IDG Research Services survey cited technology challenges, reliability of network connections, and participant engagement as the top obstacles that they face when collaborating online.

This survival guide will help you address issues before they arise to ensure your organization gains the full benefits of online meetings.

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Art of the follow up
The art of the follow-up: 3 ways to engage clients

Every sales professional has experienced the frustration of the follow-up to a meeting — the unanswered voice messages, wasted emails, or the “not interested” replies. Traditional follow-up techniques often fail because they don’t feel personal enough to the customer. Meanwhile, reaching out to prospects in-person isn’t always practical because on-site meeting invites may be costly or inefficient.

In a recent IDG survey, 44% of respondents cited travel delays, costs, or impact to productivity as the top hurdles they encounter when meeting with business colleagues in person.1 So how do you reach your prospects in the most costeffective way? Many companies are turning to online meeting and video conferencing tools to overcome these challenges.

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Don’t make your meeting a snoozer

Are meetings a “soul sucking waste of time,” as a columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian suggests?

They could be if they’re unproductive, boring, too many of them, or all of the above. The solution may lie in technology, if used properly. “Technology is essential to innovating the conference call and boosting staff engagement,” according to a Harvard Business Review column.

Video, for instance, may enhance “connectedness between participants” and help them see reactions to one another’s ideas.3 Specific online or video conferencing features that may improve overall engagement include the ability to view multiple video feeds, screen sharing capabilities, document editing, or whiteboard tools and mobile accessibility.

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