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Book named Indistractable by Nir Eyal, sitting on a table
Webinar: Indistractable — How to control your attention and choose your life

Webinar with best-selling author, Nir Eyal

Tomorrow.. Tomorrow.. I’ll love ya.. Oh wait. I don’t know you (or maybe I do). But that’s not the point.

Tomorrow is an exciting day! Webex is hosting a webinar with best-selling author, Nir Eyal. And trust me, you won’t want to miss it.

For years, Eyal has immersed himself in the psychology of distraction and even wrote a book about it called: Indistractable. Tomorrow, he is going to let us in on his research.

Key takeways

We’ll learn:

  • Reasons why we get distracted
  • Why we don’t do the things we know we should do (think: eating healthy, exercising, getting good sleep, etc).
  • How to master the internal triggers that make us uncomfortable
  • Cool tricks/ways to make a pact with yourself to do the work you say you’re going to do
  • How to cultivate self-compassion
  • AND SO MUCH MORE!

Register here today: https://use.webex.com/webinar-indistractable-with-nir-eyal

Date: Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Time: 12 PM ET

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Young hipster man with tattoo sitting on floor and playing acoustic guitar
Times are changing, so is music

Virtual music change

Usually at this time of the year my friends and I begin the banter and planning associated with our annual pilgrimage to the Isle Of Wight Festival. Although we weren’t able to participate this year, I am always seeking ways to keep music an active part of my life.

Live music especially is an important part of my life. The energy and anticipation in a room just before a band comes on is electric. The difference between a great gig and an “Epic Gig” is marginal but in my opinion, the venue, sound system, and people form an essential combination to reach “Epic Proportions”.

I was a bit cynical about the virtual gig concept. How can it possibly be the same?

No people, a tinny sound, and I’m in my front room!

Support with playlists

Then Chris Martin partnered with Global Citizen. Seeing the performance in a stripped back and relatively unproduced manner reminded me just how good Coldplay is. It even made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

So much for no energy! Those tunes touched me, and the atmosphere came from the situation we all find ourselves in.

A few days later I decided to create a playlist ‘Isolation Station’ for my team- just a few songs and a little irony to put a smile on their faces.

Finally, one last virtual music event that really reset my perception that I needed to be in the venue, surrounded by like-minded souls was the Hacienda House Party, a live dance music event based around some of the original superstar DJ’s of the Hacienda in Manchester, England. This event provided my family with a backing music soundtrack for a lovely sunny Saturday. It was brilliantly produced and when pumped through the home sound system, it sounded awesome! Boom, we were raving at home.

Together at home

And whilst I’m waxing lyrical about virtual music events, check out the links below that caught my eye- irony and comedy in musical form.

Oh My God (Stay Home Edition) | Kaiser Chiefs

Reworking of a great anthem following a tweet by a fan to a UK radio station

The Rolling Stones perform “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” | | One World: Together

Check out Charlie Watts drum kit! I’d love to know the story behind this. Taken from the Global Citizen gig at the weekend which Cisco sponsored.

As the Chilli Peppers once sang “Music the great communicator.”

Live From Home weekly livestream

At the other end of the spectrum Cisco has done a good job of using Webex to showcase performing artists of all practices during the weekly series, Live From Home. Presented by AppDynamics and Cisco, Live From Home is using Cisco technology to directly benefit the performers and to provide top-notch entertainment for the public. They are also fundraising for art charities in need. My favourite was ‘Indie Night’. It certainly inspired me to pick up my guitar and start dusting off the old campfire favourites!

We all get so much from the arts which we can often take for granted. Streaming lets us listen to what we want, where we want, whenever we want, and whilst that is a good thing, it’s live music that now really keeps artists afloat. It’s not just for the mega bands touring the world on private jets, but more importantly it’s for the bands and musicians playing at bars and small venues, who are completely shut down for now.

In the clear

So, when all this is over and we can actually go to a venue with a sticky floor and a musty smell, let’s go show our support and help the next Coldplay or Billie Eilish breakthrough.

You can do that on May 5th during the Live from Home event on Cisco’s Virtual Experience Hub for the public.

To conclude, my perceptions were proven wrong….virtual music can move me and bring entertainment to the masses. Music plays such a huge part in all our lives, whether you play it, write it or just hum along because you don’t know the words, it’ll put a smile on your face or a tear in your eye. Right now, the power music has is remarkable and can help us all get through this together.

Stay Safe and tune into the next Live From Home event on 05/05

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Serious woman using laptop checking email news online sitting on sofa, searching for friends in internet social networks or working on computer, writing blog or watching webinar, studying at home
How to create a video conferencing agenda

Hold engaging video calls with a meeting agenda ahead of time

Meetings can be a waste of time if not run properly. In fact, a 2019 study revealed the cost of poorly organized meetings would be $399 billion dollars, in the United States alone (1).

An important way to ensure meetings run smoothly and efficiently is to set an agenda prior to the call. Setting an agenda is important, so all attendees can come prepared. Often participants join a meeting, not knowing how to prepare, or what the meeting will be about. And as a result, a follow-up meeting is needed, making the first meeting more of a time-suck than a productive call.

Prioritize your time and energy

Before setting an agenda, consider these three things:

    1. Understand that you don’t have to solve every problem in one meeting

Think about what can be accomplished.

Meetings have different goals and priorities. While some are brainstorm meetings, others are status updates, or presentations on collected information or metrics data. The list goes on, but a single meeting shouldn’t try to fit everything into one. Before you set an agenda, understand what type of meeting you want to have. This will aid in how attendees prepare beforehand and in knowing how long to set the duration of the call.

      2. Consider making meetings shorter

Participants may be more engaged and less likely to multitask in a shorter meeting, knowing they can get back to their work.

Video conferencing calls don’t have to be a designated 30 minutes or 1 hour long. Yes, it’s true that sometimes that amount time is needed, but consider other approaches. For example, let’s take a brainstorm call. Try setting the meeting for 20 minutes and have participants come prepared with ideas they can share for the first 10 minutes. Then, in the second half of the call, have people try and think of additional ideas as a group. After the call, you can narrow down the ideas and send them out, and let people vote. Or set up a second, 10-minute call to walk through the top three and do a final vote.

For a read-out call, sometimes people fill space with information that is too in-the-weeds if there is not clear direction given. Consider setting a shorter call and instruct the presenter to give the top three bullet points and top three lessons learned. Or top three things that can be improved upon. This will shorten calls and keep people focused. If people are interested in more information, they can follow up outside the call.

3. Don’t be afraid of trial and error

Meetings can look and feel different. Try various methods to see what works best for your company.

People work in different ways. What may work for someone, may not work for others. After a meeting, ask for feedback. You may be surprised in what people have to say.

How to plan for and contribute to meetings

What should your agenda look like?

Based on the meeting type, consider:

  • What is the objective of the meeting?
  • How long the meeting should last?
  • How many people need to be on the call?
  • Who will need to talk/present?
  • Should everyone on the invite actually be on the call? (this is important because you don’t want people to feel like their time is being wasted)
  • How long each of those people need to convey information?

An example agenda:

Objective of call:

Example Agenda

At the bottom of the agenda (or within it), you can request what each person needs to do to prepare, or what they need to bring to the meetings. For example, do they need to send slides over beforehand? Should they come with one question to ask, etc.?

Additionally, it’s important to let presenters/participants know how much time they have, beforehand. In fact, to keep a meeting on track, you can give a 2-5-minute warning before the transition to the next topic and presenter. Because everyone will have seen the agenda and time allocated, the switch will be smoother and it won’t feel like someone is being cut off.

One last note

Remember, meeting templates can look very different based on the type of meeting. So, create yours to fit your business needs and detail it with as much or little information as it needs. You can experiment to see what works better with your employees.

Preparing for every meeting with a clear objective and thoughtful agenda will ensure a more productive and efficient use of time for everyone involved. Taking the time up front, will go a long way to ensuring you get the most out of each and every meeting.

And if you don’t already have Webex, you can sign up for the free offer, with an unlimited meeting time!

Reference

(1) 2019 study on poorly organized meetings

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3 tips for managing a virtual get together. A group of friends hanging out and drinking wine. Four young women in the webex meetings space. Wine glasses are put in the air to toast.
3 tips for managing a virtual get together

Meet by virtual means

Working from home? Me too.

It sounds pretty fun (and definitely has MANY perks), but can also get a bit isolating.

As remote working trends continue to increase, the shift from the office to the home “office” can feel big if you’re used to frequent water cooler conversations, taking  lunch breaks with your colleagues, and planning happy hours after work. Even for a regular “work-from-homer,” I still find myself going a little stir crazy every so often.

If you’re missing your friends or colleagues (who may also fall into the friend category), here are 3 tips for hosting and/or attending a virtual get-together:

Plan a time

If you’re with your colleagues, look at their calendars and find a time that works. You can even use a team collaboration space to suggest times, using reaction emojis, like the thumbs up, to let others know if a specific time works for you. If you don’t have visibility into calendars or a space with all invitees, texts or survey’s work as well.

Assign a host

This person is in charge of figuring out the time, sending out the invite, remembering to show up. Like a host at a party, they can greet people who join the call and mediate if everyone starts talking over one another. Prior to the call, or at the start of the call, it’s important to lay out a set of “guidelines” as well as what they should expect.

For people who have never joined a video conferencing meeting before, you can let them know in advance that they may need to download the app (if joining from a phone or new device). And it’s fun to see everyone, so encourage them to use a device with a camera.

Because there can be background distractions and noises, ask attendees to keep themselves muted until they would like to talk. In addition, unlike normal happy hours or get-togethers, side conversations are near impossible. On a video conference, they tend to result more in people talking over one another. If this happens, suggest that people try the chat tool to either directly message one person, or the entire group.

If you’re the host and need to leave early, you can assign a new host.  That way the call won’t end for everyone.

Change the layout

Webex offers three views: active speaker view, active speaker and thumbnail view, and grid view. Instead of just seeing only the person talking, change to the grid-view where you can see up to 25 different screens. This view allows for you to see everyone’s reactions and makes it feel much more like you’re all together in person. It can also help in seeing if someone is trying to talk or when someone is finished talking, limiting interruptions.

Don’t forget your snacks and drinks! Host a virtual cheers at the beginning of the call, just like you would normally if you were in person. Don’t let the computer screen prevent you from ordinary get-together rituals.

As for planning your next get together, do it before you go! Use the polling tool to suggest times and have everyone vote in real-time.

Little things can go a long way in starting a get-together, especially for those new to the video conferencing arena. So, do you think you’re ready to virtually hang out with your friends? Start planning!

And if you don’t already have Webex, you can sign up for the free offer, with an unlimited meeting time!

We hope these tips help your next get-together run smoothly! See how @bshaughn of NYC consultancy makes virtual happy hour’s happen

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remote working
Working smarter: An interview experience from a (super fun!) virtual team

My virtual team experience

I graduated in May of 2019, and along with my peers I faced the daunting pressure of figuring out my next step.  Like many that were in my shoes nine months ago (or still are now), the end of the road in academia didn’t present a clearly defined transition into adulthood. Unless your major led to medical school or law school, graduation looked more like the edge of a cliff, and not the top of a podium.  

millennials and Gen Z entering the workforce and webex technology

If the shoe fits…

I scrapped the ‘logical next step’ option and did the next best thing: I looked for a workplace that would have the best environment in which I could grow, learn, and challenge myself. And with luck, I would also love my coworkers, and have fun while achieving all of the above. Yeah it sounded impossible to me too. 

Status update: currently self-appointed CFO (Chief Fun Officer) of new recruits. I’m growing, learning, challenging myself, loving my coworkers, having fun, AND writing this blog. How you ask? It all started with the interview. I knew from my first conversation with Cisco that it would meet what I was looking for.  

Ready, set, recruit

My experience was typical – a 5% response rate to job applications: an email here, a link to a video conference there, a phone call.  Aside from the occasional email chain, there was no channel for me to communicate with those involved in the recruitment process, let alone a channel to get to know potential team members. In such a time of uncertainty, the lack of visibility added to my stress. There was a clear separation between me and my potential prospective employers I would just need to wait until someone communicated at me. That’s until I started my interviews with Cisco. Only then did it dawn on me that when a company interviews you, you are interviewing them too; you can’t just want the shoe, it must fit on your foot. 

My virtual recruitment adventure 

My recruiter and potential team members asked me to create a free Webex Teams account on teams.webex.com. This was unusual, but I was open to this interview process. Immediately, the interviewer leading my interview process began a conversation with me one-on-one and added me to a ‘space’ titled ‘Welcoming Ana Vincenti’ (that’s me) with the other members of her team she would eventually want me to connect with. A space, just for me? I was already feeling special. 

Next thing you know, I was welcomed with confetti, gifs, emojis, and enthusiastic messages from the team that they were excited to meet with me. And for the first time in an interview process, I felt (dare I say it) good. Being added to the space made me feel like I was already a part of the team, even if just as a guest for the time being. It removed the walls that I had consistently felt in all other interview processes — it’s like I was invited into the same room where everyone else was, as an equal.  

In Webex Teams you can search from thousands of Gifs to find the perfect expression of yourself at any time.

The team continued to use the platform to schedule video meetings with me directly in the Webex Teams app (I was using the online version). Outside of our scheduled interview times, the team made a point to let me know they were available to answer any questions that came up. All I had to do was message them directly on Teams. And the cherry on top of it all? The entire process happened completely remotely. I was traveling for quite some time when this opportunity suddenly popped up. Worried about how it would affect my candidacy, the team said, ‘we’ll meet you wherever you are, whenever you’re available,’ and that’s exactly what they did. 

virtual interview with a unicorn on top of computer.png

The virtual interview process!

My first interview was with who is now my manager and took place while I was squatting outside in front of a Prada (classy, I know) in Milan, on my phone. I had my video on, looking as one does with the beloved combination of 90-degree heat and humidity. I was candid and let her know it was the only place I could find reliable WIFI. I made it clear that I very much took this opportunity seriously, despite how my video looked. She laughed, inquired about my travels, and we continued with the interview. That right there, was the beginning of what sealed the deal for me. More video interviews, gif exchanges, and messages later, I became a part of the Cisco family.  

Day-to-day

Once things slowed down, I started thinking about what my day-to-day would look like. The only question I had about integrating into the team was…’so…how tall are all of these people in real life?’ I had not a doubt that I would fit in with them on day one. I already had ample opportunity to connect with them through video, messages, and gifs (usually a clear indicator of one’s personality). By the way, I still don’t know how tall all my coworkers are.  

Some of the people I work with weekly are in Europe and Asia. You heard me correctly; I get to work with people across the globe. Not bad for my first job! That was a goal of mine for way later in my career, but Webex Teams has made it possible from the get-go. This technology makes it so exciting to go into work each day. Or rather, not to go into work, because if I don’t want to leave the house, my team and I stay connected through Webex Teams. We trust one another to get our work done no matter where we are.  

Takeaways

I took so much away from this experience. Check out some of my takeaways below:

1) Life after college. Six months in, I love my first post-graduate job. Webex Teams made the transition between candidate Ana and employee Ana seamless. I communicate with my team even more closely than I did on day one.

2) Video is key in communication. Video is key in communication. From the first interview —  on the floor in 90-degree heat (I wouldn’t recommend this, but desperate times call for desperate measures), I was able to be candid with my future team. Seeing their smiles, make eye contact, and hearing their laughs was pivotal in making me feel comfortable with the team, role, and Cisco as a whole. Ultimately, it allowed me to perform better as a candidate, as I was able to present myself just as I would in a live situation, even though I was far away. It also gave me a much more holistic picture of my future employer and was key in winning me over as a candidate.

3) Be candid, open, and welcoming of new ways to operate (especially when they challenge status quo). This is not a ‘typical’ interview process, or a globally deployed way of working. However the technology is perfectly built to support it and makes for a wonderful experience. I was unsure what this new interview process would look like, nor how I would adapt to having a virtual team. But I embraced it with open arms, was honest about how it was new for me, and the team reciprocated. This a lot of trust between us immediately, which set the foundation for the incredible experience I’m having with the team today. 

Adopting collaboration technology is easy and fun

So, business owners (and future employees), if you are still on the fence about adopting collaboration technology, I hope I’ve made the value clear. This easy-to-use platform was key in engaging me from the get-go, and I can guarantee it will have an impact on other millennials and Gen Z entering the workforce. The flexibility, ease, and comfort it provides in communication is a differentiator that businesses must invest in if they plan to engage top talent. And quite simply, it makes people happy. I’ve been able to meet faraway coworkers’ families, stay home when I need to, worked in different locations, and met so many people from all over the globe, all without missing a beat. Technology keeps the work excitingeverywhere, all the time. Let’s make excitement in the workplace the norm.

We’ve created a page with more guidance for end users and people managers on working remotely at https://www.webex.com/webexremotework.html 

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Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to think about how you can fall in love with your meetings again. Cisco Webex Meetings brings teams together, for collaboration that leads to greater business outcomes.
Love your meeting!

Spread the love with meetings

Valentine’s Day is more than just a chance to show affection to a loved one. It’s also a big holiday for shopping and gift-giving, even for single people – sort of like a mini Christmas.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 45% of Americans over the age of 18 (more than 110 million people) identified as single in 2017, a record high. But Valentine’s-related sales have not suffered despite the huge number of singles out there.

On the contrary, they were estimated at nearly $20 billion in 2018, with average per capita spending of more than $143. And it’s not all on greeting cards or chocolates: Gift cards, jewelry, and even pet treats all do big business each February.

What this trend shows us is that there is a lot of love in the air on Valentine’s Day, not just for your significant other, but for everyone you love in your life—and people tend to want to share that through meaningful gifts. This year let’s spread that love even further, into one of the most historically despised, but necessary areas of business—meetings. That’s right, it’s time to start loving your meetings again.

Love it or leave it behind: Why only the best collaboration technology will do

As the Valentine’s Day numbers above illustrate, shoppers don’t skimp on buying something that they think will really impress a significant other or friend. In other words, they don’t usually settle for a second-rate gift. The same principle should apply to tools for team collaboration and communication.

Think of your organization’s current approach to keeping everyone in the loop. Do you have the right technology in place to bring your teams together and keep them collaborating wherever they are? Is it optimized to make the most out of every meeting or communication? Or does it make you want to break up with your meetings altogether?

Name any fundamental flaw with a meeting (too long, not focused enough, etc.), and subpar collaboration technology will only make it worse. Let’s look at five common day-to-day challenges that are preventing effective meetings.

1. Too much multitasking, not enough participation

The problem: Streaming a movie or TV show on Valentine’s Day? It’s possible that you’ll look at your phone or tablet at some point, even while the video keeps playing. The same thing happens all the time with audio-only conference calls, as participants are directing their attention elsewhere. “Sorry, I was on mute” is often code for “I missed what you said since I was checking my email.” Multitasking is hard and bad for focus.

The solution: Setting up a video conference is a proven way to reduce multitasking since it lets everyone be seen. It’s also a good idea for executives and leadership to set an example by not using other technologies during an online meeting.

2. “We could have just covered this in email”

The problem: It’s a common refrain after an unproductive meeting: “This could have been done over email.” But why don’t more meetings just get offloaded onto email? Because email is a very limited communication medium, and not all that efficient. If your inbox is as filled and cluttered as mine, messages can easily get lost and overlooked, plus hours or days can pass between responses. No wonder companies resort to meetings instead, no matter the flaws involved.

The solution: Taking advantage of real-time chat can be advantageous both during and after a meeting. It’s more streamlined and richly featured than email and lets participants get answers quickly and in context. Modern chat platforms also make it easy to search for old content, share files, and conduct digital whiteboarding.

3. The meeting is too difficult to join and engage in

The problem: Sometimes, issues crop up before the meeting even begins. The process for joining one can be needlessly complicated, with required downloads and PINs or limited device support, so that participants need to be in a certain location to join.

The solution: Modern collaboration technology can make it straightforward to get started with any meeting. Multiple devices are supported and joining is as simple as tapping or clicking a button when it’s time. Mute and audio controls also make it simpler for the host to keep things moving once the meeting does begin.

4. There’s uncertainty on who’s in the meeting

The problem: Imagine a conference call with a lot of people on it. Someone starts talking and you have only a vague idea who they are, having only perhaps seen their name in the calendar invite beforehand. Then someone else joins in and you don’t recognize them at all. These gaps can be a distraction in a meeting, especially if the topic contains sensitive information. Also, it’s challenging to get people to participate if you cannot address them by name.

The solution: Increasingly we are seeing AI coming into meeting and collaboration technology, allowing advanced capabilities like delivering instant profiles of meeting participants pulled from social accounts and other directories. Or voice and facial recognition so you can match the name to the face. Accordingly, the meeting can flow better and have better engagement since everyone has some background information on each person and everyone can be addressed by their name. As the use of AI evolves, meetings are only going to get smoother and more productive.

5. Remote workers have too much trouble connecting

The problem: More people are working outside of traditional offices, which is great for flexibility. However, it can be challenging for these workers to keep in touch if the meeting software they’re supposed to use doesn’t work well across devices or allow for easy collaboration.

The solution: Collaboration tools should work equally well on desktops, phones, tablets, and video conferencing systems, as applicable. That way, they can support remote and mobile workers who might take calls on the go, at home, or occasionally at a company office, too.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to think about how you can fall in love with your meetings again. Cisco Webex Meetings brings teams together, for collaboration that leads to greater business outcomes.

Is today the day you fall in love? Let’s see, and try Webex for free.

Does Webex Meetings work with any popular learning management systems?

Webex Meetings has added Blackboard Learn to our already extensive list of popular learning management systems. With this integration, instructors can have the full Webex Meetings experience within the Blackboard Learn environment. Aside from being able to hold virtual classes for distance learning, instructors can also have office hours and ad-hoc meetings with students, and even message students – all within the Blackboard learning interface. These integrations give teachers and students a great way to connect within the environment to which they are accustomed.

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US Census Bureau

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On-boarding made easier through communication skills and collaboration tools

Starting a new job at a new company is exciting, but often comes with challenges. These can range from understanding your role to understanding your team’s role in terms of the broader scope of the company to even finding out who does what, and who to go to for specific requests. Not to mention trying to understand company lingo/new acronyms. It’s all a bit of a learning curve at the beginning.

And now, some companies have the tools and technology to hire employees to work remotely. Remote working comes with many benefits, but as a new employee, the aforementioned challenges can be made even trickier.

However, an article titled “Ramp Up Your New Employees Better with Great Communication Training,” details how companies can train and onboard new employees wherever they are, with communication skills, to avoid some of the challenges that come with starting a new job.

Cory Treffiletti, Global head of Marketing for Cisco Webex, says “Improving the on-boarding process pays clear dividends in the form of higher employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. And leveraging the same communication and collaboration tools the business relies on can make the process more effective while also preparing the employee for the working habits and culture of their new company.”

Read the following article to learn a bit more on how your company can leverage your collaboration tools to better onboard new employees.

Ramp Up Your New Employees Better With Great “Communication Training”

Read more