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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

By the Numbers Look at Valentine’s

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4 non-verbal communication cues that are important for growing businesses

Effective communication isn’t just about what you say; it’s how you say it and how you present yourself. The frequently cited “7-38-55 Rule,” established by Albert Mehrabian, posits that words only account for 7% of the message we send when communicating with others. Body language (55%) and tone of voice (38%) have much bigger impacts on personal communication.

Non-verbal communication is incredibly important for small- and medium-sized businesses, from interacting with customers to negotiating with vendors and coordinating efforts between employees. Whether you realize it or not, you may be saying more through your body language than your words. Master the art of non-verbal communication, and you’ll effectively navigate critical relationships with clients, business partners, and staff members in person and during online meetings.

These four non-verbal communication cues, in particular, are vital when running or working at an emerging business.

1. Strong eye contact

A lot of communication happens through the eyes. One of the easiest ways to show people you’re interested and engaged in the conversation is to maintain eye contact. Repeatedly glancing at objects on your periphery will make you seem distracted or bored. It can also come across as a sign of anxiety or a lack of confidence, which can turn away clients and business contacts.

Maintaining eye contact tells customers they have your full attention, and that you are completely engaged and actively listening to what they have to say. Good eye contact is one of the most fundamental non-verbal communication cues, but it’s also one of the most difficult to master. Too much can make people feel uneasy, and even something as seemingly trivial as how often you blink can have a huge impact on how you come across to others.

2. Restrained hand gestures

The right hand gestures express your ideas more effectively. Hand movement can make a speaker seem more animated and invested in the subject matter. Used correctly, hand gestures punctuate statements and add a subtle visual component to verbal communication. 

Like eye contact, there’s a fine line to walk with hand gestures. Going overboard can backfire. Excessive movement can come across as overly aggressive and possibly even threatening. 

Make your hand gestures meaningful and deliberate. Unconscious movements like fidgeting, handwringing, running your hands through your hair, or scratching an itch could make you seem anxious or nervous.

3. Situational facial expressions

Your facial expression can sell an idea or undercut it completely. An employee giving a glowing quarterly performance report will be sending a very different message to business leaders if his or her facial expression suggests fear or concern. 

Facial expressions can seem involuntary, but it’s a skill that’s worth mastering to align your non-verbal communication cues with your message. Unlike some other forms of body language, facial expressions are fairly universal across different cultures and societies. Even if two people don’t speak the same language, they can still convey what they’re feeling purely through their faces. 

Who can forget the famous ending to “The Graduate,” when Benjamin Braddock successfully crashes Elaine Robinson’s wedding and runs off with the would-be bride? There isn’t a single word of dialog in the scene: The audience watches as the young, rebellious couple’s faces as their initial joy and excitement curdles into an uneasy sense of doubt about the future and the rash decision they just made. It speaks volumes without uttering one syllable.

Having control over slight facial movements like a raised eyebrow or slight crease in the lips is a major asset, no matter your line of business.

4. Controlled posture

Whether you’re standing to make a presentation, sitting down at a conference table or attending an online meeting, your posture says a lot about you. Standing or sitting up straight conveys confidence and leadership, making good posture important for communicating with both customers and co-workers. Conversely, slouching or letting your shoulders hang forward sends the opposite message, telling your audience that you don’t really believe in what you’re telling them.

Non-verbal communication cues are essential, especially in today’s business climate where so many employees work remotely and team members frequently collaborate over video conferencing software. A robust web conferencing solution helps ensure that your staff has the tools to communicate with one another and coordinate projects. Instilling the value of non-verbal communication will make those collaboration sessions more fruitful.

Get started with your free Webex Meetings plan today, which includes support for up to 50 participants, crystal-clear high-definition video, screen sharing, and much more.

 

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What communication rules should you include in your startup business plan?

When you’ve just launched a startup or are working for one, there are a million things to do to get the organization on a sustainable trajectory. Market research, competitor analysis, financial projections, plus more mundane tasks such as finding office space and drawing up remote work policies – it’s all essential for starting a successful business.

The importance of having a startup business plan

Writing a business plan which addresses all of the above tasks might seem like more time and effort than it’s worth for startups already overwhelmed with simply recruiting employees and finding investors. But it pays off. 

A survey by Palo Alto Software found that startups that had completed a full business plan saw superior growth and had an easier time securing loans and investment capital than ones that hadn’t. Such improvement is critical in the highly competitive startup space, in which failure is routine. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 56% of all small businesses started in the year ending March 2014 had survived until March 2018

As you think about your startup business plan, it’s important to pay attention to the financial needs of your organization (e.g., how much cash flow it will have to generate to be sustainable), as well as to technical requirements, like what collaboration software employees will benefit from. Let’s look at everything a typical business plan template should include.

1. Executive summary

You’ve heard the term “elevator pitch.” The executive summary of a business plan is sort of like that: It provides a top-level overview of the entire document and is in effect a mini plan. 

It should only be 5% to 10% as long as the full plan, be written in short sentences and paragraphs, and briefly cover all the sections in the plan. Its audience will usually be banks and investors deciding whether to extend capital. Since it’s a summary, it will likely be completed only after the details below have been finalized.

2. Mission and objectives

Different types of businesses have different goals, whether that’s pioneering an all-new product or service or breaking into an established market. At this stage, you’ll want to introduce the startup in more detail by describing:

  • The organization’s core mission, vision, and goals.
  • What will set its offerings apart from what’s already out there.
  • What need it will fulfill and the markets it will target.
  • Where its operations will be based and which regions it will serve.
  • Where it currently stands, i.e what it’s already achieved.
  • What will be necessary for sustaining short- and long-term success.

Answering these questions will not only clear things up for would-be investors, but also give you insight into what you’ll need to invest in, like software. 

For example, let’s say you determine that you’ll sell to clients across the country, relying heavily on a team of mobile and remote workers. This might be a good sign that it’s prudent to invest in real-time collaboration tools like a video conferencing solution that can provide richer, more lifelike interactions between teams than a simple call or email would allow.

3. Product and service portfolio

Pretty straightforward: Include a full compendium of all of your products and/or services in this part of the startup business plan. Explain how they work, what stages of development they’re at, and how much they might cost. Include any relevant diagrams and supporting materials that flesh things out. 

Effective product rundowns make a huge difference in how investors will perceive the value of what you’re offering. Plus, getting them right at this early stage will help you develop clear product content like online descriptions, too. Almost 90% of customers video conferencing solution

4. Market analysis and planning

This is where things become even more granular. This phase establishes that your business idea is actually viable, via thorough analysis of your startup’s marketing plans, along with its targeted markets, customers, and competitors. How you actually conduct such due diligence will vary depending on your mission, but common action items include:

  • Performing SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.
  • Determining the total addressable market for the product or service.
  • Explaining how the offering will be branded and marketed to customers.
  • Describing the demographics and personae of those customers.
  • Setting a budget for marketing and advertising.
  • Figuring out which sales channels to use.

You should also consider how your customer profiles and marketing plans will influence your technology strategy. If you are a B2B organization selling software, for instance, then holding video conferencing meetings can be a useful way to connect with leads in real time, demo the product with screen sharing, and build the high-quality connections that convert into sales. 

5. Operational and financial projections

Your startup business plan must offer clear insight into how the organization will operate and what type of cash flow it can be expected to generate. Pivotal points to cover are:

Operational:

  • How much office space will it need, and where.
  • Employee locations and headcount.
  • The hardware, software, and IT services it will require.
  • The structure of its supply chain.
  • Current logistics and distribution plans.
  • Legal and accounting needs.

 

Financial:

  • Current income and expenses.
  • Breakeven analysis, i.e. what must be sold over a given time period to cover the costs of doing business.
  • Past financial statements, if available.
  • Projections for the next year or multiple years.
  • Startup costs.
  • Capital needs and loan/funding requests.

 

There are many ways to reduce your startup’s estimated costs en route to being able to present a more sustainable picture of your operation. Remote work is one good option, as it reduces your need for office space and for expensive travel as well, if real-time collaboration software is in place to seamlessly bring employees together regardless of their physical locations.

6. Management structure

Startup founders often choose to run a somewhat lean operation early on, with only a few employees and minimal overhead. Still, it’s important to detail everyone involved in the company’s operations, including the full executive team, plus any shareholders, consultants, and advisors. That gives investors and partners an idea of who they’ll be interacting with and how much experience they have in the field, which can influence their decision on whether to fund the startup and, if so, at what amount.

Don’t skip making a startup business plan

This business plan example template covers the most common bases. It can literally pay dividends to create a well-structured and detailed startup business plan, since doing so will help convince others to fund your company and ensure you have the resources to start off on the right foot. The time spent creating the plan will more than pay for itself once your company secures funding or a loan.


Interested in learning more about video conferencing solutions? Try the Webex Free offer today.

 

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