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Room cleaning macro with Cisco Webex Rooms

Cisco Webex Rooms in a new normal

Cisco Webex Rooms are not only fantastic collaboration devices, they enable you to bring intelligence to your meeting rooms, helping you utilize your meeting rooms effectively and safely. You may have read a recent blog from Cisco that discusses how a device can count people in a room and create alerts if the maximum capacity limit of the room is exceeded. The people count mechanism was created with the idea that you could optimize the efficiency of your rooms, but in this new normal it can be repurposed to help keep users aware of capacity limits.

Macros

One way the intelligence in a meeting room equipped with Webex Room devices can be harnessed, is through the use of macros. Macros are created on the device using standard JavaScript, providing access to the Application Programmer Interface (API) of the device, standard JavaScript functionality and even the ability to send or receive arbitrary HTTP(S) requests. This is how the functionality of counting people is transformed into an alert, when an administrator’s defined threshold is exceeded, and a macro performs an action. Taking this macro as inspiration, I asked myself what other functionality could add value to a room for both an administrator and a user?

One thing we know is that we have to adhere to strict cleaning schedules as we journey back into the office. How could a Webex Room device help advise and keep track of this? I thought that a way of helping administrators monitor room cleaning would be a good start. I used the User Interface Extensions Editor available from the web interface of the device and created a new button that appeared on the User Interface (UI).

Room cleaning macro

I created a macro (available here) that knows when the new button is pressed and records the timestamp of the cleaning event. I record this timestamp to a secondary macro so it is not lost if the device is shutdown, but this could easily be extended to send the timestamp via HTTP to a central database for administrators to monitor. Sounds great, but what happens if a user presses the button by mistake? The macro detects the button press and before recording the cleaning event it triggers a PIN dialog, the cleaner must enter a valid PIN before the macro will record the event.

This information on its own is valuable but I decided to extend it further. As discussed earlier, the device knows when people are in the room, meaning it knows when the room is vacated too. Using this information, it is possible to create a message on the screen that informs users how long it has been since the room was last used, of course this can also be sent to a central location too. Now it is possible to inform the administrator or user about how long the room has been vacant, when the room was last cleaned and how many times the room has been used since it was last cleaned.

Room available macro

Taking this approach, administrators are empowered with information to ensure their rooms are safe and users can have access to information that gives them peace of mind. The best part is, this can all be achieved with a Webex Room device and a little custom code. Macros and UI Extensions enable countless opportunities for enhancing the meeting room experience, have a go yourself and see what you can create!

Check out the room cleaning and usage micro

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Applied natural language processing— Using AI to build real products

Arushi Raghuvanshi – Hear an overview of key concepts for leveraging NLP in production applications like voice assistants, question answering, search, topic summarization, and more.

This is a companion blog post to my talk at the Women in Big Data event on August 20, 2020. The talk slides are available here

There are different challenges between academic or theoretical NLP and practical or applied NLP. There are quite a few online resources on the academic side, including published papers, lessons on AI and NLP theory and fundamentals, blog posts breaking down the latest and greatest models, etc. There is less information online about using all of this in practice, in real-world, customer-facing applications, which is what I’ll cover here. I will outline some key differences between academia and industry, introduce core NLP concepts that are applicable to a variety of applied use cases, go through best practices and tools for collecting data and building an application, and discuss how to securely improve deployed models over time.

Academia vs industry

The first key difference between academia and industry is data. The data available to build a production application may be very limited in quantity compared to standard research datasets. For example, SQuAD, a popular question-answering dataset, has over 100,000 questions, but developers may only have a couple hundred representative question-answer pairs to build a production system. Production data may also be noisier or have different characteristics than standard data sets. For example, it could contain a lot of domain-specific terms like product names. Because of this, pre-trained or out of the box models might not work well.

The second difference is the need for reliability and interpretability in user-facing applications. There has been a trend towards deep learning models that perform well on large amounts of data, but they may pick up on unintended or undesirable data trends because real-world data naturally has bias. For example, many companies have shown up in the news for accidentally building sexist or racially biased models. When building models in practice, it’s important to think about bias and design models that are easy to evaluate, consistent, and only rely on intended features.

Next, academic papers tend to focus on a single, well-defined component. While these components may work well individually, they often break down as part of a larger pipeline. For example, to build a voice assistant you may need a pipeline of speech recognition, natural language understanding, and question answering components. If the speech recognition is off, it makes it more difficult to understand what the user is asking, and even more difficult to answer their question or complete the task.

speech recognition icon and sound waves

In academia, accuracy tends to be the main metric that researchers are trying to improve on, but in practice, developers also care about usability and scalability. In production, device constraints, inference time, interaction design, and other factors play a role in the overall success of an application. Often, these factors that contribute to usability are more important than minor accuracy improvements, requiring a different approach to model optimization.

Finally, security is an important factor in real-world applications. AI is a data-driven field. More data leads to better models, but developers must be careful about keeping this data secure and not violating customer trust. There have been many recent news articles about data breaches and a general sentiment of users feeling like companies are spying on them or not respecting their privacy.

These are some of the fundamental differences between AI theory and practice. Next, I’ll share some best practices and tools to solve NLP problems for production systems.

Applied NLP overview

The solution to many of the problems outlined above is to break down complex problems into a series of models that can be evaluated well. Instead of training a single, deep, end-to-end, black box system, train multiple, simpler, more well-defined models. Since each of these models is solving a simpler problem, they require less data to achieve high accuracy and less compute power to train. It is also easier to evaluate each of these subcomponents quickly and thoroughly, which makes it easier to efficiently deploy fixes to issues like picking up on unintended data trends.

With that in mind, we’ve found that most practical applications of NLP can be modeled as the following four general categories, and more complex problems can be handled with a pipeline of these models:

Text classification

For all NLP models, the input is a piece of text. With text classification, given a query or piece of text, the model outputs a single label.

One example application of this type is sentiment analysis. Given some text, the model can output a label of positive, negative, or neutral. Another example is topic classification. Consider an application with pre-defined topics of weather, news, and sports. Given a user query, the model can output the appropriate label. Third, extractive summarization or highlight extraction can be modeled as a text classification problem. For each sentence in the text, the model can output a binary label of whether that sentence is a highlight (included in the summary) or not.

example of text classification using inputs and outputs
Examples of sentiment analysis, domain classification, and highlight extraction.

Some models that can be used for text classification are logistic regression, support vector machines, random forest, decision trees, and neural networks (of which there are many network architectures available).

Some features that can be used to train these models include:

  • N-grams, which are sequences of n words or tokens in the order they appear
  • Bag of words, which is a count of all the words in the text (without paying attention to the order)
  • Word shape or orthographic features that consider if there are capitalizations, punctuation, numerics, etc.
  • Length of the text
  • Gazetteers, which are indexes or dictionaries containing domain-specific vocabulary and their frequencies – the feature is whether words or phrases in the input text appear in the domain gazetteer
  • For NN models, the input can be a character, word, or sentence level embedding or vector representation

While it’s good to be aware of these models and features, there are many libraries, toolkits, and frameworks with implementations of these models and feature extractors. Most of the work you’ll do for AI in practice will be framing the problem and collecting data. The model itself will often be a few lines calling a library. When starting out, it’s more important to focus on collecting the right data and framing the problem than getting caught up in the details of the model implementations.

Sequence labeling

The next model category is sequence labeling. Now, given a piece of text as input, the model will output a label for every word or token in the text. One application of this is entity recognition, which is extracting key words or phrases and their labels. Another application is part of speech tagging.

Entity recognition with IOB tagging input and output
Example of entity recognition with IOB tagging

Models that can be used for sequence labeling include maximum entropy markov models (MEMM), conditional random fields (CRF), long short-term memory networks (LSTM), and more complex recurrent neural network architectures (bi-LSTM, bi-LSTM + CRF, etc.).

Good features to use are the same as for the text classification model described above.

Sequence to sequence

When given some text input, sequence to sequence models output a sequence of tokens of arbitrary length. Some applications for this are machine translation or natural language generation. MT requires a lot of data to get right, so in practice it is generally better to use a pre-trained model or one available through an API. NLG generally doesn’t reliably work well enough to be used in production. In practice, developers usually use rules-based or templated responses instead. Given that most developers aren’t training these models from scratch, I won’t go into architecture details on this type here.

Information retrieval

The last category is information retrieval. IR is the problem of retrieving a document from an index or database based on a search term. Some applications of this are Question Answering, Search, and Entity Resolution. For example, say someone wants to know which artist played the song Bohemian Rhapsody, and you have an index that contains songs and artist names. You can search that index with the song title Bohemian Rhapsody to get the document with the artist field populated as Queen.

Example of structured question answering for conversational interfaces
Example of structured question answering for conversational interfaces.

Note that this is more complicated than a simple database lookup because it incorporates fuzzy matching. Some relevant features that can be used to get optimal rankings include:

  • Exact matching
  • Matching on normalized text
  • N-grams for phrase matching
  • Character n-grams for partial word matching and misspellings
  • Deep embedding based semantic matching, leveraging models such as BERT, GloVe, or sentence transformers
  • Phonetic matching, which can directly use phonetic signals from the speech recognition model, or generate phonemes from the transcribed text using models such as double metaphone or grapheme to phoneme

Note that there are some areas of NLP that I didn’t cover. I didn’t touch on unsupervised models at all. But the majority of practical NLP applications can be modeled as one of these four categories, or for more complex problems, a combination of them.

Example application

To make this more concrete, let’s walk through an example application that uses the concepts we’ve discussed so far. More specifically, I’ll be giving you an example of building a food ordering conversational interface with the MindMeld platform. This is a complex problem, so it involves a pipeline of multiple models shown here:

Natural Language Processor and knowledge base

Let’s consider the example query “I’d like a hummus wrap and two chicken kebabs.”

  • The Domain Classifier is a text classification model that assigns an incoming query into one of a set of pre-defined buckets or domains. The given query would be labeled as the food ordering
  • Intent Classifiers are also text classification models that predict which of the domain’s intents is expressed in the request. In this case, an intent classifier could label the query as the build order
  • Entity Recognizers discern and label entities — the words and phrases that must be identified to understand and fulfill requests — with sequence labeling models. For our example query, this would extract hummus wrap and chicken kebabs as dish entities and two as a number
  • Entity Role Classifiers add another level of labeling a role when knowing an entity’s type is not enough to interpret it correctly. These are also text classification models. The number entity two can be further classified as the quantity role (to differentiate it from a size role, e.g. 16 drinks vs a 16 ounce drink).
  • An Entity Resolver maps each identified entity to a canonical value using Information Retrieval. For example, hummus wrap can be mapped to the closest canonical item of Veggie Hummus Wrap, ID:‘B01CUUBRZY’.
  • The Language Parser finds relationships between the extracted entities and groups them into a meaningful hierarchy using weighted rules. In this case, two and chicken kebabs would be grouped together.
  • The Question Answerer supports the creation of a knowledge base, which encompasses all of the important world knowledge for a given application use case. The question answerer then leverages the knowledge base to find answers, validate questions, and suggest alternatives in response to user queries. This is an Information Retrieval model. Since the user has not specified a restaurant name, the question answerer can be used to find restaurants that carry the requested dishes.
  • The Dialogue Manager analyzes each incoming request and assigns it to a dialogue state handler, which then executes the required logic and returns a response. This is a rule-based system. In this case, it would use a template to construct a response like “I found veggie hummus wrap and two chicken kebabs available at Med Wraps and Palmyra. Where would you like to order from?”
  • Finally, the Application Manager orchestrates the query workflow — in essence, directing the progress of the query between and within components.

MindMeld implements all of these models for you with some reasonable defaults. Once you’ve added your data, you can simply run the following in the command line to train all of these models and start testing them:

mindmeld blueprint

If you would like to further experiment with one of the models, let’s take an intent classifier for example, you can do so with the following syntax in python:

mindmeld components

To download the code and try it out yourself you can make a copy of this Google colab notebook and follow the commands. More information is available in the MindMeld documentation.

Now that you understand some fundamental NLP concepts and how to frame an NLP problem, the next step is to collect data.

Data collection

Before jumping into data collection, it’s always a good idea to check if there are any pre-trained models you can use. Hugging Face is a popular platform that has implementations of many state of the art models. CoreNLP, spaCy, and NLTK are platforms that have implementations of many NLP fundamentals, such as named entity recognition, part of speech tagging, etc. And you can always do a simple Google search to look for additional models. Even if these pre-trained models don’t perfectly fit your use case, they can still be useful for fine tuning or as features.

Example of using pre-trained sentence transformers found via Hugging Face
Example of using pre-trained sentence transformers found via Hugging Face
Example of using pre-trained Named Entity Recognition from spaCY
Example of using pre-trained Named Entity Recognition from spaCY

If you are training a model, first check to see if there are any existing datasets available. There are a lot of open-source datasets that can be used as a starting point. There may be data within your organization that you may want to use. Or you might be able to scrape or compile data from a website or publicly available API.

While it’s good to check for existing models and data, don’t hesitate to build a new dataset if one doesn’t already exist that accurately represents your use case. Representative data is essential to building a high-quality application. Crowdsourcing tools can be useful for generating initial data.

Example platforms for crowdsourcing data collection.
Example platforms for crowdsourcing data collection.

When leveraging crowdsourcing tools, it’s important to define your task well. If the task description is too specific, you will get lots of very similar looking data, but if it’s too general, a lot of the data may be irrelevant or not useful. To strike the right balance, iterate. Work in small batches, see how the results look, and update your task description accordingly.

Some data collection platforms help match you with workers who are trained in your specific use case, which is really useful if you want clean, consistent data. For cases where you want more variation or generally want to see how the public responds to certain prompts, it may be better to go with tools that anyone can contribute to. You can also do things like target specific geographic areas to get a variation in slang and regional language that people might use.

Whatever approach you take, consider implementing validation checks to automatically discard any excessively noisy or irrelevant data. You can target workers with better ratings to help reduce noise, but even then, you should implement some automated validation like checking length, removing whitespaces, and making sure at least some words appear in the relevant language dictionary.

In addition to collecting the text itself, remember that we want to collect labels for our models. It’s incredibly important for these labels to be clean, because without clean data our models can’t learn. If you use crowdsourcing tools or data teams for this, you should give contributors some training and evaluation before they start labeling. You can have multiple people label the same queries, and only accept labels with a certain level of agreement. Once you have an initial model, you can help speed up labeling time by using model predictions to bootstrap labels. This transforms the label generation task into a verification task, which is generally faster and easier.

Finally, if you don’t have any other resources, you can create and label your data yourself, in house. This can be a great way to bootstrap an initial model. It gets you to think more closely about the data you are trying to collect, and you can add data over time from user logs or other sources as resources become available.

Toolkits and frameworks

Once you’ve framed your problem and collected data, the next step is to train your model. Scikit-learn is a popular toolkit for classic models that we talked about like logistic regression, support vector machines, and random forest.

linear regression

For neural networks, you can use libraries like PyTorch or Tensorflow. Here’s a great tutorial on using a PyTorch LSTM for part of speech tagging, and here’s one for Tensorflow.

Some more NLP specific toolkits are CoreNLP, NLTK, spaCy, and Hugging Face. I mentioned these toolkits before in the context of pre-trained models, but they are also very useful as feature extractors. These toolkits can be used to generate features from text, like n-grams and bag of words. These feature vectors can then be fed into models implemented via, for example, scikit-learn.

generating ngrams

For more complex problems involving multiple NLP components, namely conversational interfaces, you can use a variety of platforms  including MindMeld, Dialogflow, Amazon Lex, wit.ai, RASA, and Microsoft LUIS. These platforms have a lot of preset defaults for feature extractors and models and have the whole pipeline set up, so all you have to do is provide your data and implement any custom logic. Even if you’re not building a full conversational interface, these platforms can be really useful for their subcomponents, like question answering or custom entity extraction.

Finally, there are tools on the infrastructure side that can be particularly useful for AI. Elasticsearch is useful because it is not only a database, but also a full-text search engine with a lot of IR capabilities built-in. AWS, Google compute engine, and other similar platforms are great for cloud compute to train heavier models efficiently. Kubernates is a platform for easy deployment and scaling of your systems. And DVC is a tool for data versioning, so that if you have multiple people training models, they can be synchronized on the data they are using.

Improving models in a secure way

The key to intelligent ML systems is to improve them over time. All of the leaders in the AI space have become so by leveraging usage and behavior data from real users to continually improve their models. As an organization, it is essential to do this in a secure way.

The most important thing to start with is communication. It is important to clearly communicate if any user data will be stored, how long it will be stored for, who will be able to access it, and what it will be used for. Even if you are abiding by data policies, if users are unaware of these agreements, it may come across as ‘spying.’ This communication can be done at onboarding, with user agreements, through an FAQ section of a website, via a published white paper, or any other accessible location.

In order to define these data policies, some things to think about include what data needs to be stored to improve your system. Can you store only some extracted trends or metadata, or do you need to keep the full raw logs? You should only store what is absolutely necessary to add value to the end user and always remove any extra sensitive or personally identifiable information. Think about how long this data will be stored. Will it be deleted after a set amount of time, say one year, or is it crucial to store it indefinitely until the user requests it to be deleted? Who will be able to access the data? If the data is never read or inspected by humans, people may be more comfortable with their data being used. If that is not possible, it is good to make the data available only to a small team of analysts who have a high level of data security training. Finally, what will the data be used for? If it provides value to the end user, they are more likely to allow you to use it. When possible, it is beneficial to provide useful reports to end users or customers and measurable accuracy improvements on models.

Once you’ve defined a data policy, you need to build a secure data pipeline that can enforce this policy.

example data pipeline
Example data pipeline. User queries and model outputs are stored in a secure temporary cache until they can be processed and saved in a more permanent data store with relevant access permissions.

For example, you need to keep track of information like from which user each piece of data came from, so you can delete it if they ask for it to be removed. The platform needs to be able to enforce permissions, so only authorized individuals are able to access data stores. You can also build models to remove sensitive information. For example, if you don’t need to store person names and those exist in your data, you can use an entity recognition model to recognize those person names and replace them with a generic token.

Once you have data, an efficient way to improve models is with Active Learning. In production, raw data is cheap, but labeling data is not. We can use model uncertainty to select which queries to label first to improve models quickly.

model performance vs queries added

To help do active learning on a regular basis, you can build out a semi-automated pipeline that selects logs from the data store, bootstraps annotations, which can be verified by a human labeler, and checks to see if the accuracy increases with the new data. If it does, the new model can be deployed, and if not, the data can be sent to the developer team for further inspection and model experimentation. In addition to increasing the training set with this pipeline, it’s good to add to the test set. For the test set, it’s better to randomly select queries to get an accurate distribution of user behavior.

You can further speed up this pipeline by using auto labeling. Tools like snorkel enable labeling data automatically, with an algorithm or model, rather than manually with a human labeler. The auto labeling system can abstain from labeling queries for which there is low confidence. These can be sent to human labelers or ignored. Either way, it allows for some model improvement without a human-in-the-loop, which is beneficial for security reasons and time or resource constraints.

About the author

Arushi Raghuvanshi is a Senior Machine Learning Engineer at Cisco through the acquisition of MindMeld, where she builds production level conversational interfaces. She has developed instrumental components of the core Natural Language Processing platform, drives the effort on active learning to improve models in production, and is leading new initiatives such as speaker identification. Prior to MindMeld, Arushi earned her Master’s degree in Computer Science with an Artificial Intelligence specialization from Stanford University. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree from Stanford in Computer Science with a secondary degree in Electrical Engineering. Her prior industry experience includes time working at Microsoft, Intel, Jaunt VR, and founding a startup backed by Pear Ventures and Lightspeed Ventures. Arushi has publications in leading conferences including EMNLP, IEEE WCCI, and IEEE ISMVL.

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Webex Community members bring Linux support for Webex to life

Linux support for Webex

Here at Webex, we understand that innovation can come from anywhere, whether it’s from our engineering team, our partners, or passionate users like yourself. We created the User Community Feedback Portal for our community members to provide feedback on new features or give suggestions on how we can make our product even better. Ever since launching the Webex Community in May, you have made good use of the feedback portal, resulting in innovations and changes that matter most to you.

Users have been asking us to support Webex on Linux, but after reviewing the idea, it didn’t appear that there was a substantial need for Linux support. However, users in the Webex Community highlighted that there indeed was a need—in fact, users wanted support on Linux far more than we knew. See the idea here

The vote is in!

The community came together using the User Community Feedback Portal to make it known that there was indeed a need for support on Linux and just how much it mattered to those who matter most to us: our users.

“My ‘Linux colleagues’ laughed about it when I started my request in May, but I couldn’t understand why Cisco was not supporting this key group in the DevNet population. It’s good to hear that Cisco is listening and [I’m] looking forward to the first release,” explained Wim van Moorsel from AnyWeb, which is why he submitted the request.

This project became so popular that it is now the second most popular (by vote) idea in the Webex Community. Nearly 800 people voted from 318 different companies with an additional 100 partners asking for the Linux support, too.

the feed for Linux support for Webex request

After seeing how many votes this idea received, product managers once again reviewed supporting Webex on Linux and considered how valuable this update is to our community members. Needless to say, we are now moving forward with supporting Webex on Linux. The product manager leading the upcoming project:

Thank you so much for your feedback and the numerous votes on the request to support a Linux version of the Webex Teams client. The wait is finally over and Cisco Collaboration team has started working on a Linux client. There are numerous questions in terms of what flavors will be supported, what features will be available, etc. Our goal is to get it to you as soon as possible and are releasing the core workflows (targeted for Q1 CY2021) with a roadmap to ultimate parity with the Windows client. The team is working through defining the phases and finalizing the initial flavors of Linux that we will support. Taking your requests on flavors into consideration for sure. We will share more on this in the upcoming weeks so please watch out this AHA for more details. Thank you your patience.”

– Manali Dongre, Product Manager

With the completion of this project, Webex will be supported on nearly any operating system.

User Community Feedback Portal

We aren’t too proud to admit that we don’t know everything. This is in part why we created the User Community Feedback Portal—to learn from our community members, to get insights into what actually matters to our users, and to improve both our product and experience for all users. It is because of feedback and the power of community that we are able to give our users what they want. We’re excited to start the Linux project and receive more feedback once it launches.

Have another idea you want to see brought to life? Or do you have feedback on features, projects, or want to submit a new idea? Visit the Webex Community and use the feedback portal to make your voice heard. Access the User Community Feedback Portal in the community by clicking on the “External Links” dropdown and selecting “Share a Product Idea.” We can’t wait to hear about your ideas!

Make your voice heard and submit a new idea!

About the author

Cole Callahan, Webex Community Manager

About Cole – Cole manages the Webex Communities, including the IT Admin, Adoption Champions, and User Communities. He’s a kayak fanatic, and proud father to his incredible Foxhound, Daisy. He’s passionate about connecting customers, users, and admins with Webex.

Cole is a recent Ball State graduate and award-winning documentarian (seriously!) who has previously launched online communities for other organizations. As the Community Manager here at Cisco, Cole launched our community spaces, engages with members, encourages conversations, and is your go-to guy for everything relating to Webex Communities. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Make your voice heard with the User Community Feedback Portal

How to launch a community with Webex Teams

A broadcasters How to Guide to live stream Webex

Live streaming with Webex Meetings for your virtual events: What’s new and how to use it

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Robust NLP for voice assistants

Karthik Raghunathan – How to understand your users despite your Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)’s bad hearing.

This is a companion blog post to my talk at the L3-AI conference on June 18th, 2020. The talk slides are available here. The talk recording is here.

NLP machines
Image credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

The MindMeld Conversational AI Platform has been used by developers to build text-based chatbots as well as voice assistants. While text-based chatbots certainly have their place and utility in today’s world, voice interfaces are a lot more intuitive and natural when they work well.

It’s been encouraging to see the general population become more comfortable with voice assistants in recent years. An early 2020 survey by Voicebot found that more than a third of US households now have a voice-enabled smart speaker.

Map of the United States from Voicebot showing the graph of US households having voice-enabled smart speaker

Another survey found that 35% of the US population are regular voice assistant users.

A graph of UC Voice Assistant users and penetration

These numbers are expected to grow even faster in this era as users start preferring touch-free interfaces. This presents a great opportunity for developers of voice user interfaces everywhere. However, anyone who’s worked on one of these systems knows that it’s no easy feat to build a production-quality voice assistant that delights users.

Several active research areas in natural language processing explore more complex and deeper neural network architectures for conversational natural language understanding, natural language generation, and dialog state tracking. But all of that great work can still get undermined by the simple fact that voice assistants often suffer from bad hearing. In real life, even simple voice commands get easily misunderstood because the assistant didn’t hear you clearly.

Alexa Voice Fails

In more technical terms, this means that the accuracy of your Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) system has a huge impact on the overall quality of your voice assistant. This ends up being the Achilles’ Heel for most voice assistants, and if you want to see a significant improvement in user experience, focusing your efforts here will give you the most bang for your buck.

Challenges with speech recognition

Modern voice assistants are built using a complex pipeline of AI technology. At a high level, three steps are common to all voice user interfaces:

 

Source: Nvidia
  1. First, we use Automatic Speech Recognition to convert the user’s speech to text. Since building your own ASR requires prohibitively high amounts of data and resources, it’s common for developers to use an off-the-shelf cloud service like Google Cloud Speech-to-Text, Azure Speech to Text, or Amazon Transcribe.
  2. We then use Natural Language Processing to understand the transcribed text, take any appropriate actions, and formulate a text response. This can be accomplished with a platform like MindMeld that encompasses functionality for natural language understanding, dialogue management, and natural language generation.
  3. Lastly, we use Text To Speech to synthesize human-like speech for the generated text response to be “spoken” back to the user. This is commonly done using cloud services like Google Cloud Text-to-Speech, Azure Text-to-Speech, or Amazon Polly.

Since ASR is the first component in this pipeline, errors introduced at this step cascade to downstream components, causing them to make errors as well. You can use all the transformers you want in your NLP system, but if the input is garbage, you’ll still get garbage out.

In the last five years, there have been many headlines like these which may lead one to believe that ASR is an already solved problem:

Microsoft reaches ‘human parity’ with new speech recognition system

The system’s word error rate is reported to be 5.9 percent, which Microsoft says is “about equal” to professional transcriptionists asked to work on speech taken from the same Switchboard corpus of conversations.

www.theverge.com

Google’s speech recognition technology now has a 4.9% word error rate

Google CEO Sundar Pichai today announced that the company’s speech recognition technology has now achieved a 4.9 percent word error rate.

venturebeat.com

While we’ve undoubtedly made large strides in speech recognition accuracy over the last decade, it’s far from being a solved problem in the real world. In many of our production applications, we see word error rates (the metric by which ASR quality is measured) to be far higher than the ~5% numbers reported on well-studied academic datasets. Off-the-shelf ASR services like those from Microsoft, Google, or Amazon still make many mistakes on proper nouns and domain-specific terminology. When deployed in the real world, these errors are further exacerbated when dealing with users with diverse accents or non-ideal acoustic environments.

Examples of ASR mistranscriptions in Webex Assistant

Below are a few examples of ASR mistranscriptions we’ve seen in Webex Assistant, our MindMeld-powered voice assistant for enterprise collaboration.

ASR mistranscriptions

As you can see, the ASR often confuses proper nouns with common English words (e.g., Prakash’s vs. precautious or Mahojwal vs. my jaw). On other occasions, it mistakes one named entity for another (e.g., Kiran vs. Corrine or Didi vs. Stevie). There are also cases where it fuses named entities with surrounding words (e.g., Merriweather instead of me with Heather). Any of these mistakes would lead the assistant to take an unsatisfactory action since the primary entity of interest has been lost in the ASR output.

Clearly, we need to overcome these kinds of errors to understand the user correctly. But before we look at potential solutions, it’s worth emphasizing two things.

First, we’ll assume that the ASR we’re using is an off-the-shelf black box system that we can’t modify and have to use as is. This is a reasonable assumption because most popular cloud ASR services provide very little room for customization. However, we will assume that the ASR provides a ranked list of alternate hypotheses and not just its most confident transcript. This is something that all major cloud ASR services can do today.

major cloud ASR services

Note that the techniques covered below will be useful even if you had the luxury of using your own highly customized domain-specific ASR models. That’s because no ASR is ever going to be perfect, and having robustness mechanisms built into your NLP pipeline is always a good idea. The assumption about an off-the-shelf black box ASR is more to restrict the scope of the discussion here to the most common scenario that developers find themselves in.

Second, when talking about the NLP stack for a voice assistant, different implementations might involve different steps as part of the full pipeline. In this post, we’ll only focus on the three main steps common to all modern conversational AI platforms: intent classification, entity recognition, and entity resolution.

Next, we’ll look at three different techniques we’ve used in MindMeld applications to make our NLP pipeline more resilient to ASR errors.

1. ASR n-best reranking

The first technique, called n-best rescoring or reranking, applies application-specific domain knowledge to bias and possibly correct the ASR output.

While this description doesn’t do justice to all the complexities of a modern ASR system, at a conceptual level, it’s still useful to think of an ASR as having three separate stages:

Automatic Speech Recognition

First, the feature extractor extracts some useful audio features from the input speech signal. The acoustic model then maps those extracted features to phonemes representing the distinct sounds in the language. Finally, the language model takes that sequence of phonemes and transforms it into a sequence of words, thereby forming a full sentence. Like other probabilistic systems, ASR systems can output not just their best guess but also an n-best list of ranked alternate hypotheses.

The language model (LM) has a huge impact on how the audio finally gets transcribed. The LM is essentially a statistical model that predicts the most likely word to follow a given sequence of words. Conversely, it can also be used to score any arbitrary sequence of words and provide a probability measure for that word sequence.

The key thing to note here is that the LM used by an off-the-shelf cloud ASR service is a generic domain-agnostic model that may work well for web searches or general dictation tasks, but may not be best suited for recognizing the kind of language your users might use when conversing with your assistant. This is why these ASR systems often mistranscribe a domain-specific named entity as some other popular term on the web, or simply as a common English phrase. Unfortunately, in most cases, we cannot change or customize the LM used by a black-box ASR service. Therefore, we train our own separate domain-aware LM and use it to pick the best candidate from the different hypotheses in the ASR’s n-best list.

To train our in-domain language model, we need a large corpus of sentences that reflects the kinds of things our users would say to our voice assistant. Luckily, we should already have a dataset of this kind that we use to train our intent and entity detection models in our NLP pipeline. That same data (with some augmentation, if needed) can be repurposed for training the LM. There are many free and open-source language modeling toolkits available, and depending on your corpus size, you can either pick a traditional n-gram-based model or a neural net-based one. In our experience, n-gram LMs trained using the KenLM or SRILM toolkits worked well in practice.

Once we have a trained in-domain LM, we can use it to rescore and rerank the ASR n-best list such that candidates with language patterns similar to those found in our training data are ranked higher. The post-reranking top candidate is treated as the corrected ASR output and used for further downstream processing by our NLP pipeline.

NLP Pipeline

The above figure shows this technique in action in Webex Assistant. The original ASR output was trying marijuana’s emr, but after n-best reranking, the corrected output is join maria joana’s pmr, which seems more likely as something a user would say to our voice assistant. The ASR’s LM would have preferred a different top hypothesis originally because trying marijuana is a very popular n-gram on the web, and EMR, which stands for “electronic medical record” is a more popular term in general than PMR (“personal meeting room”), which only makes sense in an online meeting scenario. But our in-domain LM can pick the right candidate because it would assign higher probabilities to words like join, PMR, and possibly even Maria Joana if we had that name in our training data.

The advantage of this approach is that it isn’t directed at improving any one specific downstream task, but the entire NLP pipeline can benefit from getting to deal with a much cleaner input. This would help with improved accuracy for intent and entity classification as well as entity resolution.

natural language processor

The disadvantage is that this approach introduces one other new model to your overall pipeline that you now have to optimize and maintain in production. There’s also a small latency cost to introducing this additional processing step between your ASR and NLP. Even if you can make all those logistics work, there’s still a limitation to this approach that it cannot make any novel corrections but only choose from the n-best hypotheses provided by the ASR. So there’s a good chance that you’ll need other robustness mechanisms further down the NLP pipeline.

2. Training NLP models with noisy data

The next technique is a really simple one. NLP models are usually trained using clean data, i.e., user query examples that do not have any errors. The idea behind this technique is to spice up our labeled data with some noise so that the training data more closely resembles what the NLP models will encounter at run time. We do this by augmenting our training datasets with queries that contain commonly observed ASR errors.

Training data for intent and entity models augmented with queries containing common ASR errors (in blue)

Intent Classification

Let’s again take the example of Webex Assistant. The intent classification training data for our assistant might have query examples like join meeting, join the meeting, start the meeting, and other similar expressions labeled as the join_meeting intent. Now, if the production application logs show that join the meeting often gets mistranscribed as shine the meeting, or start the meeting often gets confused as shark the meeting, we label those erroneous transcripts as join_meeting as well and add them to our intent classification training data.

We follow a similar approach with our entity recognition model, where we add mistranscriptions like cool tim turtle or video call with dennis toy to our training data and mark the misrecognized entity text (tim turtle, dennis toy, etc.) with the person_name entity label.

If executed correctly, this approach works out really well in practice and improves the real-world accuracy of both the intent classification and entity recognition models. One could argue that you shouldn’t pollute your training data this way, and your model should learn to generalize without resorting to these kinds of tricks. There’s some merit to that argument. You should definitely start with just clean data and experiment with different features and models to see how far you can get. For example, using character-level features like character n-grams or embeddings can make your intent classifier more robust to minor errors like join vs. joint, and a well-trained entity recognizer should be able to recognize benny would as a name (in call benny would now) by relying on the surrounding context words even if the word would is mistranscribed. But there will always be ASR errors that our NLP models won’t be able to handle, and data augmentation of this kind is an effective way to help the model learn better.

Of course, you need to be careful not to go overboard with this approach. If you were to throw in every single way in which an ASR mistranscribes your user queries, that would probably confuse the model more than it would help it. So what we do is only add examples with ASR errors that are really common in our logs. We also only include near-misses where the transcription is slightly off, and don’t include cases where the ASR output has been garbled beyond recognition. Lastly, you need to ensure that you don’t provide conflicting evidence to your NLP models in this process. For instance, the ASR may sometimes misrecognize start the meeting as stop the meeting, but you shouldn’t label stop the meeting as an example for the join_meeting intent. That would introduce a confusion between the join_meeting intent and the end_meeting intent where that example should rightfully belong.

This technique was mainly about improving our intent and entity detection models. But we’ll now turn our focus to entity resolution.

3. ASR-robust entity resolution

Entity resolution, or entity linking, is the task of mapping a detected entity in the user query to a canonical entry in a knowledge base.

entity resolution

In the above example, the person name entity sheryl is resolved to a concrete entity Sheryl Lee who’s a specific employee in the company directory. It’s this resolution step that allows us to correctly fulfill the user’s intent because we now know the right employee to initiate the video call with.

Entity resolution is often modeled as an information retrieval problem. For instance, you can create a knowledge base by using a full-text search engine like Elasticsearch to index all the canonical entities relevant to your application. Then at runtime, you can execute a search query against this knowledge base with the detected entity text and get back a ranked list of matching results.

search acuracy

To improve the search accuracy, and thereby the entity resolution accuracy, there are several features we can experiment with.

Fuzzy Matching

We can encourage partial or fuzzy matching by using features like normalized tokens, character n-grams, word n-grams, and edge n-grams. We can also do simple semantic matching by using a mapping of domain-specific entity synonyms or aliases. Textual similarity features like these are useful for any kind of conversational application regardless of the input modality. But next, we’ll specifically look at additional features that make the entity resolver for a voice assistant more robust to ASR errors.

Phonetic similarity

First, we introduce phonetic similarity because textual similarity alone isn’t enough to deal with ASR errors. For example, when Kiran Prakash’s gets mistranscribed as Corrine precautious, relying purely on text similarity might not help us make the correct match because, at a textual level, these phrases are pretty far apart from each other. But since they sound similar, they should be fairly close in the phonetic space.

One way to encode text into a phonetic representation is by using the double metaphone algorithm. It’s a rule-based algorithm that maps a given word to a phonetic code such that similar sounding words have similar encodings. For words with multiple pronunciations, it provides a primary and a secondary code encoding the two most popular ways to pronounce the word. For example, the name Smith has the double metaphone codes SM0 and XMT, whereas the name Schmidt is represented by the codes XMT and SMT. The similar representations indicate that these two names are phonetically very close.

A more recent approach is to use a machine-learned grapheme-to-phoneme model that generates a sequence of phonemes for a given piece of text. Using this method, Smith is represented by the phoneme sequence S M IH1 TH, whereas Schmidt is represented as SH M IH1 T. Similar sounding words have similar phoneme sequences, and the detailed representations also make it easier to compute the phonetic similarity between words at a more granular level.

In our experiments, we found that these two methods often complement each other. Hence, we use phonetic features derived from both to improve our search.

Leveraging the ASR n-best list

One other technique that helps us significantly improve our search recall is leveraging the entire n-best list of hypotheses from the ASR, rather than just its top transcript. We run entity recognition on all the hypotheses and send all of the detected entities in our search query to the knowledge base.

Leveraging the ASR n-best list

On many occasions, the correct entity might even be present a little deeper in the n-best list, like in the above example where the correct name Sheetal was part of the ASR’s third-best guess. Even when that is not the case, pooling the various text and phonetic features across all the hypotheses has the effect of upweighting features which have more consistent evidence throughout the n-best list and downweighting outliers, thereby resulting in a much better overall match.

User-based personalization

The last thing we’ll discuss is using personalization features to improve entity resolution. User-based personalization is something that search engines use to better cater their search results to each user. Similar techniques can help us resolve entities more accurately by leveraging prior information about the user, such as which entities a particular user is more likely to talk about. This is useful for any kind of conversational application, but can especially have a huge impact for voice assistants where there is a larger potential for confusion due to similar-sounding words and ASR errors.

Personalization features tend to be application-specific and depend on the use case at hand. For example, for Webex Assistant, a major use case is being able to call other people in your company. Assuming that in general, you are more likely to call someone you are more familiar with, we can devise a personalization score, which is essentially a measure of a user’s familiarity with others in the company. In other words, for every user, we compute a familiarity score between that user and everyone else in the company directory. This familiarity score considers factors like how far the two people are in the company’s organizational hierarchy and how frequently they interact with each other via calls or online meetings.

familiarity score

We can then leverage this additional personalization score during ranking to help us disambiguate among similar-sounding names in the ASR hypotheses, and pick the right one.

This was just one example for a specific use case, but you can envision similar personalization features for different applications. For a food ordering assistant, you could have a list of restaurants or dishes that a particular user has favorited or ordered a lot recently. For a music discovery app, you can use a list of artists and albums that a particular user likes and listens to more often. And so on.

ASR robustness features in MindMeld

You can employ one or all of the above techniques when building a MindMeld-powered voice assistant:

  • We don’t have native support for building in-domain language models and using them for reranking n-best ASR hypotheses. But you can try this on your own by leveraging the LM toolkits mentioned above and include it as a preprocessing step before calling the MindMeld NLP pipeline. However, we would recommend starting with the other two techniques first since those can be achieved to an extent within MindMeld itself. Furthermore, they may reduce the need for having a separate n-best reranking step at the beginning.
  • Training the NLP models with noisy data merely involves adding query examples with ASR errors to your training data files and then using MindMeld to build your NLP models as usual. Just heed the warnings about not adding too much noise or confusability to your models.
  • There’s some out-of-the-box support for ASR-robust entity resolution in MindMeld, as described in our user guide. You can improve upon this by implementing personalized ranking techniques that are tailored to your specific application. For more details, read our 2019 EMNLP paper on entity resolution for noisy ASR transcripts.

It’s worth emphasizing that anyone who aspires to build a production-quality voice assistant must invest heavily in making their NLP models robust to ASR errors. This can often be the difference between an unusable product and one with a good user experience. MindMeld-powered assistants are extensively used in enterprise environments where tolerance for misunderstanding of voice commands is far lower than in a consumer setting. Robustness to ASR errors is always top-of-mind for us, and we’ll continue to share updates as we make more progress on this front.

About the author

Karthik Raghunathan is the Director of Machine Learning for Webex Intelligence, which is the team responsible for building machine learning-driven intelligent experiences across all of Cisco’s collaboration products. Karthik used to be the Director of Research at MindMeld, a leading AI company that powered conversational interfaces for some of the world’s largest retailers, media companies, government agencies, and automotive manufacturers. MindMeld was acquired by Cisco in May 2017. Karthik has more than 10 years of combined experience working at reputed academic and industry research labs on the problems of speech, natural language processing, and information retrieval. Prior to joining MindMeld, he was a Senior Scientist in the Microsoft AI & Research Group, where he worked on conversational interfaces such as the Cortana digital assistant and voice search on Bing and Xbox. Karthik holds an MS in Computer Science with Distinction in Research in Natural Language Processing from Stanford University. He was co-advised by professors Daniel Jurafsky and Christopher Manning, and his graduate research focused on the problems of Coreference Resolution, Spoken Dialogue Systems, and Statistical Machine Translation. Karthik is a co-inventor on two US patents and has publications in leading AI conferences such as EMNLP, SIGIR, and AAAI.

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K-12 e-learning video conferencing tips

Video conferencing tips for e-learning

Our daily lives experience no shortage of disruptions. Did you know that prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, studies showed the average person is bombarded with as many as 4,000 messages per day? These can come in the form of advertising, marketing, notifications, alerts, emails, calls, people, and more. Pretty crazy to think about. And now, many kids are home, distracting their parents, but also experiencing similar distractions as they navigate a new normal for what their schooling looks like.

Fortunately, limits on in-person instruction have not eliminated educational experiences for many students. A large number of districts have embraced remote learning, using technology-mediated interactions to help students stay on track. But how do you keep students engaged?

A recent article in Edutopia noted how challenging this transition is for students and teachers alike, but luckily, there are many strategies educators can employ, and resources they can use, to get the most out of remote learning for students in kindergarten through high school.*

Best practices for K-12 e-learning

First of all, if your school or district already uses an online learning management system (LMS), make sure to integrate your video conferencing tool with that platform. Administrators and teachers who are tasked with this responsibility can join Webex for live classes that explore the Webex Education Connector for Learning Management Systems.

Synchronous class time on Webex

During synchronous class time, make sure to set expectations around technology with your students, including demonstrating how to use video conferencing features. As appropriate for your students’ grade level and learning objectives, make sure they know how to mute, use chat functions and more.

Record the course, and share that you will do so. Direct students toward the archive of past lessons and make sure they’re easy to access.

As you meet with your students over a video conferencing platform, there are several best practices you can follow to help make learning more engaging:

  1. Turn your video on.

With so much changing on a daily basis, going live with your students is a simple way to add some continuity to the learning experience. Don’t worry too much about having the best lighting or perfect hair. Just do what you’d normally do for school. Try not to have too many distractions visible on camera, but sharing a little bit of your home life and personality can really help your students plug in.

  1. Use the tools at your disposal.

Videoconferencing platforms can enable highly interactive online learning. There are a couple Webex tools that you might want to leverage for remote learning:

  • Whiteboard: Pull up the Webex virtual Whiteboard to both demonstrate concepts and interact with students. This can be used for lessons or quick games during break time.
  • Polling: Do you need to do a quick check for understanding, or do you want to give students a chance to vote on how content will be delivered today? Use a snap Webex poll.
  1. Find simple web-based tools for other functions. Display slide decks, shared documents, tutorials and other simple web-based tools by using screen sharing Remember, you’re not moving the class from one location to the next, so anything you can do to give students breaks and cues that it’s time to switch tasks will help keep things running smoothly throughout the day.

If you are running synchronous classes on Webex, it could still be beneficial to incorporate a little independent work time and quick opportunities for sharing into the lesson. Doing so will let students focus on tasks that will help them retain the lesson and listening to their classmates share takeaways and thoughts will give them prompt feedback about their in-class work.

Asynchronous class time on Webex

During asynchronous work time and collaboration in small groups, make sure students know how to use shared documents and set up Webex Teams and spaces so they can work together and send assignments back to you.

Remember, if you have to change the participants in a small group, add or remove individuals instead of deleting the space and creating a new one. Students will appreciate being able to see the context so they can catch up quickly.

Most of all, remember, there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for testing out techniques to see what works for your class and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to readjust as you get a better sense of how to engage your K-12 students through e-learning.

Additional resources

There’s a wealth of learning opportunities available from Cisco Webex to help teachers explore how videoconferencing and Cisco Teams can help them connect with their students.

The first stop for teachers, students and parents, as well as IT professionals and higher education faculty, should be this web page. You’ll find tips for creating lesson plans, launching group projects and more.

Like you, we know that everybody’s learning style is different. That’s why we produce video tutorials to help teachers learn how to use Webex with their students. Topics we’ve covered so far include how to set expectations with students, tips to help teachers with scheduling and advice for establishing classroom culture during remote learning.

For more about the transition to virtual learning, check out this blog post.

Lastly, one thing we’ve noticed during our current situation is that when times are tough, people step up. Today, there’s no shortage of additional resources, including those outside of what we offer at Cisco Webex. A recent rundown from CNET includes K-12 e-learning resources on topics ranging from literacy to math, science and coding, as well as languages and Advanced Placement preparation. You’ll even find opportunities to take a virtual field trip with your class.

Reach out for more information or get started with our free offer.

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Connected Education: Let Remote Learning Continue With Webex — Before, During, and After Class

Welcome to hybrid learning

 

Sources

How challenging this transition is for students and teachers alike

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Best practices for clinicians using video conferencing

Video conferencing best practices

Some situations will always require an in-person visit to a healthcare provider. But there are many instances where a stable and immersive audio and video conferencing platform can offer all of the context needed for a clinician and their staff to offer accurate advice and a diagnosis.

Medical professionals benefit from a streamlined workflow, while patients don’t have to worry about travel arrangements and other logistical concerns. Plus, everyone involved has the advantage of reduced exposure to contagious and communicable diseases.

Of course, there are best practices in terms of compliance, medical ethics, technology, and practicality that must all be considered. Let’s review some key guidance for clinicians who decide to start offering virtual consults.

Compliance and medical ethics

The medical field is held to especially high standards in terms of patient confidentiality, licensure of providers, prescription of medication, acting in the best interests of patients, and many other factors.

In general, the same compliance concerns apply to virtual consults as an equivalent visit by a patient to your office or facility. There are some issues specifically related to virtual consults to keep in mind as well, as the Telehealth Resource Centers explained:

  • Providers have to be licensed to practice medicine in the same state where their patient is located.
  • HIPAA doesn’t specifically cover the unique circumstances of telehealth and virtual consults, but physicians and other staff must follow its rules to avoid issues with patient confidentiality and privacy.
  • Some states have additional privacy and security laws, whether focused on medicine or internet commerce, that providers must follow.

The Center for Connected Health Policy pointed out that while there are no Medicare rules related to informed consent and telemedicine, many states require that medical professionals obtain this approval from patients. This may be enforced through a state Medicaid program or statutes and regulations, so a thorough understanding of the requirements of the state or states in which you provide telemedicine services is especially important.

Practicality and ease of use

Virtual consults help to reduce or eliminate the various roadblocks that can exist between patients and care. Whether it’s impossible for a patient to secure reliable transport to a facility or they can’t easily do so because of a medical condition or other factors, a virtual consult can still connect them with you and your staff. Additionally, these visits keep all patients – whether immunocompromised or healthy – away from others who may spread a disease to them.

These benefits are only accessible with a carefully developed strategy that makes it easy for patients and medical professionals to connect with each other. Scheduling is one concern to keep in mind. Physicians, nurses, and other medical staff may have to spend more time with a given patient during a virtual consult or in-office visit than was initially anticipated or budgeted for on a daily schedule.

If your next virtual consult has to be delayed, the patient should be kept in the loop with updated information. Explaining up front that the appointment time is a guideline that everyone in the office attempts to follow but can’t absolutely guarantee is an important step. So is sending a notification if an issue arises.

Delegating work related to the consult is another factor. On your side of operations, it can ease the burden to have administrative staff set up the video conference and send an invite to you. That means more time focusing on the assessment you’re qualified to provide. Similarly, your admin team can also send an invite to patients ahead of time and follow up shortly before the appointment.

Technology

A stable and high-quality video conferencing platform can go a long way toward enabling the success of virtual consults. In-depth discussions about a topic as important as personal health requires support from a dependable solution. Clinicians may also want to record their sessions with patients to provide a detailed reference that supports their note-taking and other information-gathering efforts during the consult. A recording feature is critical to support this effort to maintain detailed records.

Making sure that patients who aren’t technologically savvy have the support they need to connect is also vital. That may mean having an administrator on your staff offer assistance in some cases or connecting with a relative or care provider on the patient’s end to explain what’s needed. A video conferencing platform designed to be intuitive and easy to use can help to make the virtual consult process as simple and pain-free as possible.

Similar considerations apply for you and your staff. Administrative specialists who set up virtual consults benefit from a platform designed around ease of use, as do nurses, clinicians, and other medical staff who interact with patients through them.

The virtual consult is a powerful tool that leverages the power of modern technology to break down geographic barriers and provide a high level of care to all patients, no matter where they’re located. But to be truly successful, best practices in the areas of technology, practicality, compliance, and medical ethics must be addressed.

 

Cisco Webex is here to support clinicians with a dedicated solution for their telemedicine needs.

Check out this virtual consultation checklist to learn more or get started with Webex today.

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Creating moments that matter for your residents with Webex

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August update of Webex Teams

It’s that time again! Here’re the exciting new features you can expect to see in Webex Teams this August…

MESSAGING & APP EXPERIENCE

An organized right-click menu (Windows & Mac)

We’ve organized the options you see when you right-click in the spaces list or on search results. Now, you can get to your favorite actions that much faster as they are ordered into intuitive groups.

Organized options in a Webex Teams window

‘Peek’ into a space on mobile (iPhone, iPad & Android)

When you have an unread space and you aren’t sure if you want to open it (and mark it as read) or not, you can now long press on the space, select Peek from the menu and open the space without marking it as read or sending a read receipt. If you try to send a message while using peek in space, you will be informed that you’re now leaving peek mode.

Peek into a space on Webex teams

 

Make the most of your messaging area (Android)

In group spaces (especially larger ones), when lots of people leave or are added around the same time, your message area can get clogged up with notifications that (maybe) aren’t all that important to you. Sometimes, this can cause you to lose context of messages sent before or after these in-space notifications. You’ll see these notifications grouped and collapsed, with the option to expand if you want to see more detail. This allows users to focus on more important messages.

Make the most of your messaging area (Android) in Webex Teams

Changes to settings & preferences​ (Windows & Mac)

We’ve added a dedicated Messaging tab, this is where you’ll set your default download location and configure views for your space list. Go to Settings (Windows) or Preferences (Mac) and select Messaging to check it out.

CALLING

Webex Calling

Seamless Call Handover (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad & Android)

You no longer have to worry about dropping a call when there’s a network change on your desktop or mobile. For example, when you leave the office and your mobile device switches from the office Wi-Fi to a mobile network, your call won’t be dropped.

Simplified calling options (Windows & Mac)

calls and only want to call co-workers using their work number, mobile number, or video address. Or maybe you don’t need to make calls to phone numbers, your calls will automatically go through as Webex Teams calls. Your administrator can simplify things for you by disabling the options you don’t need so that when you make a call from the app, you’re only presented with the options you want.

Control your video device from the app (Windows & Mac)

You can start or stop sharing your video on a connected video device right from the app. For example, if you’re connected to a Cisco Webex Board and you don’t want to share your video, you no longer have to walk up to the board and turn off your video. You can turn it off right from the app.

Mirror your self-view (Windows & Mac)

By default, when you share your video during a call, you can see yourself just like you’re looking in a mirror, making it easier for you to adjust your appearance (if you’re having a bad hair day). If you have text behind you and want to be able to read it easily instead of having to read it backwards, you may want to turn off your ‘Mirror my video view’ setting. This setting doesn’t affect the way other people in the meeting see you; It’s for your eyes only.Mirror your self-view from the app profession on screen with mirror self-view on

Switch between front and back camera (iPhone, iPad & Android)

Show your best side to the world! Tapping self-view in a call or meeting in Teams will switch between the front or rear camera on your device.

Man and Woman using meetings and the switch between front and back of camera feature

Know your active audio input (iPhone, iPad & Android)

When you make or accept a call, you’re notified about which audio device is active on the call, such as your speaker, Bluetooth device, or headphones.

If you’re sharing your video and then put your mobile device to your ear, your video automatically turns off. If you move your mobile device away from your ear, your video turns back on.

Know your active audio input (iPhone, iPad & Android)Change the look of your keypad during a transfer (iPhone, iPad & Android)

When you initiate a transfer during a call, you can change the appearance of your keypad from text to numbers if you’d prefer to search for someone by their phone number instead of their name.

change the look of your keypad during a transfer (iPhone, iPad & Android)

See how long you’ve been on a call (iPhone, iPad & Android)

Up at the top of your call window, under the name of the person you’re talking to, you can see a timer that lets you know how long you’ve been chatting.

Unified CM

More calling options (Windows & Mac)

You can call someone’s video address (for example, bburke@biotechnia.com) from anywhere in the app that you’d make any other type of call, like when you search for someone or you’re in a space with that person.

Call someone's video address from anywhere in the appPush notification for incoming call (Android)

Want to save battery life? Get notified about an incoming call in Webex Teams even when the Webex Teams app isn’t running. 

Simplified calling options (Windows & Mac)

Your administrator can set up your calling options to suit your needs. Maybe you don’t have a need to make Webex Teams calls and only want to call co-workers using their work number, mobile number, or video address. Or maybe you don’t need to make calls to phone numbers, your calls will automatically go through as Webex Teams calls. Your administrator can simplify things for you by disabling the options you don’t need so that when you make a call from the app, you’re only presented with the options you want.

Control your video device from the app (Windows & Mac)

You can start or stop sharing your video on a connected video device right from the app. For example, if you’re connected to a Cisco Webex Board and you don’t want to share your video, you no longer have to walk up to the board and turn off your video. You can turn it off right from the app.

Mirror your self-view (Windows & Mac)

By default, when you share your video during a call, you can see yourself just like you’re looking in a mirror, making it easier for you to adjust your appearance (if you’re having a bad hair day). If you have text behind you and want to be able to read it easily instead of having to read it backwards, you may want to turn off your ‘Mirror my video view’ setting. This setting doesn’t affect the way other people in the meeting see you; It’s for your eyes only.

Switch between front and back camera (iPhone, iPad & Android)

Show your best side to the world! Tapping self-view in a call or meeting in Teams will switch between the front or rear camera on your device.

Man and Woman using meetings and the switch between front and back of camera feature

 

Know your active audio input (iPhone, iPad & Android)

When you make or accept a call, you’re notified about which audio device is active on the call, such as your speaker, Bluetooth device, or headphones.

If you’re sharing your video and then put your mobile device to your ear, your video automatically turns off. If you move your mobile device away from your ear, your video turns back on.

Change the look of your keypad during a transfer (iPhone, iPad & Android)

When you initiate a transfer during a call, you can change the appearance of your keypad from text to numbers if you’d prefer to search for someone by their phone number instead of their name.

See how long you’ve been on a call (iPhone, iPad & Android)

Up at the top of your call window, under the name of the person you’re talking to, you can see a timer that lets you know how long you’ve been chatting.

Call Details in Your Call History (iPhone, iPad & Android)

You can find detailed information in your call history such as call time and call duration. From the Details window, you can choose to call the person back with audio or video.

INTEGRATIONS

A new way to capture Polls in Webex Teams!

Add the new Pollbot (poll-bot@webex.bot) to any group space or direct message the bot to quickly setup polls for any team. Curious what your colleagues are thinking or simply want to reach a consensus? Take an anonymous poll and share or keep the results private. Learn about the Pollbot and other Apps on the Webex App hub.

Create a poll in Webex TeamsFollowing a PollFor more information on this and upcoming updates to Webex Teams, check out our help page here.

Learn More

See all of the Webex Teams Releases here

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Financial technology concept. FinTech. Foreign exchange.
Building a banking assistant with MindMeld

Abhi Sidhu & Ritvik Shrivastava – In this post, we’ll take a look at our newest blueprint — a conversational assistant for common personal banking use cases.

 

MindMeld blueprints come with a pre-configured application structure and pre-built set of code samples and datasets. In this post, we’ll take a look at our newest blueprint — a conversational assistant for common personal banking use cases.

MindMeld provides example applications for common conversational use cases, called MindMeld blueprints, that comes with a pre-configured application structure and pre-built set of code samples and datasets. A blueprint allows you to quickly build and test a fully working conversational app without writing code or collecting training data. If desired, you can then treat the blueprint app as a baseline for improvement and customization by adding data and logic specific to your business or application needs.

In this post, we’ll take a look at our newest blueprint — a conversational assistant for common personal banking use cases.

FinTech Rank
Image Credit: FinTechRanking

Motivation & considerations

Before diving into the details of development, let’s talk about some key contributing factors behind the idea of this app.

Why banking?

With the growing popularity of FinTech, major financial institutions are looking at smarter solutions for providing their services to clients — conversational IVR, or virtual assistants, is one of the prominent targets.

The MindMeld platform, widely used for developing robust assistant applications, is ideal for the same. This serves as motivation for our new Banking Assistant blueprint: a virtual bank teller that shows off some of our amazing functionalities.

Value of time in large enterprises

Virtual assistants are efficient in terms of time spent by employees. Targeting lower customer interaction times by reducing the human-hours spent on solving previously seen issues is one of the major benefits. Also, AI-powered solutions are data-driven and can be improved with time and continuous training. This requires less time than training and re-training employees for the same.

Data security

For enterprises like banks, customers’ personal data is extremely sensitive. The MindMeld platform offers a significant advantage over cloud-based conversational AI platforms by allowing for data storage entirely on an organization’s local servers. This makes it advantageous for enterprise applications that are concerned about data privacy and security as data is never shared.

Now that we have our motivation, let’s take a look at the development steps.

Building the application

The Banking Assistant allows users to securely access their banking information and complete tasks as if they’re conversing with a teller. Below are some sample conversations for common banking tasks:

Building the application
Sample conversations — Paying credit card bills and reporting stolen/misplaced card.

Design overview

As part of the NLP component of any MindMeld app, we define a set of key use case domains or more fine-grained intents. The Banking Assistant intents include:

  • Activating a credit card
  • Applying for a loan
  • Transferring money
  • Paying off a credit card bill
  • Activating AutoPay
  • Checking account balances

For the complete description of the app’s architecture and a detailed breakdown of domains, intents, and entities, visit our documentation and refer to the illustration below:

NLP Design Overview for Banking Assistant
NLP Design Overview for Banking Assistant

Challenges & functionalities

There are a few unique challenges to building a conversational app for a banking firm, which we overcome through some of the MindMeld’s impressive built-in functionalities.

  • Client authentication through MindMeld
    In our vision for a production application, the frontend would handle user authentication and pass an immutable user token to the MindMeld application layer. This would allow the application to make calls to the bank’s REST APIs to fetch and update the corresponding user’s stored information securely. To show this, we mimic the passing of user tokens of the sample users in our database. When operating the app, one can pass the token for a specific sample user to only access data of that user and avoid leaks and cross-viewing of incorrect or mis-intended information. Find more information on the current set of sample users here and browse the data directory to find the user JSON data file.
MindmeldBankApp
Slot-filling for Money Transferring Intent

 

  • Learning about MindMeld entity roles
    As mentioned earlier, the purpose of blueprints is to exhibit a ready-made app and to allow developers to learn about using the MindMeld platform. This app showcases some unique features mentioned above, as well as some finer details that are really useful. For example, the use of roles in entities. In our banking use cases, the ‘account type’ is a major entity, representing the users’ savings, checking, and credit accounts. While the entity is sufficient by itself, it might not be unique in use cases like money transferring, where two ‘account type’ entities are required. Defining a separate entity just for one use case is also not ideal. Hence we make use of entity roles. These roles represent the purpose for each use of an entity. Continuing with the same example, there will be two ‘account type’ entities for money transfers: one with the role ‘from account’ and the other ‘to account.’ The use of roles can be extended to a variety of use cases. In the case of a location entity in a travel app, the roles could be ‘departure’ and ‘arrival’ or ‘source’ and ‘destination.
  • Obtain missing information using slot-filling
    Intents like transferring money or checking account balance require some key information such as account type, account number and amount of money. It’s likely that the user doesn’t provide this information in a single query, and the banking assistant needs to prompt the user for it. Instead of creating a back-and-forth logic to fetch missing information, we make use of MindMeld’s recently released slot-filling or entity-filling feature. We define a slot-filling form for each use case and let the feature prompt the user for this information on our behalf. You can read more about this feature here. A sample conversation using slot-filling for the money transferring intent can be seen here.
  • Querying external storage with dialogue manager
    The current Banking Assistant architecture showcases MindMeld’s support for secure REST APIs by mimicking PUT and GET API calls to retrieve and update information from a local data file. This is done through the Dialogue Manager of the app. This allows for the secure exchange of data and gives users the freedom to connect their REST endpoints and easily expand upon the backend. With this support, it’s easy to modify the underlying data storage as requirements change over time, with minimal design modifications to the app itself. It also allows for updates to the user data through secure API calls.

Code snippets

To give a glimpse of both the dialogue management functionalities of the app and the slot-filling feature, here’s a snippet of a dialogue handler code. The logic in this function (check_balances_handler) is fairly simple as you are only expecting one entity — an account type for which the user is checking the balance for. If the account type entity is not specified by the user the slot filling logic will be invoked. You can find an example of a more complex handler function for the Banking Assistant here

Banking Account code

That covers a brief overview of our new Banking Assistant blueprint application! If you would like to try it out, you can find more information here. For help developing your own application, take a look at our documentation.

We welcome every active contribution to our platform. Check us out on GitHub, and send us any questions or suggestions at mindmeld@cisco.com.

About the authors

Ritvik Shrivastava is a Machine Learning Engineer at Cisco’s MindMeld Conversational AI team. He holds his MS in Computer Science at Columbia University, specializing in Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing.

Abhi Sidhu is a Software Engineer at Cisco who specializes in providing practical solutions to emerging technological problems. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

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3 colleagues sitting around a conference room sharing a report
Are all meeting rooms equal?

Meeting rooms to help teams collaborate effectively

Work has shifted from cubicles to nearly anywhere you can get a Wi-Fi signal, signaling the need to reimagine what the new way to work will look like: a mix of an in-office and remote workforce. Distributed workers and in-office employees need a seamless collaboration experience. Technology will help drive this.

Last year, I traveled to a customer site to demo an early prototype of the Webex Room Phone. I met with the IT team in the conference room they typically used for team meetings. It had a BT/USB speaker and sharing hub, with two devices from different vendors. Unfortunately, their solutions did not have a viable way for me to present content and deliver my pitch to both in-person attendees and remote team members. This team was deploying and managing the larger videoconference spaces and board rooms, but they did not have a simple, high-quality solution to help their teams collaborate effectively.

Webex Room Phone— a seamless experience with Webex devices

This a common theme in many workplaces today. Larger conferences and boardrooms are fitted with elegant solutions, but there simply isn’t budget in smaller spaces. As a result, users cannot transition between spaces and collaborate effectively, and IT administrators cannot plan, deploy, and monitor the technology being used. We address these issues and give users the seamless experience they need with our Webex devices.

The Webex Room Phone is one such device. It helps support a modern workforce by providing:

  • Safe and distraction-free meetings with HD audio. The Room Phone utilizes speaker and mic technology that provides 360-degree coverage for 20’x20’ rooms (and 20’x32’ rooms with wired mics). This coverage, paired with echo cancellation and noise reduction capabilities, enables productive meetings with all team members, remote or not.
  • Easy ways to join a meeting. Do not worry about touching the device. Instead, join meetings through proximity with the Webex mobile or desktop app.
  • Simple management and robust analytics. IT admins can use Cisco Webex Control Hub—a single pane of glass for Webex management—to provision new devices, monitor usage, and troubleshoot issues.
  • So much more than just a conference phone. The Webex Room Phone connects to any HD display, so you can easily share content, view in-meeting participant information, and use digital signage capabilities when the device is not being used.

More than a conference phone

At Webex, we believe that less is more, which is why we’ve focused on packaging the Webex Room Phone in a simple, easily deployable way that provides a consistent experience with all other Webex devices (and allows you to scale this to every room you use). Designed for collaboration, touchless meetings, and an intelligent experience, the Webex Room Phone is so much more than just another conference phone—it’s a key element in the future of collaboration.

Sign up here to join the team behind Cisco’s latest Webex device: Webex Room Phone on Sept 14th to learn more on how it can help you scale your Webex device experience

flyer of webex room phone: helping you scale your WEbex device experience flyer with profile pictures of David Scott, Jessica Ruffin, Subbu Subramanian, and Anthony Nolasco

Learn More

How team collaboration technology can work together no matter where you are

Returning to work with Intelligent Room Capacity

Make your voice heard with the User Community Feedback Portal

Still Need Help?

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Sign up for Webex.

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A conversational AI and scheduling a meeting
Conversational AI at MindMeld

Karthik Raghunathan – Dive deeper into Cisco’s conversational AI platform for deep-domain voice interfaces and chatbots.

MindMeld and conversational AI

The MindMeld team is part of the Webex Intelligence team at Cisco, which develops machine learning-driven, intelligent experiences across Cisco Webex collaboration products.

Before our acquisition by Cisco in 2017, MindMeld was a San Francisco-based AI startup powering intelligent conversational interfaces for several companies in the food, retail, and media industries. Now, we’re bringing that same technology to Cisco’s products to make them smarter, more natural, and easier to use.

Webex Assistant and voice control

Last year we launched Webex Assistant, the first of its kind enterprise voice assistant for the meeting room. With Webex Assistant, customers can use their voice to control their Webex video conferencing devices, review the room’s calendar, join online meetings, call people in their company directory, and much more. While Webex Assistant had its origins as an intelligent assistant for the conference room, we greatly expanded its availability this year by bringing it to our widely popular Webex Meetings software. We also added support for a whole new set of in-meeting voice commands which allow users to create action items, take notes, and even set up future meetings, using just their voice.

Webex Assistant is powered by the MindMeld Conversational AI Platform. We developed this Python-based machine learning framework as a startup, and continue to maintain and improve upon it at Cisco. Teams across Cisco use the MindMeld platform for a wide variety of natural language applications such as chatbots, interactive voice response (IVR) systems, automated FAQ answering, and search. For instance, MindMeld is used for query parsing in both Cisco’s internal enterprise search and the external-facing website search on Cisco.com.

Open-sourced MindMeld conversational AI platform

Following the release of Webex Assistant, we open-sourced the MindMeld Conversational AI Platform. While it’s particularly easy to use MindMeld with other Cisco technologies like Webex, the platform itself is agnostic and can be used to build any kind of conversational interface. As a result, it is now used not only by internal teams at Cisco but also by the wider developer community to build production-quality chatbots and voice assistants.

Given its ease of use and flexibility, MindMeld has been a popular choice at several hackathons, including Cisco’s Smart Spaces Hackathon and the Government of India’s Smart India Hackathon. It was even featured in the winning team’s solution in the 2019 IoT World Hackathon.

Click here to learn more about the offerings from Webex and to sign up for a free account. 

Learn More

To learn more about the MindMeld Conversational AI Platform, check out our website and GitHub repository.

You can also follow the MindMeld team’s blog on Medium where we share regular updates about new MindMeld features, best practices for building conversational interfaces, and other snippets from our ongoing research explorations.

About the author

Karthik Raghunathan is the Director of Machine Learning for Webex Intelligence, which is the team responsible for building machine learning-driven intelligent experiences across all of Cisco’s collaboration products. Karthik used to be the Director of Research at MindMeld, a leading AI company that powered conversational interfaces for some of the world’s largest retailers, media companies, government agencies, and automotive manufacturers. MindMeld was acquired by Cisco in May 2017. Karthik has more than 10 years of combined experience working at reputed academic and industry research labs on the problems of speech, natural language processing, and information retrieval. Prior to joining MindMeld, he was a Senior Scientist in the Microsoft AI & Research Group, where he worked on conversational interfaces such as the Cortana digital assistant and voice search on Bing and Xbox.

Karthik holds an MS in Computer Science with Distinction in Research in Natural Language Processing from Stanford University. He was co-advised by professors Daniel Jurafsky and Christopher Manning, and his graduate research focused on the problems of Coreference Resolution, Spoken Dialogue Systems, and Statistical Machine Translation. Karthik is a co-inventor on two US patents and has publications in leading AI conferences such as EMNLP, SIGIR, and AAAI.

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grid view custom backgrounds and music mode
Webex Meetings August 2020 update: Increased security and media enhancement, custom backgrounds and music mode

August: Hot temperatures and hot Webex Meetings feature releases! Big things are in the works for Webex and we are super excited to share them with you. Over the next few months, you will see major enhancements. This month, the feature updates include increased security, grid view, music mode, and much more! Bringing you more flexibility to work wherever you need to.

Media + Security Enhancement

CipherSuite encryption – With this month’s update, we are updating the encryption cipher for Webex Meetings from AES-128-CBC to AES-256-GCM. AES-256-GCM is the best available cipher and it provides increased protection for meetings data and resistance against tampering.

Music Mode in Meetings and Events –You can now play music during your meeting and transmit the richness of melodies to all participants. This is especially important when delivering a virtual concert or music lessons over Webex. To enable this feature, simply press Ctrl+Shift+M to turn on Music Mode or click on “audio” on the menu bar and check “music mode.” Sit back, relax and enjoy!

Fluid high-resolution video even at 50% packet loss – This month’s feature update keeps your video flowing at high resolution even if your network suddenly experiences significant packet loss. Such as when your kids start to play video games or when remote classes start for everyone in the family. Before, when your network conditions significantly degraded, your video would transition to show your thumbnail image. Now, with media enhancements in Webex, you don’t have to worry anymore about disrupting your meetings if you are experiencing poor connection.

Desktop

Custom Virtual Background – On Windows and Mac, when selecting a virtual background, you can now choose your own image from your desktop to be used. This feature adds an additional level of personalization to your meetings. Have a favorite vacation spot? Add it to your virtual backgrounds and show it off in your meetings. Custom backgrounds are already supported on iOS and Android.

Custom virtual background with Webex Meetings

Grid view by default- In Webex Meetings, grid view is now the default setting when no one is sharing content, making the meeting participants appear equally. This creates a more collaborative feeling. If you prefer active speaker, you can still change your view to Active Speaker Video View or Active Speaker and Thumbnail Video View from the controls in the upper right area.

Grid View by default in Webex Meetings

Self-view enhancement – Your self-view is now shown in the video grid with the other participant videos by default. Your video will appear next to your colleagues instead of floating in the corner. This creates a more natural meeting experience. However, if you prefer to float your self-view instead, simply click “Show my self-view in a floating window.”

self-view enhancement

Hide non-video participants – You can now hide meeting participants who have their video turned off and chose to focus your meeting on those who have turned their video on. This creates a more engaging meeting experience and allows you to see those participating via video in your meeting.

Hide non-video Participants

Push to Talk– When muted, you can now hold the spacebar down to momentarily unmute. Instead of fumbling around trying to unmute, simply press and hold the spacebar when you want to talk. Release the spacebar to go back on to mute. The flexibility of working from anywhere might mean there are more background noises. Sometimes it is better to stay on mute until you need to speak up. With the new push to talk feature, you can stay on mute, limit background noise and simply chime in when you need to.

push to talk

Virtual Desktop Integration

VDI Dual-Monitor Support – Webex now supports a dual-monitor setup for Windows and Linux (Ubuntu + eLux) on Virtual Desktops. If you use a dual monitor, you will be able to extend the display of your session so you can utilize both of your monitors.

Mobile

IOS – It’s now even easier and faster to get to your Webex Meetings from your iOS devices. Just use your Apple ID. One fewer password to remember.

And last but not least…

Android – Webex Meetings is the FIRST conferencing service to offer live streaming for Android! Just like the in the Desktop app, you can start a live stream from a third-party source such as Facebook, YouTube or IBM directly from your mobile device and significantly expand your audience reach!

For more information on these features, please visit the Webex Help Portal

Learn More

See all the Webex Meetings updates here

Secure, first-party recording transcripts in Webex Meetings

Webex Meetings July 2020 update: Virtual backgrounds on Windows, Mac, Android, and more!

Webex Meetings June 2020 Update: Transcriptions, Background Blur and Mobile Grid View

Still Need Help?

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Join a Webex online meeting.

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Sign up for Webex.

Visit our home page or contact us directly for assistance.

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A low angle view on a blue digital key made to resemble a circuit and placed on a surface with encrypted text.
# Stay safe – Always authenticate

Richard Barnes – Why authentication always needs to be the first thing you do with something you receive over the Internet.

Authentication lesson

Much like Ciscos collaboration products, WhatsApp is used by millions of people around the world to communicate and collaborate — and a little while ago, it was discovered that due to a vulnerability, WhatsApp also allowed anyone on the Internet to take over the phone it was running on.  What can developers learn from what went wrong here, to avoid making similar mistakes in other products?  The key lessons here are: 

  • Treat any data you receive from the Internet as potentially hostile 
  • In particular, always use authentication so that you can reject traffic from bad actors 
  • Use memory-safe languages and libraries, especially when handling data from untrusted sources 

 Heres how Facebook described the vulnerability in their advisory:

A buffer overflow vulnerability in WhatsApp VOIP stack allowed remote code execution via specially crafted series of SRTCP packets sent to a target phone number.”

Let’s unpack this

There are a couple of things to unpack here.  The phraseremote code execution hints at the severity of the vulnerability.  By exploiting this vulnerability, an attacker can run any code they want on the victims phone.  The really scary phrase, though, is specially crafted.  That means that anyone on the Internet could make up some packets, send them to your phone, and take it over.

The core mistake WhatsApp made here was trusting unauthenticated data.  Cryptographic authentication is the way we separate the good guys from the bad guys on the Internet.  Whenever a program or device receives data over the Internet, the very first thing it should do is verify that the data was sent by the entity that the product thought it was communicating with.  That way, we immediately reject traffic from unknown parties, so that the worst thing that can happen is that the thing were communicating with can send us bad data we’ve scaled down the risk from billions of devices to one.

As usual with cryptography, you should use standard tools for this, and most of the standard security tools include authentication.  TLS and its cousin HTTPS are the right tools for most things.  They provide authentication using digital certificates.  For real-time media, the best tool is DTLS-SRTP, which you’ll always be using if you’re using WebRTC.  If you can’t use DTLS-SRTP for some reason, you can fall back to Security Descriptions, which at least ensure that your media packets are from someone who was involved in the call signaling.  With all of these, you should configure your software using an AEAD algorithm such as AES-GCM to make sure that all of your communications are authenticated as well as encrypted.

In fact, WhatsApp usually uses Cisco software to encrypt and authenticate their real-time traffic!  WhatsApp incorporates the libsrtp open-source library that Cisco maintains.  In this case, though, WhatsApp seems not to have been getting all the protection libsrtp should have offered.  They seem to have done some processing on SRTCP packets before they use libsrtp to authenticate them.  Authentication always needs to be the first thing you do with something you receive over the Internet.

Buffer overflow

A second issue here is indicated by the phrase buffer overflow.  This is an ancient class of vulnerability, which is almost entirely prevented by using more modern languages like Rust, Go, or even Java.  If you’re stuck with C or C++, you should make sure to use defensive coding standards to avoid bad practices, and apply sanitizers and fuzzers to find memory corruption bugs before they turn into vulnerabilities.

It’s never pleasant to see large-scale, high-risk vulnerabilities.  They put peoples data, work, and lives at risk.  But its good when these vulnerabilities are found and fixed, and it gives us the opportunity to learn.  This case is a good reminder that we should never trust data from the Internet, and we should use modern tools to avoid memory corruption.

About the author

Richard Barnes is an IETF appointee to the ISOC Board of Trustees. He is employed as the Chief Security Architect for Collaboration at Cisco. He currently chairs the IETF PERC working group, and is actively involved in working groups across the security and applications areas. Mr. Barnes has been involved in the technical work and management of the IETF for several years. He has served as Area Director for Real-time Applications and Infrastructure (RAI) and co-chair of the IETF ECRIT and GEOPRIV working groups. He is co-author of several RFCs related to geolocation, emergency services, and security, including RFC 6155, RFC 6280, RFC 6394, and RFC 6848. He is also co-author of the book VoIP Emergency Calling: Foundations and Practice (John Wiley and Sons, 2010). Richard has also served as the chair of the RIPE Measurements, Analysis and Tools working group, and on the program committee for the Middle East Network Operators Group (MENOG). Prior to joining Cisco, Mr. Barnes was Firefox Security Lead at Mozilla. In that role, he was responsible for assuring the security of the Firefox web browser. Before joining Mozilla, he was a Principal Investigator at BBN Technologies, leading research activities related to real-time applications and Internet security. He holds a B.A. in Mathematics and an M.S. in Mathematics from the University of Virginia.

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Caught by the fuzz

Robert Hanton – Learn how Webex uses fuzzing and machine learning as one more way to help prevent security issues.

What is fuzzing?

Fuzzing” is a security technique that actually goes back to the 1980s. The essential idea is to automatically generate very large numbers of random or semi-random inputs for your system, feed them in, and monitor the system for problems such as crashes, lockups, memory leaks or long delays in processing the data. When a problem is found you then have a discrete and repeatable input that can be used to trigger the problem, diagnose it, and confirm that a code-change has resolved it.

 

While any function or module in a codebase can be fuzzed, it is particularly valuable to apply to any unvalidated input the system receives, as these inputs can (accidentally or maliciously) trigger unwanted behaviours. In the case of a collaboration system these can range from the signaling messages in a call flow, to the actual audio and video packets themselves, to control packets such as RTCP (RTP control protocol) that travel alongside the media.

Despite this, fuzzing is perhaps one of the least-utilised tools across the tech industry as a whole, as for a long time setting it up to be of value was regarded as something of a “black art”, and the purview of dedicated security experts. There was a time that was at least somewhat true, but modern fuzzing tools allow for very effective generation of inputs with a minimum of time and training. To understand why these newer generation of fuzzers are so effective, let’s quickly explore how fuzzing used to be done.

Older fuzzing techniques

The challenge of fuzzing has always been the generation of good inputs – the test values fed into the system to attempt to provoke bad behaviour. The very first fuzzers simply generated random data, but in almost all real-world scenarios, random data makes for very ineffective inputs.

To understand why, consider JSON, which has a relatively permissive format. A parser will, however, expect an input to start with “{“. If we are generating inputs of random ASCII, then more than 99% of our inputs will likely be discarded by the very first check in the parser, and the vast majority of the remainder shortly thereafter when they fall foul of other very basic checks.

Random inputs are not entirely without value – fuzzing certain binary protocol that have very little space in their format devoted to validation such as some audio and video codecs can be effective. But for the vast majority of formats fuzzing with random inputs is extraordinarily inefficient.

So, to be effective, a fuzzer needs to reliably generate inputs that are at least close to a valid input for the system under test. Traditionally there were two methods for doing this: mutational fuzzing and generation fuzzingMutation fuzzing involves taking a number of ‘real’ inputs (often taken from log files or recorded by a packet analyser such as Wireshark) and using them to drive a mutator function. This function would take a valid sample and mutate it in one or more ways by randomly applying a range of rules such as changing bits or characters, duplicating values, removing values and so on.

mutation fuzzing

 

This would result in a large number of inputs for fuzzing that would resemble real-world inputs (and hence not be immediately rejected for violating basic syntax rules) but which might result in internal states that the designer had never contemplated and hence find crashes, lockups or other issues. A mutational fuzzer could thus be set up relatively quickly if a comprehensive body of real-world inputs were available to seed the mutator. However, skill was involved in picking out a representative sample of real-world inputs, as the mutator would only exercise parts of the format that were reflected in its samples.This was a particular issue when extending a format and adding new functionality, as there wouldn’t be an easily-accessible body of data to draw on that included this new syntax.


mutational fuzzier

 

By contrast, generation fuzzing involves creating a data model describing the syntax that a valid potential input could take. For instance, if seeking to fuzz a SIP parser, you would need a data model defining the SIP protocol (or at least as the parts of it that your parser supported). A generator function would then use this to generate a set of inputs, both valid and invalid, based on that data model.

Given a complete data model, generation fuzzing can produce an excellent set of inputs that can thoroughly exercise the system under test. However, producing a complete data model generally involves a considerable investment of time by someone with a deep familiarity with the protocol, and the model must be continually maintained and updated to ensure that any extension is also covered by the fuzzer.

These barriers of time and skill for the mutation and generation techniques are what contributed to fuzzing being seen as the domain only of dedicated security experts. Companies such as Codenomicon (now part of Synopsis) produced commercial pre-packaged fuzzing tools for well-known protocols such as SIP; these provided turnkey access to high-quality fuzzing for those specific protocols for companies that could afford to license them, but otherwise fuzzing was a niche tool.

Instrumentation-guided fuzzing with machine learning

However, there is a new generation of fuzzers that can produce high-quality inputs that can exercise the system under test as thoroughly as a generation fuzzer, but can do so automatically and without the need for a predefined data model. They do this by instrumenting the executable under test, detecting what code paths its inputs exercise, and then using that data to feedback into its input generation to learn to produce new, more effective inputs.

The fuzzer of this type my team uses is American Fuzzy Lop (AFL), but other similar tools exist: other teams in Webex use Clang’s LibFuzzer. These tools instrument the executable under test in a similar way to tools that generate figures for unit-test coverage, inserting hooks for each line or function that detects when that fragment of code is exercised.

This means that when an input is fed into the system under test, the fuzzer can detect what portions of the code that input exercised, and that can be used to assign a fitness to the particular input. Inputs that don’t fit the expected syntax well will be rejected without exercising much code and so will be assigned a lower fitness than one that is a better fit for the expected syntax and hence exercises more code.

With the ability to very accurately assign a fitness to each input it generates, the fuzzer can then learn to generate better and better inputs that exercise more and more of the executable under test. AFL does this through genetic algorithms, a machine learning technique where pseudo-natural selection techniques are used to “breed” new inputs from the fittest of a previous generation.

That means that you just need to give AFL an initial seed input and it will learn to evolve a corpus of inputs that thoroughly exercise your executable under test. Thanks to the instrumentation you can also get real-time feedback on how much of your executable it has managed to explore so far, how many issues it has found, and other key information.

american fuzzy lop

Getting started with instrumentation-guided fuzzing

There are plenty of tutorials out there for AFL, LibFuzzer and other tools, so instead here is a grab-bag of tips and suggestions:

Unless your system is very small don’t fuzz the entire thing – instead create a little ‘fuzzable’ executable for each module you want to test that strips it down to the bare minimum that ingests an input, parses/processes it, and exits. The less code there is and the faster it runs the more generations the fuzzer can run and the more quickly you will get results.

You can fuzz anything with defined inputs, but focus initially on inputs your system receives from the outside world, particularly those received without any validation from other parts of your overall system. These are some of your most vulnerable attack surfaces, and hence where you really want to find any vulnerabilities.

Fuzz your third-party modules, particularly those that are not pervasively used across the industry. Third-party code has bugs just like first-party code, and just because you didn’t write it doesn’t mean you are not responsible for those bugs if you include the library in your system – your customer won’t care who wrote the code that crashed their system (or worse). Third-party libraries usually have well-defined inputs and hence are highly amenable to fuzzing. If you do find issues don’t forget to push any patches back upstream so the community as a whole can benefit.

While instrumentation-guided fuzzers can produce a fully-compliant input from any arbitrary seed, it can take them quite some time to evolve the basic semantics. You can speed things up significantly by seeding them with real-world input. Similarly, keep your corpus from previous runs and use it to seed the fuzzer when you run it again – that will save a lot of time.

While you’ll get the most benefit from it the first time you run it, consider automating your fuzzing. You can set it up to run periodically or on new changesets and alert if it finds new vulnerabilities introduced by code changes. If so make sure to use the corpus of the previous run to seed the fuzzer, as you want to make the fuzzing process as efficient as possible.

Like any security technique, fuzzing is not a silver bullet for finding every vulnerability your system might have. Using fuzzing does not mean you should not also be using static analysis, threat modeling, and a range of other techniques to make your system as secure as possible. Good security is about defence in depth; fuzzing is one more technique that provides its own unique set of benefits.

About the author

Robert Hanton is a Principal Engineer at Cisco Systems. He has worked in video conferencing ever since he graduated from Cambridge’s Engineering course back in 2005, working in companies with tens of employees, and companies with tens of thousands. He is the primary architect and service owner for some of the key media services in Cisco’s Webex conferencing product, responsible for providing millions of minutes of real-time video and audio every day to users around the world.

Click here to learn more about the offerings from Webex and to sign up for a free account.

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Man using Webex Assistant on Webex Room devices
Top 7 Webex Assistant Device commands to enhance your meetings!

Enhance your meetings with Webex Assistant

As we look to return to the office, the meeting room as you once knew it might be slightly changed. Deploying Webex Assistant will make the return back into the office a much easier one, as it allows users to interact with your Webex Room devices in a whole new way! Webex Assistant can help make calls or even share your screen without ever touching the device! Let me take you through a few commands which can be useful as you re-enter the workspace.

Useful commands as you re-enter the workspace

1) Start My Meeting – the ability to have what I nickname “No Touch Join” is an amazing feature. If your company has enabled booking of meeting rooms you can walk into any Webex Assistant enabled meeting room, if you are present at the time the meeting starts Webex assistant will ask you if you want to join the meeting now! We call this Proactive Meeting Join, and all you have to do is say “Yes” and the meeting will start. If you are running late or want to join early – no problem, you can just say the following phrase “OK Webex, Join the Meeting.” The device will take care of the rest and join the meeting for you!

2) Call a colleague – Sometimes you are in a huddle space or focus room, and you just quickly need to call a colleague who might be at home or at his desk. Instead of sending a Webex Teams message, you can just ask the Webex Assistant on the device to call that person directly from the device. To do this you can use the following command “OK Webex, Call Richard Bayes.”This will tell the device to search for Richard Bayes in the directory and call their directory number. If this user has Webex Teams or a personal device, it will ring them directly and you can easily have a call without pressing any buttons!

3) Share my screen – Webex Assistant can also easily share your screen into the call or meeting. Just by using the phrase “OK Webex, Share My Screen” you can start a screen share of any connected source without having to touch the device. Just another way to make your life easier. You can end the screen share as well with the “OK, Webex, Stop My Screen Share”

4) End the call – Another useful feature is the ability to end the call without having to touch the device. When you are ready to end the call just say the phrase “OK Webex, End The Call.”

5) Start or Stop a Recording – When you are in a meeting and you want to record it, Webex Assistant is also able to help start and stop the recording with the following phrase, “Ok Webex, Start a Recording.”

6) Turn up or down the Volume – Your colleague is sharing that new awesome marketing video and you want to get the full experience. If the touch panel is 6 ft away or being occupied by someone else then no worries, you can just say the following phrase “OK Webex, Turn up the Volume.” You can easily turn your Webex Room 70D into a party room! No one said work had to be quiet all the time, right?

7) Show the Room Calendar – So you just finish a marathon 2-hour call with Finance and you need some time to consume what was spoken about, write some notes and finish up some messages that you received during the meeting. Instead of being forced to leave the room right away, you can easily ask the Webex Assistant if the room is free so you can continue working and be productive. All you need to do is say the following phrase, “OK Webex, Show me the calendar.” Webex Assistant will return a quick summary of the next call and show a detailed list of the rest of the days meetings!

Ok webex what can you do?

That’s not all!

These are just some of the ways to get the most out of Webex Assistant, and we are always adding features and more commands to make your life a little easier so you can focus on the important things in the office or at your desk! There’s also Webex Assistant for Webex Meetings, which is the first and only enterprise digital AI meeting assistant on the market. Think Alexa or Siri for the workplace. It also uses voice commands to help improve your productivity and meeting experience. No need to take notes, capture action items, or find meeting controls. Webex Assistant provides real-time meeting transcription, highlights action items, and takes notes.

You can always ask your AI-powered assistant what it can do you for with the following phrase “OK Webex, What can you do.” This will return a list of different actions you can take!

Please make sure to register for our upcoming webinar, Safely Return to The Office with Webex Rooms, on August 18th, 2020.

Learn More

See all the Webex Meetings updates here

Secure, first-party recording transcripts in Webex Meetings

Webex Meetings June 2020 Update: Transcriptions, Background Blur and Mobile Grid View

Still Need Help?

What would you like to do?

Join a Webex online meeting.

Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

Sign up for Webex.

Visit our home page or contact us directly for assistance.

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woman standing at her computer and screen sharing
Screen sharing how-to guide: Tips for better real-time collaboration

Tips for better real-time collaboration with screen sharing

Effective collaboration is the holy grail for business: something constantly sought after, but often never reached. It’s not usually the fault of the team members and departments themselves, but more the communication and productivity tools they have.

True collaboration entails much more than a back-and-forth discussion in an email chain that reaches the double digits of replies. It means employees, and more broadly, business units, tightly coordinating with each other on strategy, planning, execution, and follow-up. In reality, companies can’t rely on email or traditional conference calls to support that level of collaboration — especially in real-time.

Screen sharing, however, can be used to power collaboration on all fronts: whether it’s uniting geographically diverse teams on a single video conference so they can meet face-to-face and walk through project outcomes or a quarterly report, or hopping on a quick 5-minute call to review and edit a presentation, screen sharing can greatly benefit teams.

Here’s a guide to using screen sharing for better real-time collaboration and some tips for leveraging its key advantages.

Use video whenever possible

No channel is more effective or efficient for communication than video. While it’s possible to have a conversation over the phone, video fosters deeper engagement and interaction, essential to collaboration. Seeing face to face or making eye contact while sharing your screen ensures your message resonates with everyone in the room.

Consider putting in place a policy that would have remote workers use video by default, or as often as possible. It can be hard to inspire true, real-time collaboration with professionals spread across disparate states and time zones, but video and screen sharing can provide the right conditions. For example, while teams can still utilize chat as much as they like, require that video be used for any kickoff meeting, scheduled biweekly update, or similar milestone meetings.

Ensure teams know how to screen share

The value that screen sharing features can provide won’t come in handy if your employees haven’t been trained in using the solution. As you roll out a new tool, take care to hold training and feedback sessions. The second type of outreach is crucial; that way, you can troubleshoot any issues before they become more significant problems with realizing value or return on investment from screen sharing software.

For example, knowing how to pass presenter controls is essential to collaboration on a video call. That way, each person who has something to say or share can do so, knowing that the rest of the attendees are focused on them and able to see the materials.

Enable meeting participants to go mobile

There’s no telling when a collaborative spark might ignite, and that includes when team members are on the road, in transit, or otherwise not in the office setting. A screen sharing solution with a mobile app facilitates collaboration by letting call attendees use their mobile devices to join the meeting and utilize screen-sharing features.

Encourage users to get creative

The beauty of screen sharing is that it can facilitate collaboration in different and creative ways. Encourage your teams to test out screen sharing for all types of meetings to find creative ways to use it. For instance, sales and marketing teams may work together on an interactive presentation in real-time, fine-tuning animations, or dynamic elements before the client meeting.

Have a recording policy

Recording a video meeting is helpful for future reference. Attendees can quickly call up what was said or share the contents with another member who wasn’t there. Recorded video calls help eliminate communication gaps and oversights that negatively impact collaboration. Also, this allows you to track the thought process if you were editing a document in real-time. It’s worth thinking at a high level about a policy for recording videos for preservation purposes.

Last but not least, don’t forget about security

While you want your teams and business units to work closely with one another, they are crucial for providing a secure platform for doing so. Different security topics you may need to consider include encryption, password management, access controls, cloud infrastructure, hardware security, and data storage. Security is as important as quality when researching software that allows screen sharing.

Ready to try screen sharing? Check out Cisco Webex to learn about our screen-sharing products or get started with a free plan today.

Learn More

Why screen sharing works better for sales than traditional conference calls

4 screen sharing tips to manage a growing business without an office

Personalize your team meetings with these top four screen sharing features

Still Need Help?

What would you like to do?

Join a Webex online meeting.

Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

Sign up for Webex.

Visit our home page or contact us directly for assistance.

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Virtual Background in Meeting - Objects_REVISED
Virtual backgrounds to inspire remote work culture: the Cisco Webex artist series

Remote work is now commonplace. Video calls are the norm. And most of us experience the “excuse the mess” worry of giving folks a glimpse into our personal lives and spaces.

Remote work equals the new normal

To be clear, this is not an entirely new phenomenon. We’ve sweated our “backdrops” for as long as the video conference has been around. The problem is that our environments are often caught in a perpetual work-in-progress state, leaving them not quite ready for the public stage.

Enter virtual video backgrounds. You’ve likely had some experience using video backgrounds while on video calls, regardless of your preferred solution provider.

Naturally, Webex is here with an expanded solution of our own. We’re certainly not the first or the last, but we’re excited to kick off the Webex Artist Series by offering our unique take on video backgrounds to further our mission of transforming collaborative work by crafting experiences people love.

The inspiration for our backgrounds

First off, practically any background you can imagine is available somewhere on the internet. You want to be at the International Space Station or in a submarine? It’s out there. This reality led us to focus on creating something unique to Webex and aligned with our passion for inspiring vibrant remote work culture.

There are two primary ideas at play.

  1. We’re a globally distributed organization working across various time zones, geographies, and cultures. This means we’re influenced by a wide range of “places,” all of which serve as inspiration for the experiences we create. Similarly, we design products for our customers’ diverse teams who are more often than not, remote, and distributed in various ways.
  2. Webex has a vibrant creative culture, with designers and artists who have a strong creative point of view they’re eager to express.

These ideas culminate in exciting new video backgrounds for the latest Meetings release for desktop. And backgrounds for our Red Dot Award-winning Desk Pro video conferencing device will follow. [Read more about Red Dot Winning Cisco Webex Desk Pro Design].

The collection

We’re starting with backgrounds from three sets:

Time and Place. These backgrounds represent different natural environments from across the globe, each evoking a mood through simple illustrated form and color.

young man using virtual background on Webex Meetings

Environments. These are intentionally unexpected and a little whimsical, inspiring imaginative ways to think about the spaces we occupy for work, play, learning, and more.

Young woman using environments on Webex Meetings

Neutrals. We see a need for backgrounds that have texture and color but recede, allowing the meeting participant to be the focus. These have a very practical use for when a calm, familiar backdrop is needed.

Mature man using background in Webex Meetings

These backgrounds are all inspired, illustrated, and rendered by our talented in-house designers in Shanghai, San Jose, Oslo, and Krakow. Go team!

Additionally, users will be able to choose a more traditional photographic background (landscape or executive office) or upload an image of their choice.

Virtual Background in Preview

Learn more about enabling virtual backgrounds for Cisco Webex Meetings, Events, and Training

The Webex Artists Series backgrounds are just the beginning in a series of personality-evoking experiences we plan to offer. Being on extended periods of video conferencing can be tiring. By offering you a range of options that suit your mood, personality, or audience, we aim to diminish your daily stressors and make working remotely delightful, and uniquely you.

With this and more experience-focused innovations coming in our flagship Webex Meetings product [Read more], we’re excited to offer you new and improved ways of working and connecting with others in the “new normal” of remote work.

If you want to learn more about Webex and the value, it can provide your business, reach out for more information, or get started with our free offer today.

Learn More

Delighting remote workers: Why user experience is important

Why remote work can be more productive work

How to prepare for the return to work

Still Need Help?

What would you like to do?

Join a Webex online meeting.

Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

Sign up for Webex.

Visit our home page or contact us directly for assistance.

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Woman sitting in front of computer working remotely
Delighting remote workers: Why user experience is important

As a User Experience (UX) Manager here at Cisco, I’m constantly looking at ways my team and I can make our Webex collaboration products better. This starts by solving the problems that enhance the daily experiences of our Webex user community. Good design can do more than engage people by bridging the gap between working and getting work done. Our designers are passionate about how we can make life better by reducing cognitive load so you can focus on your work and let technology take the load. Recently remote work has become our new normal, and balancing our work and home lifetime has become even more critical. Well-designed products can help eliminate the guesswork and enable us to accomplish more with our time.

How we work has changed

Today’s workspaces now include your kitchen, bedroom, and even your laundry room. And if you are like me, these workspaces may double up as the daycare center or classroom. You might have to think more about whether you brushed your hair or if your manager can see the breakfast dishes piled up behind you.

Fitting your lifestyle

As designers, we think about the multitude of platforms, physical spaces, and situations you might find yourself in to consider how our design fits and enhances the way you live and work. One of the ways you can see this on Webex, is through virtual backgrounds. They are a great way to show your personal identity, not just to cover messy workspaces. What’s unique about the Webex experience is the quality and purpose behind these backgrounds. Instead of the generic, landscape or office setting backgrounds, you’ll see in other solutions – Webex as original, own-able illustrations and textures that are not only highly functional but also provide a fresh dose of personality to your workspace.

fitting your lifestyle and virtual backgrounds

Besides the literal, recognizable office space, our design team has landed on three initial sets that you’ll only get in Webex:

  1. Time and Place. These backgrounds represent different natural environments from across the globe. Each evokes a mood through simple illustrated form and color.
  2. Environments. These are intentionally unexpected and a little whimsical, inspiring imaginative ways to think about the spaces we occupy for work, play, learning, and more.
  1. We saw a need for backgrounds that have texture and color but recede, allowing the meeting participant to be the focus. These have a very practical use for when a calm, familiar backdrop is needed. These have been my favorite backgrounds in my daily meetings.

Webex backgrounds are designed to work in any lighting In fact, Webex automatically and subtly adjusts the lighting levels and softens your camera’s focus to make your image on video more realistic – almost as though you were sitting in the same room with everyone else. This is just the start; we have some exciting themes we’re exploring that make your experiences more fun and engaging. Be sure to stay tuned!

Delighting you at every turn

Another way we’ve enhanced your experience through design is with mirror preview, where you can see yourself on video before joining a meeting. Our customers love it, and I use it frequently when a business meeting immediately follows a playdate with my 7-year old son. Mirror preview allows you to take a peek to see if you’re all set for the big meeting or adjust your workspace. More than a few times, I’ve caught myself in the mirror preview with a leaf in my hair or mud on my chin, after entertaining my son in the garden.

woman on Webex Meetings

The default grid view is another one of those delightful design features I love that just makes the experience of a virtual meeting that much better. You can see everyone’s faces at the start of the meeting, and I think it helps build that deeper human connection. I like using it with my team, so everyone becomes part of the same space. You can see everyone’s expressions and reactions and switch to speaker focus view if you want to focus on just the person speaking.

Default grid view and Meetings

Little things matter

We’ve also incorporated some other subtle design features you may not notice at first glance but are there to help make your work that much easier. For instance, pressing the spacebar to quickly unmute. By using telemetry, we discovered that mute/unmute is one of the most frequently used actions in meetings. Now that almost everyone is working remotely, users are more likely to mute themselves to avoid day-to-day background noises. It’s a simple thing but saves time and reduces the number of mouse clicks.

Another “small but mighty” feature we added is the share preview. As a designer, I cringe when I hear people asking, “Can you see my screen?” Many may experience waves of self-doubt when sharing content because they have no idea of whether participants can see what they are sharing or even whether the right content is being shared. By adding this preview, we make sure that you can see your content before its shared. So next time — maybe instead of doubt — you can confidently say, “As you can see on my screen…” from the beginning.

Share preview in Webex Meetings

These are just a few of the ways Webex we’ve designed Webex to fit within your evolving workspaces. I’m very proud to lead a high-performance design team that shares a passion for a better user experience. I am thrilled about what is to come, as we continue to improve the lives of millions of people who need to connect and collaborate around the world.

You can check out these cool features by downloading our free Webex trial today.

Learn More

Why remote work can be more productive work

Embracing the rise of remote working

Working smarter: Managing a remote team

Still Need Help?

What would you like to do?

Join a Webex online meeting.

Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

Sign up for Webex.

Visit our home page or contact us directly for assistance.

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background feature on meetings
July update of Webex Teams

Another month and another update of Webex Teams. If you’re conscious of your backdrop in your meetings, then this update is for you! Read on to find out more…

MESSAGING & APP EXPERIENCE

A new look for adding team members (Windows & Mac)

Adding new team members just got a whole lot easier. Now, if you want to add new members to an existing team, you will do so in a familiar view already used elsewhere in Webex Teams. You can also leverage another feature of bulk-adding people in this new screen, meaning if you need to add a group of new team members, you can do so easily with a quick copy-paste of up to 30 users at a time.

adding members in Meetings

Add links to your messages (Windows)

Today, you can add a link to text in Webex Teams through mark-down. We’ve improved that experience for you and made it a lot easier to insert a link into a message. You can now select an option to insert a link from the Format Text menu. This will pop up a new dialog box where you can add a link and edit the text of the link that you want to display in your message.

More organization for your settings and preferences (Windows & Mac)

We’ve made a couple of changes in your settings and preferences to make things more organized. We’ve added a dedicated ‘Messaging’ tab, where you’ll do things like setting your default download location, enable spell check, or configure views for your space list. Go to ‘Settings’ on Windows or ‘Preferences’ on Mac and select Messaging to check it out.

Forward a message on mobile (iPhone, iPad & Android)

See an important message you want to share with others quickly? Right now, on mobile, you need to either copy-paste or take a screenshot before starting your search for the other space you want to send it to. This update will let you do this with just a few taps. We’ll be saving you a few steps by allowing you to forward a message directly from one space to another.

Forward a message on mobile

Making the most of your message area (iPhone & iPad)

In group spaces (especially larger ones), when lots of people leave or are added around the same time, your message area can get pretty clogged up with notifications that (maybe) aren’t all that important to you. Sometimes, this can cause you to lose the context of messages sent before or after these in-space notifications. You’ll see these notifications grouped and collapsed, with the option to expand if you want to see more detail. This allows users to focus on more important messages.

Making the most of your message area with group and collapse

 

Compress a file on send (iPhone & iPad)

Sometimes when we’re out and about using mobile data, we need to share a file or an image. Depending on the file size, this can be quite costly on our data. Before, we had a universal option in ‘advanced’ settings on iOS to either always or never compress files you send on mobile. We’re giving you another option; to ask if you want to compress a file as you are sending it. This will be the new default for all users and can be changed in your ‘advanced’ settings.

compress a file on send and compression settings in meetings

 

MEETINGS

Pick your background for your calls and meetings! (Windows, Mac, iPhone & iPad)

Want to share your video during a meeting or call but hide the details of your background surroundings? Or maybe you just want to make it look like you’re on a beach soaking up the sun? If your device meets the hardware requirements, with this update, you’ll be able to blur your background or change it completely for your meetings and video calls. Just hover over your self-view video, select the magic wand to ‘Change Virtual Background,’ and then make your selection.

Background feature in webex meetings

Making meetings easier (Windows and Mac)

We’ve made some enhancements to the Meetings tab, which lives under the calendar icon in your Webex Teams app. You can use the ‘Join a Meeting’ search box on the top right above your meeting calendar to join a meeting by entering the meeting number, meeting link, Personal Room link, or meeting video address. Clicking on this search box will pop up a list of all your most recent Personal Room meetings. Your meeting list has been enhanced with a clear, daily calendar view with easy navigation to view any day you like.

CALLING

Webex Calling

Add external contacts to your contacts list (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad & Android)

You can now add some of your contacts from Outlook (Windows) and your Contacts app (Mac) into your Webex Teams Contacts list and group them, making it easy to find someone and place a call. You can also create a new custom contact in your Webex Teams app, and it will be synced across your devices.

Add more phone numbers for your co-workers (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad & Android)

When you add your co-worker to your contacts list, you’ll now be able to edit their profile and add additional phone numbers for them, such as home, mobile, work, etc. When you make an audio or video call, you’ll see all their number options, so it’ll be much easier to call them at their alternative number.

Every calling option at your fingertips (Windows & Mac)

Anywhere you see the green phone or call button and the video or meet button, you’re presented with many ways to make a call with options like work number, mobile number, video address, or Webex Teams call. If you try to call someone and you’re not set up with the corresponding phone service, you get a notification letting you know you can’t make that type of call. If you’re connected to a device, the icon you see to place a call or start a meeting will also change to make it clear that you’re connected to a device.

Access your mobile voicemail quickly and easily (iPhone, iPad & Android)

When you go to the ‘calls’ tab on your mobile, you can now call your voicemail system by clicking the floating dial pad icon and selecting ‘call voicemail.’

Unified CM

Add external contacts to your contacts list (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad & Android)

You can now add some of your contacts from Outlook (Windows) and your Contacts app (Mac) into your Webex Teams Contacts list and group them, making it easy to find someone and place a call from there. You can also create a new custom contact in your Webex Teams app, and it will be synced across your devices.

Add more phone numbers for your co-workers (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad & Android)

When you add your co-worker to your contacts list, you’ll now be able to edit their profile and add additional phone numbers for them, such as home, mobile, work, and so on. When you make an audio or video call, you’ll see all their number options, so it’ll be much easier to call them at their alternative number.

Every calling option at your fingertips (Windows & Mac)

Anywhere you see the green phone or call button and the video or meet button, you’re presented with many ways to make a call with options like work number, mobile number, video address, or Webex Teams call. If you try to call someone and you’re not set up with the corresponding phone service, you get a notification letting you know you can’t make that type of call. If you’re connected to a device, the icon you see to place a call or start a meeting will also change to clarify that you’re connected to a device.

Access your mobile voicemail quickly and easily (iPhone, iPad & Android)

When you go to the ‘calls’ tab on your mobile, you can now call your voicemail system by clicking the floating dial pad icon and selecting ‘call voicemail.’

More calling options! (Windows & Mac)

You can now call someone’s video address (for example, bburke@biotechnia.com) from anywhere in the app that you’d make any other type of call, like when you search for someone, or you’re in a space with that person.Calling options with Windows & MacShare your screen to a desk phone (Windows & Mac)

You can now call someone from the app and have them answer your call on their desk phone, and you can still share your screen with them. They can see your shared screen from their phone if the phone supports video; otherwise, they’ll see the shared screen from the app.

Trash read voice messages (iPhone, iPad & Android)

You can keep your voice messages list neat and tidy by removing the messages you have already listened to. When you’ve listened to a voice message and no longer need it, you now can send it to the ‘trash.’ From your ‘trash’ folder, you can either recover the message (in case you accidentally deleted it!) or you can choose to remove it permanently.

trash read voice messages and webex meetings

 

Add Webex Teams contacts to your mobile device contacts (Android)

If you have contacts and calling features enabled in Webex Teams, you can now export your contacts from the app directly to your contacts on your mobile device. This way, you can go to the contacts on your phone and initiate a Webex Teams call right from there. To use this feature, just tap your profile picture, go to ‘Advanced,’ and turn on ‘Contacts Integration.’

Control Webex Teams from a different application

You can now control Webex Teams from different apps, like Cisco Finesse. Using a different app to control Webex Teams, you can use any of your normal calling functionality, like making calls, answering or ending calls, putting calls on hold and resuming, transferring calls, and even having conference calls with other users.

INTEGRATIONS

Easy access to the Webex App Hub!

Now you can quickly find the Webex App Hub using the new Apps button at the bottom of the left column in Webex Teams. Easily browse for apps like Smartsheet, Servicenow, and RSS bot to set up business-critical notifications and get more work done without leaving a space.

New Asana bot for Webex Teams!

Meet the updated Asana bot for project management in Webex Teams! Now you can create, search, and update Tasks and Subtasks from any group or 1:1 space. Quickly set up real-time notifications for changes or tasks marked complete to keep your projects running smoothly amongst your team. Follow this link to get started!

new Asana for Webex Teams

For more information on this and upcoming updates to Webex Teams, check out our help page here.

Learn More

See all of the Webex Teams Releases here

Still Need Help?

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How to prepare for the return to work

There are lots of questions facing business leaders these days, but the over-arching question is: what does “back to work” really look like? The answer is, there is no simple answer.

What do we mean by “back to work”

The concept of going back to work is actually a misnomer. First and foremost, people didn’t stop working. Overnight, some companies were forced to change where and how their teams worked, but their teams never actually stopped working.  Video conferencing and collaboration tools became the primary means of maintaining productivity. As a result of these tools and their increased acceptance by the corporate landscape, many companies have even reported seeing an increase in worker productivity, with some reporting a 47% increase.*

A second, and maybe even more impactful consideration is, there is no true “back to work.” As recent events evolve, and local, and state authorities continue to respond accordingly (a phenomenon referred to as “the hammer and the dance”), companies are forced to make plans for a flexible, balanced work environment. There is no clear path for when, where, and how people are going to work. That means it is much like schools and the education system, companies are also coming to terms with flexible schedules and continuing remote or distance working. This is the hybrid approach.

Considerations for a hybrid working model

Companies are beginning to offer hybrid working plans. But what does this look like going forward? For some employees who are deemed essential, they will return to the office full time. Others may opt for full-time remote work. And some may blend the two and operate under a flexible location model. In all cases, tools like video conferencing have to be enabled for all employees because of the changing landscape. You cannot just offer video conferencing to remote workers – everyone will need these tools, as team collaboration will happen across both in-office and remote workers. These hybrid models have now proven to be as effective (if not more) than office-based teams, plus companies realize they no longer need to hold onto and maintain such expensive real estate costs.

woman working from home

 

Office space

In some cases, you will see office space move from traditional headquarters in big cities to smaller offices located where their employees want to be or are already located. Why maintain class-A space in San Francisco or New York when you see your employees flocking to places like Truckee, California, or Rochester, New York? Office space in those areas is less expensive, easier to maintain, and is more efficient for your employees to access. You can build remote outposts to give a headquarters-feel to those remote-teams.

Blended workplace

The “return to the office” concept represents the real evolution of going “back to work.” What I find interesting is that the concept of the “office,” no matter the size of the company, will no longer be defined by a singular building, but by a combination of a headquarters, remote offices, and home offices. The connection between the variety of offices is crucial, which is why I foresee companies investing in video conferencing and always-on devices that enable virtual huddle rooms and stand-ups for people in an inter-connected office environment. I also predict people will still balance home and remote office time in perpetuity, allowing for more flexibility as the needs of family and things like distance learning and homeschooling compete with the needs of the workplace. Virtual collaboration tools like document sharing, screen sharing, and more also become valuable because they enable that flexible engagement model for the workplace while ensuring productivity is maintained at a high level.

Tips for maintaining an effective hybrid approach

To sustain an effective hybrid approach, your company should also consider these factors:

  • Are you offering flexible hours to families and people with children?
  • How is IT accessible to remote workers when they have issues with internet connections and VPN?
  • If you offer devices like desktop videoconferencing units, will IT be available to help manage them?
  • Do your managers have regularly scheduled check-ins with team members that go beyond deliverables and allow for inter-personal connections?

These questions are important to ask so that your remote and hybrid workers feel supported, connected, and part of the larger whole.  After all, you want the whole to be more than just the sum of its parts.

Final thought

Make sure you are your teams are communicating with one another about these types of questions so they can adequately embrace this new hybrid work model and be successful in the years to come.

If you want to learn more about Webex and the value, it can provide your business, reach out for more information, or get started with our free offer today.

Source

*Forbes

Learn More

Returning to work with Intelligent Room Capacity

How to create a video conferencing agenda 

How to share real-time data with customers through video conferencing

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women using webex to connecting to make an appoinmtment
Creating moments that matter for your residents with Webex

Webex makes it easy to share special moments with virtual visits

Quality time with family and friends is priceless. Whether it’s laughing together, sharing stories, or merely talking about every day, connecting with others is vital for our emotional, mental, and social well-being. Webex recognizes the need for connection, so we have made it easy for care facility residents to share those special moments with friends and family. Create moments that matter more often, no matter where you are.

See our ‘Staying connected with virutal visitation’ ebook for more information

The way we connect is continually changing, with more and more people coming together virtually. Grandkids use devices to meet with their grandparents in care facilities without ever leaving their home; doctors provide health consultations virtually; and friends are using their tablets, phones, and even TVs to throw virtual birthday bashes. Webex can help make these virtual get-togethers happen or supplement your in-person visits with more frequent remote visits.

illustration of tree with words that read moments that matter, Cisco Webex

Why Webex?

It’s easy to meet virtually face-to-face with our mobile phones, but what about when you need to meet over a computer or tablet? How do you ensure privacy and security for those more sensitive meetings like doctor’s appointments? Webex can be used on any device, so residents without cell phones or who need larger screens can still meet virtually with family, friends, or doctors. We also have a secure platform that keeps telehealth meetings private and secure, so residents can get the care they need in a secure setting.

The best part about using Webex for virtual visitations is that neither you nor your residents need to be a technology pro to set it up. To ensure that residents are ready to use Webex, we suggest reviewing our quick start guide [LINK] with residents and showing them how to use Webex on their phones, iPads, or computers. As an administrator, you can schedule meetings for your residents and use our resources to set it up, so residents don’t have to lift a finger. It’s that easy!

Connect anywhere, any time with Webex

Whether a resident’s son is across the country, their grandchildren are too young to visit in-person, or life is just hectic, your residents can still connect with their loved ones from anywhere, at any time with Webex. They can share moments that matter with those who matter most. To learn more about how you can set up and administer Webex in your care facility, check out our ebook. It’ll help you create those moments that matter for your residents.

Stay connected with virtual visitation

Want to learn more about Webex and all its features and the value it can provide your business? Reach out for more information or get started with our free offer today.

Learn More

Improving patient diagnoses with video conferencing

Up-leveling patient care with team collaboration technology

Improving patient care and coordination with video conferencing tools

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Sign up for Webex.

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teacher teaching student on Webex technology
Webex for Education: Technology for collaboration in and out of the classroom

Accelerated need for technology in the classroom

Over the years, education has evolved from using chalkboards and projectors to a more technology-centric approach – with many schools utilizing smartboards, launching BYOD initiatives, or even providing individual laptops or tablets. In 2020, there is an accelerated need for technology and digital learning platforms, in both the physical and virtual classroom. Technology can help make this new way of educating a little bit easier for both you and your students.

Join our upcoming Webex Community Event, August 4th!

Webex: Simple and secure

Here at Webex, we understand that for educators to use technologies like Webex, it must be simple and secure, especially when working with minors. We take our security seriously, so you can focus on educating and engaging students like never before. Sarah Bandy, a reviewer on G2, chose Webex for precisely this reason. She describes why she chose Webex:

“We were really concerned about security when it came to putting together a virtual program aimed towards minors. It was really important to us to make sure that kids could login easily and that there was no way that we could be hacked while executing the program. The benefit of security and peace of mind is absolutely crucial.”

Need help with integrating technology in your classroom?

Laura Hamill, a Growth Enablement Specialist at Webex, previously taught English and has a few tips on integrating technology into your classroom. Above all, she encourages educators to remember why you’re teaching and to focus on the students when making technology transitions.

Transitioning to online platforms and incorporating technology doesn’t mean changing your unique teaching style or losing a second of connection with your students. In fact, you can even expand those connections and experiment with new ways of teaching. Learning how to use Webex can be quick and easy with our quick start guides, virtual online classes, and exploring its many capabilities. We’ve also got a sneak peek of a few of Laura’s key tips. Check them out!

  • Create a routine. Things have been chaotic lately, so sticking to a schedule or creating a routine is vital for both educators and students. Plan out how your class will start their day and utilize a lesson plan. Embrace the teachable moments and learning opportunities together.
  • Give yourself and your students time to adjust. Whether it’s adjusting to a new way of teaching, learning, or simply figuring out how to use new technologies, give yourself the time to do so. You don’t want to overwhelm anyone by immediately diving into something new.

Teachers, need more tips? Read Laura’s Teachers, here’s why you need Webex article for more tips.

Resources and information for Webex for Education, remote learning webinar

Want more tips and tricks on managing your classroom or using technology to make teaching a bit easier? We’ve got you covered in our back to school guide. We’re also hosting a Webex Community event on August 4, centered on Webex for Education: Collaboration in and out of the classroom. Join our esteemed panel of educators to hear how they use Webex collaboration to extend access, emphasize equity, and raise the quality of education for all of their students. Learn from their experiences, and listen to their plans for the upcoming school year.

Join the Webex Community event- Webex for Education: Collaboration in and out of the classroom, Tuesday, August 4, 2020 

Learn More

The Future of Education

Webex Integration Partners join Cisco in offers for education

Experience the new Webex for Dedication – Simple and secure out-of-the-box

Blackboard Learn and Webex join forces to expand the reach of education

Education Resources

What is distance learning?

Welcome to virtual learning

Cisco Webex Education Connector

Cisco Education Home Page

Read more
virtual background on Android phone
Webex Meetings July 2020 update: Virtual backgrounds on Windows, Mac, Android, and more!

Webex Meetings expands support for virtual and blurred backgrounds

July brings some exciting news, especially for users who want to change up or clean up their workspace backdrop. With most of us working from home, it’s perfect timing that Webex Meetings now supports virtual and blurred backgrounds across Windows, Mac, and iOS platforms. AND we are the first to bring the capability to Android users!* Android support gives Webex Meetings users more flexibility for creative backdrops on more platforms than any other video conferencing solution.

iOS and Android users can also choose custom backgrounds from their photo library. This feature gives you more privacy, removes distracting elements from your surroundings, and gives you more creativity to express your personality in video meetings.

Woman using Webex virtual background feature on Webex
Virtual background on Android phone

Other news this month

The July Webex Meetings update also includes support for four new languages on the desktop and web apps: Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Romanian. The mobile app already supports these languages.

Desktop App

  • Content share preview – No more asking, “Can you see my screen?” You will now be able to see a preview of what your meeting participants see when you share. Click on the Share button, and a small window will replicate your audience’s view. This feature will make you confident in what you are sharing and saves time because you no longer have to ask if everyone can see your share.

Content share preview in Webex

  • Participant Sorting and Raise-hand Functions – this feature will likely be most appreciated by teachers in today’s distanced learning environment. Now, when someone in the meeting or virtual class raises their hand in Webex, their name immediately pops to the top of the participant list – in sequential order – so that teachers can quickly see who needs help. Previously, participants who raised their hands stayed at the same position in the participants’ list and may not be easily seen, especially if they are at the bottom of the list in a large meeting.

  • Lobby support – Users outside of your organization using video conferencing systems or Webex Teams apps will now be able to wait in the Personal Room lobby. This will be enabled when the site is configured to place external users in a lobby and when the Personal Room is in an unlocked state. Before this enhancement, external users would be subject to an administrative setting that controlled whether they would join the meeting directly or be completely blocked from joining the Personal Room meetings. With this enhancement, we are simplifying the experience by making sure that all devices and apps follow the same rules when joining an unlocked Personal Room meeting.

Mobile

iOS:

  • New host control improvements on mobile offer a host of benefits for all users, but especially for the education sector, giving teaches tools to manage their virtual classrooms better and protect their students. Teachers have the option to configure “mute on entry” from their mobile app, which lets students and other participants enter a meeting silently, so they don’t disrupt the class. Turning off share allows teachers and hosts to limit content sharing rights in class or meeting to just the presenter. Sharing rights can be passed to other participants during the meeting as needed. Teachers and meeting hosts can also lock and unlock non-personal room meetings from their mobile apps. These are excellent safety features for school administrators, as it prevents unwanted people from arbitrarily entering a virtual classroom.

the lock and unlock non-personal room meetings

 

  • Microsoft Intune SDK support (in beta)- Microsoft Intune SDK is now integrated into the Webex Meetings desktop app, which means that our app is protected by site configuration. This feature’s benefit is that users who need Microsoft Intune protection policies can now sign into a Microsoft account. After Checking policy data with the site and restarting the app, protection policies will be in effect (access pin code after launch).

Android:

  • Alexa voice playback meeting recordings – Android users can now use Amazon Alexa to playback Webex Meetings recordings. Users wake up Webex Meetings by saying, “Alexa, open Webex Meetings.” Users can list/playback recordings with voice commands such as:

– “Alexa, ask Webex Meetings to list today’s recordings”
– “Alexa, ask Webex Meetings to list yesterday’s meeting”
– “Play,” “Resume,” “Pause,” “Exit,” “Next,” “Previous”

For more information on these features, please visit the Webex Help Portal – What’s New for the latest version of Webex Meetings

*Android support available now; Windows and Mac background features will be turned on at the end of July.

Learn More

See all the Webex Meetings updates here

Secure, first-party recording transcripts in Webex Meetings

Webex Meetings June 2020 Update: Transcriptions, Background Blur and Mobile Grid View

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Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

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Making Webex even more engaging and interactive

Webex tips to keep your audience engaged

We’ve all been in that Webex. The one where the presenter drones on and on with way too many slides. They might want you engaged in the topic, but what they do is kill you with PowerPoint. After 20 years in the collaboration space, I’ve seen it a lot (and, sadly, hosted bad sessions of my own). My wife works in corporate learning and development, so we have a vested interest in improving the web meeting experience!

Learn about the best video conferencing & online meeting software

3 ways to engage and interact

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips and tools to make the Webex experience more engaging and interactive, and I’d like to pass them on to you. This blog covers how connecting face-to-face, varying the content, and building audience interaction can help make Webex even more engaging and interactive. I am going to share how to do all of the above with tools included right in Webex, as well as using 3rd party tools. On a tight budget? It’s worth noting that almost all of the 3rd party tools mentioned are offered in a freemium model, where you can use the service for free, with paired down features.

1) Connect face-to-face

High-quality bi-directional video (where both the attendee and the presenter have their camera on) is an absolute requirement for every Webex. It’s how you understand the presenter’s emotion and how presenters know that their participants are engaged.  Webex has a video-centric experience, but all too often, people don’t fully utilize it.

Simple video tricks

Here’s a simple trick every presenter can do: find breaks in your session to stop sharing content. Why? Because once the ‘share’ is off the screen, Webex will maximize screens to video to engage with your audience. While the video is full screen, why not change the layout and encourage others to do so? Each participant maintains control over their layout and view, so you may need to show them how to enable the “Brady Bunch Mode” we call grid view. Webex supports multiple ways to layout your video, including up to 25 simultaneous streams in the grid view.

Newscaster experience

Want to go one step further and have that newscaster-like experience with full-screen video and content overlays? Prezi Video is a powerful tool that can stream content over video live during a Webex (currently supported on Windows desktop or OSX using a web browser).

? Prezi Video is a powerful tool that can stream content over video live during a Webex (and it’s currently supported on Windows desktop or OSX using a web browser).

2) Vary the content

The human attention span isn’t very long, no matter how interesting the topic. There is no reason to have 60 PowerPoint slides in a 60-minute meeting. The brain just can’t absorb it all. Rather than cram all of that info into one session, use varying types of content to reinforce a smaller selection of the most important topics.

Animation

One way to mix up your content is to add animation. To make sure your animations in PowerPoint always work in Webex, I recommend always using the share application feature (vs. share file) for any PowerPoint that contains animation. In the last section, I mentioned Prezi Video, but Prezi has another tool Prezi Present. With it, you can create some spectacular moving and zooming presentations that really grab attention.

cinema-animated-compressed file showing Prezi

Videos

Playing a video during a meeting is a great change-up from slides – it gives the audience a different voice to listen to and the presenter a chance to catch their breath. Webex supports multiple methods for adding video playback. The easiest is to share the video application and use the “optimizing for motion and video” function[1].

Optimizing for motion and video function in webex

Do it live

How about a product demonstration or a whiteboard? Webex has a built-in whiteboard[2] that allows you to collaborate with other meeting participants. Work from a blank whiteboard or open and annotate documents, images, and other files. If you want participants to see your whiteboard and not contribute, you can use the “Share My Meeting Window” option after starting the whiteboard.

Learn more about whiteboards in the Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams series or live streaming with Webex Meetings for your vitual events.

share my window view in Webex Meetings

You could also use a 3rd party whiteboarding tool that might be easier for collaboration in larger groups or systems that don’t work with the built-in whiteboard. Miro, Stormboard, and IPEVO Annotator are just a few great whiteboard options. Miro even has Cisco’s Network Topology Icons that can easily be added to a board, so instead of showing a network (or flow) diagram, draw it live!

Design thinking

At Cisco, we use Design thinking as a problem-solving framework. I’ve found Miro boards to be a great way to emulate design thinking activities virtually during a Webex meeting (and they work in the multi-media viewer, which I’ll talk about in the next section). Check out this Miro board my colleague used during one of his sessions.

Miro board and Webex

Miro even has a helpful article on their site all about using it in live meetings.

Be sure to check out Justin’s blog article, where he mentions another whiteboard tool, Kaptivo (among other education integrations to Webex), a camera system that turns any regular whiteboard into a smart, digital collaboration tool.

3) Build audience interaction

Whiteboards are just one way to vary your content while building interaction – Webex includes several others! Ask the audience questions and display their responses or even turn it into a game with tools that integrate seamlessly into Webex meetings.

Raise your hand

Replicate the “everyone raises your hand if you…” classroom experience with the “raise hand” button.  The raise hand button can be found next to your name in the participant window of Webex meetings. The functionality is the same in Webex Training and Webex Events, though the layout is slightly different.

Steve Greenberg icon raise hand feature in Webex

 

Polling for large audiences

If you want to capture more data or have more complex questions and your audience is too large to ask one at a time, you will want to use Polling. Webex has a built-in polling tool that can be added to your meeting window. It’s easiest to set up your poll ahead of time by opening a Webex meeting (your personal meeting room will work) and creating a poll to save and load when you need it. Once inside a Webex meeting, go to the View menu, then select Panels > Manage Panels.

 

Manage panels in Webex Meetings

 

From there, you can add Polling to your meeting and start making questions. This help article has lots of info on creating your poll inside Webex[3].

Take polling to the next level

Take Polling to the next level with third-party applications that offer a wide variety of features – and work directly inside Webex’s multimedia viewer if you choose. The multimedia viewer can be used in Webex Meetings and Webex Events to open web-based content right inside Webex. Still, you can also use these tools without the viewer – whatever works best for your audience.

Participants – except those on video endpoints and mobile devices – can see your video or other types of content and the content in the multimedia viewer. If the multimedia viewer isn’t a good fit for your meeting, most of the tools below offer a URL, QR Code, or SMS, allowing participants to interact with your meeting easily.

PollEverywhere, Mentimeter, PigeonholeLive, and Sli.do are just a few great interaction tools that work well inside Webex’s multimedia viewer. Here is Mentimeter as an example.

Webex multimedia viewer in Mentimeter

The multimedia viewer on the right lets the participant enter their responses while still seeing the live video at the top. The live word cloud on the left changes immediately after they enter a reply! Mentimeter even provides a feedback and Q&A tool, all within the Webex application. And for any participant that can’t see the multimedia window, the direct access URL and code are at the top of the central meeting window.

PollEverywhere also allows SMS interactions, and Sli.do & Pigeonhole Live use QR codes, making it easy to use your mobile device.

PollEv.com

Sli.do does QR code

A word cloud is just one example of the variety of unique interactions these third-party apps offer. I’ve used PollEverywhere the most because it provides so many interaction options.

Icons on PollEverwhere

Gaming

Looking for more of a game-like experience? Kahoot and TheTrainingArcade also work nicely with Webex. Kahoot is laser-focused on emulating a quiz show, and TheTrainingArcade lets you build your own games.

Here’s a Kahoot game using the multimedia viewer.

Kahoot game using the multimedia viewer on Webex

And here’s a Jeopardy-like game from TheTrainingArcade as you would see it in the multimedia viewer.

Jeopardylike game from The TrainingArcade

Your turn

Whether you’re using the tools included in Webex, a free third-party app, or investing in a broader audience solution, there’s no reason to keep having less than stellar Webex meetings. Use your video, create polls and whiteboards, change up the content, or integrate an app using the multimedia viewer – these are great ways to keep your participants engaged if you want them to hear and retain what you have to say!

Want to learn more about Webex and all its features and the value it can provide your business? Reach out for more information or get started with our free offer today.

Learn More

How to launch a community with Webex Teams

A broadcasters How to Guide to live stream Webex

Live streaming with Webex Meetings for your virtual events: What’s new and how to use it

Still Need Help?

What would you like to do?

Join a Webex online meeting.

Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

Sign up for Webex.

Visit our home page or contact us directly for assistance.

Collaboration in 2020: Top Tips for Meeting Room Technology

Footnotes

[1] Only currently available in Webex Meetings, other methods available in Events and Training.

[2] Participants who join Webex from video systems or video conferencing applications cannot currently see or annotate shared whiteboard content.

[3] Polling does not work on video endpoints.

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Young woman looking at camera viewing other members of her team via video conferencing
4 ways to ensure your video conferences are secure

Video conferencing security for small business

Now that the professional world finds itself almost entirely online, it’s as good a time to reemphasize how critical cybersecurity is for small and medium-sized businesses. The rush to digitize workflows and procedures may have led some decision-makers to choose the most straightforward consumer-grade tools for preserving business continuity.

Why are there security and privacy issues?

Yet there may be underlying security and privacy issues with solutions that haven’t been vetted thoroughly. Considering the lightning-quick pace with which businesses had to adapt to stay-at-home orders, it’s possible not every solution was put under the microscope.

Learn about the best video conferencing & online meeting software

Video conferencing software

Video conferencing software may fall under this category. Thousands have turned to free tools to fill the collaboration and communication gap. But at the same time, businesses may be putting their operations, data, and employees at risk if they depend on video conferencing software with security vulnerabilities.

See how video conferencing is simple, seamless, and secure. With the Webex mobile app security is built right in

Top 4 tips for SMBs on securing your privacy on video conferencing platforms

Here are some tips for running secure video chats and picking the right solution to drive productivity in remote workforces — and, more importantly, to ensure security and protect privacy.

1) Control who is invited

Trolls are everywhere, and they may be targeting your business. Persons not affiliated with your company may look to do a little online gate-crashing and disrupt your meeting if they somehow get the URL or meeting invite link. They’ll be an annoying nuisance; at worst, they may spam your call with hateful messages and disruptive, insulting behaviors.

Yet you have the controls to keep the trolls at bay. Ensure that anyone you invite to a meeting is a known employee, client, or verified third party. Advise all these participants not to share the meeting link. Also, make sure to lock your video chat once it begins so that only approved invitees can join.

Locking down video conferences is an issue for internal meetings, but more so for external engagement efforts. If you’re hosting a public webinar and didn’t take these precautions, your proceedings may be derailed. That could lead to several consequences, not the least of which is damage to your business’s reputation.

Need help in Webex? Find our Cisco Webex security and privacy resources in our Help Center.

2) Leverage administrative security options

The example above is a cautionary tale, and it underscores how crucial it is for you to have robust administrative security controls. Yet, such capabilities will be sorely lacking in most consumer-grade tech; and if a tool does have such features, it is likely going to be basic and limited.

Maintaining control of security and privacy measures is essential. Most free-to-use tools are not sophisticated enough to match the needs of your business. Your wish list for security controls should include ways for you to:

  • Permit users to store their email addresses and names securely so they can quickly join in the future.
  • Require authentication for all hosts and attendees wanting to access the site.
  • Enforce various lock controls and meeting participant ejection protocols.
  • Enable hosts to customize meeting access security within predefined parameters.
  • Allow for meetings to be unlisted from public calendars.
  • Control screen sharing and recording functions.
  • Automatically end meetings after a certain time or if only one attended remains.
  • Mandate that attendees have an approved account to join.

Without at least these controls, your business may be woefully underprepared to enforce security and privacy in video conferences, putting your operations and employees at risk.

Learn more about administration security 

3) Review the privacy policy

This tip comes from the Federal Trade Commission, which has published a list of best practices for SMBs* that now rely on video conferencing. Checking the privacy policy is a must, and you really shouldn’t move on using a solution without doing so.

However, arranging contingency plans was a frenzy for many businesses, and reviewing the privacy policies of video conferencing tools may have slipped under the radar. This may cause severe issues if you assume a tool stores your data one way, but it does not meet expectations or security requirements in actuality. As the FTC advises, always check the type of data the conferencing software collects, its policy on using your data, and whether it shares information with any third parties. Read about Cisco’s promise to our customers on security in an open collaboration world.

4) Focus on encryption

Choosing a video conferencing solution with end-to-end encryption is the only real way to ensure security for your business calls and meetings. Not only is encryption an advantage for some businesses, but it’s also mandated for others in specific regulated industries like law, finance, and health care.

Most consumer-grade solutions are lacking in this department, and what encryption they do offer is far from the robust end-to-end protection your business needs.
A tool that offers features like password encryption, SHA-2 hashing, and Network-Based Recordings is your best bet for secure meetings.

In closing

Looking for a video conferencing solution that checks all the security and privacy boxes to ensure your meetings are private and productive? Cisco Webex is a leading choice among SMBs of all sectors. We place security and privacy at the top of our priorities, and with Webex, you don’t need to worry about sacrificing ease of use or user experience for security controls.

Want to learn more about Webex and all its features and the value it can provide your business? Reach out for more information or get started with our free offer today.

Learn More

How to create a video conferencing agenda

Personalize your team meetings with these top four screen sharing features

Video conference with security you can trust

Resources

Securing users and devices in Webex

FTC best practices for SMBs

Master the art of remote work

Webex Products & Solutions

Webex Meetings

Webex Control Hub

Still Need Help?

What would you like to do?

Join a Webex online meeting.

Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

Sign up for Webex.

Visit our home page or contact us directly for assistance.

Read more
Young woman sitting on a velvet red sofa couch on her laptop on a Cisco Webex Meeting facing the window
How team collaboration technology can work together no matter where you are

What’s it like to achieve seamless collaboration with someone with no matter where the two of you are?

In many depictions from science fiction, such interactions often involved HD video as well as mobile communications. “Star Trek” had video conferencing and handheld communicators, while “Star Wars” featured high-quality audio links between ships, even in the depths of space. No matter where characters went in those universes, they could reliably stay in touch. Check out the Best Video Conferencing & Online Meeting Software

In the real world, available collaboration technologies have caught up with, and in some ways, even surpassed those once far-out fantasies. Employees can now join a video or VoIP call from their mobile devices, but take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) to establish context around each meeting, fill in key details through chat, and improve customer experiences.

Check out a first-hand experience of the all-new Webex Meetings with faster join times and anytime-anywhere access:

While it’s always been theoretically possible to collaborate over long distances via email and phone, modern tech makes everything more accessible and real-time. Let’s look at two typical workflows, one with and the other without the most up-to-date collaboration technologies.

A day in the life: One meeting, many locations

Let’s imagine someone starting their workday at home, which has become pretty standard these days. After all, telecommuting has surged since the mid-2000s; one estimate put the number of remote workers in the U.S. at nearly 5 million as of 2018. And in 2020, many more workplaces are allowing their employees to work from home, or split their time between home and office.

Check out our Work From Home Best Practices

This hypothetical worker wakes up and then joins a web conference from their desktop PC for a little while. Built-in AI provides full context on who’s who in the meeting so that there’s no guesswork in understanding the purpose of the proceedings and the participants’ background.

Then it’s time for them to take their kid to school. Using collaboration technology they can transition the call onto their phone with just a swipe and keep listening while in their car, using wireless earbuds or the vehicle’s Bluetooth and a built-in mic.

After finishing the commute, they finally arrive at the office. They sit down at their desk and transition the same call that started back at home to yet another device, this time to their company laptop connected to a docking station and external monitor.

Once the call is over, they can follow up with a few of the participants via chat. The group chat space comes with read receipts and automatic saving of all messages and files so that it’s simple to find any item and understand how it fits into the workflow. The conversation, thanks to technology, happens in real-time, just like a video or VoIP call.

Help Center: Take a look around the Cisco Webex Teams App UI and get used to your app’s interface 

Takeaways

A few takeaways about this experience:

• The conference call worked reliably across a variety of screen sizes and device capabilities.
Cognitive collaboration features made it easier for participants to follow who was speaking and what was going on.
• The worker didn’t have to use any proprietary cables, dongles, or infrastructure – the team meeting worked entirely over just wireless connections and various apps.
• No emails had to be exchanged and read at any point during the workflow.
• Participants got a much richer experience than a standard phone call would allow, thanks to seamless device switching and added context through messaging.

From start to finish, this workflow kept the entire team connected and on the same page even as at least one participant moved between devices and sites. It’s a stark contrast from traditional approaches to collaboration, which are much more limited by location and hardware.

How collaboration used to work, and why it’s time to move on

The scenario above is an exciting look at how collaboration can play out when everything works. For many employees, though, this workflow is still out of reach due to ongoing reliance on older, less efficient collaboration.

Imagine the same worker, except this time, they begin the workday checking emails in an office. The inbox is overflowing since they’d been out on PTO for a few days. Some of the email threads aren’t even relevant anymore but reading through them first to find that out.

Responding to the handful of items that do require action takes up even more time. To top it all off, the inbox has to be kept open in its browser tab or mail client and checked obsessively throughout the day to see if important messages receive responses.

These types of productivity-draining workflows are all too common. A McKinsey analysis estimated that the typical worker spent 28% of their week on email alone. That’s too much time for too little benefit, as email isn’t real-time and is often challenging to stay on top of – all the more reason to move on to something better. Read how you can use technology to create work-life balance.

Watch how the new Cisco Webex is Built into Your Everyday Workflow

Charting a course toward anytime/anywhere collaboration

There’s a night-and-day difference between traditional and modern collaboration technologies. By investing in newer solutions for cognitive collaboration, video, voice, and chat, organizations can make life easier for their workers while also increasing company-wide productivity. Check out this article on getting the the most out of work-life balance.

Enabling seamless cross-platform collaboration is essential in the context of growing remote work and multi-device setups. Webex can help your team keep up with these trends and stay in touch.

Learn more about Cisco Webex video conferencing solutions and how technology can work together no matter where you are: Get started with a free plan today.

Learn More

Working smarter anywhere – Working remotely 

3 tips for working with remote team members

Tips for WFH when everyone else is home

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illustration of person cleaning devices with disinfectant
Cleaning shared touch-screen devices

The benefits of touch screen devices 

During the last decade we have seen a rapid increase of touch screen devices in the market. The touch screen has become pervasive in homes, offices, manufacturing and medical environments. This is in part due to the high degree of flexibility that it gives to designers and end-users.  

A touch screen provides a space to share visual content and interact so intuitively that most toddlers can do it without any training. Professional devices in the office space and medical applications draw from this simplicity to create high value products to their customers. 

However, sharing uncleaned touch surfaces is a matter of concern. All public and shared interfaces like keyboards, computer mouse, and office accessories should be properly cleaned to avoid spreading germs. The good news is that simple disinfectants are effective against this! 

Easy disinfecting 

One of the advantages of touch screens are how easy they are to clean. All Cisco Webex Rooms touch screens have glass screen that is resistant to most common alcohol-based disinfectants. As recommended in our guideline, use a solution of 70% isopropyl alcohol onto a clean, soft cloth and wipe gently.  

Several of our products are actively being used in the frontlines of medical research and treatment in hospitals around the world. They help to connect specialists and provide better care to patients. In this situation, keeping devices clean according to medical regulations is critical. Fortunately, the design of Cisco Webex Rooms products allows for thorough surface disinfection. 

Avoid unnecessary touching altogether

Nevertheless, some users prefer to keep their devices personal or avoid unnecessary touching altogether. For these users we would recommend keeping a personal pen for the Webex Board, which can be ordered as a spare part through our partners. The PIDs, depending on the product are in the table. 

CS-BRD-PENKIT=  Cisco Webex Board S Pen Kit – 2 pens with 6 extra tips

 

CS-BRD-PENKITSOFT=  Cisco Webex Board Pen Kit – 3 pens with fixed soft tips 

 

CS-DESK-STYLUSKIT=  Cisco Webex Desk Pro Stylus Kit (2x stylus, 4x tips) 

 

Safety First

Cisco is actively working with the market leaders in the Global Infection Prevention industry on the best ways to clean and disinfect our products for the safety and health of our customers and their employees and will continue to update our guidelines regularly.  

Check out what’s new in RoomOS

Learn More

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The new Webex Assistant
Meet the new face of Webex Assistant

Your workplace digital assistant has a new look and, coming soon, an expanded experience.

The new face of Cisco Webex Assistant

You may be familiar with Webex Assistant, the AI-powered voice assistant for work. Now known as Webex Assistant for Webex Rooms, our original digital assistant allows you to control compatible Webex Rooms devices with your voice, making it easy to join a meeting with just a few words, manage your meetings and devices from anywhere in the room, and much more.

As we continue to enhance our collaboration platform with new AI-powered features, we’ve made some improvements to help make your day-to-day tasks more enjoyable. As of June, you’ll see that the hexagonal icon in Webex Assistant for Rooms has been replaced with the new, friendly face of Webex Assistant. With engaging visual animations, your digital assistant is ready to support you anytime you need it. Just say “OK Webex, what can you do?” to get started.

Expanding the Webex Assistant experience

Don’t have a Webex Rooms device? No problem. Webex Assistant is also available in Webex Meetings. With Webex Assistant for Webex Meetings, you and your team will benefit from higher levels of productivity and engagement in every meeting.

Young man smile through the desktop using the Webex Assistant experience

Featuring live transcription, automatic note-taking, voice-activated action items and more, Webex Assistant for Meetings makes the best team collaboration experience even better by allowing you to easily capture every detail during the meeting, so you can keep work moving forward after the meeting.

Learn more

Webex Assistant for Rooms is available now on compatible Webex Rooms devices. Check out the Webex Assistant adoption toolkit to get started.

To be among the first to experience the latest in video conferencing technology with Webex Assistant for Meetings, sign up for your free Webex Meetings account today.

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RoomOS June 2020 update

See what’s new with RoomOS

The beauty of RoomOS is that it is evergreen. Each month, we release new features so that your collaboration experience is always evolving and improving. It’s that time of month again, and I am super excited to bring you some more collaboration magic.

Personal Mode – Whiteboard Improvements

Previously, when you were in personal mode you could not save a whiteboard you worked on when you were not in a call. This made it difficult to whiteboard ad-hoc. We think you deserve a great whiteboarding experience regardless of your device, so now the whiteboard feature works just like the Cisco Webex Board does – meaning you can start, save and retrieve a whiteboard regardless of whether you are in a call or not. If you want to learn more, check out the help article.

Personal Meeting Room (PMR) Easy Join Improvements

Previously, the Webex button has allowed users to join a Webex Meeting or a Personal Meeting Room (PMR) by entering a URI or an 11-digit code. We’ve improved this process, so you can now search for a PMR using the “Join Webex” button, typing in the person’s name. That way you will get results both from your history, and from the cloud search! What’s even more exciting, is that this feature represents the first cloud feature coming to our on-prem customers by using Webex Edge for Devices!

Webex Meetings Joining improvement

Remote mute in Webex Meetings

This one has been highly requested, and we couldn’t be more excited to bring it to you! Now, we offer the opportunity to remotely mute participants in a Webex meeting on a cloud registered device. This is particularly useful for bigger, all-hands style meetings. Due to security reasons, no one can remotely unmute anyone – all participants need to manually unmute themselves if they wish to speak.

Young Man wearing classes in an app showing viewers how to Remote mute in Webex Meetings

Lock Meetings

At Cisco we talk a lot about security and privacy, and we really practice what we preach. In the Webex app, you can lock your meetings and your PMR, so no one can dial in and crash your meeting. We are now making it possible to do this directly from a video device, so that you do not need to open the app to lock/unlock the meeting. Whenever you are the host of a meeting a lock button will appear on screen, and the meeting will remain locked until you manually choose to unlock it. This way, you can be assured that no one external will “bomb” your meeting.

Webex Board and Desk Pro Touch-Redirect in call

We’ve had touch redirect for a while now, and this was a feature that was highly appreciated by our education customers. Now, you can also use the touch-redirect while in a call!

If you want to learn more, check out the help article.

That’s it for June, and I hope you all have a wonderful summer. Until next time!

Learn More

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Download

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30 profiles of men and women open up on Teams
June update of Webex Teams

Summer is here! And with it comes the June update of Webex Teams and lots of fun new features. Let’s talk about what you can look forward to this month… 

MESSAGING & APP EXPERIENCE

Use Webex Teams in a Windows or Linux Virtual (VDI) Environment (Windows)

We’ve now added support for Webex Teams in a Windows or Linux virtual (VDI) environment. You can use all the built-in messaging, meetings, and calling functionality that you’re used to. Extra calling features are also available if your administrator has enabled them for you.

Mobile gets a makeover (iPhone, iPad and Android)

We’ve made some improvements to the design of the mobile app. Your profile picture, search area and device connection now remain at the top of the app as you move through each tab. There is also a new floating button for quicker access to tasks such as creating a space or sending a direct message.

Reactions that move! (Windows, Mac, iPhone iPad and Android)

We’ve made some exciting changes to our reactions – you’ll now see that they move! When you or somebody else reacts to a message you’ll see an animated reaction.

emojis: celebration, heart, thumbs up, smile, cry, astonish, and sad

See when people are busy through Outlook (Windows and Mac)

If you use the Outlook presence integration with Webex Teams, you’ll now see a new presence state – a Busy state in Outlook. When people are In a meetingOn a call, or Presenting in Webex Teams, they will show as Busy in Outlook.

Resize your app to be as small as you like (Windows and Mac)

Minimum size has been reduced and you can now resize the Webex Teams app to be as small as you like, making multitasking that much easier. Note that some elements may look unusual when the app is reduced past a certain size, and this is expected.

Add up to 30 people at once (Windows and Mac)

We’ve made it easier for you to bulk add people to a space or a team. You’ll be able to copy a list of up to 30 people and their emails from either Outlook or from Excel and paste them into any Add People input area in Webex Teams, including Create a Space, Create a Team and the People tab within an existing space. When you paste the email list, the 30 users are staged (you’ll see their profile pictures) for you to review and confirm before clicking ‘Add’.

30 profiles of men and women open up on Teams

Add links to your messages (Mac)

Today, you can add a link to text in Webex Teams through mark-down. We’ve improved that experience for you and made it a lot easier to insert a link into a message. You can now select an option to insert a link from the Format Text menu, this will pop up a new dialog box where you can add a link and edit the text of the link that you want to display in your message.

Team space showing a message being linked to a url

New faces & illustrations! (iPhone, iPad and Android)

You’ll be able to enjoy some of our new friendly characters and illustrations on the Space list, Open Search, Search results, Calls, and Filters.

friendly images including tangerine cat under water looking at an empty oyster shell and under a bunch of leaves. Small blue jays on tree branches

Have a peek into a space on iOS (iPhone and iPad)

When you have an unread space and you’re not sure if you want to open it or not, you can now ‘peek’ inside the space to see the most recent message there. To use, simply long press on a space and the preview will appear.

MEETINGS

See more people at the same time (Mac)

It’s here! The long-awaited grid view for Webex Teams meetings will be landing into your Mac app this June. You’ll now be able to see up to nine people at once during a meeting, making it that much easier to collaborate. The option will be available on the top right of your meeting window.

many faces looking at the computer screen representing multiple diverse people

CALLING

The calling service your administrator has set up for you determines which calling features you can use. If ­­­­you’re not sure what calling service you have, see Webex Teams | Find Out What Calling Service You Have.

Webex Calling

Add Contacts, Search Your Contacts, and Make a Call (Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android)

Add your co-workers into your Contacts list and group them however you like, making people easier to find when you need to chat or call. And on your mobile app, you can call someone from your Contact list and the calls remains in Webex Teams (your device’s calling app isn’t used).

You can even look up your Outlook contacts (Windows), local address book (Mac), and local phone contacts (iPhone, iPad, and Android) from Webex Teams, so you can easily find your contacts and make a call.

Add Contact

Call Control for Webex Teams Calls (Windows and Mac)

If you’re using a Cisco 700 series headset, you can use its USB adapter or Bluetooth to answer and end your calls, put calls on hold and resume them, as well as mute and unmute calls. 

Voicemail (Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android)

No more missing calls in Webex Teams. You get a dedicated Voicemail tab to manage all your voicemail. There’s a red badge counter that lets you know how many voice messages you have. You can check out the details of a message, play it, mark it as read, delete it or call back the sender. After you’ve listened to your messages, either with Webex Teams or your desk phone, the red badge counter disappears.

We already support this feature for Unified CM on desktop. See Webex Teams | Voicemail.

Voicemail (Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android)

Desk Phone Control Features (Windows and Mac)

When you dial a number from the app on your desktop and the call goes through your desk phone, you can put the call on hold or resume the call from your desktop app.

Desk Phone Control Features (Windows and Mac)

Missed Calls (Windows and Mac)

See how many calls you’ve missed with a red badge counter in the Calls tab. The Calls tab shows a list of incoming and outgoing calls and you can call someone back from your Call History. Your scheduled meetings are listed in the Meetings tab, making it easier for you to distinguish between the two types of communication.

Call Forward (iPhone and Android)

If you’re going to be away from your desk but don’t want to miss an important phone call, you can forward your calls to another phone number. Or, if you don’t want to be interrupted, you can send all your calls to voicemail instead.

We already support Call Forwarding in Calling in Webex Teams (Webex Calling) on your desktop. See Webex Teams | Forward Phone Calls.

Call Forward (iPhone and Android)

Single Number Reach (iPhone and Android)

With Single Number Reach, all incoming calls to your users’ work phones ring other numbers at the same time. You can add any numbers you want in your call settings.

We already support this feature in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on desktop. See Webex Teams | Get Phone Calls at Any Number.

Unified CM

Add Contacts, Search Your Contacts, and Make a Call (Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android)

Add your co-workers into your Contacts list and group them however you like, making people easier to find when you need to chat or call. And on your mobile app, you can call someone from your Contact list and the calls remains in Webex Teams (your device’s calling app isn’t used).

You can even look up your Outlook contacts (Windows), local address book (Mac), and local phone contacts (iPhone, iPad, and Android) from Webex Teams, so you can easily find your contacts and make a call.

Call Control for Webex Teams Calls (Windows and Mac)

If you’re using a Cisco 700 series headset, you can use its USB adapter or Bluetooth to answer and end your calls, put calls on hold and resume them, as well as mute and unmute calls.

Call Pickup (Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android)

If you’re in a customer support role and your co-worker isn’t able to answer an incoming call to their phone, you get a notification in Webex Teams if you’re both in the same pickup group. You can answer their call from the notification you get in the app. You can also pick up the calls in other pickup groups.

Look up contacts in Webex Teams

Share a Specific Application (Windows and Mac)

When you make a video call, you can choose a specific application to share, rather than having to share your whole screen.

Hunt Groups (Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android)

If your administrator sets you up with the Hunt Group calling feature, you can sign in or out of a Hunt Group from your Call Settings. When you’re signed in and a call comes into a group that you belong to, you’ll see the Hunt Group number on your incoming call notification.

Share Your Screen (Windows and Mac)

You can call someone from the app and have them answer your call on their desk phone and you can still share your screen with them. They can see your shared screen from their phone if the phone supports video, otherwise they’ll see the shared screen from the app.

You can share your screen regardless of whether the person you called is using a cloud-registered device or an on-premises device. Your screen share is still sent with a high frame rate (30 FPS), high resolution (1080p), and includes audio.

Lock Symbol for Secure Phone Calls (iPhone and Android)

When you’re on a secure phone call, you’ll now see a lock symbol letting you know that it’s secure. We’ve already made this available in Calling in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop.

For more information on this and upcoming updates to Webex Teams, check out our help page here.

Learn More

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AI brain illustration
Using AI to create more engaging meetings

Artificial intelligence (AI) has many possible use cases. It is an important part of everything from voice-activated assistants such as Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant, to specialized applications that can screen pharmaceutical candidates en masse.

It’s no surprise, then, that AI can also be incorporated into online meeting software. Numerous manual and time-consuming activities during a normal web conference can be streamlined through integrated AI. In Cisco Webex, AI can play an important role in creating a more engaging experience for all attendees.

Why AI is needed in online meetings

Think of an audio or video conference you’ve joined in the past. Was the joining experience seamless? Who’s been in a meeting where the first 5 min are a wash because one member is working through the trouble of joining…

Maybe you can recall a meeting that didn’t exactly go according to script or had a few hiccups along the way. The possibilities here are endless, but some of the common sticking points include:

  • Needing to enter a long dial-in number and PIN to get into the meeting.
  • Having to endure choppy audio and video quality.
  • Struggling with meeting controls for muting, sharing the screen, etc.
  • Capturing key action items via physical notes or and generating transcripts.

Together, such issues make too many meetings aimless and difficult to participate in. The costs of these unproductive meetings are high.

Not only do they eat up time that could have gone toward other activities (like all meetings do), but they also don’t even achieve their stated purpose. That leads to additional meetings needing to be scheduled, resulting in more time being consumed. It’s a snowball effect. This is where AI can help.

How AI supports more productive and less annoying meetings

The AI features in Webex are designed to save time and help during multi-tasking such as teaching kids while home, and driving for no-touch and other automating numerous tasks that previously required a lot of manual intervention. Let’s look at how some of these features work in practice.

Voice controls

Imagine a world where your voice can:

  • Join or leave the meeting.
  • Start or end the meeting.
  • Make or end a phone call.
  • Increase or decrease the volume.
  • Mute or unmute a participant.
  • Enter or leave a host’s personal meeting room.
  • Manage connected devices.

It’s all as simple as saying the relevant keyword (activation phrase) and then telling the virtual assistant what you want to do. Read more

Transcription

Taking notes during a meeting can be hectic. Sometimes, you literally cannot type fast enough to keep up with what’s being said. Notes can also be too fragmentary to be useful after the fact, as they might lack sufficient context.

  • Transcribe your entire meeting
  • Included out of the box
  • No 3rd party software needed
  • Safe and secure
  • Auto-generated closed caption
  • Automatic note taking

With AI in place, all of these problems become moot. All of these assets can be downloaded after the meeting is over, along with a complete recording of the session. Advanced keyword search allows you to quickly find what you’re looking for, even across multiple saved recordings if need be.

Other post-meeting actions

Sharing a recording or transcript is often a good step after a meeting ends, if only to make sure that everyone has it for their records. AI assistants can help you take other follow-up actions that extract even more valuable information and insights from a meeting.

  • highlighting and capturing designated action items during the meeting based on highlighted keywords.
  • AI may also do some of this information gathering automatically. These summary highlights, action items, recordings, and transcripts can be shared via email with all or selected meeting attendees for a clear overview of what was discussed and what might require subsequent action.

Security and compliance, assured

Recording and transcribing a meeting, even via AI assistant, can create some potential legal complications. Many jurisdictions require consent from all parties involved before a meeting can be recorded. There’s also the issue of where the data is being sent and stored by the AI algorithms in question.

All of the infrastructure behind a successful AI assistant – data centers, networks, clouds, etc. – must be secure against possible data leakage and cyberattacks that could expose the sensitive matters discussed. In Webex, all of the technical processing is done entirely within the Cisco ecosystem for maximum safety.

Implementing AI in your meetings

One of the biggest benefits of AI is that it’s always improving, as its algorithms are refined, and it has more exposure to relevant data. It can improve your web conferences right away and also give you access to continual enhancements.

Get started with a free Cisco Webex plan today!

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Man lying on couch with computer on lap during a meeting wearing headphones and petting a little dog on his lap
New ways of working is easy with Webex

Transitioning to the new world of work

As many people shifted to remote work over the past couple of months the world discovered that work can be accomplished from anywhere. In fact, some people even discovered that you can be just as productive or more … outside of the office. We, at Cisco, also had to transition to remote work just like everyone else.

So, fast forward to now and remote work might seem like a good option for more people longer term. Some might be considering a hybrid approach, consisting of a blend of remote work and onsite visits to the office. The big question is how to make it sustainable, seamless and safe for people and organizations. Especially when employees are engaging in private conversations and sharing confidential business information and strategies during their workday.

The good news is that Cisco has been thinking about this modern work experience and enabling people to work from anywhere. How do we make distributed teams as effective as co-located teams, maybe even more? Enabling them to do all the things that they would typically do in the office such as meet, share, collaborate and ideate on a whiteboard with a co-worker.

Shift from physical office to remote work experiences

Shift from Physical Office to Remote Work Experiences
At Cisco, we saw the shift occurring from the traditional world of work to this new reality – and we have been adapting to this new way of work with our own collaboration solutions.

Webex app (Webex Teams)

We bring this vision to life with our Webex App. Our modern collaboration tool provides users with the ability to call, message, meet and share regardless of location, on a desktop and mobile device. We keep work moving forward with easy integrations and meeting our customers where they are with APIs and SDKs, bots, buttons and cards, embedded apps, and native integrations to enable seamless workflows. Currently, we offer easy integrations with over 24,000 3rd party apps and over 64,000 bots. 

We are excited about our latest new integration with Box so users can easily access, co-edit and manage files from within the Webex App. The Box integration is in addition to existing ones in place with Microsoft OneDrive and Google. We are also launching the new Telehealth Connectors to help scale and streamline the virtual healthcare experience. Enabling healthcare staff and patients to connect via simple, easy-to-use video telehealth consultations, scheduled directly from their Epic EMR portal. 

A single app to work securely from anywhere, on any device

To support small and midsize organizations with up to 1,000 users – we are making Webex more affordable. The new Webex Work bundle is now available and includes essential, secure calling, meetings and messaging in a single, affordable plan that is easy to but, set-up and support. It also supports rapidly the changing needs of SMBs, with a utility-based model where you subscribe for a committed set of named users, then add and remove additional “uncommitted” users through the course of your agreement, via self-service provisioning in Webex Control Hub, billed monthly in arrears. For example, if you are a small retailer looking to ramp up staffing for the Holiday season, simply add more “uncommitted” users in Webex Control Hub when you need them and remove them when no longer required.

As you can see, we are making work easier than ever with Webex, no matter where you want to work from, or what work you do in this new world of work.  

Call, message, and meet using a simple plan to get work done from anywhere with Webex Work Bundle

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Box for Webex! Content has a new home on Box

During a time when many organizations have shifted to a nearly 100% remote workforce, Cisco Webex is introducing a new addition for enterprise content management on Webex Teams. It’s time to let go of your stacks of paper and say hello to Box for Webex!

Instant team collaboration, even when working remote

Remote teams need more than email chains, phone calls and static documents to most-effectively work together. Teams who are enabled to collaborate together on unified platforms, such as Webex, are able to co-create and share ideas as though they’re face-to-face, co-edit and make decisions much faster than through traditional means. The addition of Box to the enterprise content management feature set enables users to select Box as their document repository. Users can work together in real-time in Webex Teams, by sharing and viewing box content directly within the unified app.

Sharing and Viewing Box Content within unified app

Share and view files from Box

Share your Box files with everyone in a space and view the full file in a pop out window.

See file previews

See a preview thumbnail of shared files to quickly identify what the document is.

Update file sharing security setting

Ensure only the right users have access to shared files.

Box content is accessible and shareable from within Webex Teams and does not index the shared content in Webex Teams. The only metadata that is stored by Webex Teams is the file name and file type, so you know your data is secure.

Set up in minutes

If you already collaborate on Webex Teams, you can enable the Box integration through Control Hub, and access the content management settings to configure Box for users, or on a global level.

Services –>Message Setting–>Content Management–>Edit Settings

ECM 1.3 Adding a file from BoxNow more than ever, as workplaces transform, it is critical to have a seamless workstream of technology and tools that help you get work done. Cisco Webex and Box are here to help. We are working on ways we can deepen and expand how Webex can interoperate with the Box platform to ensure seamless, secure collaboration for users and admins, that will deliver best-in-class experiences.

For the full deployment guide on ECM configuration visit help.webex.com and start collaborating with your team using Box with Webex Teams.

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Idea in a conversation box and a lightbulb
Make your voice heard with the User Community Feedback Portal

Here at Webex, we understand that innovation can come from anywhere, whether it’s from our engineering team, our partners, or passionate users like yourself. We want your feedback on new features or suggestions on how we can make our product even better for you. The User Community Feedback Portal is now open in the Webex Community, so submitting your ideas has never been easier. 

The User Community Feedback Portal 

What exactly is the User Community Feedback Portal? It’s the place to go in the Webex Community to offer new product ideas, make suggestions for current feature improvements, and even vote on other community members’ ideas. We always appreciate feedback and want you to have a voice in making Webex the best collaboration platform it can be. Here’s how it works: 

  • Go to the Webex Community and click on the Share a Product Idea tab 

Webex User Community

  • Explore Recent, Trending, or Popular submissions, filter based on the category, and even vote on ideas you like.

User Community

  • If you want to post your own idea, simply click the Add a new idea button and fill out the form before submitting. It’s that easy.

User Community Feedback

Add a new idea

Every category in the User Community Feedback Portal is assigned to a Webex product manager (PM) who can update requests with product timelines and status updates, so you know exactly what’s going on with your (or any other) suggestion.

How to vote

Even if you post your own ideas in the portal, you can still vote on other suggestions or innovations that you like. Once you find an idea worthy of your vote, click on the VOTE icon to the left of the idea. You’ll also see the number of votes the idea already has here, too. Once you click the VOTE icon, the box will turn green.

Virtual Background

Vote on something by mistake? Simply click the icon again to take it back. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Vote on any idea you really want to see come to fruition.
  • You can retract your vote on any idea if you changed your mind or if you don’t see if getting a lot of votes.
  • You’ll get an email notification if someone comments on the idea in the portal or the status changes.

There are so many ideas already posted in the Webex Community, so go check them out. We’re excited to see what brilliant ideas you have and can’t wait to start putting some of these suggestions into action. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at cocallah@cisco.com.

Submit your idea today!

 

Cole Callahan, Webex Community Manager

About Cole – Cole manages the Webex Communities, including the IT Admin, Adoption Champions, and User Communities. He’s a kayak fanatic, and proud father to his incredible Foxhound, Daisy. He’s passionate about connecting customers, users, and admins with Webex.

Cole is a recent Ball State graduate and award-winning documentarian (seriously!) who has previously launched online communities for other organizations. As the Community Manager here at Cisco, Cole launched our community spaces, engages with members, encourages conversations, and is your go-to guy for everything relating to Webex Communities. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

Learn More

How to launch a community with Webex Teams

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Live streaming with Webex Meetings for your virtual events: What’s new and how to use it

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Confident businessman looking at camera and talking, discussing strategy with partners online, making video call, business coach mentor recording webinar, hr manager holding distance job interview
Best practices for hosting virtual interviews

Hosting the virtual interview

Interviews are perhaps the most critical part of the hiring process. They allow your company to get to know applicants and assess both their role-specific knowledge and soft skills, as well as their interpersonal abilities and overall fit. Similarly, they help potential hires better understand the role they are applying for and overall company culture in a way that goes beyond a job posting or “About Us” section of your organization’s website.

Luckily, digital tools for video conferencing and connecting with others have made it easier for businesses to find the right applicant. Let’s look at the value of virtual interviews and three best practices for hosting them.

Interviewing in a virtual world

Since the beginning of the year, 86% of organizations have shifted to virtual interviews.* Though, Lauren Smith, vice president in the Gartner HR practice, said that “many recruiting functions were already conducting virtual interviews, including using video interviewing technology for remotely located candidates; however, this now is the norm for all candidates given the current environment.” It’s showing organizations what can be done—in expanding reach, saving time and money.*

The right video conferencing solution puts people face-to-face, authentically simulating the in-person interview experience without requiring the interviewers and interviewees to be in the same place, at the same time.

Virtual interviews enable businesses to search far and wide for the most qualified new hires, regardless of where they’re located. Applicants, meanwhile, don’t have to try to coordinate complicated travel plans if they don’t live near your company’s offices or drastically re-arrange their schedules if they do.

Best practices drive productive virtual interviews

A dependable video conferencing platform is the foundation of consistently positive remote interviews. The following best practices can help your organization make the most of these opportunities.

  1. The right tools, time, and preparation

As the organization hosting the interview, your team should be prepared and extend the same courtesy to interviewees. That means making the date, time, and expected duration clear as soon as possible, so candidates and internal stakeholders alike can block off time on their calendars.

Having the right video conferencing platform is also crucial. A dependable and accessible platform will:

  • Be widely accessible with standard web browsers and operating systems.
  • Offer compatibility with basic video conferencing tools, like built-in cameras.
  • Allow your company to record parts or all of the call, if necessary. In these cases, your business needs to provide the relevant disclosures and consent forms, as Monster explained.
  • Not require the applicant to pay for software or setup.

Sharing a link to the meeting and specifying the software to be used allows candidates to ensure everything is in good working order before the interview starts. That ultimately saves everyone time.

While not a requirement, your company can offer to set up a short test call ahead of time to ensure everyone can connect as planned. You can also leave it up to candidates to ask for a test call before the interview, as an increasing number of professionals are familiar with video conferencing systems.

  1. Creating a professional environment

Thoughtful, professional candidates take care to make a good first impression. Your company should do the same thing.

A professional environment isn’t just for the office. A professional environment can be created anywhere you are. Set up your computer and run a test call with a teammate to make sure the area is clean, uncluttered, and has appropriate lighting. You should also check on technical specifications like the resolution of your webcam, your position relative to it – adjust your chair height or move the webcam to reach the desired result – and the output volume of your microphone. Remote employment service, FlexJobs, also recommended making it clear that you’re conducting an interview:

  • Close the door and put up a sign or other reminder that an interview is in progress.
  • Schedule the time on your calendar in advance.
  • Silence your phone.
  • Close other programs on your computer to avoid slowdowns and notifications from popping up during the interview.
  1. Consistency in interviewing

Some best practices that apply to in-person interviews are just as relevant for virtual ones. Preparing interview questions ahead of time, and using a standardized format for all interviewees, is especially important.

This approach helps to create a level playing field for everyone involved. While the responses of candidates can and should lead to more individualized follow-up questions and comments, having potential hires answer the same foundational questions provides a consistent basis for comparison. It can also assist in removing unconscious biases from the interview and hiring processes.

Video conferencing helps your company find the best candidates

Drawing from a local talent pool is often valuable, but casting a wider net potentially means bringing in more qualified applicants. This can help fill positions faster without sacrificing quality and keep your company operating at peak levels.

Virtual interviews simulate the entire in-person interview process, allowing for subtle indicators like body language and tone of voice to be just as clear as they are in person. Leveraging this valuable tool is simple with a little planning and preparation.

Give your company the tools it needs to successfully host virtual interviews — get started with a free Cisco Webex plan today

Reference

86% of companies are conducting job interviews via video conference

Learn More

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

6 winning strategies for a video conference interview

Interview with an Online Training Expert

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woman on screen on a video chat
Returning to work with Intelligent Room Capacity

Intelligent room capacity with people counting technology

I was discussing meeting room design and how to help companies make safe use of them once we go back to the office. One of the things you might want to control is the maximum number of people in a meeting room at any one time, so you need some form of people counting technology. Cisco has you covered!

All Webex Room, Board and Desk series devices come with intelligent people counting sensors directly embedded without any additional cost. These were first designed to help crop the image for video conferencing use cases like “Speaker Tracker” and “Best Overview”. But why stop there? Cisco has exposed these as APIs which can also be used to  track heads within spaces all of which is anonymous and opt in.

Webex Rooms built-in macro editor

At first I thought I would need to run extra systems to get this working and spend  unknown time and effort, then it hit me – Webex Rooms devices have a macro editor directly on the device which can solve many use cases. Every now and again you think to yourself “surely it can’t be this simple?” Well, in this case, it was. I already use the macro editor to control the lighting in my office at home and to make a light door change color whenever I’m on a call. Could it be so simple as to hook in the people counting API and perform some actions depending on the value?

I reached out to Dirk-Jan on Webex Teams, one of my colleagues who is known for his unpronounceable last name and amazing knowledge of Cisco API programming and asked “Is there a way to run a macro when the number of people changes”? Fifteen minutes pass and my screen fills with 20 lines of code “Try this.” Half an hour of testing of which the hardest part was to round up family members in our home to trigger the alert and it was done!

Webex Rooms devices: Bringing new dimensions to the workspace

It was almost too simple to be true – the Webex Room device can activate a macro every time the number of detected people in room changes, compare this to the maximum room capacity which can be set directly at the top of the Javascript file, and take an action accordingly. In the past, the device would only count people that were looking directly at the camera, but recent optimisations mean it will now also detect people regardless of which way they are facing. This truly unlocks a new dimension of how to use the device to add value within the workspace.

In less than an hour, I built an AI-powered application in a system that is already present in meeting rooms without requiring any additional equipment or licenses.

I reached out to the the Webex Rooms R&D team and we decided this was just too good to keep underwraps. So we have decided to release this code today on Code Exchange for free to use and modify. Allowing all administrators to easily provision and adopt to their needs without the need to go and find a developer.

Download the macro.

This is just one of many ways Webex Room devices can do way more than video calls. Check out device programming  and the great sample library on DevNet.

Learn More

See all the Webex RoomOS releases

Webex Device Management— The power of search!

Working smarter anywhere – Working remotely 

How to launch a community with Webex Teams

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A broadcasters How to Guide to live stream Webex

Learn more about the broadcasting world, with step by step guides to stream Grid View, Overlays and to simultaneously stream to YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook with Webex.

Webex stream to YouTube.

Do you listen to podcasts? Watch YouTube or even Twitch? Then let me take you behind the scenes into the world of the tools used in live streaming. In this article, you will learn how to use the video meetings application, Webex, and set up virtual backgrounds, live stream in grid view, add overlays, and even stream to multiple platforms simultaneously. There are more things to learn when it comes to streaming, but this article is meant to get you comfortable with live streaming as a broadcaster. If you want to learn the simple way to live stream, check out this blog.

Below is a diagram of the various streaming workflows and applications you can use to achieve the broadcast of your choice. This guide is broken down into three sections: Live Speaker Overview & Setup, Broadcast Software Setup, and Streaming Platform Setup. Each section will go over the installation and configuration process to set up your live broadcast.

Live streaming tools and application workflow.

If you are new to streaming, check out this blog first on how to plan and set up your first Webex live stream.

Overview: Broadcast & streaming platform features

There are many other applications out there that can achieve your use case. This guide is not meant to be the ultimate solution, but more of a way to get your feet wet on streaming. Once you have decided what you want your broadcast to look like and how you want to stream it, this feature matrix helps break down various broadcasting software features from VBrick, REC.VC, OBS, and Restream.


Streaming Tools Feature Breakdown.

Section Topics
1. User 1 — Host: Install OBS, Loopback; Webex Tips & Tricks
2. User 2+ — Panelists and Virtual Background

Participant practice session. Webex Desk Pro (right) and Webex DX80 (left).

We will now break down the first column of the live streaming workflow. This section will go over OBS, Loopback, and Webex tips and tricks for the host and also tools that panelists can use for virtual backgrounds.

1. User 1 — Host: install OBS, loopback; Webex tips & tricks

You can refer User 1 as part of the studio crew or the video producer. They have three main tasks. They are to run OBS, Loopback, and manage the Webex panelists. The Webex host won’t participate in the video feed. This user will only manage the panelists, push users in and out of the Lobby, remove the floating icons, mute users, and pin the main video users in the grid view. Below is a short list of things the Host has to do.

Install OBS
To minimize Murphy’s law, make User 1, the dedicated machine to run OBS or Open Broadcaster SoftwareUser 1 will have a dedicated laptop to stream to the various platforms like YouTube. This must be a very high-end device as it will be streaming 1080p, which can max out its x264 encoder or GPU. Without a good laptop or machine, there can be a huge impact on the system, causing the framerates of your video to suffer and making the whole experience unenjoyable for the viewer. This software will provide the Grid View, or some would like to say Hollywood Squares or the Brady Bunch view. Basically, OBS is your desktop screen capture application that will send a stream out to your platform of choice. The Broadcast Software section will go over the setup process of OBS.

Install Loopback
Next, install Loopback from Rogue Amoeba. This is not a free application and it is a Mac app that reroutes audio from one piece of hardware or software to another. It’s best to think of it as a software pipe that pretends it has a hardware device on each end: audio input on one and audio output on the other. This application will be used to reroute audio from Webex to OBS. I also use this to also stream Spotify into the meeting and use my Cisco Headset 730 to monitor the session. We will go over the setup of this in the next section. Note: There’s a lot of other free virtual audio drivers out there, and for non-Mac users, you can use VB Cable or Virtual Audio Cable.

Webex Tips & Tricks
There are a lot of things to think about now that you are a broadcaster. A few things to be aware of:
CPU – 
Shut down unnecessary applications as OBS will consume a lot of CPU resources especially if you don’t have a dedicated GPU on your machine. It’s best to use devices with an NVENC H.264 New (GPU Encoding for Nvidia Graphics Cards) or an AMD H.264 (GPU Encoding for AMD GPUs).
LAN – 
Avoid WiFi. Hardwire if necessary as this is a live stream.
Disable VPN – You want to remove as much latency as possible.

Improve and control your meeting experience. Follow these steps to set up your stream. Here, you want to Mute users joining your meeting and disable sharing in the event someone accidentally shares their desktop. Once you have your Webex Meeting desktop application open, proceed with these settings.

Step 1: Go to Participant -> Mute on Entry and enable it and also de-select “Anyone Can Share.

Enable Mute on Entry & Uncheck Anyone Can Share.

Step 2: Go to View -> Show or Hide Meeting Controls. You want to enable this. In the following picture, you’ll see the meeting controls. You want to hide that during your broadcast.

Uncheck to Hide the Meetings Controls.

Step 3: Understand the Host Lobby feature. Here as you can have speakers rotate in and out of your call and you can control who is showing up on the video grid by pushing them into the Lobby.

Waiting in the Lobby function.

You can also move people into the lobby once they are done speaking by right-clicking on the participant name.

Move to the Lobby feature.

Step 5. Leave the Host “Un-muted” in Webex. If you do not, then no audio will pass through OBS and to the other panelists. Also, you don’t have to worry about any noise being picked up as the physical microphone is not connected to the virtual driver.

Unmute & Lock this thumbnail setting.

Step 6. As you hover your mouse over the participant, you can select “Lock this thumbnail video on a specific participant.” This option can lock the video focus of the main video on a specific participant, or the active speaker. Pins can help you determine whose video you and your participants see.

TIP: If you will be moving people in and out constantly or doing any of the above, then the Host privilege should be passed to another participant and you would leave Webex in full window mode for the OBS setup.

2. User 2+ — Panelists and virtual background

For your other users speaking on the live stream, the best hardware to use is a dedicated video device. I prefer using a Webex Room USB or what I’m using is a Webex Desk Pro as my dedicated SIP endpoint. It’s a 4K display that has a 12 MP HD camera, 71-degree field of view, 8 element microphone array with audio fencing with low audio latency, auto-framing, auto-focus, 3.1 directional speaker array, and overall fewer points of failures since I don’t need other external devices like hardware switchers, encoders, O/S and other applications running in the background found on a PC. Basically, think of the Desk Pro and Room USB device as a high-end dedicated webcam with a ton of advanced features. If you are using a laptop, make sure you have a headset. I have a Cisco Headset 730. It is boom less design coupled with adaptive noise cancellation and background noise reduction. If you don’t have a nice high-end headset, then a regular mobile headset can work very well too.

Virtual Backgrounds, Chroma Key: For your panelists’ that do not have access to a premium video conference unit, then a basic webcam or DSLR would work as well. With the USB functionality, you can use OBS Chroma Key, Manycam, or Snapchat’s Snap Camera to provide virtual backgrounds. These are some of the many applications that are out there, but this article won’t go into a deep dive into this.

Webex Desk Pro with Virtual Backgrounds.

TIP: Note that when you’re live streaming using a software encoder, you’re already putting the computer’s CPU at additional load. Most virtual background software apps require extremely beefy CPUs like a quad-core 4th-gen Core i7 or 3GHz processors with 8 cores or more. In this article, I have my Cisco Webex Desk Pro with the built-in background filters for my stream. It won’t consume any CPU cycles on my laptop since all the work is done on the endpoints NVidia GPU chipset.

Manycam

Manycam is a live-streaming service and a program that allows users to use their webcam with multiple different video conferencing applications and video streaming applications simultaneously for Windows and Mac computers. In this article, I will just focus on the virtual background setup.

NOTE: With one of the latest Webex Desktop updates, a new “hardened” security compilation method on OS X was put in place so that only libraries that are signed by Cisco or Apple are loaded. This applies not only to Manycam but other third-party applications such as CamTwist, Ecamm, CameraLive, EpocCam, Snap Camera, etc. Since they are from third parties, the Webex Desktop app (for Meetings and Events) will not allow them to load. The way to bypass this is to use the browser version for Webex Meetings.

Step 1. Open Manycam and go to Presets and Add a Video Source -> Webcam
Step 2: Go to Chroma Key -> (Toggle On) Virtual Background -> Blur or Replace to select your background in the drop-down window.

Background blur and Virtual background features.

Step 3: Open your browser. Since I’m using chrome, so go to the toolbar and enter -> chrome://settings/content/camera and select ManyCam Virtual Webcam

Google Chrome camera settings.

Step 4: Open up Webex in browser mode. Once you have set that up, you will now see the Manycam Virtual camera video sent to Webex Meetings.

Webex Meetings, browser mode with Manycam virtual background.

Section Topics
1. Admin — Webex Control Hub setup
2. Webex Direct Stream to YouTube
3. Loopback Audio Setup
4. Broadcasting Specs & OBS Setup
5. OBS: Audio
6. Audio Check
7. OBS: Grid View
8. OBS: Overlay
9. OBS: Direct Stream to YouTube

This section will be about User 1, the Host, as that machine will handle these configurations below. This section also demonstrates the “Direct Stream” YouTube use case and using OBS.

1. Admin — Webex Control Hub setup

Webex Control Hub: With the video hardware in place, your Webex admin needs to enable the RTMP streaming services in the Webex Control Hub.

Enable Common Platform Settings and End-User Settings. (Gif)
  • Go to the Webex Meeting Sites -> Common Settings and then check off the services you want. Personally, I like to enable everything to give the user all the options. Here you can enable IBM Video Streaming, Facebook Live, VBrick Rev, and “Other Streaming Services” which is the RTMP option for YouTube, Periscope, and Facebook Workplace.
  • Next, you have to enable Live Streaming for the End User. Go to “User” and the person you want the service enabled for and click on “Cisco Webex Meetings.”
  • Next, click on “Advanced User Settings and Tracking Codes
  • Once here, click on “Enable Live Streaming

End-User Streaming Test: Once the admin settings are completed, you can go test it out. Note that this is a “Direct Stream” setup.

Starting a live stream. (Gif)
  • Start Webex Meetings and then go to “Start Live Streaming.”
  • Then go to the streaming service you want to use. Here we will stream to YouTube which is found on “Other streaming services.”
  • Finally, add the streaming service information in the fields below. The next section will outline how to stream to YouTube and what data to enter in the fields. We will come back to this section later.

2. Webex direct stream to YouTube

The YouTube Live module can be used to broadcast to both desktop and mobile devices. This section shows how to obtain the Stream Name and Stream URL from YouTube Live as well as set up the Custom RTMP account. Note that if this is your first time doing a YouTube live stream, your account may take up to 24 hours to be approved and provisioned.

  • First, go to studio.youtube.com -> Create -> Go live
  • Go to Stream -> New Stream -> Create Stream. Make sure to enter the appropriate information such as Title, Description, Public or Private, and other options for your use case. For this exercise, we will pick Private to test the broadcast. Once you click Create Event, YouTube saves the changes and you’re almost ready to stream.

YouTube Studio New stream setup.
  • Next, you will copy the YouTube RTMP information and go back into the Webex Streaming Meeting fields. Remember that the Stream Key is a “key.” Keep it private.
  • Copy YouTube: Stream Key -> Paste into Webex: Target stream key
  • Copy YouTube: Stream URL -> Paste into Webex: Target stream link

API Key from YouTube to Webex.
  • Everything is now configured. You’re almost there. It’s now time to make sure that YouTube is receiving your live stream and that everything looks how you expect.

Preview the Live Stream: The YouTube Live Studio Event page is the best place to preview your video to see how it will appear when you go live. Note that the video preview is not available immediately after the stream is started. Depending on network bandwidth, it might take a few seconds to a few minutes after starting the stream until YouTube indicates that the stream signal is being received. Refresh the page at intervals to check.

  • When YouTube says the signal is Good, you know Webex is sending your video stream to YouTube.
  • Click Preview to prepare your stream for preview on the Live Control Room page; YouTube processes the stream for a moment.
  • Press play in the preview player to begin to play the event preview.

  • That’s it. You started your first stream! Just double-check and verify the “Stream Status” section for any problems or warnings. You can see that the live stream also includes a “via Cisco Webex” overlay in the top left corner.

3. Loopback audio setup

Now on to setup Loopback which will be used to bridge the audio from Webex to OBS. From this section forward, you want to make sure Webex is running.

Step 1: Make sure the Webex Meetings application is open. Then add the Cisco Webex Meetings app by clicking on the “+” icon in the Sources area.

Step 2: Edit the driver’s name by clicking on the pencil or edit icon. Here, I named it “Webex Live Stream Audio” and this will be exposed into the systems device drivers as this name. Note, going forward I will call Webex Live Stream audio, WLSA going forward.

Add a Virtual Driver name and add Webex as a Source.

Step 3: Once the Meetings app is added, click the down arrow and un-check “Mute when capturing”.

Step 4. Then go to your Mac. System Preferences -> Sound -> “Input” as well as “Output”. You will now see “Webex Live Stream Audio”. Make sure to select this for both.

TIP: Webex is optimized for speaking. If there is any other noise like a guitar or music, Webex will think it is background noise and will try to remove it. So if you want to stream from Spotify, just stream a podcast.

4. Broadcasting specs & OBS setup

OBS is a switcher, compositor, and renderer. There are OBS plugins that do a ton of cool stuff with the right support applications and has a steep learning curve. What I’ll share is just a tip of the iceberg of what OBS can do, but for now, we will just stick to a big use case, which is the audio setup, overlay and grid view.

First, to have a stable stream and avoid dropped frames, the information below will help you choose your encoding, resolution, bitrate, and framerate settings. These tweaks will provide the right balance live stream, internet speed, and your computer’s hardware. Here is a great article on the OBS forum with their Stream Bit Rate Calculator that you can calculate for your own broadcast.

OBS Stream Bit Rate Calculator.

I used a 2017 Macbook Pro, 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel i7 for this setup. Based on my Speedtest results and x264 specs. This is what I entered into OBS.

Step 1. Go to Settings -> Output Mode -> Advanced:

Enforce streaming service encoder settings: Un-check
Rescale Output: Un-check
Rate Control:
 CBR
Bitrate: 4000 kbps
Keyframe Interval: 2 seconds
Preset: Ultrafast
Profile: Main

OBS Output streaming settings.

Step 2Go to Settings -> Video:

Resolution: 1280×720
Downscale Filter: Lanczos
Framerate:
30 fps

Video Settings.

5. OBS: Audio

Now that Loopback’s drivers are installed, let’s now configure OBS.

Step 1: Open OBS and go to Settings. By default, OBS isn’t in Studio Mode. This is the view you are seeing below. You will have two screens. The right screen will be the active scene for your Webex meeting. The left screen shows a preview of the editable scene. There is a Transition button in between the two screens. You can choose the Transition button to edit a scene before you show it to your audience.

OBS in Studio Mode & Settings button.

Step 2. Select WLSA at: Audio -> Devices -> Mic/Auxillary Audio -> Webex Live Stream Audio and Advanced -> Monitoring Device -> Webex Live Stream Audio.

6. Audio check

With Webex running, make sure you set the Speaker and Microphone to WLSA.

Webex audio settings.

To close out the audio setup. Remember that there at least four different applications to configure to make sure that audio from Webex is streamed to OBS and to YouTube.

7. OBS: Grid view

Let’s now set up OBS to capture Webex Grid View.

Step 1: Once we add users to the call, we can enable Grid View in Webex Meetings.

Grid View toggle.

Grid View in 2×2 format.

With Webex now showing grid view, you need to open and configure OBS to stream this format out.

Step 2: Open OBS.
Step 3: Go to Sources, click the “+” button, and select “Display Capture” and create a Name if you like and click “OK.” Note that using the “Display Capture” which provides the best streaming results with minimal latency vs. the“Window Capture” option in OBS.
Step 4: Select the Display where Webex is on. I have a dual-screen setup so I select Display “0”.
Step 5: Go to Crop -> and select “To Window”.
Step 6: Next go to Window -> look for “Window: [Cisco Webex Meetings]” and select OK. You can now see that OBS is only capturing Webex and there is a red box on the black screen. The black screen is the area that will be captured and sent to your streaming platform.

Display Capture settings.

Step 7: With OBS open and now with users and the screen resized, you can see that it is capturing my desktop. On the left side is Webex Meetings and the Participants list open shown by the red arrow in Figure 1 below.
Step 8: In the OBS picture below, you can drag the window you want to broadcast by selecting the red borderlines in the right picture in Figure 1.

In Figure 1, you will see OBS only capturing the grid view. Obviously, you don’t want to share the Participants list. You will see with the red arrow that the rest of the Webex Meetings window isn’t being, meaning it won’t be part of the broadcast. This enables you as a host, to control the participants during your live stream. Overall, you just want to share the video.

Figure 1: Webex Meetings being captured in real-time in the OBS in Window Capture view.

Tip: Depending on your setup, you can change your video layout and learn to use the “Fit to Screen” option. To access this feature, Right-click window you want to select and go to “Transform” -> “Fit to screen.”

8. OBS: Overlay

  • To set up an overlay or watermark image. Go to Scene -> “+” icon -> and give it a name like “Live Stream
  • Next, we will add an image. For this example, I will use a “via Cisco Webex” overlay.
  • Go over to the next box, Source -> “+” icon -> Create New -> and give it an image name.
  • Next, you can resize and move your overlay to where you want it to appear on OBX for the live stream. Here, I placed the logo in the top left corner.

Scene Setup, Source Overlay, and image resize. (Gif)

Step 3: Make sure to bring the image to the front. Right-click on the image by going to “Order” -> “Move Up.

Overlay image “move up” feature.

Once complete, you can now see the overlay with Webex Grid View.

Grid View + Overlay.

9. OBS: Direct stream to YouTubeStep

Step 1. Finally, enter your YouTube API Key and click OK.

OBS Stream Settings for YouTube.

Viola! Congratulations on your first Grid view with an overlay live stream. Click “Start Stream” to begin streaming!

YouTube Studio Live Stream.

TIP: To ensure a smooth stream, check the stats in OBS to make sure there are no dropped frames. Go to: View -> Stats.

You will want Dropped Frames to be at 0%, this is the number of frames that you have dropped total. If frames are dropping that typically means you are over tasking your computer or internet. If you’re dropping frames, you can try setting your “CPU Preset” in OBS’ Output settings to something faster.

You will want to keep your CPU to be less than 80%. If this reaches 100% it can result in dropped frames. You can try setting your “CPU Preset” in OBS’ Output settings to something faster if this is an issue.

There are several articles online that can help you tweak these settings.

OBS Stats.

Section Topics
1. REC.VC: Grid View & Single Stream
2. Restream.io: OBS & Multi-stream

This section will cover streaming using REC.VCOBS, and OBS with Restream. As mentioned before, each application purpose based on your use case.

1. REC.VC: Grid view & single stream

The platform from MNS.VC is the simplest and quickest way to stream up to a 5×4 layout directly from Webex Meetings and even Webex Events. This can be hosted privately on REC.VC or publicly live-streamed to third-party RTMP destinations including Facebook, Workplace, and YouTube.

REC.VC captures the video, audio, and content by being a SIP/H.323 video participants in the Webex session. How does this look like? Take, for example, seven people are in a meeting with REC.VC. From your endpoint, you will only see 6 people and not yourself (unless you activate self-view). It is the same with REC.VC, it is just another endpoint receiving the video composition from Webex, excluding itself. Below is an example of the formats you can achieve.

Credit: MNS.VC — WebexGrid View layout examples.

Step 1: Sign up for a 14-day trial here.

Step 2: In the REC.VC user interface, enter your video address (SIP or H.323 URI) of the meeting. In the PIN field, enter the PIN with the format you want. The video composition can be preconfigured to one of the other Webex Video Layouts.

Step 3: Go to Source -> Video Conference.

Step 4: Toggle “Stream” to “On

Step 5: Enter the RTMP URL from YouTube.

Step 6: Go to studio.youtube.com and find your RTMP stream URL and Stream Key and copy them into the RTMP URL of REC.VC.

REC.VC RTMP setup.

Step 7: Enter the video address (SIP/H.323 URI) in the Source Address.

REC.VC Source & PIN configuration.

Step 8: Figure out your streaming format. Enter the PIN for the layout you want to achieve.

REC.VC PIN format.

Video layout setup via PIN codes.

Step 9: Click on the STREAM button.

Step 10: Go back to YouTube to check your steam. You will have to wait a few seconds to see it start.

The video layouts covered in this post is when content is not shared in the video meeting. If you want to share content, you can learn more here.

Finally, if you want to stream to multiple platforms simultaneously, that is possible with REC.VC by just adding another REC.VC SIP participant in the meeting.

TIP: For those with a dedicated Webex Rooms device, check out this cool live stream, One-Button-to-Push Macro from MNS.VC that uses a Touch10 to start a YouTube broadcast.

2. Restream.io: OBS & multi-stream

Restream is another cloud application that allows you to broadcast Webex on as many streaming platforms as you want simultaneously, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube. Once you have everything in Section II set up, you can now begin this multi-stream.

Step 1: Sign up for a Restream.io account.

Step 2: Set up the streaming platforms you want. You will have to authenticate to these services.

Restream integrations.

Step 3: Once you enable the streams you want. You will also copy the Stream Key and paste it into OBS.

Step 4: Open OBS and go to Settings -> Stream -> Restream.io — RTMP and Paste the key and click OK.

OBS & Restream.io stream key setup.

Step 5: Once you are back at the main OBS Studio window, go to Start Streaming to begin your stream.

Start Streaming with OBS.

Now you’re all set! Your stream is seamlessly delivered to all your connected platforms.

Below you will see all the applications working together to stream to YouTube. Congratulations and welcome to the world of broadcasting!

Studio Dashboard: The final product stream to YouTube.

Conclusion

Don’t be overwhelmed. You can do this! Just practice and experiment. Once you have all this configured and setup, to execute another live stream only takes <5 minutes. Streaming can be confusing at first, but it’s not as hard to learn. These techniques can add some variety and creativity to your live stream and these are just the basics. It doesn’t have to be expensive and too difficult to set up, although every bit of effort you put in will show in the final product.

Happy streaming!

If you have questions, leave a comment. If you find this article helpful, please follow me on here and share this blog! 👍🏼

🐦 Twitter: @joshreola


Community Support

Have additional questions or want to learn more about Webex? Join the Webex Ambassador Community on Webex Teams and sign up as a Candidate and be a part of a global community of over 2,700 champions.


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May update of Webex Teams

MESSAGING

Introducing app update controls in Webex Teams

This May, Webex Teams admins will have access to product controls which will allow you to choose how often the app gets updated for your users. Options include updating the app monthly or quarterly. This means, if desired, you can reduce the number of updates presented to users. With this, you’ll also be able to defer the deployment of updates by up to four weeks for the monthly update option or two weeks for the quarterly update option. This gives customers a chance to complete any required validation of the new software update. For more details, check out this blog.

Isn’t there a space for that? (Windows and Mac)

We are all guilty of accidently making a new space where we could have re-used another. This feature will help you with that. You’ll get a chance to re-use old spaces as you’re trying to create a new one. If there is an active space with the group of people that you have staged, you’ll see a list of spaces you’re already in with those people. Similarly, when you start typing a space name, you’ll be shown a list of spaces with similar names that you are already in. This helps reduce the creation of unnecessary, duplicate spaces.

Create a Space

A new reaction! (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android)

You can now express yourself even more using reactions. If someone made you laugh with their message, simply react with our new (Haha) emoji! In addition to that, our existing Happy emoji becomes Smile and the Surprised emoji becomes the Wow emoji.

Development Agenda

‘Seen by’ for read receipts (Windows and Mac)
You might now notice the words ‘seen by’ appearing next to your read receipts in a space. This is to make it quick and easy for first time users to understand what the avatar read receipts are.

MEETINGS

See more people at the same time (Windows)

It’s here! The long-awaited grid view for Webex Teams meetings will be landing into your Windows app this May. You’ll now be able to see up to nine people at once during a meeting, making it that much easier to collaborate. The option will be available on the top right of your meeting window.

Grid view for Webex Teams

A new look for an in-space ‘meet’ (Windows and Mac)

Before, the green icon on the top left of a group space for starting an ad hoc meeting was a combined video camera and phone icon. This has changed to be more descriptive and understandable to users, it is now simply ‘meet’. You will see the same icon when you start a search and hover over a space to start an ad hoc meeting.

CALLING

Webex Calling

Fewer clicks to make a call (Windows and Mac)

You don’t have to click meet icon first and then choose whether to make the call with audio only or share your video. You can make that choice right away.

Single number reach (Windows and Mac)

With Single Number Reach, all incoming calls to your users’ work phones ring other numbers at the same time. You can add any numbers you want in your call settings.

We already support this feature in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on desktop. Check out this help page for more information.

Pull a call from one device to another (Windows and Mac)

You can easily move an active call from one device to another. Take a call on your mobile app, and when you get to the office, simply pull the active call to your desktop. The active call moves to the new device and ends on the old device.

High Definition (HD) video (Windows and Mac)

You can enable or disable HD video. Just click your profile picture, go to Settings (Windows) or Preferences (Mac), select Video, and then enable or disable the setting. You may want to disable HD video if your computer CPU is running high or you want to save network bandwidth during a call or meeting.

Direct callback from your call history (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

Just one tap and you can call someone back…simply tap the Call icon beside someone’s name or number in your Call History and you automatically call the person back at the number they called you. You no longer need to choose what number you want to reach them at.

We’re also making this available in Webex Teams calls.

Voicemail in Webex Teams (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

No more missing calls in Webex Teams. If you’re using Calling in Webex Teams (Webex Calling) on your iPhone, iPad, or Android, you’ll see a red badge counter (Message Waiting Indicator) next to the Calls tab letting you know you have a voice message. If you want to listen to your messages, go to the Calls tab and click on Call Voicemail to dial into the voicemail system. From your voicemail system, you also can record a personal greeting, delete a message, and so on. After you listen to your messages (from the app or your desk phone), the red badge counter disappears.

We already support this feature on desktop. See this help page for more details.

Merge two calls (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

When you’re on a phone call and you receive an incoming phone call in Webex Teams, you can merge the two phone calls into one and have everyone in the same phone call.

We already support this feature on desktop. For more information, take a look at this help page.

Start a conference call (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

We’re making collaboration even easier. Need another opinion while you’re on a call? You can add up to 6 people while you’re in a 1–to–1 call.

We already support this feature on desktop. See this help page for more details.

Call statistics (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

When you’re in a call or meeting, you can tap More button (three dots button) to check call statistics, such as packet loss, latency, and resolution rate.

View full screen share (iPhone and iPad)

When you’re in a call and the person you’re chatting with shares their screen, you can see what they’re sharing more clearly. Rather than their screen and video taking up equal real estate, their screen takes up your full view while their video just takes up a small space in the corner.

Switch to and from a bluetooth device during a call (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

During a call, you can switch from your headset or speaker to a Bluetooth device with the tap of a button.

Unified CM

Use desk phone control for Webex Teams calls (Windows and Mac)

When you’re connected to your desk phone from Webex Teams, you can make and answer Webex Teams calls. The audio and video goes through your desk phone but you can still share your screen from the app.

Use Health Checker for phone services status (Windows and Mac)

If you’re unsure whether you’re Phone Service is working properly, you can check out the status of your phone connection from the app. On Windows, click your profile picture and then go to Help > Health Checker. On Mac, go to Help > Health Checker. Health Checker tests your connection and lets you know if there’s a problem.

Fewer clicks to make a call (Windows and Mac)

You don’t have to click meet icon first and then choose whether to make the call with audio only or share your video. You can make that choice right away.

High Definition (HD) video (Windows and Mac)

You can enable or disable HD video. Just click your profile picture, go to Settings (Windows) or Preferences (Mac), select Video, and then enable or disable the setting. You may want to disable HD video if your computer CPU is running high or you want to save network bandwidth during a call or meeting.

Direct callback from your call history (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

Just one tap and you can call someone back…simply tap the Call icon beside someone’s name or number in your Call History and you automatically call the person back at the number they called you. You no longer need to choose what number you want to reach them at.

We’re also making this available in Webex Teams calls.

Call statistics (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

When you’re in a call or meeting, you can tap More button (three dots button) to check call statistics, such as packet loss, latency, and resolution rate.

View full screen share (iPhone and iPad)

When you’re in a call and the person you’re chatting with shares their screen, you can see what they’re sharing more clearly. Rather than their screen and video taking up equal real estate, their screen takes up your full view while their video just takes up a small space in the corner.

Switch to and from a bluetooth device during a call (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

During a call, you can switch from your headset or speaker to a Bluetooth device with the tap of a button.

INTEGRATIONS

Jira Server Bot
The latest updates to the Jira Server bot for Webex Teams support 2-way functionality, making it easier for your entire team to build, monitor, and release software in a timely manner. Now you can create issues like bugs, tasks, and stories from any space as well as setup real-time notifications for issues in your Jira project. Quickly see what’s been updated recently, assigned to you, or even list issues you’re watching from within a Webex Teams space. Learn more on the Webex App Hub.

Learn more on this and upcoming updates to Webex Teams

Learn More

See all of the Webex Teams Releases here

Webex Teams product update controls

Love your meeting!

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RoomOS May update

We are already at the end of May! I hope everyone is staying safe and sound. The RoomOS team have been working hard to release a mix of features for you, to enhance your personal mode experience, up your co-creation, and make life a little bit easier for administrators.

Activity indicator

Ever been in an interactive whiteboarding session and wondered who is annotating or drawing? We thought so. With Activity Indicator, the initials or the avatar of the people who are adding to the whiteboard will pop up next to their input. This is especially useful when you zoom into an area and want to be aware of the bigger picture. Click here to learn more.

Activity Indicator showing whiteboarding session with avatar of people drawing

No auto wake-up for personal mode devices

Room devices in personal mode can often be found in open office areas or home offices. These devices often turn on automatically when they detect movement – something that is useful at the office, but can be distracting at home. Imagine your device turning on every time your child runs past it, or your cat jumps on top of your desk? Pretty annoying. To fix this, we’re turning off by default the auto wake-up feature for personal mode devices.

Participant list improvements

We also made some improvements to the participant list display when in a meeting. Now, you can see the domain of external participants on the roster list, and see who is paired to a shared Cisco Webex device!

6 participants

Webex Edge for Devices – Read only configurations

We want to make sure that all our customers get to experience cloud benefits, no matter their deployment type. Webex Edge for Devices allows customers to view their configuration settings directly in Control Hub. This allows for greater flexibility, as customers with an on-premises registered device can see the configuration in Control Hub, which is a cloud feature. This brings more value into the single pane of glass for all administrators, regardless of deployment type.

Webex Edge for Devices – Proxy support

We also added proxy support for Webex Edge for devices, the same as for devices registered to the cloud.

That’s it for this month – but stay tuned, as we have loads more in the pipeline.

Learn more about Webex Edge for Devices

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Working smarter anywhere – Working remotely 

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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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Using technology to create work-life balance

Leveraging technology for better work/life balance

There’s no doubt about it: Work-life balance is essential for today’s employees. People have a widespread desire to address both personal and professional responsibilities. And everyone needs a little time to relax and unwind.

A survey from project and resource management company MavenLink also found a majority of employees of all ages – 62% – believe work-life balance is the most important part of a successful work culture. (1) Happy, healthy, and well-rested employees tend to be more productive, after all.

How can your company use technology to create and improve its employees’ sense of work-life balance?

Give them tools to automate repetitive tasks

Some of your staff’s most important responsibilities involve repetitive work, from creating budgets to organizing projects and allocating resources. However, the many computations and calculations involved are often best left to an application or program. Human error is inescapable, and can easily be introduced into these efforts despite the best efforts of staff and supervisors.

Tools as simple as spreadsheets and budgeting software can help employees complete this kind of repetitive but important work more quickly and with fewer opportunities for error. This modest investment can cut down on the time your workers spent on such tasks, helping them avoid late nights and early mornings. It also removes a potential source of worry that can follow them home and disrupt their work-life balance. Learn how to work smarter and get more done with Webex in 2020.

Use tech to improve mindfulness and health

Technology doesn’t need to specifically address a professional responsibility or task to help improve work-life balance. Locating and vetting resources, then sharing them with staff as part of an employee wellness program, can provide benefits inside and outside of work time.

There are a number of potential apps that employees can use to address self-care needs and improve quality of life. Those interested in diet and exercise can use a variety of free meal and activity trackers, for example. Providing information and encouraging use without requiring it can help create a supportive and accepting environment. This shows staff that their employer cares about them and recognizes they lead lives where work is important, but not the only thing they want or need to address in their lives.

Another option to consider when it comes to these resources is apps that support mindfulness and a sense of presence. Forbes contributor Jaspar Weir, the founder of TaskUs, an outsourcing company, highlighted how his company uses the Headspace app to promote meditation. (2) Creating a sense of peace and presence in the current moment can help employees take a short break as well as better plan and complete their tasks for the day. Take instruction to Webex: stream live pilates lessons.

Empower them to use their calendars

Digital calendars are incredibly valuable tools for modern workplaces. A meeting organizer can easily check stakeholders’ calendars when inviting them to an internal meeting or discussion with a client. That’s not the only benefit digital calendars provide.

Encouraging staff to block off time for lunch and breaks in line with company policies can help them stay refreshed and organized throughout the day. It also provides a window to set up an appointment or check in with family and friends. With digital calendars already so prevalent, embracing this type of policy doesn’t require a major shift in organizational strategy. Employees just need to be encouraged to take advantage of this benefit early on.

Allow them to work from home

Technology has advanced to the point where professionals in many different careers can not only function but thrive when working remotely. Recent events have accelerated companies’ plans to expand work-from-home.

Solutions like video conferencing platforms connect staff to their colleagues, whether in the office or also working from home, in a much richer environment than is possible with conference calls or emails alone. The right video conferencing tool can even enhance collaboration and support recall through automated recordings and document sharing. Here’s more tips for WFH when everyone else is home.

Working from home has some obvious benefits when it comes to supporting work-life balance:

  • Staff can effectively work from wherever they are currently located. They may be at home, traveling as part of their jobs or even bringing their children to a travel sports tournament. As long as they have a computer and internet connection, they can perform capably in their roles.
  • Commuting is no longer a drain on time and energy. While staff still have to prepare themselves for the work day, they don’t need to spend the time and money required to drive to the office or make sure they get on public transit in time.
  • Employees can be present at their homes without having to take time off. A mild illness or appointment with a tradesperson doesn’t mean an employee can’t work. Caring for a sick child or training a new puppy requires some attention, but not enough to require many full days of time off. At the same time, these concerns often require a staff member to be absent from a physical office. With a supportive environment and the right technological tools in place, employees can make a seamless transition to working from home.

Technology offers crucial support for employers that want to improve work-life balance, from directly supporting staff as they complete complex tasks to allowing them to effectively perform in their roles no matter where they’re located. See more ways on embracing the rise of remote working.

Learn more about Cisco Webex video conferencing solutions and their role in enabling a better work-life balance: get started with a free plan today

References

(1) Work/life balance leads to successful work culture

(2) How TaskUs uses Headspace app to promote meditation

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Webex Device Management – The power of search!

Advanced search feature in Webex Control Hub

There has always been a debate about hierarchical folders vs. indexed based searching. When we developed device management features in Webex Control Hub we really wanted administrators to have easy access to any information they might need. Because of this, we decided to implement an advanced search feature to allow for multiple ways to manipulate and view your devices list view. This allows admins to quickly find the devices they are looking for.

implement an advanced search feature to allow for multiple ways to manipulate and view your devices list view. This allows admins to quickly find the devices they are looking for.

Enhance and simplify the admin journey

Let us take a quick look into how we can use the devices search functionality to really enhance the administrators journey on an average day.

When you load up the devices page you can click on the search bar to expose a list of potential filters. The first one is a brand new one that we recently released, called “Type.” This allows you to quickly filter on “Webex Rooms” , “Headsets” or “IP Phones”. This acts as a quick way for administrators to filter the view to look at the devices selected.

Product Tab lets you specify the exact type of device grouping you are looking for

 

The Product tab is lets you specify this even further by the exact type of device grouping you are looking for. For example, you can select Webex Boards. You can also combine these filters, so let’s say we want to file all the Webex Boards which are “Online with Issues” – this can be done by combining both of these functionalities together!

Real-time issue searching

However, it is not just about finding devices that are online or offline or in a specific grouping. One of the features that makes the devices search so powerful is real time issue searching based on the issue diagnostic. This means we can easily see which devices have the same issues. This can be really useful if there is an issue at a certain location and we can easily narrow down which devices in that location have the same problem.

Real-time Issue searching

 

Search by location

One of the questions I get all the time is: “How do I find the devices that are in the New York vs. London offices?” This can be easily achieved using a feature we call tags, where you can place one or multiple tags on any device. This feature allows you to have multiple ways to search and slice and dice the view to get what you want. Maybe you place one tag for location and another tag on the device to explain that it is in building A on campus? The possibilities are endless. Tags can also be searched via our developer APIs check them out at here! (Link to https://developer.webex.com/docs/api/v1/devices )

Search by Location

This is just some of the ways you can use device search to enhance your admin workday, quickly finding the right device to configure, monitor or troubleshoot! Stay tuned for more new features coming to Webex Control Hub for device management in the near future. These are just some of the tools available for Webex Rooms customers in Control Hub and we are adding more updates monthly to What’s New in Cisco Webex Control Hub

Get Control Hub today

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Improve engagement with students with these tips

Cisco Webex Research Blog Series

The Design Group at Cisco is a global team of Red Dot Award winning creatives who explore peoples’ needs through research and empathy to make the world a better place to work. This series explores their research and some best practices to make everyday interactions more effective. 

Read all the blogs in the series

Tips for better student engagement

One of the growing concerns for instructors delivering online lessons is how to understand if their students are engaged and how to increase engagement in class. At Cisco Webex Research, we spoke with 34 students and instructors to understand what helps students to be engaged during an online class. One of the things that stood out is how the class behavior is different based on the class size.   

Here are some tips to help your classes, based on the number of students in them. 

Improve engagement with students with these tips

  • Small- sized classes (Less than 10 students): Small sized classes open up the possibility of a discussion-based class which is great to increase engagement. A discussion-based class will provide the opportunity for each student to talk about their perspective. Encouraging students to have their video and microphone on ensures they take the class from a quiet space that enhances their focus. Another method of encouraging participation is having students share content during class, and having them lead the discussion.
  • Mid-size classes (10-30 students): Typically, in mid-size classes, instructors tend to have a discussion-based class along with group work where students work in break-out groups. In these classes, sharing content with students as well as the video of the instructor will help increase engagement. Additionally, having students turn on their video while they ask questions will help other students know who is asking the question. Another method of improving class participation is by engaging with students via chat – answering their questions or sending out a poll will drive students to ask more questions via chat if they are hesitant to turn their video on.
  • Large classes (Greater than 30 students): A pattern seen in large classes is that all students tend to have their videos and microphones off. In such a class environment, it helps to ensure the instructor has their video turned on. Most of the students prefer to ask their questions via chat, and to keep the class engaged; it is necessary for the instructor to monitor the chat and interact with students on this channel. An additional way to improve engagement in class would be to work with a group of students and have them present some portion of the lecture. 

We would love to hear from you. If you are an instructor or student who would like to share about your online learning experience, please email us at webexresearch@cisco.com

Connect with all of our blogs in the series here 

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Blackboard Learn and Webex join forces to expand the reach of education

(Contributors: Varshine Chandrakanthan, Kathryn Parkes and Mani Pande) 

 About the Cisco Webex Research Team

Kathryn Parkes, Senior UX Researcher
Kathryn is an experienced user researcher based in Dublin, Ireland reporting into San Jose. As a member of the UX Research team, she leads research projects across the Webex Suite working with various Cisco Collab teams in Ireland, US and across Europe. The team use a broad variety of research methods, including user interviews, usability testing and benchmarking studies, to get a deep understanding of Webex user needs.

Varshine Chandrakanthan, Designer User Experience
Varshine loves observing people and their actions – hence she decided to become a User Researcher. She is passionate about creating an impact to people’s lives and loves to volunteer for education and human rights programs. Her interests include designing tattoos, illustrating for books, eating cake and meditating.

Mani Pande, User Experience Manager
Mani leads the user research team in San Jose. Her team is responsible for understanding the needs of Webex users to inform product strategy and direction, and ensure that the software we ship is not only simple and easy to use, but also delightful. You can find her and her team members huddling with Webex users understanding how they use our software and mapping opportunities of improvement. In another life, Mani worked as a reporter for the Times of India, India’s largest selling newspaper, covering media and crime. Outside of work, Mani loves to travel, cycle, run and cook. She posts photos of food that she cooks and places she visits on Instagram.

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Microsoft + Cisco . A telemedicine appointment with a doctor online.
Cisco + Samsung, innovating healthcare

Re-imagining healthcare

The healthcare landscape is changing faster than ever before, and the industry is looking towards the return to a new normal for patient care. Daily tasks of our international healthcare heroes, have become hazardous and very involved, requiring extreme working hours and costly protective gear.  

Hospitals are constantly looking for new ways to physically distance their staff from patients in order to minimize the spread of virus and the risk of being exposed within care facilities. Ultimately, facilities affected by the shortage of protective gear need to turn to new and creative solutions that will help reduce the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks, or gloves, yet still provide personal care for patients at an increased volume.  

For patients being treated at these facilities, many are experiencing lonely and isolating times, as interaction with staff have become strictly minimal and, more importantly, families are prohibited from visiting.  

Connecting with technology 

At Cisco, we take connections” very seriously, even beyond our network. Keeping humans connected is in our DNA. With this in mind, we have recently joined forces with Samsung to develop a zero-touch solution that will allow facilities to continue caring for their patients, while keeping staff safe and families connected. Cisco collaboration has brought together Cisco Webex Teams and Samsung Knox Configure on the Galaxy Tab Active2 tablets, to enable clinical staff to conduct virtual consultations and daily virtual rounds with the patients at their facilities.  

The solution features the use of Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 tablets (managed by the Knox Configure tool) in examination (consultation) and patient observation rooms. The Samsung devices run a custom version of Webex Teams in kiosk mode, allowing the patient to connect over video with their care givers (and families) without having to touch the tablet in any way.  

Virtual Consultations  

Male doctor working on desk with laptop computer and paperwork on his desk. Medical concept by doctor on computer in office with stethoscope over hospital background.For virtual consultations, patients showing up for an evaluation at healthcare facilities  can wait at a fixed or mobile station with a mounted Samsung Tab Active2 running Webex Teams. Once the caregiver is ready for the consultation, they can open Webex Teams on their personal device, navigate to the “space” dedicated to that virtual consultation room, and start the call. At this point, the Samsung device on the patient side will ring for 5 seconds and join the video call automatically. The other clinical staff that are also part of that space will be able to join the ongoing consultation and interact with the patient as well, keeping the consultations dynamic and collaborative.  

Keeping Families Connected 

If the patient is admitted for observation (and quarantine) at the facility, the clinical staff will be able to keep a line of communication with the patient’s family by messaging over a Webex Teams. This way they’ll be able to keep them informed on when it’s time for the patient’s virtual checkin.   

Virtual Rounds  

Much like standard physical check-ins, clinical staff can perform daily rounds on their floors by dialing the Webex Teams space associated to the patient’s room. During their virtual consultation via the Samsung device, the care giver can invite family members to the video call, creating an instant and seamless connection to their loved one. 

 “Samsung has partnered with Cisco to jointly develop a solution to help medical institutions safely provide care during the current public health crisis. Samsung is pleased to have  our technology help bridge the distancing measures now pervasive in hospitals so that patients can safely connect with their families and their healthcare providers. – Taher Behbehani, General Manager and Head of Mobile B2B, Samsung Electronics America 

Learn How to Connect 

We’ve created tailored documentation that will help all those involved set up and use this solution.  

Visit the solution site to learn more and get started by registering for a Webex Teams trial and a Samsung Knox trial  

If you are a large healthcare facility and need help discovering what solution fits your needs, contact your Cisco account manager, partner or your Samsung account manager to get information regarding Samsung Tab Active2 tablets, Knox Configure, or Webex Teams.  

For information on Cisco Webex and HIPAA compliance, see Protecting Your Webex Healthcare Data.

Learn More

Improving patient diagnoses with video conferencing

Up-leveling patient care with team collaboration technology

Improving patient care and coordination with video conferencing tools

 

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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

Learn More

How Live from Home is bringing artists into the Cisco community 

The ultimate Webex Events guide: From start to stream in under 2 minutes

Live streaming with Webex Meetings for your virtual events: What’s new and how to use it

Read more
Securing users and devices in Webex

Common security challenges with users and devices

Today there are too many security challenges to the applications used by organizations, and many different vectors need to be secure:

  • User identities
  • Content
  • Devices
  • Transport

Security challenges to the applications.

The way that we protect the applications is crucial. We need to protect the application access, but also the identity of the user.

It is the job of the IT manager to prevent rogue agents from hijacking user identity and have access to all the different resources that the user is entitled to.

Identity theft has been identified in the Verizon 2019 report as the most common data breach, and if we add phishing attacks and stolen password, we get more than 50% of them. (1)

Breaches. Top threat action varieties in breaches

Protecting user identity

IT departments already understand that passwords are no longer an efficient way of protecting user identity.

It is difficult to manage application access based on passwords, as there are too many challenges:

  • Strong password complexity makes them hard to remember
  • Passwords should be unique to each app, which make them hard to remember
  • Passwords should rotate often which makes them difficult to manage and remember
  • Password manager web utilities can also bring security breaches

When deploying Webex, Cisco always recommends that our customers deploy it with a stronger authentication solution; at the same time, we recommend that the devices where Webex applications run are secure.

Strong authentication solution

Many customers want to enable all their applications with stronger authentication. Organizations realize that identity theft is the biggest security concern, and the traditional mechanisms for authentication are no longer effective.

Our customers talk about multifactor authentication (MFA), which means that their users need to provide two different types of authentication. There are three types of authentication mechanisms:

Strong authentication solution

Many vendors deliver these kinds of solutions; normally, we see them associated with Identity Provider (IdP) solutions. Those authentication policy servers, enforce the right authentication policy based on the different factor (location, application type, device type, etc.)

Today there is another trend in the identity market, where authentication mechanisms are people-centric and follow the Zero Trust mode. This allows secure connections to all applications (whether on-premises or in the cloud) based on the trustworthiness of users and devices. The Zero Trust mode enables the customer’s IT to set and enforce risk-based, adaptive access policies, and get enhanced visibility into users’ devices and activities. This concept is also known as Adaptive Authentication.

Cisco Webex right architecture

Cisco Webex has the right architecture to support the Zero Trust mode and allow secure connections based on the trustworthiness of users and devices.

Device validation and health

Device Validation and Health

Device assessment is a must in today’s organizations, identifying risky devices, enforcing contextual access policies, and reporting on device health.

Today organizations are mandated to follow many compliance goals, and they can achieve most of those using device access policies.

Verifying device health before granting access, to preventing exposing your applications to potential security risks is one of the best practices in modern application deployment models.

There are multiple types of devices that an organization’s users utilize every day when they use collaboration tools. Some of the devices are managed by the IT department, which already delivers some security insurance – but it isn’t enough. Some are unmanaged and owned by the employees, which brings interesting challenges from a security perspective.

Corporate managed devices/applications

CorporateManagedDevices:Applications

Normally there is a mix of solutions that can be used for corporate or managed devices, depending on the device type.

Some organizations use MDM/MAM for mobile devices, which allows them to create policies for the corporate application, for example:

  • Forcing PIN-lock
  • Preventing copy and paste
  • Disable screen capture
  • Remote wipe
  • Preventing tampering with devices
  • Requiring a minimum version of OS
  • Support for ECM
  • Requiring a minimum version of the corporate application

But since IT departments don’t manage only mobile devices, we also need to find a solution for desktops, and there we need to make sure that the corporate – managed applications are also aware of the security policies, and those apps could be aware of features like:

  • Versions of Browsers
  • OS versions and type
  • Disk encryption
  • Status on OS, Browsers, and Plugins
  • Firewalls
  • Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware

The protection of the application can be done by using the validations when the user logs in to the applications or during the application usage. The right mechanism, method, and deployment model needs to be chosen by IT administrations when they are in the deployment stage of those applications. The application vendors need to support any policy defined by the IT departments of those customers.

Cisco with Webex Collaboration doesn’t mandate any security strategy to protect the application, but we can integrate with any policy defined by our customer.

It is important that any application that deals with all the IP (Intellectual Property) produced by a company can follow all the policies that exist for devices and applications.

Non-managed devices

non managed devices

Devices that are owned by the users should not be excluded from the usage of a collaboration application. Examples of that are home computers, personal tablets, and mobile devices. Those devices are especially relevant in scenarios of working from home.

That is why corporate applications need to do extra check to make sure that they follow the minimum-security requirements imposed by the company security policies, for example:

  • The device has the firewall turned on
  • The device has an endpoint security tool, to protect against malware and viruses
  • The device doesn’t have a tampered OS

Normally these kinds of policies, for devices that are unmanaged, need to be enforced at login time.

Device/application visibility

Device:Application Visibility

One of the fundamental principles of good security is to understand your environment. But as environments get more complex with increasing reliance on cloud applications, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) allowances, and mobile and remote work, it’s progressively more difficult to gain that understanding.

For IT administrators, it is important that they have visibility on what devices each application is running; they also need to have visibility on the major characteristics of those devices.

Endpoint visibility also helps you understand and track important user behaviors such as how quickly end-users update their operating systems, browsers, or plugins. It also builds an understanding of when and how frequently end users log into work applications from their personal devices. Tracking these behaviors not only helps you set informed access policies but also helps tailor a more empathetic approach to different groups of users.

When it comes to security, trust Webex

Whether it’s the security of the Webex application itself or securing the devices that connect to it, Cisco Webex has security and privacy built into its DNA. Cisco has invested heavily in building a culture of security with the right checks and balances in place. Webex chooses secure default settings out of the box, thereby enabling users to start collaborating freely without having to worry about configurations. At the same time, Webex delivers a great user experience – one that doesn’t compromise security. That’s collaboration without compromise. That’s the Cisco security difference.

To learn more about Security and Compliance settings, go to the Cisco Webex Control Hub web page.

Resources

(1) Verizon 2019 report

Learn More

Administrators’ 3-step guide to managing devices remotely

Collaboration Without Compromise: A Security-First Approach to Remote Working

The World Has Changed — Security Should Transform to Stay Ahead

Read more
April update of Webex Teams. Man using laptop at home
April update of Webex Teams

Another month and another exciting update of Webex Teams! Let’s talk about this April’s new features…

MESSAGING

Webex Teams Supports XMPP Messaging (Windows and Mac)

Are your colleagues using Jabber, Pidgin or another XMPP app? Now that Webex Teams supports XMPP, you’ll have the ability to send a plain text message to someone using an XMPP app. Your administrator can enable the XMPP communication and ensure that you can only communicate with people on XMPP apps from specific domains or organizations.

Webex Teams Supports XMPP

 

Webex Teams Supprts XMPP Messaging (Windows and Mac) _2

 

Make the Most of Your Message Area (Windows and Mac)

In group spaces (especially larger ones), when lots of people leave or are added around the same time, your message area can get clogged up with notifications that – maybe – aren’t all that important to you. Sometimes, this can cause you to lose context of messages sent before or after these in-space notifications. From now on, you’ll see these notifications grouped and collapsed, with the option to expand if you want to see more detail. This allows users to focus on the important stuff.

 Make the Most of Your Message Area (Windows and Mac)

Actions on Any Message (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android)

Sometimes you need to add a comment or context to a meeting that has been scheduled. Now you can! With this update, you’ll be able to perform all your messaging actions on a calendar invite in a space. This includes starting a thread, quoting or flagging the calendar invite when it appears in a space. On desktop, you’ll also be able to forward the calendar invite information to another space.

Actions on Any Message (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android)

 

Edit Message on Mobile (iPhone, iPad and Android)

How often do we send a message on mobile before we see we’ve misspelled something or forgotten a word? Too often!

We introduced Edit Message on desktop a while back, and now we’re excited to announce the arrival of this feature on mobile. No matter the mistake, you can now go back and edit your message as soon as it’s sent. No more embarrassing blunders! After you confirm the update, a note next to the message indicates that it’s been edited.

April Updates

CALLING ­

Webex Calling

Audio Quality Enhancements

Opus codec for calls is now supported between Multiplatform Phones, Webex Teams, and room devices. You’ll experience better sound quality and lower bandwidth usage.

Desk Phone Control (Windows and Mac)

Dial a number from the app on your desktop and your call goes through your desk phone. Pick up your handset, use your headset, or talk over your speakerphone on your phone.

We’re making this available in Calling in Webex Teams (Webex Calling). We already support desk phone control in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop. See this article for more information.

Transfer a Call (iPhone, iPad and Android)

Sometimes if you’re on a phone call, you need to transfer that call to someone else. Now you can. You’ll also have the chance to let the person know why you’re transferring the call to them.

Add a Pause to a Dial String (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android)

You can add a pause to an entered phone number, which you might need if you’re joining a conference call and need to enter numbers in response to the automated system. You can add a comma (,) to the number, which gives a 1-second delay in the dialing. You can add several commas in a row to extend the delay. You could enter something like: 95556543123,,,,56789.

We already support this feature in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop. See this help page for more details.

Emergency Calling (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

If you make an emergency call in Webex Teams, the call is made using your device’s phone app, making it easier for Emergency Services to pinpoint your location through your network carrier.

Pull a Call from One Device to Another (iPad, iPhone and Android)

You can easily move an active call from one device to another. Take a call on your mobile app, and when you get to the office the office, simply pull the active call to your desktop. The active call moves to the new device and ends on the old device.

Direct Callback from Your Call History (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

Just one tap to call someone back! Simply tap the Call icon beside someone’s name or number in your Call History and you automatically call that person back at the number they called you on. You no longer need to choose what number you want to reach them at.

Unified CM

Auto-Discovery of Service Domain (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android)

Your admin can make your life a lot easier by getting your service domain added automatically to your Phone Services settings in Webex Teams. That way, you don’t need to manually enter a domain and can sign in right away to use the advanced calling features available to you.

Adjust Your Device Volume and Preferences (Windows and Mac)

Get a wide range of audio options during your meetings or calls. When you’re in a call, you can adjust the speaker or microphone directly from the call or meeting window by clicking the three dots menu button and selecting Audio Options. You can also choose your preferred speaker and microphone, so that any new plugged in devices don’t get automatically selected. If you wish to go with your operating system’s devices, you can choose Use system setting and Webex Teams will follow suit. You can also access these options in Audio Preferences.

Make it Easier to Handle Calls from Anywhere (iPad, iPhone and Android)

Don’t worry about missing that important phone call because you’re away from your desk. You can have your work calls ring any phone number so when you get a call, Webex Teams rings plus any other numbers you set up. Unless you’re setting up phone numbers, you no longer have to go to settings.webex.com to turn on this feature. You can turn it on straight from the app.

We already support Single Number Reach in Calling in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop. Check out this article for further information.

Direct Callback from your Call History (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

Just one tap to call someone back! Simply tap the Call icon beside someone’s name or number in your Call History and you automatically call that person back at the number they called you on. You no longer need to choose what number you want to reach them at.

Check your Voicemail (iPad, iPhone and Android)

No more missing calls in Webex Teams. If you’re using Calling in Webex Teams on your mobile, there will be an option in your Calls tab to manage your voicemails. There’s a red badge counter that lets you know how many voice messages you have. You can check out the details of a message, play it, mark it as read, delete it or call back the sender. After you’ve listened to your messages, either with Webex Teams or your deskphone, the red badge counter disappears.

Answer Calls without Sharing Video (iPhone, iPad and Android)

Bad hair day? On-the-go? You can choose to answer every Webex Teams call without sharing your video.

We already support this feature in Calling in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop. See this help doc for more details.

Emergency Calling (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

If you make an emergency call in Webex Teams, the call is made using your device’s Phone app, making it easier for Emergency Services to pinpoint your location through your network carrier.

Forward your Phone Calls to Another Number (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

If you’re going to be away from your desk but don’t want to miss an important phone call, you can forward your calls to another phone number. Or, if you don’t want to be interrupted, you can send all your calls to voicemail instead.

We already support Call Forwarding in Calling in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop. Take a look at this help doc to find out more.

SECURITY

HITRUST certification for Webex Teams

“Developed by healthcare and IT professionals, the HITRUST Common Security Framework (CSF) helps organizations by providing an efficient and prescriptive framework for managing the security requirements inherent in HIPAA.” (Source: HITRUST)

We know how important security is to our users. We are proud to announce that in Webex Teams, we are now HITRUST certified. This certification supports customers who must meet HIPAA compliance, such as in the healthcare industry. This work validates HIPAA compliance on Webex Teams, Control Hub & Webex API as certified platforms for storage of Personal Health Information (PHI). This expediates contracts & security reviews in addition to ISO27001 certification and SOC2 Type II reports.

HITRUST certification for Webex Teams- Wording TBC

For more information on this and upcoming updates to Webex Teams, check out our help page 

Learn More

See all of the Webex Teams Releases here

Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series: Chapter 3: Whiteboards, no line on the horizon

How to launch a community with Webex Teams

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Webex Meetings April 2020 Update: Better usability and more intelligence for smarter meetings
Webex Meetings April 2020 update: Better usability and more intelligence for smarter meetings

Webex Meetings is evolving every day to meet the needs of our customers especially with the rise in remote working. New features being released this month span from enabling more live streaming capabilities to support virtual events, to control hub enhancements for more secure meetings, to short cut integrations with Slack for improved usability, to enabling a better mobile meeting experience with more intelligence. In addition, we’ve expanded language support to now include Czech, Polish, Romanian and Hungarian – starting first on the mobile app and will soon to the desktop app.

Live stream your virtual events

One of the most significant features of this update is the ability to live stream Webex Meetings and Webex Events to more streaming platforms. In addition to existing support for Facebook Live, IBM Video Streaming and Vbrick, we are now also support streaming to YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Workplace for Facebook, and any other platform that supports the Real-time Messaging Protocol. With the number of virtual events on the rise, Webex Meetings and Webex Events are providing many more options to help you reach the widest possible audience. You can read more details in my recent blog on planning large virtual events.

Control Hub enhancements: Have you ever experienced an issue during a meeting and then have it disappear when IT comes to help? I think we all have, so we created a solution for this. As a new feature in Control Hub, IT admins can now join an “in progress” meeting from the troubleshooting page and experience the problem for themselves. Since more and more business-critical meetings are taking place via video conferencing, there has been an increased need for IT to be able to monitor those meetings and jump in to assist if things are not going well. This gives the IT admin more insight into the problem that the meeting participants are experiencing, ultimately allowing for a quicker resolution process.

Refining Webex integrations for better usability

Slack just recently introduced new shortcuts that provide simple, visual ways to interact with apps from anywhere in Slack. Users can quickly access shortcuts using a new lightning bolt icon next to the message input field, which gives you a pop-up menu with the following Webex actions:

  • List recordings
  • Schedule meeting
  • Show upcoming meetings
  • Start Webex meeting
  • Version information

When you select the action you would like to take, for example Start Webex Meeting, you will choose which channel or 1:1 conversation in which you would like to start the meeting, and then the Start Meeting/Join Meeting buttons will be displayed in the selected conversation. These shortcuts make it easier than ever to access Webex Meetings within the Slack channel – and it means no more slash commands.

WebexMeetingswithinthe SLACKchannel

We’ve also done more refinement with the Microsoft Teams integration, including the ability for hosts to share recordings directly within a Microsoft Teams channel. All meeting participants who are also in the MS Teams channel will be able to play the recording once it has been shared. This convenience means attendees will have recordings at their fingertips rather than having to go searching through email for recordings. In addition, meeting start/end notifications for meetings taking place in a Webex Personal Room will appear in the channel conversation stream.

WebexPersonalRoom

Smart mobile enhancements

This month, we’re bringing a number of features to make your mobile Webex meeting even more intuitive with low battery detection, People Insights on mobile, deeper Ford Sync 3 integration and video pin capabilities:

  • Webex Meetings will detect when your phone battery is low, proactively offering to turn off video and switch to audio only mode. This is available for iOS and Android devices. This feature is created to minimize disturbances during a meeting
  • Mobile Webex Meetings users will now be able to view People Insight profiles in the mobile app instead of being redirected to a browser. You now have everything you need to be prepared for a meeting in the mobile app. Meeting with a new co-worker or customer? Join the meeting prepared with some background information that will help break the ice.

Background Info

  • You can already start or join a Webex meetings from any Ford vehicle with Ford SYNC® 3 AppLink® enabled. While listening to a meeting, users will now be able to view who is actively speaking from their Ford SYNC 3 touchscreen without touching or looking at their phones.

Ford SYNC

This feature will help you be more in tuned with whoever is speaking while you’re participating from the road.

  • Video pin support: When hosting a meeting, it can be important for everyone to view the same speaker or content. Now on mobile, hosts can now pin a specific video for all the attendees to view. Keep everyone on the same page and help your meeting participants follow along.

For more details about Webex Meetings, please visit the Webex Help Portal

Learn More

See all the Webex Meetings updates here

Using a video conferencing tool to manage outside vendor communications

Secure, First-Party Recording Transcripts in Webex Meetings

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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

Learn More

3 tips for managing a virtual get together

Personalize your team meetings with these top four screen sharing features

On-boarding made easier through communication skills and collaboration tools

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How videoconferencing supports the triple bottom line.glass planet in a forest with sunshine - Usa map
How videoconferencing supports the triple bottom line

Here at Cisco we are all about collaboration – especially real-time, face-to-face collaboration. The adoption of video collaboration technologies also has important implications on a company’s triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. So, in the light of Earth Day 2020 we thought we would reiterate some of the benefits video conferencing technologies bring to businesses, the people that work for them, and for the planet we live on.

People

Video conferencing empowers people to own their schedule, better integrate their work and personal lives, and offers them the freedom to get stuff done wherever they are. Employees are not only employees, they are parents, siblings, friends, errand-running multi-taskers that need the flexibility of structuring their own workdays. In a study by Forrester on the economic impact of deploying Cisco Webex Meetings + Webex Rooms, companies  found that employees described that the “simplicity afforded by being able to start meetings and share content from a mobile device or to connect to a Webex video device makes movement between the home office and work office effortless.”

Cisco Webex Meetings + Devices also removes some of the barriers that comes with siloed organizational structures. Video provides a human-centric way of collaborating, and allows employees to make deeper connections within the company by reading into body language and non-verbal cues. The importance that connecting with and trusting your colleagues holds for wellbeing in the workplace cannot be underestimated. When physical lunchbreaks and watercooler conversations are out of the question, employees can still meet face-to-face with videoconferencing technologies. See how to create a virtual watercooler with your team (internal and/or external members).

Staying up to date with technology in a fast moving world, concept. A young Asian woman is using an innovative future technology to view her phone data and functions in holographic display around her

Planet

One of the most crucial benefits that videoconferencing can have on the planet, is reduced CO2 emissions from business travel. With Webex Meetings + Webex Rooms, you can interact with colleagues, partners and customers from remote corners of the world with the touch of a button. International, executive, c-suite meetings shouldn’t be equivalent with airline miles: with dedicated room systems such as the Cisco Webex Room Panorama, you can meet eye-to-eye and feel like you are in the same room from across the globe.

According to the 2017 data from Global Workplace Analytics, remote workers have the same effect on air quality as planting a forest. They also estimate that remote workers who work outside of the office 2-3 days a week have the potential of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons every year. By deploying and adopting Cisco Webex video collaboration software and hardware you are empowering your employees, helping reduce travel-related greenhouse gas emissions, all whilst experiencing true meeting magic.

Cisco Webex video collaboration software and hardware.Cropped shot of a handsome young man making notes while working at home

Profit

Then there’s profit. Not always the most exiting topic, but it is something that is essential for maintaining a healthy business. Forrester found that businesses that implemented Cisco Webex Meetings + Devices reported productivity increases from reduced time starting meetings, saving over $21.3 million dollars in productivity costs.

Further, less miles travelled means bigger travel cost savings: “After organizations got a taste for how real the video and holistic collaboration experience was, they started exploring ways to reduce travel costs. Interviewees reported IT teams choosing to hold annual meetings virtually instead of in-person, saving over $100,000 in their first year.”

Read the full Forrester TEI report here

Learn More

What Earth Day, Day, and Carbon Footprints Have in Common

How Cisco Moved its Entire Workforce to Remote In 10 Days  

Enhancing Sustainability and Social Responsibility Through Collaboration with Cisco Webex

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Employee whiteboarding with a house design guide, and making marks using the webex coloring tool
Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series — Chapter 3: Whiteboards, no line on the horizon

Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series

The “Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams” series will spotlight techniques in managing and inspiring remote and #WFH teams.  Learn how the Webex Platform and Webex Teams can help transform your remote team into an engaged, creative and productive team no matter if people are across the hall, town or globe.

Managing a digital team using Webex Teams

As a people manager at Cisco, I manage a team spread across multiple time zones and countries.  There are many #WFH resources out there these days but for this series of blogs I thought I would focus on how to build and manage a digital team using the Webex Teams Platform.

For this blog we will be covering helping unlock your team’s creativity and engagement with infinite whiteboards in Webex Teams.

No boundaries

If you haven’t guessed already, at Cisco Webex, we work remote…. ALOT.  We can empathize with what it takes to work remotely better than most companies on the planet.  So, when we set out to build tools for our customers, we strive to make the virtual experience just as immersive, engaging and maybe even better than being there in person.  One way we do this is by bringing humanity and creativity into the collaboration workflow using what we call, Infinite Whiteboards.

In talking to our customers and looking at ourselves, we know that people collaborate in a lot of different ways.  Inside Cisco, we use whiteboards everywhere, it’s just part of our culture.  Many would agree that it’s easier to just draw out what you mean to communicate a new idea or a way to think about something different or just have fun.  In many of our physical locations, whiteboards are prevalent everywhere, even most of the walls are whiteboards.  So, we thought to ourselves, how do we reimagine that very human experience of collaboration and digitize it?  Answer, infinite whiteboards.

Get started with whiteboards

Get Started with Whiteboards. A whitebard dasshboard with Big Ideas Room Creativity Workshop and the tabs reading messages, people, content , and schedule

Click on the space in Teams that you want to meet/chat in and you will see in the space categories (messages, people, content and schedule), click on Content (green arrow) and then Whiteboards where the maroon arrow is located to get to the whiteboards.  From there you can select a new whiteboard from whatever device you happen to be using (laptop, tablet, phone etc) and just start drawing.  If you happen to be in a meeting, everyone in the same meeting (virtually or in the same room) will also see and be able to engage with the whiteboard using whatever device they have in their hand or in the room.

It’s alive!

Get Started with Whiteboards. A whitebard dasshboard with Big Ideas Room Creativity Workshop and the tabs reading messages, people, content , and schedule

Once you have opened up your whiteboard and started working on it with your team, all of the changes you make are automatically saved.  Anything you draw, add/remove stickies, etc all are saved magically.  Anyone that is invited into the space can pick up where you left off in the whiteboard and continue.  This makes working with teams really dynamic and fun.  Why is this important? As a manager, you can be much more inclusive with your team members when the tools can help facilitate everyone’s input when and how they want to contribute.

Share It

post snapshot and download. Image of the bottom right corner of the whiteboard that shows a Post a Snapshot and Download buttonOn the bottom right corner of each whiteboard there is a share button.  When you select that button, you will be able to Post a Snapshot of that whiteboard into the Teams Space you are in or you can send it out via a text message, email or post to another site as a PDF.

Examples of where to use whiteboards

With my team we often use whiteboards in many of the planning and strategy sessions we do both internally and externally (yes, you can do this too with people outside of your company). However, some other examples of using whiteboards:

  • Daily / Weekly stand ups or reviews with the teams
  • Project kick offs
  • Customer discovery sessions
  • Network topologies
  • Marketing Events
  • Storyboard design
  • Executive Workshops
  • eLearning / Concept development

Hopefully whiteboards was something that you are able to incorporate into your next remote team building session.  Stay tuned for Chapter 4: Webex Teams and Microsoft, the sweetest thing.

Experience the future of work with Webex

Learn more

Connect with all blogs in the Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams

See all of the Webex Teams Releases here

How to launch a community with Webex Teams

Webex Teams — say hello to the new in-space design

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Working remotely with Webex. Office desk workspace and table background from top view above flat lay objects. Modern minimal design desktop for creative working. Minimalism concept.
Tips for WFH when everyone else is home

Stay on track from home with Webex

So, you’re working remotely how’s it going? If you’re like most people, its an entirely new experience. If you’re like me, you’re dealing with parenting, homeschooling, limited personal space, and cabin fever, all while keeping up with work. 

I’ve been a remote worker for six years now, thanks to tools I use every day like Cisco AnyConnect VPN, Cisco Webex Meetings, and Webex Teams. The transition to working remotely was easy for me back when I was all alone in my home office, my husband was away working in his office, and my kids were in school. Now that everyone in my household is working and schooling from home, I’ve had to make some adjustments. 

I’ve gathered a few real-world tips here for any of you who, like myself, are not only remote working, but also at-home parenting, teaching, self-caring, and everything else we’re doing in our homes now. 

1) Wake up, take a shower, and get dressed

  • Keeping some semblance of a normal routine has been crucial for me. I’ve gotten some time back in the mornings since I’m not getting my kids up, making them breakfast, and getting them off to school early in the morning any longer. Now, I get to enjoy a shower, drink my coffee, take care of my appearance, and revel in a little quiet time before all my new “coworkers” are awake and my workday begins.
     
  • When getting dressed, I go for a “business on top, yoga on the bottom” look. I’m on video meetings all day long, so maintaining a professional experience is necessary (usually, I can only be seen from the waist up). However, there are times I have to stand up and walk around, so being appropriately dressed on the bottom is important! No one wants to be that Webex legend who was on a meeting with no pants. Yikes!
     
  • I recommend dressing all your new “coworkers,” too—kids, spouses, partners, or anyone else who’s at home with you. Unexpected cameos in video meetings are common, and we’re guessing your family doesn’t want to be Webex legends either. Here’s my husband crushing the look. 

I recommend dressing all your new “coworkers,” too—kids, spouses, partners, or anyone else who’s at home with you. Caroline Wright's husband wearing a dark blue jacket a lilac button up shirt with purple and lilac tie wearing khaki shorts

2) Make it clear to family or roommates when you’ll be available and when you will be in meetings

  • I have a 14yearold, a 9yearold, and a 47yearold. They all need me or want to speak with me throughout the day. I have learned to set clear expectations for when I’ll be available and when my office is off-limits. I typically accomplish this by yelling at everyone about five minutes before my meeting starts: “I am about to start a meeting! I’ll be done at 3 pm!” or “I am in a customer/public meeting until noondo not come in my office, and NO FIGHTING!”
     
  • This won’t always be successful. My sons and husband have wandered into my office at times. If this happens to you, don’t sweat it. Life happens. Everyone is settling in to this new way of working, so forgive yourself and others if this happens to them, too. If your kids are feeling lonely, share your space with them. My younger son likes to bring his laptop into my office and sit next to me doing his quiet work while I’m on my video meetings–he knows how to stay out of camera view, and it’s fun for me to have him there beside me, both of us working sidebyside.
     
  • Be aware that others are in the same boat, juggling kids and priorities while doing their best to show up professionally as well. Grace and patience are something we all need to keep in mind for ourselves, as well as the people we’re working with.

3) Make the most out of your remote work environment

  • If you’re going to be on video meetings, make sure you have soft, natural lighting and that your surroundings are “video ready. Working from your bedroom? Make your bed and scoot that pile of dirty laundry out of view. Working from a shared space? Buy a screen to place behind youit will block out any of your surroundings so the focus can be on you. Many online retailers sell a variety of beautiful folding screens that can be used while you’re working and folded and put away when you are done. 

CarolineWright'ssonphotobombinghermeeting. Son peaking in from behind the door wearing red hoodie while Caroline wearing a white dress jacket and black glasses sees reflection and shows a smirk

  • A personal video endpoint device like the Cisco Webex DX80 is a gamechanger, but video works great with laptops and mobile devices, too! For the best video experience with any device, ensure your video camera is at an ideal level. You’ll want your camera at or above eye level to avoid the unfortunate “camera up the nose” look or the dreaded double chin.

    If you don’t have a fancy laptop stand, use a stack of books, puzzles, or an empty box to ensure your laptop and camera are at an appropriate viewing angle. You want to make sure you show up nicely in your video view. Before joining a Webex Meeting, you will see a preview of your video, which is the perfect time to adjust your hair or your camera angle.   

remote office laptop atop board games including roundies and cadoo on top of a foldable table and rocking chair used as a deskchair

  • Anywhere can be a remote office. Use what you have!
  • Use a headset. I love, love, love my headset. It has excellent noisecanceling capabilities, so when my kids decide to reenact WWE or my dog goes crazy barking at squirrels, that background noise doesn’t make it into my meetings. As a best practice, I keep my line muted when I’m not speaking or presenting. When I do speak, it’s great to know those noises won’t become a distraction for the other folks in my meeting. The headset also helps me tune out the distractions that may be happening in my house.

4) Block out time on your calendar for lunch and breaks

  • Seriously. Do this. Especially if you have kids who aren’t old enough to make their own lunches, launch their virtual classroom tools, or just need some hugs during this crazy time. Blocking out time on your calendar helps ensure you are taking care of yourself and those who depend on you. It also lets coworkers know when you’re unavailable. Take a break. Eat lunch with your partner or kids, walk outside (six feet away from others, of course), put that stack of laundry in the washing machine.

I hope these tips will help you adjust to working remotely. Please reach out to me with any questions on how my family and I are making this new life work for us. We’re not perfect, but we’re making it work, and I’m happy to share our experiences. 

Learn more with guidance on working remotely

Learn More

Embracing the rise of remote working 

How video improves communication during any conference call

Getting more done in less time with Webex

About the Author, Caroline Wright

Caroline WrightCaroline leads the Enablement efforts for Cloud Collaboration Customer Success at Cisco. She is passionate about creating a welcoming culture where ongoing development and education deliver a world-class Customer Success team for Cisco’s Collaboration suite.

Before Cisco, Caroline had over 10 years of SaaS industry experience in sales, customer service, and training. She lives in Holly Springs, North Carolina, outside the state capital of Raleigh with her husband, two sons, and their dog. She loves going to the beach, traveling, reading, 90’s hip hop, and honing her mad trivia skills. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

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How to launch a community with Webex Teams. Young woman looking at video
How to launch a community with Webex Teams

Learn best practices and the tools needed to use Teams like a boss

Webex is known for the Meetings platform, but the newest addition to Webex is a complete collaboration platform called Webex Teams. Teams is a messaging app with video conferencing capabilities built-in. It is an extremely secure solution with bots, integrations, desktop sharing functionality and more. This article will go over what Webex Teams is and how to use it when starting a virtual community as a resource space for a FAQ, office hours, or even an office watercooler. Don’t know what Webex Teams is? Here is a quick overview.

 

Why Webex Teams over Facebook Groups or other chat apps

  • Facebook is a great tool and I use it for my family and friends, but it can be too distracting to get work done as you can get constantly wooed away by shiny distractions in the news feed and sidebar.
  • Extremely secure. Our model has a core layer and a security layer that are kept separate from one another. See Security Whitepaper.
  • We don’t sell and collect data
  • Video, whiteboarding and desktop sharing is native within the app
  • No multiple account logins or workspaces. You can have different people from different companies join your Webex Team space without switching between different organizations to messages users. Email doesn’t function like that. Neither does Webex Teams.
  • Teams can also display the presence status of end-users if they’ve been away, are in Do-Not-Disturb state, on a video (orange camera icon), sharing their desktop (red rectangular icon) or on a phone call. The bottom image provides the avatars of end-users that have read your messages, such as green as available or red crescent moon for Away/DND.

Prescense Notifications.
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Read receipt avatars.
  • Webex Teams is FREE
  • No messaging search limits or restrictions
  • Search everything.  Searched keyword, user, date, or another parameter. Attach files, like PDFs and Word docs, and search within those files too.No alt text provided for this image
Search tab and options.

A virtual community use case – Webex Ambassadors

We will use the Webex Ambassador Community as a case study for this article. Webex Ambassadors started as Spark Ambassadors back in 2016 as an internal Webex community of developer evangelists and it has evolved and grown over the years. This community now has over 2,600 members globally. It also includes various Special Interest Group spaces for various topics. I will break the article down into five categories to start your community.

  1. Promoting Your Community
  2. Setting up Webex Teams
  3. Managing Your Community
  4. Bots & Integrations
  5. Tips & Tricks

Promoting your community

Landing page

The first thing you want to do is have a site that gives users an overview of what they are joining. You can check out ambassador.webex.com. Here is our “Join Now” call to action button to join the community.

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Code of conduct & community guidelines

These are policies or best practices for your community. You want to make sure you cover rules of engagement, ethics and legal issues, spam, and how users can post. Here is an example of the Ambassador Code of Conduct & Guidelines. Every user must agree to the code of conduct before they can join the space. This is listed in our web form.

Inviting users & automation with a sign-up form

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Here are some cool tricks you can do with Webex Teams workflow integrations. Having an auto-sign up using Typeform or Google Forms is rather easy. Applications like Zapier or Built.io makes it a lot easier to integrate these applications. For example, you can have a workflow that once a person signs up on Formidable Forms, they are added into a mailer, like Mailigen, then added to Smartsheets and then finally added into Webex Teams.

We have other ways end users can join your community spaces such as using the bots and integrations. We will dive more about this in the Bots & Integrations section.

Install the desktop & mobile Teams app

First, download the Webex Teams app. You can use Teams on multiple devices, from the browser on your computer’s desktop to a mobile phone. It’s best to use the native desktop app instead of the browser as it will have more features.

Setting up Webex Teams

  • Create a team, a space and add moderators. The video below will show how to create a team and a space. If you need an overview of what a Team and Space, it is explained hereWebex Jargon: In the Webex world, we call “channels”, “spaces” because we associate them to physical spaces, but just virtualized. If you ever have to use the Webex app with a Webex Rooms video device, you’ll see it associate to a space (not using Bluetooth) using ultrasonic frequency pairing for desktop sharing and video conferencing purposes. That office space also has a physical video device tied to that virtual space in Teams. Check out a demo here.
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Note: Cisco Intelligent Proximity pairing uses high-frequency sound in the 20kHz to 22kHz audio frequency range to establish a connection. Here, Webex Teams is my app to control my work from home device, the Cisco Webex Desktop Pro.

Here is a quick video on how to first create a Team and then a Space in Webex.

 

  • Create a space. Click on the “+” icon to create a space and give it a name. Here we will call it “Webex Community.”
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  • Add members. Next, go to “Members” and add a team member. You can add them by entering the user’s email address.
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  • Add moderators. Once you add them, you can “right-click” on the name and “Assign Moderator of the Team.”
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  • Manage & customize your space. Here we will add space icon images and disable the function of @all as it can be annoying if there are thousands of people in a space being notified. We will also recommend converting the “General” space into an “Announcement Mode” space. If you need to share important information with your team, without the distraction from other conversations happening in the space, you can use announcement mode in any moderated space just for announcements. On teams, the only space that’s moderated is the General space so that’s the only space where you can use announcements. Only the space moderators can post in Announcement Mode spaces.No alt text provided for this image
  1. To enable, go to the General space -> Moderator settings -> “Disable @mentions to all” and “Turn on Announcement Mode.” Once enabled, users will see this notification.
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  • Add a space name and image. You can change any space name except the General space for your team. Furthermore, any member can change these details unless the space is moderated, then it must be done by a moderator. You can also change a space picture, by uploading a picture for the space. The file has to be under 10 MB and ideally a square image between 200×200 pixels and 1000×1000 pixels.No alt text provided for this image
  1. To change the Space image, go to Edit space settings -> Click on the camera icon and “Add Image.”
  2. To change the Space name, double click the space field to enter a name.
  • Public or private spaces. Creating a moderated space means that only moderators can add users to the Team. By default, all spaces are a Private space or an invite-only space. Public spaces can be created if you add the EURL bot, which we will discuss later. Overall, this is how you can control who joins your community.
  • Enable restrictions for guests in Team spaces through Webex Control Hub. Webex Control Hub is the administrator portal page to configure Webex. As a moderator, you don’t need access to this, but if you want to set various global permissions, you need to ask your administrator to grant you access to set this up. One example is to control how people are added as guests to team spaces, they aren’t members of that team. You can prevent these guests from adding and removing participants, changing the space name, and editing space settings.
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  1. Go to admin.webex.com -> Services -> Scroll to “Team Guest Restrictions”
  2. Toggle Enable restrictions for team guests to on.

Managing your community

  • Multiple moderators. As your community grows, it is ideal to have multiple moderators to help monitor if chats are in compliance, to delete inappropriate messages, add or remove bots, and to perform backup moderator tasks. Bonus Tip: Try to have moderators from different parts of the globe to cover various time zones for additional support.No alt text provided for this image
  • Post rules on a monthly or quarterly basis. It’s always good to remind your community the do’s and don’ts when posting in a space. Here’s an example of what we send in our Ambassador space. Note that this is a template using Markdown formats and then how it would look like rendered in the space.

Hello 👋🏻 Ambassadors, we want to share a few **Ambassador house rules!**

**Rules** 📜

  1. 💬 Before asking questions in a space, please check Google or specifically the [Help Portal.](help.webex.com)
  2. ❓If you can’t find your answer, post your question in the appropriate community space. For example, technical questions should be posted in the Engineering space.  Learn about these Community Spaces [here.](https://ambassador.webex.com/webex-teams-communities/)
  3. 👊🏻 To help us keep it fun, helpful, safe, and friendly, we ask that you comply with our [Community Code of Conduct.](https://ambassador.webex.com/code-of-conduct/)
  4. 🙊 Do not use the **@all command, create a new Space, add bots or add users to the Spaces without [signing up as a Candidate.](https://ambassador.webex.com/ambassadors/)**
  5. 🤔 If you have support questions, including certificates, please direct your message @ModeratorName.

Let me know in a DM if you have any other suggestions or have questions.

**Have a great weekend.**


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Rendered markup.
 
  • Notifications. A space can get noisy especially with thousands of users messaging. You can customize how you want to be notified in a space.
  1. Go to the Space -> Settings Icon -> Notifications. As a moderator, I only respond to @Mentions only.

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  • Place a spotlight on power members of your community. Whether you’re highlighting customer stories, testimonials, or users who represent success, take an opportunity to frequently recognize stars in your own community.

Bots & integrations

Below are some essential bots to help you start and grow your virtual community.

  • Email2Teams bot. The email2teams bot will take all the participants in an email thread and migrate the conversation to Webex Teams. This is a great way to invite new users to Webex Teams as anyone not already signed up for Teams receives an email invitation. Once registered, they’re automatically added to the space. Here’s how to use the bot.

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  1. Open your email. In the ‘To’ line, add the emails of the users you want to invite in the space. In the BCC line, add “bot@email2teams.com” (the ‘To’ & ‘CC’ fields won’t work).
  2. The bot receives your email, creates a Teams space with the ‘Subject’ as the title, then leaves.
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  • EURL. The EURL bot is short for “External URL.” The intention of this bot is to create a public space and provide a URL where users can click the link, enter their email and join the space. Let’s add the bot, “eurl@sparkbot.io” to the space.
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  1. Once you add the bot to the space, it will provide you various commands. Here we will open up this space externally to users outside our organization email domain, which is capitalfactory.com.
  2. To add external users outside capitalfactory.com, type “Eurl internal off”
  3. The URL that was generated is: https://eurl.io/#vHLeL9CMF Feel free to join the space to test the bot out.
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  • Once you click on the EURL link, an end-user can join this space by clicking on the URL that was generated. You can learn more about the bot here on the Webex App Hub.

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  • Power Pack. This is a very handy tool that is used to invite new users to a new space or into an existing space. It is a free service that bulk add users by uploading a CSV file. You can also send broadcast messages to multiple spaces at once. Learn more about the bot here.
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  • Translate bot. There are a lot of translator bots on the Apphub like Chinese, German, Filipino, French, and more. You can add these bots into a space. Here is an example of an English to Spanish bot for our LATAM Ambassador community. You just @mention the bot and enter the text you need to be translated. You can learn more about the bot here.

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  • Inquire bot. This bot isn’t meant to be deployed in large spaces, but it has been proven useful in areas where there needs a way to track FAQ or in this case bugs. In this example, this is an internal space to post bugs for Webex Teams. You can see users posting images and answers and then engineers and product managers posting an answer in the space and it automatically ties into Jira to create a case. The Inquire bot is a knowledge base bot and has three main functions.

1) Ask Questions – Capture questions that were asked inside a Teams space. Here the end-user is asking to file a bug and is @mentioning the Inquire bot.

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2) Get Answers – Provide a way to answer those questions and ensure the original questioner receives the information they need. You can @mention the bot and answer in the space, or you can click on the “here” link and answer on the web as well.

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3) Gather Knowledge – Assemble a knowledge base of all the information that is gathered amongst Teams spaces. You can also export the FAQ to a CSV file.No alt text provided for this image

You can learn more about the Inquire bot here or check out the demo video below.

  • Webex Ambassador welcome bot. This is just an example bot to welcome new Ambassadors to our Webex community and outlines a set of rules to adhere to. The bot will 1:1 the new user that is added to the space and send them this message. The bot monitors new memberships and must be in the same space the end-users are joining. The code is on Github if you would like to implement it for your own community.

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Tips & tricks

  • Space titles with EURL. Having a title is important. If you want an external space and not having people to @mention the bot to know what the space URL is, it’s best to add it in your title. Here is an example title for the xAPI Developer space with the EURL link.
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  • Use reactions as a way to poll users or use Pollbot. Here is an example to use the “thumbs up” as a way to poll users. You can use reactions or if you want to get more detailed you can use various applications like PollBot or you can use free web polls like Polltab.
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  • Use threads. Make sure people are aware of the “Reply to Thread” option to keep communications easy to read. Just hover over the message and the “reply” arrow will appear.

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Reply thread conversation.
  • Support spaces. Within Webex Ambassadors, we created a specific space for support. On our website, we specifically told users to join this space for issues with their certificates or application. This helps cut down noise in the General or main community space. You also want to make sure your moderators will be seen by your end-users as support. Be prepared for this.

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  • Create a space directory. There are a lot of communities and spaces you can provide for your company by creating a directory website. These spaces, people can join by click on the”Join” created by the EURL bot. You visit this actual site, here.
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Final thoughts

Overall, this is just a quick way to start a community in Webex Teams. If you have questions, leave a comment. If you find this article helpful, please follow me and share this blog! 👍🏼

Bot credits

Thank you for the following people making the Ambassador Community bots. Note that if the bot isn’t on AppHub, it isn’t Cisco TAC supported. Cisco owned Integrations include: Email2Teams. This bot was created by former Webex Innovation Team Member, Marcello Federico. The following bots were funded by the Webex Innovation Team and created for Ambassadors: EURL bot created by Cisco TME Randy Birdsall; Power-pack.io created by former Cisco SE, Brad McAllisterInquire Bot, created by former Webex Innovation Team Member, Aman ChabraWebex Ambassador Welcome Bot on GitHub, created by Cisco SE Marcel Neidinger.

Learn More

Connect with all blogs in the Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams

See all of the Webex Teams Releases here

Webex Teams — say hello to the new in- space design

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Make online learning more effective with these best practices. Young woman student working on laptop sitting in library at home
Make online learning more effective with these best practices

Cisco Webex Research Blog Series

The Design Group at Cisco is a global team of Red Dot Award winning creatives who explore peoples’ needs through research and empathy to make the world a better place to work. This series explores their research and some best practices to make everyday interactions more effective. 

Read all the blogs in the series

Implementing best practices in online learning

As more and more learning moves online, educators and students are scrambling to figure out how to make online education effective. The research team at Cisco Webex spent time with educators and students to understand their needs and challenges in the online learning environment. Based on the interviews with 39 educators and students in the US and Europe, we have compiled a list of best practices that could help educators and students to get the most out of online learning.

Educators:

  • Test Class If this is your first virtual class, then do a test class with a colleague. This will help you get acquainted with the meeting tool. Test out scenarios that includes sharing screen, muting the microphone, turning off and on the video and muting students
  • For the actual class itself, join the meeting 10 minutes early and ask your students to join early as well to iron out any audio or video issues before the beginning of class.
  • Effective role-taking If taking attendance is required for your class – call out names and have students feel comfortable talking through their microphone. This is more effective in a small class scenario.
  • Class engagement To ensure class engagement, structure your class into 15-20 min intervals spaced by activities that involve discussion with everyone. Additionally, ensure you content is a mix of one-way lecture as well as content sharing (using screen-share) which can bring variety to the class.
  • Improve engagement Class engagement can also be improved by having students type their questions into chat. Have the chat panel open and try and keep an eye if questions are coming in.
  • Having your video on during the lecture will help students feel comfortable about sharing theirs and help them be more engaged. See how video improves communication during any conference call
  • Encourage your students to have their video on – this will help you understand how to the class is feeling and also help students be more focused. See how turning on your video is a better way to communicate.
  • Record classes so students can go back to it when in need
  • In case of ambient or background noise coming from one of the participants in the call – as a host you can mute that participant during class or even mute all if needed.
  • Schedule office hours online with students to ensure they are doing okay with the transition to online classes. This also presents an opportunity for students to provide their feedback
  • If possible, end class 5 minutes early so students have the time to switch to their next class in time.

Students:

  • Thwart technical issues Check your audio and video settings to ensure that they are working properly. If possible, join the class a few minutes early to triage any technical issues.
  • Chat Use the chat option to interact with your peers as well as your educator. Check out how to get started with Webex Online Classes
  • Office hours Connect with your educators 1:1 during office hours for follow-up questions and clarifications.
  • Video on Keep your video on so your instructor as well as peers can see you. However, if you experience bandwidth issues, turn off your video so you don’t miss out on the class.

Please be on the lookout in this space as we share more tips on how to improve online education experience based on our research and connect with all of our blogs here.

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 About the Cisco Webex Research Team

Kathryn Parkes, Senior UX Researcher
Kathryn is an experienced user researcher based in Dublin, Ireland reporting into San Jose. As a member of the UX Research team, she leads research projects across the Webex Suite working with various Cisco Collab teams in Ireland, US and across Europe. The team use a broad variety of research methods, including user interviews, usability testing and benchmarking studies, to get a deep understanding of Webex user needs.

Varshine Chandrakanthan, Designer User Experience
Varshine loves observing people and their actions – hence she decided to become a User Researcher. She is passionate about creating an impact to people’s lives and loves to volunteer for education and human rights programs. Her interests include designing tattoos, illustrating for books, eating cake and meditating.

Mani Pande, User Experience Manager
Mani leads the user research team in San Jose. Her team is responsible for understanding the needs of Webex users to inform product strategy and direction, and ensure that the software we ship is not only simple and easy to use, but also delightful. You can find her and her team members huddling with Webex users understanding how they use our software and mapping opportunities of improvement. In another life, Mani worked as a reporter for the Times of India, India’s largest selling newspaper, covering media and crime. Outside of work, Mani loves to travel, cycle, run and cook. She posts photos of food that she cooks and places she visits on Instagram.

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The Ultimate Webex Events Guide from Start to stream in under 2 minutes. Happy smiling business man using digital tablet
The ultimate Webex Events guide: From start to stream in under 2 minutes

Using Webex Events to live stream

In a digital-first world, companies are rethinking their everyday means of communication. So in a time when digital events are becoming more common, how can we continue to enjoy the physical events, digitally?

Cisco Webex has several solutions to help address this. Here, I’ll walk you through how easy it is to use Webex Events, or known as Webex Event Center, to do a live stream. This blog came about after assisting Capital Factory, USAF and AFWERX, to virtually host their SXSW conference. Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Tech & Logistics Dr. Will Roper were among the main speakers for this live event. In less than 48 hours of planning, they were able to virtualize an 8-hour event using 15 different Webex Event panels, which hosted over 122 panelists, and 184 Webex attendees. This also included a Webex integration into a Youtube live stream bringing together close to 5,000 people from different parts of the world. You can check out Capital Factory’s blog on how they pulled it off here.

Capital Factory & AFWERX Live Stream

Here’s a great overview of what Webex Events can do.

Scoping your event

The first question I get about live streaming an event is, “Why should I use Webex instead of Facebook Live, YouTube, or other live streaming services?” The simple answer is this: if you want to bring in multiple people around the world in a panel format, do live audio Q&A, and also stream out to attendees, this is the best solution. Furthermore, with Webex Events, you can also have up to 200 dedicated endpoints to be in the Panelist meeting. Endpoints will always provide the best audio and HD video experience in meetings. However, you can also use an HDMI/USB Camera switcher or adapter card if you do not have a Cisco endpoint and use your own video camera to record the event. Below is a list of the main differences of Webex Meetings vs Webex Events. Note that you still can use Webex Meetings for Live Events.

Webex Events vs Webex Meetings

Virtual event planning

Let’s take a step back on what Webex is. Imagine that you were at the physical event and on-site. You would have to visit each floor or room to see the actual event. Here, we created 15 different Webex Event links or URLs. Imagine these links as a “virtual room.” You will provide and invite your panelists and attendees to these links. Since Capital Factory had 15 different panels, 15 different Webex links had to be generated.

If you’re curious, how Capital Factory structured the event, you can see it here.

Understanding Webex Event roles

There are four main user roles in Webex Events. The Attendee, which is the viewer joining your event and then the Panelists, which include the Host and Presenter. Below is a consolidated list of the roles of the Panelists. Think of the Host as the admin or creator of the event that can mute, un-mute, expel users, start the recording, and answer Q&A’s. The Presenter has some of the same capabilities as the host, but you want to have a specific user focused on their tasks for the online event. We recommend a minimum of two Panelists (Host + Presenter) if you want to have a smooth event. Learn about the roles here.

Setting up Webex Events

For the purpose of this blog, we will just focus on the main setup options. The configuration below takes less than 2 minutes.

  1. Go to your Webex site and click on “Webex Events”. Typically, it would be yourcompany.webex.com.

2. Once in the Webex Events section, go to “Schedule an Event.”

3. You will notice a lot of options to schedule your event. The red arrows are the main touchpoints to configure in order for you to start your meeting. Once you are done with your settings configuration, click on the “Schedule This Event” button.

4. You will now see your Event Information. You can always go back to “Site Events” to see your scheduled events. You can manually start your event by going to the “Start Now” button.

5. The Webex app will now download and install. In this setup, I used my Webex Desk Pro as my video endpoint. You can see the other button options as a Host.

You can use the “Start Practice Session” feature as the “backstage prep” for your event. This is where the Panelists can talk with each other before and after the panel and the Attendees cannot hear what’s going on.

You can control the Attendees and participants for the event with the “Mute on Entry.” The “Unmute All” is used if you want to open the floor for audio Q&A.

Webex Events also has a few cool features if you need to quickly add a Panelist. You can provide the Panelist the SIP or phone dial information and Panelist password by going to the top left, Information or “i” icon.

Finally, you can also email a Panelist the Webex Event information or if you are in a pinch, in the unfortunate event a Panelists PC reboots or crashes, there is the option for Webex to call their phone and automatically join.

Joining the event

Attendee View

This is the email invitation that the attendees will receive once an event is scheduled. Note that the event password is in the email.

Upon clicking the big green “Join event” button, the Attendee will now enter their information and event password. You can join by downloading the app which is done automatically as you hit the “Join Now” button or you can use WebRTC by clicking “Join by Browser.”

Desktop App

This client is in WebRTC mode. Once in the meeting, you can use the Q&A panel to ask the Panelists questions, raise your hand, provide feedback or even take polls.

Apple iOS Mobile app

Here you can see the join flow and the variety of options that you have with the mobile app. Webex is also supported on Android as well.

Once the event has ended, the platform can automatically send out surveys and you can configure various “Call to Actions” such as a website popup.

Integrate with YouTube and other platforms

You can integrate Webex to YouTube or Facebook Workplace using partners like VBrick or REC.VC. Take note that VBrick only supports Webex Meeting Center, not Event Center. REC.VC supports both since you add REC.VC as a participant into Meetings or Events (as a Panelist) and it streams it out to their service.

Below is the setup page of REC.VC. You can add any SIP or H.323 endpoint and even enter a PIN. All video can be recorded on their platform if you want to keep your video private. You can join the Webex Teams Community here to learn more. You can start using REC.VC immediately by signing up on their 14-day Free Trial.

Recording

Webex can record your event and transcribe your meeting. This becomes very helpful if you want to search for various keywords and jump to specific parts of an eight-hour-long event. If you want to keep your meeting internal, you can use the native recording functionalities in Webex, or use VBrick or REC.VC. The downside of external third-party platforms like YouTube and Facebook Live is that your content is now public and is owned by the 3rd party streaming platforms.

Free Webex & resources

Sign up here to get Webex for free. This package gives you desktop and mobile access for 100 participants, toll-free dial-in, screen sharing, recording and more.

Also, check out our Webex Business Continuity Resources Planning site. It has advice and technology recommendations for dealing with operational infrastructure challenges during this period of Remote Work with great end-user “how-to” guides.

[Update March 24]: Here’s a nice recording that goes into a deeper dive on Webex Events Training. Check it out here.

Cisco Offering Webex Events 3000 Free to Customers

Cisco is also extending an offer of providing Webex Events 3000 to customers for free. One month of service is provided for one (1) Named User and must be renewed and approved if the extension needed. Webex Audio (if required) can be added at Standard Discounts. Of course, customers can choose to use VoIP only at no cost if they choose to. This offer needs to be ordered through the partner.

Community support

Join the Webex Ambassador Community on Webex Teams and sign up as a Candidate if you have questions.

Final thoughts

Live streaming a panel isn’t difficult once you go through a practice dry run. Cisco is here for you during these hard times. Please read the blog from our CEO, Chuck Robbins, about our commitment to you.

Overall, this is just a quick overview of how to use Webex Events. To learn more, please go to help.webex.com. If you need immediate access to Webex Events, please reach out to me and I’ll be happy to host one for you.

Stay tuned for more blogs on live streaming best practices. If you have questions, leave a comment and share this blog!

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Webex Integration Partners join Cisco in offers for education

When people are working remotely or engaging in distance learning for the first time, they face a bit of a learning curve to become proficient and productive. The same goes for organizations, as they learn and truly understand what it takes to respond and support these new requirements.

As you may have seen in the blog from our SVP and GM for Cisco Collaboration, Sri Srinivasan outlines what we at Cisco Webex are doing to proactively expand our meeting capacity to respond to the incredible volume of new users looking to take their work and daily activities online. Cisco is committed to helping through this difficult time, and one way we are doing so is by expanding on capabilities for the free Webex offer, in all countries where it is available.

Announcing Webex Ecosystem integration offers

This free offer has inspired many of our Webex Ecosystem partners who build upon our unified platform, to create offers of their own, helping in this time of technological need. Our software partners have joined with us to provide unique and even free offers to protect and enable distance learning, while minimizing the disruption that comes with the change.

When addressing the needs of educators, the power and extensibility of the Webex platform delivers the best in class distance learning experience for the instructors, students and IT staff. Specific to education, our Webex Ecosystem is stepping up to provide integrations with these fantastic solutions:

VBRICK

When a larger live stream event is needed to communicate to the student body, faculty and staff, Cisco’s partner Vbrick has a free limited time offer for schools looking to leverage live streaming events, to replace cancelled large-scale destination events.  This is a simple, effective and easy way to reach out and communicate to the education audience. Also, in Webex Meetings there is a new streaming option for Vbrick Rev from the native Webex Meetings client.

Learn more about Vbrick Free Large Event Streaming.

INVOLVIO

Higher education institutions around the world are moving teaching and learning to completely online methods. To help institutions deliver continuity, community, and support for students who are newly virtual, Involvio is introducing “Remote Campus.”

Remote Campus helps institutions rapidly deliver the core components of the campus experience to students on their phones anywhere they happen to be. Through integration with Cisco Webex and the Cisco Webex Education Connector, students can easily stay connected on video and seamlessly join live classes from anywhere. Remote Campus is free for all Involvio customers, regardless of license tier, and discounted for all Cisco Webex customers.

Remote Campus App

 

VYOPTA

Potential challenges in supporting remote learning and instruction have also become a great concern for IT administrators.  IT departments want to deliver best secure experiences as well as provide proactive support in this new era of online education.  Vyopta offers help in a few valuable ways such as providing student attendance compliance reporting, ensure high quality video performance, tracking student engagements with the meeting platform and more.  They’ve launched a free plan to help measure engagement of students in virtual classes, and monitoring call performance and quality with their special offer. Be sure to check out their upcoming webinar with Cisco’s own Dr. Lance Ford on distance learning.

Thetalake provides a purpose-built compliance product suite for automatic policy detection of regulatory risks, compliance workflow, and archiving for video marketing, video conferencing, and audio recordings. They are offering their Compliance and Supervision Suite for Webex Meetings/Teams at no cost for 3 months

Thetalake

Ensuring students, faculty and institutions are well protected, tools are needed to detect risks in audio, visual, document, spoken, shown, and shared content in audio and video content.  Thetalake provides a purpose-built compliance product suite for automatic policy detection of regulatory risks, compliance workflow, and archiving for video marketing, video conferencing, and audio recordings.  They are offering their Compliance and Supervision Suite for Webex Meetings/Teams at no cost for 3 months.

Appspace

For those students and faculty that have on campus commitments, it is important to keep information visible and available.  Many schools have enabled digital signage on campus devices with key messages and reminders. Appspace provides a Coronavirus playlist for signage on Webex Devices service for free up to 25 devices to Educate students and faculty with an informative channel about protecting against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Okta

For IT staff’s deploying new services can be overwhelming. Okta provides efficient process to rapidly deploy Webex organization wide and simplify end-user adoption.  This offer has been made available at no cost to easily onboard users to new Webex service with seamless SSO and full provisioning and security.

Prezi

Moving from the physical class to a virtual is an adjustment. The need to make online learning engaging can be a real challenge. Prezi Video helps you create compelling and creative video content for students in online learning environments. Present or record with your content right alongside you on the screen, so you can maintain a human connection with your students without losing important context and visual aids. Make classroom/training presentations more fun and engaging using Prezi with Webex Video.  Get your free account and check out the blog on best practices in education.

Make classroom/training presentations more fun and engaging using Prezi with Webex Video. Get your free account and check out the blog on best practices in education.

Kaptivo

For instructors that relish teaching in a more traditional method by using whiteboards, Kaptivo will connect your analog whiteboard to Webex Meetings and post to Webex Teams to create a digital classroom. To assist teachers/staff who are new at providing  remote learning, Kaptivo is offering a free whiteboard for those working from home who purchase a Kaptivo camera.

Kaptivo-ad-animated(1)[2]

 

CirQLive

If your school uses an LMS (Learning Management System) that is not covered with the Webex EDU Connector, or you have other requirements, CirQLive is offering free usage of their Webex LMS integration platform for 90 days. They are also offering consulting services that include best practices in online learning.

With the combination of Cisco’s powerful Webex platform and these unique partner integrations, students and teachers can quickly ease into the transition of remote learning and get back to what really matters. IT admins can also feel confident that these solutions have the right level of security and control to protect their education environments. Learn more about our partner solutions by visiting the linked partners.

For questions on the above Ecosystem offers, reach Cisco’s partnership team at webex-ecosystem@cisco.com

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Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series: Chapter 2: Stay (faraway, so close) using tools built right into Webex Teams. A mature man is at home. He is using a laptop
Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series: Chapter 2: Stay faraway, so close with Webex Teams

Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series

The “Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams” series will spotlight techniques in managing and inspiring remote and #WFH teams.  Learn how the Webex Platform and Webex Teams can help transform your remote team into an engaged, creative and productive team no matter if people are across the hall, town or globe.

Managing a digital team using Webex Teams

As a people manager at Cisco, I manage a team spread across multiple time zones and countries.  There are many #WFH resources out there these days but for this series of blogs I thought I would focus on how to build and manage digital team using the Webex Platform with Webex Teams. 

For this blog we will help answer a question we get asked a lot:” …how do you create and organize a workshop when everyone is remote?” 

Build your team 

A common function of teamwork is to coordinate and collaborate across many different workstreams to achieve a common goal.  In some cases, this could be as simple as responding to a customer’s RFP/RFQ, preparing for a product launch, or planning customer workshop.  In all of these cases, building and bringing your team together was often the easy part, doing this over an extended period of time and performing this remotely can be very challenging.

Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams Series – Chapter 2: Stay (Faraway, So Close) using tools built right into Webex Teams

For a workshop or classroom, one would often have reserved a main office room and then a series of breakout rooms nearby for different groups or teams that could go off, collaborate on their particular objective and then come back to the main group to share, discuss, etc.   

However, the problem with most video conferencing and messaging tools are that they were designed around a particular meeting or topic and not necessarily for the project or workshop which could last a day, a week or longer.  Also, many times a group would need to meet “offline”, not with the greater group, to work an idea or process and then come back to the larger group later.  Webex Teams is great to solve these types of use cases which, at Cisco, is often a primary means for how we get work done across multiple teams with our partners, contractors and customers in many cases. 

Create a purpose

First, think about the workshop you want to run.  The workshop may have a theme, a small team of moderators to facilitate the event and members or participants that would need to be involved in the event.  Get familiar with Roles within Webex Teams and how these roles impact the event. 

For each Team you create, a General Room is automatically created in Webex Teams to use for topics, discussions, meetings that pertain to the group as a whole, like a general-purpose room. Next, each space that is linked to that Team is now its own collaboration space with a unique virtual meeting link, whiteboards, messaging, content share, etc all in one place. Creating a team in webex teams

 

Next, the organization of the event, just like the in-person event, would have breakout rooms, workstreams or spaces where each group in the workshop would go and collaborate together.  For each Team you create, a General Room is automatically created in Webex Teams to use for topics, discussions, meetings that pertain to the group as a whole, like a general-purpose room.  Next, each space that is linked to that Team is now its own collaboration space with a unique virtual meeting link, whiteboards, messaging, content share, etc all in one place.

Here is an example of a Space Meeting Information (join URL, video address and dial in information for any type of user): 

Space meeting information. Screen to schedule a meeting, copy and paste the meeting information, and people's email address into your calendar invite.png

Stay in sync 

The best part of this setup within Webex Teams is, especially with remote teams, everyone can get engaged and stay engaged. When you are in an office setting its really easy to walk down the hallway and see where everyone is meeting/connecting just by looking in the rooms.  However, when you are remote this can be very challenging as the physical room is not available.   

With Webex Teams, you are able to recreate that experience in the physical world but virtually. Each room /space now is represented in the Webex Teams client. So you can see in real time who is in the room and who is meeting which helps keep your team engagedWith Webex Teams, you are able to recreate that experience in the physical world.  Each room /space now is represented in the Webex Teams client.  So, you can see in real time who is in the room and who is meeting which helps keep your team engaged.

Participants

You are probably asking then, “…what happens when you eventually go back into the office, are you able to use Webex Teams then for that same type of experience? Answer, yes.

When the Webex Rooms are in your physical location (say in all of your meeting rooms), the rooms now can autosense the people.  In the example to the right, I am in a meeting connected wirelessly to a Webex Board and now everyone that is invited to the Webex Team space can see me associated to the physical room as well as the virtual room.  This also holds true for all of the content and whiteboards you share in the virtual room now can be part of the physical room as well bringing a whole new meaning to business continuity.   

Get started

At Cisco, we use this Teams framework for all sorts of use cases, here are some examples that can help you get started:Creativity Workshop

  • Company Wide Event Planning
  • Customer/Partner Strategy Workshops
  • Developer Hackathons 
  • Virtual Training Delivery  
  • Community Engagement / Outreach 
  • Multi Topic FAQs and “Ask” Rooms 
  • Marketing Outreach / Planning 

I hope that with some of these examples, provides some inspiration on how to build a virtual collaboration team that is both productive and engaging.  

Stay tuned for the next blog post: Chapter 3: Teams Whiteboards: No Line in the Horizon and make sure to stay connected with all the blogs in the series here.

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How to get more comfortable on a video conference call

Video conferencing calls can understandably make some people nervous. After all, enabling a video feed in a group collaboration session gives others direct insight into what you look like, as well as the background environment you’re operating in.  For shy participants, video conferencing can seem like a major hurdle to overcome, and can be far less preferable to alternatives like phone calls or email discussions. However, there are many benefits. Let’s explore the benefits of video conferencing, as well as tips to get more comfortable showing your video.

The benefits and challenges of video conferencing

Video conferencing has become a lot more popular over the years. Previous technical issues related to video quality and ease of access have mostly dissipated, as numerous devices have become more than capable of supporting a high-definition video feed. According to Wainhouse Research, 94% of organizations utilizing video conferencing say it increases productivity (1). Every minute spent in an unnecessary meeting is one that could have been spent on a more worthwhile task.

How does it help in this way? First, it reduces distractions by effectively requiring everyone in the video meeting to focus on the task at hand, instead of extensively multitasking as is possible when on a call or team chat. Video also lends itself well to demonstrations and the use of visual aids, for example, during a webinar or presentation. Finally, setting up a video link can provide useful context and clarity for remote workers who otherwise might not see other team members that often.

Still, being on camera (which is what dialing into a video conference entails) isn’t easy for everyone and can make video conferencing dreadful. So, let’s look at some tips for becoming more comfortable when on a video conference.

1.Use notes to keep your thoughts on track

Discomfort while participating on a video call often causes shier participants to lose their trains of thought. This makes sense, because they’re probably thinking primarily about the pressure and scrutiny of the meeting and only secondarily about what’s being discussed.

Overcoming this issue is easier with written or typed preparation. Sticky notes or comments and questions written down in a digital notes’ application and open in another window/app can help. They provide a reliable framework that the user can work within while on a video call.

Basically, preparing and using notes helps participants avoid awkward silences and the discomfort that comes from feeling like they can’t contribute to the conversation.

2. Set up the right environment before the call begins

Some of the pressure that comes with a video conference might stem from anxiety about what the participant’s environment looks like. In 2017, there was a famous incident involving an international relations professor participating in a video interview with the BBC, when one of his children entered into the frame and interrupted the conversation (2).

The disruption became a popular social media meme for a while, but it underscored a key risk that people sometimes contend with on a video call: Worrying about what’s going on in the background or how their workspace looks.

Fortunately, these fears can be somewhat alleviated through preparation. Pay attention to the lighting and to what’s behind you when your face appears on the video feed. Choosing a quiet room with a door may be beneficial, since it will minimize noise and give you more control. For instance, you can prevent others from walking behind you while you’re on camera or making noises that might distract participants. Here’s more on how you can work smarter anywhere when working remotely.

3. Make use of mute and pause controls

Like phone calls, video conferences always come with the possibility of unwanted background noise (e.g., dogs barking, kids playing, outside traffic, etc.) that can disrupt the session. Moreover, with video there’s the additional risk of on-screen distractions.

This is where the mute and pause controls within a video conferencing solution come in handy. Modern video conferencing lets callers mute their own audio and if you’re the host, of other participants, too. Muting minimizes noise and is especially useful for participants who aren’t currently speaking.

Pausing a video feed works in a similar way. During a video conferencing session, it’s possible to stop the video feed at any time and then resume it as necessary. That allows for greater privacy, which less-comfortable participants could use for a quick break to regroup.

4. Do a practice run with a friend or co-worker

Some of the discomfort that people might initially feel on video conferences can be traced to simple unfamiliarity with the format. A person who doesn’t join these meetings regularly might feel anxious about participating since the entire setup seems intimidating to them.

Practice is a good solution to these sorts of concerns:

  • First, it lets participants get familiar with how the interface and underlying technology work, including the in-call controls for muting and pausing.
  • Second, it lets them get used to how they look on a camera and what others can see in the background.
  • Third, it lets them rehearse what they might say and become more comfortable with the idea of speaking on camera.

Webex makes the video conferencing experience as easy and intuitive as possible, from start to finish.

To learn more, get started with a free plan of Webex today.

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Resources

(1) Wainhouse Productivitiy Research

(2) BBC interruption video

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Embracing the rise of remote working. Japanese man in casual clothes using a laptop and his son using a smartphone on the desk. He's working and doing childcare at home.
Embracing the rise of remote working

Is remote working the new norm?

Even if you don’t consider yourself a remote worker per se, you’ve likely done work beyond the confines of a traditional office. Quickly checking email on your phone, brainstorming ideas for an upcoming pitch, or joining a conference call while on your commute – these are all tasks that can be done well, from anywhere, with no need for either a work PC or a dedicated desk.

A very brief history of telecommuting

The trend toward frequent and full-time remote work began decades ago in the U.S., but only reached escape velocity relatively recently. The 1970s oil crisis, the surge in traffic gridlock (a term that was, coincidentally, coined in the ‘70s, too), and the rise of stay-at-home parenting all contributed to the very early growth of telecommuting. Then, technology caught up.

Tools such as real-time workplace chat, video conferencing, web conference calls, and more are now readily available and make it much easier for employees to stay in the loop no matter where they are. These solutions enable richer, higher-quality interactions than were possible using just emails or phone calls.

Why remote work is worth supporting

Recently, some companies have had to make a sudden shift to remote work. But for others, this shift was already taking place:

  • Global Workplace Analytics estimated that the number of businesses offering telework options to employees increased by 40% from 2014 to 2019 (and now even more in 2020). (1)
  • Meanwhile, between 80% and 90% of the workforce would like to work remotely at least part of the time.

5 perks of remote work

What will the workplace of the future look like? How should your organization approach remote work arrangements? Remote work offers many benefits to everyone involved. Let’s look at five perks:

  1. Lower costs

Think of the typical SMB’s budget and what it goes toward. After the mostly locked-in expenses of salaries and benefits, some of the larger line items will usually include travel and real estate.

Telecommuting helps curb these expenditures. Instead of needing a sprawling office, an organization might choose a smaller, denser space with the assumption that many of its employees will be working elsewhere much of the time.

Likewise, the company travel budget can be trimmed. Traditionally, meeting with a colleague or client basically required taking a road trip or booking a flight. Not anymore. With video and HD voice, it’s possible to have a virtual conference call meeting that feels like being in the same room, all at a much lower cost than actually traveling.

  1. Improved morale, with less turnover

Why do people leave their jobs? It’s complicated, but long commutes are definitely a common reason why.

According to a University of West England survey, adding 20 minutes to a commute had the same negative effect on job satisfaction as a 19% pay cut for the study’s subjects. No one likes being stuck in traffic. (2)

Remote workers don’t have to confront this issue. As long as they’ve got a stable internet connection, they can work from home, a public place, or a nearby branch site instead of making the long trek into HQ. That’s good news for morale and for their chances of staying at the firm.

  1. Increased productivity

Working remotely can boost productivity in several durable ways:

  • Since commutes become less grueling or even non-existent, employees have more time to focus on their work.
  • The distractions of some types of office spaces, like having to contend with constant noise from in an open floor plan layout, are eliminated entirely.
  • Remote workers can use devices they know, plus utilize the full bandwidth of their internet connection since there aren’t sharing it with potentially many others.
  • Individuals with health conditions that might be difficult to deal with in an office, or worsened by a commute, can more easily take care of themselves.
  1. More opportunities for expansion

Allowing employees to telecommute can double as a company expansion strategy to new locales. If your business is growing and looking to target customers in different markets, then remote work lets you recruit workers with more flexibility and fewer limitations.

Of course, there are still some constraints, like needing to be incorporated in each state in which you conduct business operations. But having telework options available means that it’s more practical to create lob listings with broader appeal. Candidates can apply without needing to price in the cost and time associated with a commute.

  1. Better time management

Not everyone is a morning person. But commute-driven jobs almost require you to be one.

Impact of flexible work schedule

With remote work, there’s more flexibility in how an employee sets and uses their hours. Telecommuters have more discretion over when they start work and take breaks, allowing them to be productive on their own schedules. And, as we noted earlier, they have more time to begin with due to not commuting or having to constantly tune-out various in-office distractions.

What you need to get the most from remote work

There are a few things that flexible working arrangements need to succeed. The first being the leadership support to create a culture that encourages this type of flexibility. Establishing trust and accountability from the top down, is critical to foster a remote working environment. You also need the right collaboration solutions. The ability to easily create and join a video conference call, plus add context through messaging, digital whiteboarding, and file sharing, is essential.

With the right approach and the right technology, you can create a culture that embraces the remote workforce—and positively impacts the business.

If you are new to remote we’re here to make the change easy. Check out more ways to keeping you connected to your team

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Cisco Webex: Supporting customers during this unprecedented time

Working smarter anywhere – Working remotely 

3 tips for working with remote team members

References

(1) telework options to employees increased by 40% from 2014 to 2019

(2) commute time and job satisfaction

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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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Take instruction to Webex: Connecting one pilates enthusiast to another

Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series: Chapter 1: When you are with or without your office

How technology creates better interpersonal connections

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Man working at his (home) office whearing a red tshirt underneath a yellow jacket working on a white desktop computer on a white table . In the background there is a white bookshelf with books on the top shelf, a struffed animal pelican hading ont the shelf, with a multi-colored ball on the fourth shelf. It is dusk outside as seen through the window behind him, with fours plants on the shelf. Laying in front of him on the corner of his desk is a little blue bowl filled with original gummy bears
Administrators’ 3-step guide to managing devices remotely

Easy remote device management

Managing Webex Room devices is as simple as using them! Using Webex Control Hub, administrators are able to configure and troubleshoot devices remotely. Regardless if you have direct network access to the device, here are 3 tools to help configure and troubleshoot devices.

1) Advanced configurations

First tool I will mention is about configuring devices. While the out of the box experience for Webex Room devices will work for every standard workload and workflow, sometimes you need to modify a certain configuration for a specific workspace. A lot of administrators are used to using the on-device web interface, but with Control Hub you can change configurations in seconds directly in the portal. Click on any Webex Device and open up “Advanced Configurations”. You can apply hundreds of configurations directly here. Keep an eye out as we make it even easier to modify bulk configurations in the near future!

Advanced Configurations experience for Webex Room devices showing search bar for configurations available with the Cisco Webex Board status, the users name, the IP address, and the applied changes

2) Manage logs

The next tool is a brand new one we just released! We heard from customers and partners that it was hard to troubleshoot devices that were not on the same network as the administrator. We got you covered – it is now possible to troubleshoot issues quickly and more efficiently. Manage Logs is now available in the Devices page to allow you to easily generate and download log files which can be used to self-troubleshoot or reference with TAC if you need to contact us to help!

Generate logs by the Cisco Webex Cloud screen showing blue button to generate log, the tiem, feedback ID, action and the ability to download and refresh as well the the blue close button

3) Troubleshoot calls

The final tool is how administrators can troubleshoot calls directly in Control Hub for Webex Meetings. Call Diagnostics in the Troubleshooting section has got a recent improvement to let you search not just by User or Meeting ID but also by the Device Name. This will allow you to view live data updated in 60 second intervals. You can access information like packet loss, jitter or even resolution.

Diagnostics troubleshoot screen in Control Hub for Webex Meetings showing the video quality, status, and threshold exhibiting in a graph with blue, green and purple lines

These are just some of the tools available for Webex Rooms customers in Control Hub and we are adding more updates monthly to What’s New in Cisco Webex Control Hub

Learn about how Webex Rooms can help face to face collaboration even between thousands of miles or kilometers (for those fellow metric people)

Learn More

Click for all of the Webex Control Hub updates

Fast track your adoption with Cisco Webex Control Hub

Improvements over RoomOS releases from Control Hub

Apply branding to your conference devices

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4 tips to run a great meeting. Man standing in front of meeting screen leaning on chair talking in a meeting in front of a computer screen in front of a desk
4 tips to run a great meeting

Bring productivity back to your meetings

The prospect of having to sit through a meeting doesn’t always excite everyone. Although meetings have the potential to be fun and collegial gatherings that also help move projects along, many of them don’t live up to that promise.

What can go wrong in a typical meeting?

Sometimes, meetings can consume a lot of time and make participants feel disconnected from what’s going on across the company at large:

  • In fact, unnecessary meetings are the No. 1 time-waster in most offices, accounting for untold hours and billions in wasted productivity every month.
  • As much as one-third of all meetings in a given month are deemed unproductive, and it’s not hard to see why: Between late starts, unfocused agendas, and outdated collaboration tech, many participants can’t stay engaged.
  • Unproductive meetings exact steep costs in other ways, too. For example, a “1-hour meeting” is actually much longer, since it takes that amount of time away from everyone who joins it. So, if there are 10 attendees, the meeting is actually consuming 10 hours that could be channeled elsewhere.
  • Along similar lines, traditional meetings require office space. A conference room that someone might be using to take an important call instead has to be devoted to a big gathering that could end up not being all that productive anyway.
  • Remote workers can feel isolated when meetings aren’t engaging. Inadequate communication/collaboration as well as loneliness are among the most cited drawbacks to working remotely, and how meetings are run is a big reason why.

On the bright side, meetings don’t have to be unproductive. With the right tools in support of a coherent strategy, you can run meetings that cover everything you want while keeping everyone engaged. And now, with so many people working from home, it’s important to understand how to help employees feel connected. Here are four proven tips for taking your meetings to the next level.

Tip #1: Send a written agenda in advance and establish context

Why are so many meetings unfocused? Because no one, other than maybe the host, really knows what’s going to happen or who is participating.

That’s why it’s important to send out an agenda containing the main points you want to cover in the time allotted. In Webex, you can add an agenda directly to your meeting invite.

Having an agenda creates structure and helps you maximize the time you have. Once you write everything down and ensure it’s covered point by point, you might even find that you have time left over and can end the meeting early, which is good news for everyone’s productivity as they can get back to other tasks.

As for establishing context about who will be in the meeting, this is where cognitive collaboration solutions can make a real difference. These AI-driven platforms can pull information from multiple sources, such as public social media profiles and various directories, to create context and enable more seamless collaboration

Tip #2: Make it easy to join the meeting

How much meeting time is lost to simply trying to get the session started? Invitees may have to dig through their inboxes to find the dial-in or link, and even when they have it ready they might need to jump through a few hoops first.

Downloading applications and plugins, entering a PIN, finding a compatible device – these complications make meetings overly complex and less useful. To get things back on track, think about simplifying the join process.

A collaboration platform like Webex lets you invite anyone and everyone with a simple set of steps. Most of the time, it’s just a singular “step” – tap or click the button to join when it’s time. Whether someone is using a PC, Mac, phone, tablet, or standard-based video conferencing system, participation in straightforward.

Tip #3: Use video technology, if appropriate

Video conferencing provides benefits that no other meeting technology can:

  • First, it’s the best way to feel like you’re in the same room as everyone else despite being physically far apart. HD video and audio allow for high-quality interpersonal connections in meetings.
  • Second, it lets attendees see reactions and body language in real time. Those insights are missing from conversations that happen over email, chat, or traditional phone call, and they are valuable for bridging cultural divides.
  • Third, it goes hand-in-hand with collaboration capabilities such as screen sharing and recording. A video meeting can benefit from the real-time sharing of an application, document, or entire screen, plus it can be easily shared later with anyone who couldn’t make it

Video meetings are good for many different use cases. You can set up one to touch base with internal staff, recruit and interview candidates for open positions, host a webinar, and much more.

Tip #4: Follow-up as needed

When a meeting ends, sometimes the host will send an email that summarizes what happened and provides a link to the recording. This is a good approach, since it reinforces what was covered and can be especially useful for people who weren’t able to join.

There are other ways to follow-up beyond just email, though. A recording of the meeting can be very informative, plus there’s the option to use a chat app to share additional collateral and thoughts in real time. With Cisco Webex, you can follow-up with ease and host the most productive meetings possible.

Learn more by getting started with a free plan today!

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Love your meeting!

Webex Meetings and Microsoft Teams: Working better together

Skip the trip with Webex Meetings

 

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Connecting one Pilates enthusiast to another. Pilates instructor holding pose on a yoga mat on a wooden floor with legs at a 45 degree angle and hands lifted two feet off the ground wearing plum-colored yoga pant and multi-color athletic shirt and her blonde pony tail and ear buds exhibiting a slight sweat
Take instruction to Webex: Connecting one pilates enthusiast to another

Virtual instruction

“Whoever thinks 10 seconds goes by fast has never done Pilates.” Thankfully Ursula’s Pilates studio didn’t let too many seconds go by before figuring out how to keep her clients engaged when unprecedented times shut down fitness studios in Germany.

Ursula has run her own Pilates studio for the past 10 years, investing in new equipment and constantly building and increasing her client base. So, when she had to temporarily close her studio doors, she had to think hard about ways she could continue her Pilates training.

With her husband working for Cisco, it was a no brainer that he encouraged her to use Webex.

Streaming live Webex lessons to engage in real-time

Implementing Webex has allowed Ursula to continue instructing her Pilates lessons. Not only can she instruct her clients on the next move, but she can perform live demonstrations, checking that her clients are doing the moves correctly and safely, not hurting themselves. The 2-way conversations enabled by Webex allows for a far richer experience than a normal prerecorded video. With #LifeOnWebex, her clients can have real time conversations, build relationships and keep up with each other as they normally would within the walls of her classroom.

Her clients remain fully engaged during the virtual Pilates sessions, keeping spirits high, hearts strong and minds healthy during these unprecedented times.

Times like this require thinking out of the box. Taking lessons virtual with Cisco technology has opened new doors for Ursula and her clients. Noticing new members have joined her classes has made Ursula realize that not everyone can travel to the studio every day. Ursula plans to expand her business model by adding virtual training sessions along with her in-person lessons when the studio reopens.

Webex has helped Ursula continue her business, strengthen the health and immune system of her clients, and provide some peace of mind.

A free Webex Meetings Plan can help keep your business fully-engaged

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Pilates Studio Ottobrunn

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Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series
Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series : Chapter 1: When you are with or without your office

Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series

The “Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams” series we will spotlight techniques in managing and inspiring remote and #WFH teams.  Learn how the Webex Platform and Webex Teams can help transform your team into an engaged, creative and productive no matter if people are across the hall, town or globe.

Managing a digital team using Webex Teams

As a people manager at Cisco, I manage a team spread across multiple time zones and countries.  There are many #WFH resources out there these days but for this series of blogs I thought I would focus on how to build and manage digital team using the Webex Platform with Webex Teams. 

Connecting your team  

First, what is Webex Teams?  Webex Teams is what I consider my collaboration “nerve center” where all of the people I work with, the apps I use, and the meetings/tasks/workflows associated to getting work done are located.  Its where all of the activities before, during and after meetings can live, and, if done right, you can shorten your meetings and maybe not have as many meetings throughout your day but everyone can be on the same page regardless where they are located.  Here are just a few pointers to get you started. 

Get some space 

Go here and learn about and setup your Webex Teams account.  Next, you will need some Space.  Yes, everyone needs a little space.  A space in Webex Teams is like a virtual huddle room you can have with 1 to as many people as you want where you can message each other, share files, co edit files you have in OneDrive and Google, post pictures, GIFs, and capture all of the activities before, during and after a meeting on Webex.  At Cisco, we use Microsoft OneDrive, Sharepoint and Smartsheet a lot and within Webex Teams it brings everyone’s ability to co create content, materials and projects in a much more efficient manner.  (screen shot of ecm integration or video link) 

Create a space and a meeting in one step 

As a best practice I setup a space in Teams, in this case “Joshua Tree Project”( highlighted in a yellow box in the picture), that could be about a particular topic/idea/outcome with a group of people (which could include partners and suppliers – notice the external user in the invite) and schedule the initial meeting in just a one step process.   

calendar creation graphic that reads "Joshua Tree Project" with an image of a black and white joshua tree

If you have Calendar services enabled with Webex Teams you can create a Webex Teams space automatically from your meeting calendar invites from Outlook or Google:
1.  Create a meeting invite in Outlook / Google and invite the people you want to the meeting
2.  In the location field, type in @webex:space 
3.  Hit Send.   

Then, auto”magically” your Webex Teams space will have all of your participants and meeting title as the name of the space.  That’s it, chat, message, call, meet, share with your team. 

Create a space and meeting in one step. Image of Calendar services enabled with Webex Teams

Create a virtual watercooler with your team (internal and/or external members) 

In this time of uncertainty, people are feeling isolated at times and that can cause stress and anxiety.  To help bring a sense of community and togetherness, at Cisco we have leveraged Webex Teams to create “Ask Rooms”.  An Ask Room is just like a virtual watercooler in your office.  People can post messages, questions and others can respond with reactions, answers etc.  At Cisco we have found the level of engagement in these rooms is pretty high and people love to keep in touch with each other.  And better yet, create an ASK space with your customers/partners too, you will be surprised how much a little TLC can go!  As a customer and partner obsessed organization, we on average have 30-40% of our spaces with external, outside of Cisco, participants.  This helps diversify our community and accelerates new ideas.   

Simply create a space with a topic that you feel would have a wide audience, invite people to it and invite the EURL bot (eurl@webex.bot) to help provide a URL link for users in your company to discover and join by sharing the link on an intranet page or email.   For smaller groups, you can create a Team within Webex Teams and add people as members, then as you add more Ask spaces, everyone will get invited and aware of the space.   

Ask COVID-10 Collab

If you have a watercooler type room with your immediate team, keep things light.  On my team we often share pictures from our weekends, family event and we even have a goat farmer in the tribe that keeps us updated on best practices in raising goats (and yes, I mean real goats). 

Be genuine and be yourself 

In work, as in the rest of our lives, being recognized is just an important as the work itself and having each other’s back is important.  This idea is even more with working remote where giving the extra pat on the back or seeing someone in the hallway and letting them know you appreciate what they did doesn’t happen easily when everyone is virtual. 

Within Webex Teams we have the ability for people to add GIFs and reactions to messages within context along with notification of who left the reaction etc.  Keeping things light within the Team is important these days, don’t you agree?  (pic of reactions in teams, thumbs up, celebration emoji etc).

Keeping things light within the Team is important these days, don’t you agree? (pic of reactions in teams, thumbs up, celebration emoji etc)

 

Stay active, have fun 

It can be really hard to balance communicating to others if you are available or not and where you could be located at any one time.  Many times, I am in a meeting or sharing my desktop or other times I need some quiet time to get some work.   The problem that occurs is then people start messaging/interrupting/calling it can be really difficult to get anything done.  This is where Webex Team’s presence really shines.

Webex Teams can automatically show if you are away from your app, if you are in a Webex meeting, sharing your desktop and even on a phone call.  Secondly as a user I can create custom statuses (screen shot below) to my community so they know either where I am located, if I need some quiet time or if there is an important message I want them to know.  For me personally this has brought much needed balance back into my workday as I can feel connected to the team and vice versa without having to sacrifice my mental well being. 

Webex Teams can automatically show if you are away from your app, if you are in a Webex meeting,

Well, that’s a few pointers for now.  The next blog post will be Chapter 2: Stay (Faraway, So Close) covering co creation tools built right into Webex Teams. 

Partner with Cisco and have a true global reach

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Connect with all blogs in the Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams

Cisco Webex: Supporting customers during this unprecedented time

Working smarter: Managing a remote team

Welcome to my virtual office — Webex Teams and my workstreams

 

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March update of Webex Teams. Smiling woman sitting at her computer facing a colleague and smiling while talking wearing a white button up shirt
March update of Webex Teams

It’s here! This month’s update marks the arrival of the highly anticipated new in-space design! To get this exciting update with lots of other cool new features, download the latest version of Webex Teams from here.

MESSAGING

A brand new in-space design (Windows and Mac)

Get ready to become a lot more productive! We’ve redesigned how you work inside a space. Now, you will experience a sleek new layout with all your most important in-space features and actions just one click away. The aim of this new design is to improve discoverability and usability as well as to make the app truly scalable.

If you would like a detailed description of everything that’s changed with this design update, this blog walks through everything step by step.

For an at a glance visualisation of what’s changed, check out this dedicated help page.

A brand new in-space design (Windows and Mac)

On the go custom status (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

In February, we made it possible to add a custom status on your desktop. Now, you will be able to do the same on mobile. If you’re running late, stuck in traffic, or out for lunch, you can let everyone know right from your mobile. Access this feature on mobile by clicking your avatar. Any status you set will stay active for up to 7 days unless you clear it.

On the go custom status (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

Turn off @all mentions (Windows and Mac)

We all know someone who is a little too fond of using @all mentions. In larger spaces, this can be really distracting and almost feel like spam in your inbox. Now, in moderated spaces, moderators will have the ability to disable @all mentions for everyone in the space. This toggle is available on desktop in Space Information under Moderator Settings. When turned off, a notification is sent into the space to let everyone know it’s no longer possible to @mention to all in this space.

Turn off @all mentions (Windows and Mac)

Organize your spaces (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android)
For anyone who hasn’t yet discovered this great way to organize your spaces list, Separate People and Spaces will be turned on by default. This can be easily turned off by clicking on your filters at the top of your space list and unticking ‘Separate People and Spaces’ or by going to your appearance settings. Users who have already toggled this feature will see no change.

CALLING

Webex Calling

Forward your calls (Windows and Mac)

If you’re going to be away from your desk but don’t want to miss an important phone call, you can forward your calls to another phone number. Or, if you don’t want to be interrupted, you can send all your calls to voicemail instead.

We already support Call Forwarding in Calling in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop. See this help doc for more information.

Let’s make it a conference call (Windows and Mac)

Collaboration just got easier. Need another opinion while you’re in the middle of a call? You can now add up to 6 people while you’re in a 1–to–1 call.

We already support conference calls in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop. See this help doc for more information.

I have a voicemail! (Windows and Mac)

No more missing calls in Webex Teams. If you’re using Calling in Webex Teams (Webex Calling) on your desktop, you’ll see a red badge counter (message waiting indicator) next to the Calls tab letting you know you have a voice message. If you want to listen to your messages, go to the Calls tab and click on Call Voicemail to dial into the voicemail system. From your voicemail system, you also can record a personal greeting, delete a message, and so on. After you listen to your messages (from the app or your desk phone), the red badge counter disappears. Get more information here.

Unified CM

Is that another voicemail? (Windows and Mac)

If you’re using Calling in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop, you’ll now get a dedicated Voicemail tab to manage all your voicemails. There’s a red badge counter that lets you know how many voice messages you have. You can check out the details of a message, play it, mark it as read, delete it or call back the sender. After you’ve listened to your messages, either with Webex Teams or your desk phone, the red badge counter disappears. Get more information here.

Let’s make it a conference call (iPad and Android)

We’re making collaboration even easier. Need another opinion while you’re on a call? You can add up to 6 people while you’re in a 1–to–1 call.

We already support conference calls in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop.

Merge two calls (iPhone, iPad, and Android)

When you’re on a phone call and you receive an incoming call in Webex Teams, you can merge the two phone calls into one and have everyone in the same call.

We already support merge if you’re using Calling in Webex Teams (Unified CM) on your desktop. Check out this help doc for info.

INTEGRATIONS

New ServiceNow Bot for Webex Teams! (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android)

Integrate Servicenow with Webex Teams today using the new Servicenow Bot from the Webex App Hub. Easily create, update and resolve incidents directly from any group or 1:1 space. Talk to your Servicenow admin to get custom real-time notifications keeping your team in the know whenever there’s a new situation. Learn more here.

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