In honor of National Travel and Tourism Week, we thought we take a moment to focus on those of you who travel for business. At Easymeeting.net we prefer video conferencing with the occasional business trip, but we know that business travelers account for up to 20 percent of all travelers, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
(Does a hotel feel like home for you?)
Traveling for work presents many opportunities for you. You get to visit new and exciting places, stay in expensive and luxurious hotels, accumulate regular flier mileage, the benefits are endless! However, traveling can be exhausting, expensive. Potentially fun traveling experiences can quickly turn into a stressful ones due to poor planning and disorganization. So for all of you business travelers, here are a few quick tips to make your traveling experience much easier and enjoyable.
Check and check again. Before you leave your resident city, ensure that you double check with all the places you'll be visiting. For example, ensure that you have confirmed the hotel you will be staying in, if you’re attending a conference; ensure you have the correct time and location. Few things are as bad as being stranded in a foreign town, city or country. If you have many meetings to attend and you’ll hardly have any time to eat, book the restaurants before departure. Make certain that you have insurance details and numbers of those who should be informed just incase something goes wrong. If you are traveling internationally, check your phone plan for International calls, electricity adapters, and wi-fi connections and policies at the different places you will be.
Be Prepared. Remember to carry necessary business documents like itineraries, receipts,and travel documents like your passport. Keep them in a safe and accessible folder where you can easily reach them if you’re in a hurry. Taking a tablet instead of lugging around your computer? Make sure you can still access important documents and resources from afar. And Above all, if you are flying- don't forget your headphones!
You are a walking billboard for your company, make sure you are promoting a good campaign. If you expect your employees to be reachable throughout their business travels, do the same. Keep to scheduled meetings using video conferencing tools, and don't leave your team feeling un-navigated while you are out of the office. Ready to party like a rock star after the long meetings? While it’s perfectly acceptable to have a few drinks while socializing, it’s important to remember to remain professional. Keep in mind that you represent your organization and that you also have a professional reputation to protect. Anyone could be a potential customer, or a potential reviewer.
Don’t shop till you drop. Most companies have a limit which employees cannot exceed during travels. Before you leave for your business trip, find out your workplace policy regarding travel expenses and allowances and stay within the stipulated limits. Overspending could send the message that you’re an expensive liability or that you cannot be trusted with company resources. This is of course unless you work for a company that allows you to take out clients in luxury cars and to expensive hotels on its tab.
Remember to stay connected. Finally after the plane takes off and you’re officially in another state or country, use wireless video conferencing, that is so readily available, to keep in touch with your office and clients while on the road. All you need are a phone and good internet connection. Take advantage of this great service to offset some of your work, and to remain up to date with events at the workplace. Even better, stay connected with you family while you are travelling too. Video chat with the kids at night to find out about their day and stay connected with them even when you can't actually be there.
If you are in a job that requires a lot of traveling we understand that these guidelines don't help when it comes to the trips that are over your child’s birthday weekend or some other important event. But that's where technology can help. Using video conferencing for meetings intead of traveling over the weekend or for days at a time to only meet for 2 hours can alleviate a lot of stress and allow you to use your time more productively while enjoying a healthy work life balance!
When someone mentions working from home, you think of being able to sleep in late, working in your pj's, logging in when you feel like it and taking a long lunch. I'm here to tell you this is not the case! Here at Easymeeting.net we encourage employees to work from home. Save your gas, travel less and spend more of your time focusing on your work while having the proper work-life balance. In case you didn't know already, we call it Time Well Spent.
We aren't naive, we understand there are employees that will take advantage of this freedom of not having a supervisor sitting 2 cubes over from them, but this is where leadership and management plays a huge part in the success of telecommuting.
In order to help your company successfully take advantage of today's technology and shift in the workplace, we have compiled tips to ensure you success as a manger of telecommuters:
Lead by example
As a manager, you must always lead by example. This should be nothing new to you; however, it is extremely important for your telecommuters to see that when you are working from home they can count on you to be as available to them as you would in an office environment. If you are always unavailable, your employees will think it is unneccessary for them to be logged on all work day.
Employees and positions that telecommute must be decided by the manager
Whether it is one day a week or every day that your employees are telecommuting, that should be the decision of you, the manager. Employees should prove that they are capable of working from home and that their job can be successfully accomplished from a home office.
Encourage employees to have a home office or designated work station
Employees need to have a designated work station or home office in order to successfully telecommute. This not only helps their focus, but it ensures you, as a manager, that they are in an environment that encourages productivity. It should still feel like going into the office; however, the commute is only a few short steps. Also, not only should they have a designated work area, but they should have reliable bandwidth and connectivity. As a manager you need to be sure that the employee has devices that allow them to get their job done, whether it is provided by the company or if it is their own device.
Be clear in your daily and weekly expectations
By having clear expectations for your employees, it helps you manage and track their productivity. You should make it clear when their work day begins and ends, in some cases it might be helpful to schedule a set lunch time. Not only should they know the times of their work days, but the tasks that need to be accomplished to meet the goals of the team as a whole.
Have frequent meetings, do not rely on emails to communicate
As a leader you need to show your employees that sometimes you can't always rely on email just because you aren't physically in the office. By picking up the phone or video conferencing you will accomplish tasks quicker and more efficiently. Having set video meetings on a daily or weekly basis allows everyone to stay on the same page which is very important in a telecommuting work environment. Employees tend to find phone conferences boring and easier to multi-task (aka not pay attention) during. Video conferencing is more personal, makes employees feel like they are in the same room and you can also present materials to other participants in the meeting. This makes for more successful meetings, making better use of employee time and creating unity within the team. This face-to-face communication will help to decrease the isolation that some full-time telecommuters experience when they do not interact with the office employees. Video conferencing makes it easier to foster teamwork and unity between in office workers and workers from home. People are able to collaborate more frequently and easily.
Recognize employee hard work or success
Have a big deal that just landed? A big project come to an end? Recognize your employees. Employee recognition programs encourage employees to work harder. They also create the unity that is needed when some employees could feel left out that they are working from home.
So now that you know how to successfully manage your team, you want to know what the benefits are and how easily you can integrate telecommuting in your company, right? Well the proof is in the pudding, at least that's what they say... I recently came across a Standford University study that showed working from home increases productivity. According to the study, employees had a quieter work environment with less distractions (contrary to what you might think) and more time to work because of a decrease in late arrivals and sick day requests. The study was conducted in a Chinese travel agency and they found the teleworkers logged 15% more calls overall - 4% from more calls per hour and 11% from more hours worked. You can read more here. Studies have also shown that people who work from home have a more positive attitude and are less likely to quit.
Think your company would be a good fit in the telecommuting world? With cloud services like Easymeeting.net, you can start today without buying costly infrastructure. Try it now, get your 14 day free trial or download The Beginner's Guide to Video Conferencing below!
As you may have heard by now, our EasyConference virtual meeting room service is complimented by a few free services as well. In a recent "vlog" we talked about the key features of our EasyNumbers which offer a way to use simplified dialing for your company's video conferencing calls. Another value added feature is our EasyDirectory, and we wanted to share some of the key benefits with you.
What is it?
This is what we call our phone book for the video conferencing world. We thought that if EasyNumbers can make a video call as easy as making a phone call, then why wouldn't we make finding your collegues', partners' and customers' contact information just as easy!? The best part is that companies and individuals can list the video dialing information in several formats and are not restricted to listing just an EasyNumber.
- IP Adresses
- SIP Adresses
- Lync Details
- Coming soon... skype and other free video services to be listed.
Why should I register?
Video is moving at an incredible pace, both in the business and social worlds. With a Universal video directory like our EasyDirectory, people can make sure they are reachable! Also, in large or small organizations you can easily find the dial details of your contacts without having to manage an internal directory. We take care of the details... so you don't have to.
What else can it do?
Our EasyDirectory has a few other great features too.
- Want to allow others to use your conference room at a cost? You can make your video conferencing room "bookable" or "for rent"
- Have an important meeting coming up? You can search for video conferecing rooms that are "for rent" in a specific area/region.
- Personalize your contact details! You can add your picture, a picture of your video conferencing room, or office building.
Need a visual? Here is an example of what the online EasyDirectory search results look like.
Do I need to be an Easymeeting customer?
Even if you are not an Easymeeting customer, the EasyDirectory is available to you! Register your company and yourself in the directory and become listed. You can also trial our EasyConference services, sign up for an EasyNumber for your company's video systems, and learn more tips for successful video conferencing calls.
Ready to register your video conferencing system in the EasyDirectory?
Video conferencing was a relatively foreign concept a few years back but in the current fast paced world that we are living in now, it has become a part of almost every business. There is a reason for the surge in popularity of video conferencing; it makes running a business easier. Many people have wrongly held the notion that video conferencing is the preserve of larger businesses but this is not true.
Small businesses that have adopted small business video conferencing as part of their business process can testify that it is useful in the following ways:
1. Saving on costs
Video conferencing makes it possible for a business to have meetings with customers, employees or partners who are in distant locations without having to travel to those areas. With video conferencing you can make your sales pitches and presentations to prospective clients without having to go directly to where they are. This saves on travel costs immensely especially for those businesses which have plenty of prospects in different locations and would require their managerial team to travel frequently.
Video conferencing technology has led to the world truly becoming a global village with a business being able to reach out to any part of the world without having to be inhibited by travel costs.
Even better, using video conferencing contributes to saving the environment as the amount of carbon emission produced during video conferencing certainly cannot be compared with the amount produced while traveling to the location in question!
2. Better business management
For companies that have more than one branch or have employees working from home, video conferencing is a must have. This is because it makes it possible for the main office to be able to connect with these people to coordinate their activities and ensure that all effort is geared towards business success. Without coordination it would be very difficult for such a business to move forward as each worker would be working on what they judged to be important, even though it might not really be what the business needs at the moment.
Video conferencing makes such coordination possible and very easy.
3. Improve customer service
Video conferencing facilitates better customer service and can actually exponentially increase the amount of sales done. In an instance where the business is selling products over the internet, it is much easier for a customer to feel safe and actually buy the product. Emails are a very impersonal way to communicate with potential customers and it might not really get the result desired. Video conferencing provides a more personalized platform for your business to interact with potential customers leading to more sales.
4. Creating balance
The average work place in modern times is immensely busy and it is really difficult for workers to create a balance between the office and their family. This is made even worse where the workers are required to travel frequently for business. Not only does it bring discord in families, it also wears workers out.
Video conferencing creates a solution to this problem by first of all reducing the number of times workers are required to travel for business, and also making it possible for some employees to opt to telecommute when they need to, for instance mothers with toddlers.
Small business video conferencing might just be the boost your business needs to go to the next level!
There are a lot of challenges that face legal organizations. Your organization has to come up with different ways to increase its revenue while still being competitive. In addition to that, you should look for ways to increase productivity without compromising customer satisfaction. Once this is done, the firm begins to work more thoroughly on it's customers cases and enjoy an increase in its case load.
Video conferencing is one of the technological tools that can be used to meet the needs mentioned above, and the Legal Industry is taking advantage of these tools.
The legal industry can use video conferencing to handle one on one meeting in a cost effective way. The technology is used to;
- Accelerate recruiting
- Conduct client conferences
- Facilitate education
- Depositions and testimonies
- Access professionals
- Facilitate communication within the organization
Video conferencing has reduced the amount of time your employees spend outside their offices. This cuts down the productivity and financial losses that come with all that travel. Clients also enjoy the efficiency that comes with using this technology. This is because they can now meet their lawyers at their own convenience. As long as a client has the necessary equipment needed to make the call, they can contact their legal team before returning to work.
Examples of how video conferencing is used:
Local courts and the State find it easier to communicate with prisoners via video conferencing. Not only is this option cost effective, it is also more secure. The inmates no longer have to go to the courtrooms to have their cases heard. During the depositions for civil cases it is faster to use video conferencing especially if the client is not in the city. Some of the video calls are recorded and archived for future reference.
The legal industry can use video conferencing to access international expert witnesses. The technology makes it easier for you to access subject matter experts at short notice. With this aid, an expert is able to give their testimony without having to travel to the firm’s location.
Video conferencing has changed the dynamics of communication within the organization. People in different locations are able to hold a meeting remotely. This gives the associates and partners a chance to discuss topics that can only be addressed in a face to face encounter. They end up saving on time and resources because they no longer have to travel across the country to hold meetings.
When your firm is training its employees it can use video conferencing and streaming. The training sessions can take place from a single location and recorded for later viewing. This approach ensures that the participants do not leave their desks. All the trainees are trained using identical material.
This tool is also effective when it comes to recruiting new talent. Use video to screen the applicants, only invite the qualified candidates to come to your offices. New recruits are attracted to firms that furnish themselves with the latest technology since they are progressive.
Video conferencing is a very versatile technology. It can be used by a person sitting in front of a desktop computer fitted with a webcam, a system with integrated audio visual or a high end solution. A good service provider will provide the services in accordance to your budget and the technological limitations facing your company.
In order to enjoy seamless video calls, get the managed video experience service. The service offers a high quality experience. The service provider manages the equipment and notifies their client in case there is an issue that needs to be addressed.
It is easy to get lulled into a sense of comfort and security over video, leaving you open to making embarrassing or deal-breaking mistakes. The best rule to follow is that as soon as you login to the meeting, behave as you would if the conference were in person.
While following this rule will go a long way to keeping harmony, the following five etiquette tips are just good manners.
Call in Early
One of the worst ways to begin a meeting is by showing up late, even if it was because of technical difficultly. Calling in at least five minutes early will give you time to start troubleshooting problems and to make others aware of possible issues.
If you are the one holding the meeting, you should call in closer to 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Here are a few things to do before the meeting gets started.
1. Make sure your screen can be shared or that your presentation is visible. Get a colleague to connect on a separate number to make sure that it is visible on another line and that there are not other problems.
2. Make sure the sound is good, both on your side and your colleague’s.
3. Send instructions with a reminder shortly before the meeting. It is nice to be able to have all of that information easily available instead of having to comb through emails or pull up a calendar.
Begin with Introductions
This is an easy step to miss as you get accustomed to video conferences, but if you are meeting with clients or new sites it is best to take a few minutes to get acquainted. It does not need to take long, but it shows an interest in the other people on the line. Even if it is a group you are accustomed to talking to over video conference, do take a minute or two to say hello before jumping right into business. After all it is the niceties that make video conferencing more personal.
Stay Focused on the Meeting
Do not get distracted by emails and text messages; keep your attention on the meeting. There are few things more annoying and disrespectful than requesting they repeat a question or an idea because you were occupied with something else. Remember, the meeting may be remote, but they can still see you and can tell when your attention strays. This includes side conversations. Video conferences tend to amplify distracting conversations, making it difficult for people on other lines to follow the main points when others in the room are creating background noise.
Dress for the Meeting
Remember they can still see you, so you need to look professional. Even if the meeting is internal, showing up for a video conference in your pajamas is not acceptable. If you are used to working from home, set aside some time to get dressed before hand.
Mute your Microphone
If you are not actively speaking in the meeting, mute your microphone. This way any background noise will not interrupt the conference. This is especially useful for calls using an "active speaker" layout to eliminate another user from taking the larger portion of the screen just because they sneezed or put their coffee come down to loud.
The idea of cloud based video conferencing is still a bit intimidating to many companies. Part of the problem is the fear of mixing two different types of newer technologies. However, this fear is a much greater detriment than benefit because it limits a businesses ability to maximize their reach and increases the cost of their video conferences. The benefits of cloud based video conferencing are far greater than the risks.
Because people do not understand what the cloud is, they do not trust it with something as important as client conferences. These companies spend a considerable amount of money trying to setup a system that they can control, but the vast majority of these are simply not as stable as a video conference in the cloud. As with most things, the cloud’s simplicity is why it is more stable and reliable.
Similarly, people mistakenly believe that a connection in something that they do not control, but ultimately they are not getting the same picture and clarity as businesses conducing their conferences over the cloud. The established firewalls, safeguards and auto negotiation tools in the cloud take care of many of the connection elements that are more limited by hardware.
Handling a video conference through the cloud is far more business friendly when dealing with clients. They will not need to spend hours trying to work their way into your network or trying to figure out how your chosen video conferencing software works. Instead, you will be able to connect with them through a software of their preference, or you can even conference through different software applications. Cloud based video conferencing leaves options open on both sides to minimize the amount of time required to prepare for the call, giving you more time to focus on what’s important, the client’s needs.
Better Customer Support
Along the same lines as availability, holding conferences in the cloud means that you can offer clients better customer service. When a client initiates a ticket and it becomes clear they need more focused attention, cloud based video conferencing can be setup on the fly, improving your response time and customer service ratings.
Cloud based video conferencing also makes it far easier to talk within your company, particularly businesses spread out over different geographical locations and time zones, or businesses that encourage working from home. Cloud based video conferencing will make it easier to keep people connected and talking. Ultimately, this is a huge benefit to your bottom line because employees who are keeping communication open are not getting to the end of a project only to realize that some work was duplicated while other aspects were entirely missed. Coordination is easier and impromptu meetings are easy to setup.
Most importantly, cloud based video conferencing provides a significant reduction in costs that should make it as attractive as the other benefits (probably more so). Holding a video conference outside of the cloud requires considerably more equipment and coordination, probably even a specialist or two to maintain it. Operating a conference out of the cloud means that most of the behind the scenes stuff has been taken care of for you. Your company will not need to hire technical people to constantly maintain the video conferencing system, and you won’t need to purchase or maintain expensive hardware, software and yearly upgrades. You will be able to hold your conferences over any number of existing, sometimes free, software applications, particularly if you use multipoint video conferencing.
Our team of Easymeeting Expert's get to meet a lot of people around the world each and every day. Sometimes, it is a person's very first video call and they may not be able to find their camera, and sometimes it's an old pro- just checking in to learn some new tricks on the Easymeeting platform.
Either way, over the years, we have seen a lot of examples of good and bad video etiquette. So we've put our knowledge together, to help you collaborate in the Cloud. Check out our latest vlog of what NOT to do in video conferences.
WARNING: Over exaggeration may be detected.
Want a little more video conferencing advice? Check out our whitepaper with 10 video conferencing Q & A's!
Video conferencing has had a significant impact on nearly every area of every industry, but the benefits for customer service are perhaps greater than any other organization. There are many different facets of video conferencing that make it an ideal way of communicating with customers, from troubleshooting with a shared screen to planning implementation to discussing the best way to coordinate upgrades, the possibilities are nearly limitless.
One of the worst complaints a customer service center can receive is the assistance feels too impersonal, which can make them decide to drop your services. Video conferencing gives clients the face time to make them feel closer to the representative providing the service. By giving clients more time and effort, they are more likely to reciprocate and provide great testimonials. Although it may cost a bit more, the excellent reviews, kudos, and testimonials will attract the attention of potential clients who are tired of impersonal help or less friendly means of communication.
Video conferencing helps remind clients that customer support is there to help and it is a real human at the other end of the call. It is easy for customers to get frustrated and start taking that frustration out on the voice on the other end of the phone or the chat box. Chat is a great way for initial troubleshooting, but this approach lacks any tone, making it more difficult to remember it is a person, not a machine helping you out. When it becomes apparent that the problem is more severe, it is better to be able to step up the support to something more personal. This makes clients feel that their needs are being taken seriously, providing a more impressive means of reaching out to help than a phone call that could have similar problems as a chat window.
Training on the Job
For sites that are just coming online, having video conferences provides a great first impression in terms of the service they can expect. Having a dedicated representative help them through the beginning phases will not only give them a better impression, it will mean that their initial setup follows guidelines and recommendations, reducing the number of issues you are likely to have to troubleshoot later.
Closing the Distance
When it comes to issues with time zones and geography, video conferences are the perfect solution. When traveling to the customer site is not an option, holding a conference call with video is the next best thing. You get all of the body language and facial expressions that help to clue you in on how well or poorly the client understands what you are saying. People are prone to hiding their ignorance, something that is far more difficult to do in person or with a video call. From these cues you will be able to either backup or find out exactly how much of the information provided has met with success (and understanding).
Customers that are in different time zones provide a unique disadvantage to Customer Service, a problem that is largely eliminated by video conferencing, so long as you have employees that work a schedule that covers the client’s time zone. Because your employees will be able to work from home for the conference call, it is much easier to cover off hours.
Most people don’t think there is too much to video conferencing, after all it should be in the name. But like any other type of advanced technology, there are different types and different ways to connect. Multipoint video conferencing is one such type of technology, and it offers more options than many of the more basic video conferencing methods. With multipoint video conferencing, you are able to connect several participants or locations into a video conference so that everyone can see and hear eachother at the same time. Even though it may sound a bit more complex, you can really break it down into two options. Understanding the different options available to setup a multipoint video conference will help you to determine which is the right solution for you and to plan for implementing it.
(Six-way Multipoint Video Call)
1. On site infrastructure called MCU's (multipoint control units) hosted and managed by your IT department
The multipoint control unit, also called the MCU, is the controller for your multipoint video conference. Think of it as the bridge that closes the gaps between the different endpoints used by the software. Each member of the conference call will dial into the MCU and this will provide the necessary connection to tie the different endpoints together.
The MCU concept is actually pretty straightforward, but the number of MCU options makes selecting the right one a little more difficult. MCUs can be 100% software, they can combine software and hardware to establish the connection, or they can be 100% hardware.
2. Managed Services through a video conferencing service provider, via the "Cloud"
Managed services are generally sold in a similar format to a cell phone service. You are able to pick and choose from different features, like unlimited usage, connectivity through mobile devices, recording and the likes. As with any other service- you have a team of support (3rd party) to lean on for troubleshooting issues, that typically your own IT department would handle for on-site MCU setups.
The managed service concept is a newer concept compared to the infrastructure version of video conferencing that has been around since the 80's (believe it or not). Many providers have 100% software based options, while others have the options between partially software and partially hardware based. Just like with MCU's, there are options based on your needs.
Which One Is Right for You?
Here’s a few tips to help you decide:
Multipoint Control Units
- MCUs provide a controlled environment when you know what endpoints you will be working with and how many people will be joining.
- Onsite MCU's require the customer to "host" the bandwidth for all of the callers.
- Onsite MCU's are managed in house, typically by a team IT technicians
- Managed Services provide a flexible environment when you need to have the capability of meeting with different users, on different devices.
- Managed Services will typically host the bandwidth for the call- making each participant accountable only for their own connection.
- Managed Services are accessible through video systems and the internet and require less management from within a company's IT department.
Depending on the amount of budget, control, and involvement your IT department wants to have in the company’s video conferencing options will be a large deciding factor for many video users between on site MCU’s and managed services to provide employees with the capability to have multi participant video meetings.
To learn more about how video conferencing can help your company save time and money, download our whitepaper!