5 Things You Should Not Forget When Inviting To A Meeting

April 23, 2014 by Christopher Isak 1 Comment »

Today I would like to show you 5 things to consider when inviting others to a local meeting or video conference. These methods have developed throughout years of hosting and participating in meetings all over the world and I hope they will be of value to you. So without further ado don’t forget the coffee and … enjoy!

1 – Identify Participants

Meetings can be a nice way of bringing relevant people together on a table (or virtual table) to analyse the status quo and decide for the best way forward towards a common goal. However a meeting host, who is to send out the meeting invites, has to consider carefully who should participate and who does not add value. That might sound harsh but the reality is that even people often forget it, every person’s time costs money. Maybe they are not charged for it but at some point the time they were involved in this meeting could also have been used differently. That is especially a critical factor if meetings happen with more than just one organisation involved.

So make sure to analyse the reason for the get-together and invite only people who can add value to the meeting. Feel free to utilise the “optional” invite for people who are not directly impacted. If the outcome alone is relevant for a stakeholder you don’t need to waste their time with the talk – just send them a brief update on the outcome of the meeting. If you are not sure how to handle the situation, just ask the clients or stakeholders if they would like to be invited or not.

A generally interesting approach would be to not have everybody allowed to schedule meetings before they don’t know the etiquette of hosting a meeting.

2 – Prepare the Agenda

Agendas and general meeting information should be mandatory to a meeting invite. Make sure that the invitees are aware of “what” will be happening or what project this meeting is related to. Tell them in clear written text “when” the meeting is happening and make sure to include recurrence information, date, weekday, time and whenever necessary add the times for all participant’s time zones relative to their location. Also identify how long the meeting should run. Feel free to invite for 15 minutes instead of a full hour if that is all you think it will take. You may plan with some buffer but don’t overdo it.

Don’t forget to add details on “why” the meeting is happening. It might be obvious to some individuals why the meeting is happening but the rest really appreciates an actual reason for them to invest their time and attend. Often people have a lot to do in their work day and if you ask them to invest their time into your meeting, does it not seem plausible to at least explain them why?

Now you can proceed with the actual agenda of the meeting. Here you list the meeting phases and subjects and identify possible speakers or stakeholders and prepare a plan. While you facilitate the meeting, don’t forget your agenda. Keep it in front of you and stick to it. Make sure nobody eats up more time then scheduled, stealing the chance for others to address their thoughts.

In return people will begin to like this way of planning that ensures that everybody’s time is used at a best possible rate. They will evangelise the method and bluntly reject ‘blank’ invites with the request for a proper agenda to be added before they accept it.

3 - Manage Expectations

An important piece of hosting a meeting is to manage the expectations. Advise of your expectations about the outcome of the meeting and also let the invitees know what you expect from them during the meeting and even before the meeting starts.

What is there to include?

  • Make invitees read and understand the full invite
  • Advise invitees to raise points to be added to the Agenda if they miss something
  • If you attach files to the invite, tell them to review it before the meeting not during the meeting
  • Tell them to forward the invite to others, if they think the person could add value

4 - Guidance on Joining the Meeting

If you utilise collaboration or communication technology such as web conferencing, video conferencing or even only audio conferencing, make sure that even inexperienced invitees are able to join. Attach a few lines of connection details and dial-in instructions to the end of the invite body before you send it out. If possible provide the invitees with a trial connection, to verify whether or not they would be able to join, before the actual meeting is happening.

This way you can ensure that everybody is there sharp on time, ready and able to collaborate rather than waiting on person x who

5 – Proper Closure

Many meetings are facilitated in swift and adequate manner but lose value if the agreed steps or actions are not tracked after the meeting has ended. Make sure all statements and action points are assigned to individuals with a due date and make sure to follow-up in timely manner. You may utilise a time keeper or someone who records meeting minutes on the fly.

Alternatively you can just write a summary yourself, after the meeting has ended and send it to all participants (and to all who where absent). Make sure to include all statements and outcomes in your summary email and make it the recipients responsibility to speak up if something is not correct or misunderstood.

X – Experimental

Here comes my personal ideas that are still considered to be ‘experimental’. Feel free to try this out and let me know how this worked for you or what you think of it.

  • Schedule 40 minute meetings instead of a full hour. Start at ten minutes past the full hour then end ten minutes prior to the following full hour (x:10 – x:50).
    This allows a little breather for people who frequently join meetings and allow them to change physical location, grab a coffee or go to the restrooms and still be on time.
  • Remove your phone from your desk. We are in the time of video conference. Forget about audio-only…
  • Try out meeting sketching. A new trend to visualise information in your notebook that is creative and fun. Check out Eva-Lotta Lamm’s web page with examples.
  • What are your experimental methods? Let us know in the comment section below!

So I hope this is a help to all beginners and experts alike. Have any thoughts? Feel free to reach out here on the blog in the comments or hit me on Twitter.

Photo credit: SalFalko

 

Conference Calls – Save Time and Money, and Get What You Want!

April 4, 2014 by Harry Price No Comments »

call-meThe mere mention of the word ‘meeting’ can make you let out a little inner groan. All that time spent sitting around tables discussing and debating things is frustrating and often a little bit pointless.

Unless the meeting is properly chaired and there’s a dedicated agenda and minutes, it’s just seen as a waste of time by many members of staff. Workplaces are stressful places to be in and it’s in no small measure to do with meetings. They have a habit of using up precious time with delegates leaving the room feeling no more clued up than when they arrived. Meetings are a drain on a company’s finances: expensive catering needs to be supplied and everyone’s travel expenses taken care of.

However, meetings do have their benefits. Organised properly they can focus people’s thinking, and there’s definitely a lot to be gained from getting a collective opinion on company strategy. There’s no getting away from it – meetings need to take place. There’s no valid reason however, for them requiring everyone to meet at the same venue. The obvious solution is to set up telephone or video conference calls, and here’s why:

What Is a Conference Call?

A conference call is a meeting that takes place over the phone using a dedicated conference App. This allows multiple people to dial in, listen and take part in conversations. It’s a great way for everybody to take part in the meeting without having to get to the same place. Whether they’re on the train using a Bluetooth headset, working from home, or even sitting on a beach in Spain, they can have their say!

The Technology Is No Longer A Barrier

Sometimes, mangers can forget that conference calling isn’t a difficult thing to set up. With the rise of Skype and the smartphone, you don’t need to pay for extra IT Services to schedule remote meetings. Services like Google Hangouts allow you to conduct a visual meeting or “webinar” with no costs for setting up the service at all.

Conference Call Etiquette

As with all meetings there is a certain etiquette applied to conference calls. One person needs to chair the meeting so that everybody gets a chance to have their say. The chair will invite everyone to voice their opinion. Quite often, in a voice only call, the person speaking will say their name before they make a comment just so everybody is clear on who has said what. This is also helpful to the person taking the minutes of the meeting.

Who Can Take Part?

Anybody with a phone can take part! It just takes one person to organise it. They will send out an email to everyone stating what date and time the meeting will take place and people will confirm their ‘attendance’.

For video conferences nowadays you may utilise your organisation’s facilities or just do a video conference with a software solution right from your desktop.

Conference calls are a fuss-free way of conducting meetings without all the hassle that goes alongside them. Expenses will be lower and people will find themselves with a lot more time on their hands to follow up the actions from the meeting. It’s becoming a more and more popular way of communicating across offices.

Do you like conference calls? Or don’t? Why not share your experiences with us in the comment section below.

About the Author

Harry Price is a guest blogger and entrepreneur. He is a personal trainer and an animal right’s activist.

 

5 Reasons Why A Hacker Might Be Tapping Into Your VoIP Phone System

March 27, 2014 by Nancy Baker No Comments »

Businesses seem to be turning to VoIP phone systems in huge numbers and it might be something to do with how many online businesses are operating these days. If you’re one of those companies you’ll get tons of benefits from using VoIP, but what about the negatives you’ve got to watch out for?

dark-secretive-hacker-person-illegal-attempt-breach-security-blue-light-fingers-close-up-cracker-voip-crop

One threat you might experience is a hacker making their way into your system. You’ve already got to deal with software security and all your important data will be stored on hard drives, so a hacker attacking your phones is the last thing you need. If you’re wondering why a hacker would want to target your VoIP we’ll look at a few of the main things going through their mind.

Ruin your business

Your phone lines could be the heart of your business and if someone has a bone to pick with you they might want to destroy it. Try running a business when you can’t get anyone on the other end of the line and you’ll not succeed. Even if the hacker was to cause a small delay in the traffic flow it would be hard to speak to anyone without giving up after a few minutes. If someone wanted to sabotage your phone system you’ll know they have a huge grudge against you.

Get free calls

When you call someone over VoIP it’s not free if you’re calling landlines and it can actually be quite expensive if you’re calling people in other countries. Skype to Skype chats are great, but there is big money involved when you start calling international landlines. Do you think a hacker will want to pay for those calls by themselves when they could easily hack into your system? It would mean they don’t have to pay anything because you’re left picking up the bills.

Obtain certain information

We’re getting into secret agent territory here because someone could be listening in on your conversations if they want to discover secret information. You could be betting tapped by the FBI because you’re smuggling drugs in and out of South America, or maybe your wife has hired a private detective because she thinks you’re playing around with your secretary. Just realize someone might be listening in because they want some information you don’t want them to have.

Divert sales calls

Your sales staff could be sitting on their VoIP phones right now making you lots of money. A competitor might know you’re doing okay and they’ll try to steal business off you. If they can hack into your VoIP system they might be able to divert some of your calls. That means people looking to buy something will be speaking to the hacker instead of your sales staff. It’s always something to think about if you suffer a sudden drop in phone calls.

To prove something

Most hackers won’t even know who you are and they won’t give a crap about you. They don’t care what happens to your company because all they care about is their hacking skills. They just want to prove something to themselves and everyone who will listen to them on their hacker forum. These are definitely the ones you want to deal with because they won’t want to see your suffer, plus they won’t stick around for too long because they’ll eventually get bored.

Life will surely go on

At least you can be happy about one thing. Even if hackers decide to mess with your VoIP phone system it’s not the end of the world. You will eventually realize what is happening and you’ll be able to deal with it as quickly as possible. If they messed with your hard drives it would be even more painful because data recovery is a lot more annoying than a few missed phone calls. Once you deal with the problem you should be up and running in no time.

 

 
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