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Effective Communication with Clients and Colleagues

Business communication is defined by Wikipedia as “communication that promotes a product, service or organization; relays information within a business; or functions as an official statement from a company”. Topics communicated usually include marketing; brand management; customer relations; consumer relations and public relations. In each one of the above you are representing your company so you need to handle yourself in a professional manner.

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When you have to go speak on behalf of your company you need to determine what you are trying to communicate and to whom. Sometimes you have to communicate with your co workers and at other times with clients. If you need to show a presentation to one of your clients face to face, PowerPoint will always work best but you need to be able to communicate to present your presentation. You cannot prepare for this too much, and you need to be simple and to the point.

5 Things You Should Not Forget When Inviting To A Meeting

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.

Deutsche Telekom discontinues VideoMeet

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Source: Wikipedia

The cloud video conferencing solution VideoMeet by Deutsche Telekom in corporation with Blue Jeans Network is now confirmed to be discontinued by end of the year. The decision was first published by the German  expert magazine “Telecom Handel” in an online article yesterday by Waltraud Ritzer.

What is VideoMeet?

The solution was designed to bring different types of video conferencing devices and software clients together with Blue Jeans cloud technology. The VideoMeet solution was first introduced in June 2011 and has seen strong marketing campaigns. In addition to the virtual MCU and the interop between systems of many different vendors, Blue Jeans technology was first to natively bridge Skype participants into professional video conferences. In 2012 more compatibility features were announces such as the integration into Microsoft Lync or using the service directly out of the Browser with WebRTC.

What’s next?

Starting from January current users can switch to a new model by Deutsche Telekom, which is yet to be announced, or get the service directly from Blue Jeans. Spokesperson Marion Kessing says that unlike the cloud solution VideoMeet, Immersive Telepresence and other video conferencing options of Deutsche Telekom will be extended.

Next to the user base this also hits redistribution partners as they will have to find an alternative cloud video conferencing solution for their clients and integrate it into their service portfolio before January. Seeing the increasing demand for cloud video conferencing a complete removal of the service is unlikely.

Cloud video conferencing alternatives?

Users and redistributors alike might now be interested in alternatives such as examples that can be found on our recent cloud video conferencing solution comparison. In addition to that of course like always we would love to hear your opinion and the experiences you have made.

Microsoft Lync 2013 – New Feature Overview

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Microsoft Lync 2013 – Main Window

Are you planning to upgrade your unified communications IM client? Following up on the article “What Is Microsoft Lync?” by Mark Stubbles we would like to introduce you today to all new features of Microsoft Lync 2013.

In comparison the Microsoft Office Communicator (also known as OCS) had the look and feel of Windows XP, the Lync 2010 update brought it up to speed with the Windows 7 design and finally Lync 2013 has the looks of the Windows 8 and Office 365 environment. But of course there is much more under the hood than just eye-candy. I listed below a few of the new features that were most interesting to me.

Overview of new features in Lync 2013

Visual Features:

The main window has been optimized to provide better access and a more intuitive using of the application. The new tabbed conversation feature gets rid of having several chat windows open at the same time – so you can keep track of all your conversations in a single place and just have to browse through them. Similar to the tabbed browsing of Google Chrome you are also able to move a certain chat out of the tabbed conversations and provide them with their own window and naturally you can move it back into the tabbed conversation window.

And for everyone who would like to display the images and fonts larger they can easily adjust the display setup in the configuration of the client. This is not only a help to users with sight challenges, but also can be useful for a deployment on wall-mounted displays.

Easier Deployment:

The main Lync 2013 client and the Online Meeting add-in is now included in the setup program of Office 2013 so deployment on the software side has been made significantly easier, especially for large enterprises with many thousands of workstations.

However because this part has changed Microsoft has also changed how the group policy is deployed. Instead of working on the communicator.adm file to define policies, certain ADMX and ADML admin templates are provided along with Office Policy Administrative Templates to work on. For more information on this particular topic I suggest reading the Microsoft article on “Group Policy Settings for Lync 2013“.

BYOD Enhancements:

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Microsoft Lync 2013 – Calling a Smartphone

With Lync 2010 the App for smartphone, there was only support for presence and instant messaging while the new Lync 2013 App for smartphones and tablets also supports Voice calls and mobile video conferencing over WiFi and cellular data connection alike. Regardless of the fact that many desk phones can be connected with your Lync client, utilizing Lync on smartphones and Lync on PCs within your organisation your permanently replace the requirement of having a separate hardware phone on your desk and cutting costs for invest and maintenance by enforcing unified communications technology. For a more detailed overview of the features for mobile Lync I recommend the “Mobile Client Comparison Tables” page by Microsoft.

The users accessing from non-corporate workstations via browser also get some good news. The Lync 2013 Web App for web-based conferencing received support for voice and high definition video conferencing devices. Meeting participants can also show their screens for collaboration or presentation and re-assign the presenter role to others – They get the full Lync 2013 meeting experience without having the software client installed on the machine.

Functional Features:

The Lync 2013 client can handle virtual environment better. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) fully supports audio and video devices, like a headset and a webcam, to be connected to the client even though you might be using a virtual machine such as a thin client or a differently re-purposed workstation. For more details on how to deploy the Lync VDI plug-in please check the Microsoft TechNet article.

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Microsoft Lync 2013 – Chat Room Integration

Another interesting new feature is the chat room integration (also known as persistent chat rooms or topic feeds). In older versions you were already able to create group conversations for multiple users to chat or hold a presentation for instance. In the new Lync 2013 however these can be promoted to be permanent and will be also available for others to be joined, including all the content that was added and when. It might not be applicable to all services and organisations, but this feature might the need for static email lists and adds a new dynamic way of sharing information and making such available for all. If you don’t want it to be available for all users, there is also the option to limit the visibility to certain users or user groups.

Also newly implemented is a feature that lets Lync 2013 automatically assign you with “presenting” status, to block incoming communication unless the sender is in an approved group. If you are a two-screen users however this is not automatically done for you, if you use the secondary screen as presenting space.

You may have made experience with previous versions of the client that you would like to keep a certain conversation up for reference but you need to restart the machine. What happens? The information is gone. In the new Lync 2013 once you are back booted up, the conversation comes back along with the content of the conversation, you held before rebooting. I found this to be quite the time-saver in those moments.

Improvements of already deployed functions:

  • Outlook Meeting Scheduling updated
  • Native Video Conferencing enhanced
  • Web App and Mobile App now support voice and video conferencing
  • Contact and card view was improved
  • Meeting participation functions were heavily improved for better collaboration

Have you tried Lync 2013 out yet? Missed your favourite new feature? I would be delighted to hear your opinion. Drop us your comment below!

Unwanted Guests: How Easy Is It To Hack Into Corporate Video Conferences?

Is your video conference solution safe? It’s up to you, to set it up safe.

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Image by codepinkhq

History

For as long as recording technology has existed it has been used for espionage. From the ever-so-stealthy tape recorders (often hidden in books in James Bond films) all the way top the wires used by police agencies to catch a criminal in the act, there is no better way of foiling your enemy than listening to him when he doesn’t think he is being heard.

Nowadays

These days however it is not just living people you need to worry about. It is often said that your computers webcam can be accessed even when you’re not using it; a terrifying prospect for many and considering how long people have been able to listen in on phone calls, are video conferences really that safe? Video conferences are now an important and effective way for modern businesses to communicate. Instantaneous communication with anywhere else on Earth is amazing, but being able to visually gauge the reaction of the person you are talking to make it one of the most powerful tool in any company’s arsenal.

But..

But what if you are being looked in on? If someone watches in on a business deal than they can make money at your expense, work to crush your plans or even make your move before you do. So how safe are they? Hackers like HD Moore say not very! Moore, the creator of Metasploit, has managed to hack his way into the offices of law firms, courtrooms and even the boardroom of Goldman Sachs with ease, suggesting that peeping toms might have more power than previously thought. While this may seem fairly reminiscent of Back to the Future II there isn’t really too much to worry about at home. Moore says that the reasons these companies fail so spectacularly at securing their cameras is because they set them up outside of their company’s network firewalls, meaning easy access to those with prying eyes and hacking know-how. At home in fact, it is not the outside hackers you should worry about but the companies themselves.

And beyond the board room?

Skype has previously stated that it is able to gain access to cameras even when not in video call and a simple Google search can turn up thousands of programs designed purely to hack into webcams without people knowing. It’s not just the anonymous hackers you have to consider. In the early 2000s there was controversy over the US government’s plans to allow phone hacking to counter terrorism. Last year the US government set up an agency called the DCAC (Domestic Communications Assistant Centre), collaboration between the FBI, the DEA and the US Marshall’s Service which is specifically designed to enable wire-tapping on wireless and internet conversations. A court order is required to allow the agency to listen in on their targets (the same as with phones) but this time there was very little controversy at all.

Conclusion

So what conclusion can we come too? Is video conferencing safe for corporations or people at home? While there is plenty of evidence to the contrary I would say yes. If you have the right firewalls, security and managed video conferencing infrastructure then it is incredibly difficult for any peeping toms to get it and if anybody is really that determined to listen in to your conversations then video conferencing is just another tool in their box. If you learn HD Moore’s lessons and don’t underestimate the importance of online security, your company’s secrets should be safe. Are you guys convinced by Moore’s Argument?

Telepresence in the Media – A Collaborative List

Movies? TV? Books? Video Games? Telepresence is everywhere!

Have you ever been wondering if and where Telepresence technology is used in media? I have been paying close attention and noting down appearances of Telepresence technology in movies, TV, books or video games and researching on the internet for a while and wanted to share the list with all of you.

Naturally many movies were books in the beginning but surely not all of them. That is why I still include a category about Telepresence in books, in case there was no movie made or in case I just have not seen the movie to validate the appearance of Telepresence in it.

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The Future is Now: Michael J. Fox and Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary using Telepresence in “Back to the Future”

Also this list includes only Telepresence technologies that provide the ability to have visual communication (or video conference) with a person in a remote location and does not include Telepresence as in “being” somewhere apart from your physical body (e.g. The Matrix, Surrogates, Avatar, etc.).

Lastly before we start let me invite you for Telepresence spotting in the media. If you find something, that is not yet listed, please go ahead and drop it in the comments below and it will be added. That way we can all help to grow this list further.

TelePresence, Cisco, Product Placement, Video, Game, Videogame, Ubisoft, Sam Fisher, Splinter Cell, Conviction, Stealth, Night, Darkness, Dark, Meeting, Room, Meetingroom, Videoconferenceroom, video, conference, videoconferencing, conferencing, mission, sneaking, sneak, agent, secret, screens, three, multiple, screen, camera, cameras, table, seat, chair

Secret Mission: Start the Cisco TelePresence Call

Movies:

 TV:

  • 24 (product placement by Cisco)
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Bubblegum Crisis
  • CSI: NY
  • Fringe
  • How I met your mother
  • Melissa & Joey
  • NCIS: Los Angeles (product placement by Cisco)
  • Rules of Engagement
  • Scrubs
  • Sleeper Cell
  • South Park
  • Star Trek
  • That ’70s Show
  • The Jetsons
  • The Simpsons
  • Two and a Half Men

Video Games:

  • Borderlands series
  • Command & Conquer series
  • Halo series
  • Half-Life 2: Episode 2
  • Resident Evil series
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction (product placement by Cisco)
  • The Witcher 2

Books:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Haunted from within

I hope you enjoyed our list of Telepresence in the media. If I spot something new, I will update the article as well and please feel encouraged to add comments below if you know other appearances that should be added to this list.

Updated: 06.05.2013


Cisco TelePresence in Michael Bay’s Transformers 3

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