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One of the most uncomfortable moments that can happen on a conference call is when you find yourself with someone who can’t keep the conversation going and, even more oddly, doesn’t mind the ‘sound of crickets’—no one speaks, just dead silence. That leaves you wondering whether what you said made sense, bored the others on the lines or was totally off base. Either way, it’s a lose-lose-lose situation. A lull in conversation can happen for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, a person on the other end will be multitasking and will look for any break in the conversation to send an email, check his or her mobile device or complete an administrative task. Or, the silence could mean that an individual is simply waiting for you to talk. A caller might even mute their line and then forget to unmute before answering. In any case, it is poor etiquette to expect the people on the call to keep the conversation going—especially if you initiated the call.
Therefore, the key is to keep your participants engaged to avoid an awkward lapse in conversation. The best solution for this is to lay out your agenda ahead of time so that all parties involved know the planned schedule and you can seamlessly move from one point of interest to another during a lull. By letting the other parties know your exact intentions early on in the call, it can facilitate an easy flow and prevent a live communication breakdown.
A further step to avoiding this scenario is to pretend that you are engaging with an entire audience instead of just a few people. By actively filling lapses in conversation with talking points, it will prevent you from relying on the others for ideas. Your participants, in turn, will respect you for coming to the table with enough information to fill the void and for not wasting time.
But, at the end of the day, don’t be terribly bothered by silence. In fact, silence is often a good thing—meaning you struck chord with the person on the receiving end of the call. Now it’s your job to do the listening and to let them chime in.
Posted at 12:55 PM in Conferencing Tips |
Posted: 18 Jun 2013 06:41 AM PDT
It may not have been the feared storm that many predicted, and it certainly didn’t hold a candle to the previous storm that bore its “derecho” name, but last week’s thunderstorm was one of the many that are being predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) during the 2013 hurricane season.
Washington, D.C. has seen its share of foul weather in the past few years. Snowpocalypse, last year’s derecho, numerous named tropical storms and other weather events have blazed paths of destruction through the area, closing the offices of government agencies and forcing federal employees to stay in their homes. These incidents resulted in the closure of government offices and the loss of millions of dollars worth of productivity as federal employees were unable to do their jobs.
With the steep cost of closing government offices and a predicted severe hurricane season top of mind, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) sent a memo to federal agency Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) that stressed the flexibilities available to federal employees to help ensure continuity of operations (COOP) when disaster strikes.
One of the many points raised by OPM in their memo was the ability of federal employees to telework during weather events and other situations where offices are closed and the need for CHCOs to ensure teleworkers are familiar with agency expectations in disaster situations.
By adopting telework when weather forces federal agencies to close offices, government employees can continue to work towards accomplishing their mission, even if they’re not at their desks. This is an ability that is being enabled by today’s advanced technologies which allow federal employees to be just as productive in their homes as they are at their offices.
In addition to the virtual desktop and cloud solutions that are delivering requisite applications and data to any computer with an Internet connection, video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions are enabling the face-to-face communication that many government managers fear will be lost when employees telework.
Today’s VTC solutions enable federal employees to communicate via video with their coworkers from a wide ecosystem of endpoints, from desktop computers to mobile devices. This ensures that distributed federal workers can continue to collaborate, even without the investment in pricy VTC endpoints for their homes.
In today’s difficult budget environment, and with federal agencies having to do more with less thanks to cost cutting and hiring freezes, the loss of money and productivity in emergency situations can be devastating. However, thanks to new technologies, such as VTC, cloud and virtual desktops, employees can now continue to work effectively, even when the office is closed. With employees capable of working from everywhere, OPM is right to prod agencies to prepare for telework, especially as NOAA tells Americans to prepare for a bad hurricane season.
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In past posts we’ve discussed the benefits of video teleconferencing (VTC) for federal government agencies and state and local government entities.
VTC solutions can enable government organizations to cut costs on unnecessary travel and extraneous estate. They can empower telework, increase employee productivity and improve work-life balance. They can even enable government leaders to make faster, more informed decisions.
Unfortunately, despite the cost savings that many VTC solutions can enable over time, government entities at the federal, state and local level may find themselves in a financial situation that keeps them from acquiring them. However, the implementation of VTC solutions doesn’t have to be extremely expensive for government agencies. And in some cases, it may even put dollars back into government coffers.
Nextgov recently featured an article about the expansion of shared services within the federal government. Shared services are essentially IT solutions that an agency develops and then sells into other agencies. The agency absorbs the cost of the initial infrastructure purchase and implementation, but then takes in recurring fees from offering the solution as a service to offices and divisions with the agency.
The article details how shared services have benefited Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had its IT budget slashed by more than $600 million. However, they managed to recoup some of those costs by developing IT services that they then provided to other DHS divisions at a fee.
Shared services ultimately benefit all parties involved. The agency or office that implements them gets to use them and gains an additional source of revenue. The agencies that purchase the solutions as a service get them as a recurring operating expense that is easier on their budget instead of as a single, large capital expenditure.
The shared service model works for government organizations at all levels, including federal, state and municipal government. Federal agencies tend to be comprised of multiple offices and divisions. Often, these offices and divisions handle their own IT budgets and acquisitions. The parent agency – or in the case of the CBP, one department within the agency – can purchase a solution and sell it across the rest of the agency.
The same applies to states and local governments that can do the same with their own individual agencies and the county and city governments within their borders. In fact, in some instances where individual cities within a state have larger Information Technology budgets than the state itself, shared services offer an excellent opportunity to utilize those budgets to implement an IT solution state-wide.
With their ability to increase productivity, cut costs and increase efficiency, VTC solutions are becoming increasingly essential in today’s government. And shrinking budgets don’t have to stand in the way of implementing them. Utilizing shared service models, agencies can make their money back on their VTC implementations, while offering them as a service in a budget-friendly manner to other government entities.
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