The Audio Conference Call is Dying. Here's Why.

angry lady yelling at phone

The traditional conference call has taken quite a beating over the past few years. This David Grady spoof was the first “laugh so hard, I cried” satire I came across. I think what struck me with this one was each time I thought it was getting old, he threw in something that made me laugh even harder… for nearly five minutes!

This week, the video “A Conference Call in Real Life” by Tripp & Tyler is making its rounds through social media. It’s funny too, although I think I’m still partial to the David Grady version.  And just today, I came across an article on “the existential despair of the conference call,” to which one of my colleagues replied, “I laughed, I cried, I kept watching! This would be a good clip of what can (and does) go wrong … unless you use Scopia.” She did include a “winky face,” but the truth of the matter is that Scopia does overcome almost all the issues identified in these conference call parodies. Not the barking dog, of course, and not the random background noise, but Scopia does take out A LOT of the guesswork.

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve been at Avaya for years, and other times, I’m blown away that it’s already been 20 months since the acquisition of Radvision. Where have the past (almost) two years gone? When I look back at the changes I’ve seen at Avaya, one of the biggest is that we have an incredibly strong video conferencing culture. And if you think I’m making it up, the proof is in the numbers below:

avaya scopia in house usage

Last month, we had almost 40,000 video meetings on Avaya Scopia with 340,000+ attendees. From June 2012 through December 2013, we had more than half a million video meetings and have surpassed the 3 million mark on number of participants. That’s A LOT of video, and that doesn’t even count the video calls I host (which often feels like another half million or so per year :) ).

Why is video usage so high within Avaya? I have a few theories, and they go to the core of the spoofs mentioned above.

  1. Get rid of the unknown: When I joined Avaya, conference calls were mostly audio-only. As a newbie to an organization of 15,000+ employees, I never knew who was talking. I was constantly IMing colleagues asking, “Who’s speaking now?” With Scopia video, active speakers are highlighted in the virtual meeting room, and names are displayed. There’s never any question who’s speaking, and all participants are clearly identified in the participant list.
  2. A picture is worth a thousand words: The ability to see who is speaking and to read his/her body language as well as the body language of other participants is huge. You get fewer interruptions, fewer questions, and richer communication because your meetings are taking place face-to-face.
  3. Get on the same page: Content-sharing is easy on Scopia, and content is displayed in high definition. There’s no more asking, “Are we looking at the same page?” or “Can you send the deck you’re referring to?” What’s more, participants can easily scroll through content that’s already been presented without interrupting the active speaker (a feature that is totally unique to Scopia).
  4. The power of mute (and more): With Scopia, you always know who the speaker is thanks to active speaker tracking. That means you also know when someone is “speaking” without meaning to… i.e. furiously typing on their keyboard, crinkling papers, having a side conversation, etc. The beauty of Scopia is that all users –whether in a conference room, on Scopia Desktop or joining via Scopia Mobile – have full meeting moderation. That means you can mute the noisemakers without interrupting the call. The ability to mute the far end can be beautiful thing when you have a lot of people on the line. And Scopia moderation goes far beyond mute – you can add or disconnect participants, take “control” of content-sharing (without having to ask for it), change your layout so content appears larger or smaller, etc.

Of course, I’d be exaggerating if I said every Scopia call goes off without a hitch. But when I read articles or watch videos like those mentioned above, I have to say, the death of the traditional conference call must be on the horizon. Why use audio only when you can use video, too? If you ask me, video conferencing is a no brainer, especially with the leaps we’ve made in personal video conferencing at the desktop and on the go.

What are your thoughts? If you use video, have your conference calls been more effective? I’d love to hear from you.

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At IAUG, the Experience was Everything

Avaya invited Brenda Emerson, President of IAUG, to share her thoughts about this year’s conference:

Avaya ENGAGE 2016 was, in a word, engaging.

It’s great to see the best and the brightest business communications professionals gather each year. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Our vibrant, intelligent community is growing and has a very bright future. New technologies and solutions that we learned about will enable us to do our jobs better than ever before. When Gary Barnett unveiled Avaya Oceana during the opening keynote, the excitement and energy in the room was tangible.

The curriculum was outstanding. The agenda had something for everyone: Technical sessions for the engineers and design staff; business sessions for the business manager and architects. In total, 170 breakouts were available, covering 13 different tracks.

I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the impressive solutions expo, chatting with the more than 100 exhibitors. The ingenuity coming from the business communications industry never ceases to amaze me. I’m excited about what’s possible and what’s next.

Something new this year was the Avaya Breeze™ Developer Summit and Hackathon. This 2.5-day summit started with a quick tutorial on the development platform, followed by 48 hours of designing and building a custom application. Before the event, none of the participants had any experience with Breeze. I was invited to judge the applications. It was amazing to see the power and simplicity of Breeze in action. If you’re interested in reading more about the winners, don’t miss Zeus Kerravala’s recent article “Building Apps with Avaya Proves a Breeze.”

It’s a privilege for me to be a part of IAUG. I know it makes a difference in people’s professional lives. This event is truly a labor of love and I am grateful to work with the team that makes IAUG and the annual summit so successful. It’s gratifying to reflect on the results and feedback we receive. I was particularly thrilled when I came across Srivinivasan Narayanan’s post in the mobile app: “LOVED IAUG. My first ever. Flew in all the way from India on a friend’s recommendation. The event exceeded my expectations. Definitely worth the time and money. Brilliant speakers, great audience and a networking opportunity you don’t wanna miss!”

So my hat’s off to the team. Thanks for all the hard work. Can’t wait to get started on next year’s event!

If you were not able to come this year, and want to get a taste of what you missed, be sure to watch the highlights video.

At the end of the day, experience is everything. It’s how we learn, how we best interact with each other and how we continually improve ourselves. Being a part of a community like IAUG provides these experiences like no other. If you’re looking for a place to grow and share your expertise, come join us at IAUG.



Social Selling: How To Use Social Media For Lead Generation

Attracting and retaining customers today is all about giving them more choices for when and how to interact with you. With more engagement channels today than ever, omnichannel communication must be completely integrated into every strategy for customer access.

This is true for all parts of the sales funnel, including lead generation. With about three quarters of the U.S. population now on social media, social selling has become an important part of the mix for generating customer interest and turning that interest into a sale.

Social selling is essentially using social media to identify and build relationships with prospects and customers. When used right, social media can be a place to learn about customer issues, collaborate on business cases, and offer examples of how you have worked with similar companies to solve similar issues. This can all be done from the sofa before some of your peers, who take a more traditional approach, have even walked out their front doors.

Sharing content about yourself, your company and industry is one way to tackle social selling that establishes you as an authority in your field. While it’s important to establish an online voice, it’s just as important to serve up highly relevant content, the more tailored the better. Using one-size-fits all content—the same content across same channels to same audiences—is a common mistake. Consider which content does better on different channels, and adapt accordingly.

Content should serve as a conversation starter. Another common mistake in social selling lead generation is to perform in “broadcast only” mode, or engage in one-sided conversations vs. two-way. Active listening and response can be just as important on social media, if not more, than posting something new. Look for opportunities to provide valuable input on industry forums, message boards and LinkedIn groups. Sometimes engagement can be as simple as asking questions to show your audience that you value their feedback by asking them what they think.

Social media can be a great place not only to accumulate thousands of followers, but also to form professional relationships that can turn into valuable leads. But it’s important to master the basics:

  • Think quality over quantity. Don’t tweet more than once per hour, and post no more than 2- 3x/day on LinkedIn or Facebook. Keep a few industry rules of thumb in mind: The 80/20 rule (only 20% self-promoting content and 80% external content), and the 4-1-1 rule (4 pieces of relevant content/day, 1 self-promoting, 1 retweet, 2 – anything not above. These are slightly different ratios, but they prove the same point – that people are more likely to follow you if you have something to say beyond direct marketing content.
  • Use but don’t abuse hashtags—no more than two before your link.
  • Make sure your tweets are around 120 characters or less so that they can be retweeted without having to edit.
  • Master the @mention. Know how to use it for full audience conversations, and how to use it for replies.
  • Remember that value really comes when someone clicks on your web site or sends you an email. Make sure your company name, web address, contact info, and links to other social accounts are easy to find from all your profiles.

Today it’s more important than ever to engage with customers on their terms. The potential for social media as a lead generation tool is nearly endless, but it’s important to keep best practices in mind. Remember that the key word is “social.” Beyond just demonstrating your expertise and building your personal brand, the goal is to build strong relationships just as on any other channel.

The Business Pit Stop: Positioning for Progress

Is there any opportunity for government and private organisations to use a slow economic climate as a time to reevaluate their IT infrastructure? Organisations can evolve into digitally transformed entities by adopting innovative technology solutions through consumption models that won’t break the bank.

In motor racing, a pit stop is an opportunity to pause from one’s position, make tweaks that will enhance performance, and get back into the race better set for success. This strategic pause is an equal part of winning, enabling the racer to come back stronger and competitive, and prepared to face the real challenges that have been identified.

And why is that important in the business world? Because sometimes global economic conditions allow businesses to get into the pit stop, spending time and effort on getting the operations back in fighting shape.

Economic downturns are seen as business opportunities to trim the fat in a number of ways, and while many of these are approached with the intention of boosting the bottom-line, it is also an opportunity to move operations and processes onto more advanced systems.

Common thinking is that a downturn is not really a time to be initiating new expenses, but this can be easily challenged with the right question: Would you rather use an opportunity to equip yourself for future challenges or hide under a rock waiting for the storm to pass?

The conscious decision by the GCC leadership to move the economy from reliance on the hydrocarbon sector brings other industry sectors into the spotlight. A Government diversifying its dependence signals opportunity for diverse sectors, and shows that the economic environment is one in which there is a premium placed on performance and contribution.

Governments in the GCC have already strengthened their focus on sectors such as healthcare, education, construction, and others. This focus has two goals: increasing private sector contribution to economic growth, and streamlining of costs through digital transformation.

If your business is one that sees the future as ripe with opportunity, then your digital transformation process can be kicked off right now. Before you run to your CFO to unlock that big budget, the good news is that your conversations can actually begin with the happiness of the end user in mind, to ensure that the new digital infrastructure and applications address current and future issues that people face on a daily basis.

For a government department, this could be the seamless offering of online and mobile-based services so there is added convenience in engagements. For businesses, it could be creating solutions for teams to collaborate better or even to engage with their customers using a number of multimedia technology solutions.

Any discussion around this would also involve the financial aspect of this, and this is where the beauty of subscriptions come in—why put down a huge lump-sum as CapEx when you can opt for Digital Transformation-as-a-Service, in an OpEx model? A transformational IT architecture no longer calls for a rip-and-replace of every single system every time you want to add video calling capabilities, for example. With enterprise networking moving towards a consumerised model, where even enterprise apps can be run to quickly activate services and capabilities, there are no longer any limits to what an innovative organization can provide and achieve.

We all know that tough times don’t last; tough organisations do. It is only a matter of time before the strong strategies and steps implemented by the visionary leadership in the GCC begin to result in a positive economic revival. Governments and businesses in the region will emerge from the pit stop and drive into position as innovative regional leaders once again.