Monday, April 9, 2012

Sharpen your Skype, conference call & Hangout speaking skills: 8 tools

There are new worlds to conquer when it comes to the conference call...today, in addition to speaking on a speakerphone or using videoconferencing, you might be using Skype or Google+ hangouts to communicate with far-flung colleagues. And let's face it: Most of us do our "public speaking" in these kinds of meetings. To keep your skills sharp, I've collected these tools and resources:
  1. Start with the most important call tool: You, the speaker. This roundup of 6 ways to work the phone will boost your effectiveness on phone calls of all kinds. I recommend you focus on the tips on pausing, and tonality--people will notice the results.
  2. What guides your videoconferences? Don't just enter the room and hope for the best.This 7-step guide to a videoconferencing policy will help you think through and establish everything from how you look to how you and the group will handle transitions and pauses to let participants reply.
  3. A new tool for live video chats is OnTheAir, described as "a combination of Google+ Hangouts, Skype and YouTube," but without the plugin requirements that come with hangouts. You can schedule live conversations and moderate who gets to speak, and share the time of the chat to Twitter and Facebook. This might make for a better alternative if you want to speak long-distance to a class or small group.
  4. Hear and be heard is the mantra for conference calls. You'll do better at both with an excellent headset with a microphone attached, and Lifehacker polled readers to come up with these recommendations. Along with a good remote, this -- in my view -- is a tool worth investing in for those of us who spend so much time on conference calls.
  5. Saving that Skype? If you want to focus on the conversation without worrying about notes, use Callnote to save the audio portion of your Skype call. It'll put the audio file right into Evernote, one of my favorite applications. For starters, this could be an excellent practice tool that will let you hear how you sound on these calls. Don't wince--that's a great tool for improvement.
  6. After the call, the action items rule. If you're using an Android device for your conference call, try these tips for using "call actions and reminders," a handy tool to guide your follow-up actions. You can download this app at the link.
  7. Go big or go home: Companies will be looking at Skype alternatives like these three new communication options from Cisco--out of price range for individual consumers--that include new videoconferencing tools, including Jabber, which will let employees "communicate via video, voice, presence, instant messaging, or web conferencing." Learn more about these options so you can suggest them when upgrade time rolls around at the office.
  8. Presenters, hang out: Google+ has opened its video-chat Hangout to developers, and there are two apps available as presentation tools: A SlideShare app that lets you take presentations on that site and pull them into your hangout, and Cacoo, a free tool for making diagrams and flowcharts. Be sure to practice with a friendly gang of colleagues until you get comfortable integrating these tools into any presentations you're doing on Hangout.

My post on "How Rush Limbaugh is helping me celebrate Women's History Month" is nominated as one of BlogHer's "Voices of the Year 2012." Follow this link to vote--and thanks for supporting this post.