3 strategies for conducting virtual meetings

Although many prefer face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings are a common part of today’s business environment. It is critical, however, to consider certain things when you’re conducting these meetings.

Proper etiquette is essential to the success of a virtual meeting. Many people treat virtual meetings as more relaxed than face-to-face ones, which is not always appropriate. Etiquette can go a long way in making participants view you as competent and an authority on the issue at hand.

Here are a few additional tips that can help you carry out more efficient and professional virtual meetings.

1. Be prepared
Preparedness is key when it comes to professionalism and helping a meeting run smoothly. When you’re gathering the content and resources for a virtual meeting, you should be sure to remember your audience – something that’s not quite as easy during a virtual meeting.

You also want to be sure that you have given everyone the details they need to access the meeting, such as passwords, URLs or call-in numbers. You definitely do not want to be left with no attendees because people could not access the meeting.

2. Engage participants
Virtual meetings can easily become very stiff if you don’t have a relationship with the person on the other end of the meeting. Rather than just leaping right into the task at hand, try going around and allowing all of the meeting’s participants to introduce themselves.

Although it may seem somewhat cliché, it is always helpful to give people the opportunity to share a little personal information – such as the highlight of their weekend, or a fun fact. It may seem awkward at first, but it will go a long way in making people feel more connected to the other participants.

3. No side conversations
Although it may be tempting to hold side conversations when you’re not the one on screen, it can seem unprofessional and is often very distracting. Since virtual meetings often don’t hold people’s attention as well as face-to-face meetings, the last thing you want is to distract people from the task at hand.

Virtual meetings are great assets and there are many ways to ensure that you are conducting them in a professional and interesting manner. If you’d like to take a look at more suggestions for conducting virtual meetings, check out this Inc. article.

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Pros and cons of e-readers

E-readers have become very popular in recent years. Those who use them swear by them for their convenience and portability. Everybody doesn’t share their enthusiasm, however. There are a number of things to take into consideration before you decide if an e-reader is right for you.

What are the choices?
The Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader and Barnes & Noble Nook are some of the most popular of the e-readers. Although some e-readers have Internet capabilities, their primary purpose is to display e-books.

Tablet owners often use their tablets to read e-books as well. Most tablets, however, do far more than just display e-books, so that is not their main purpose.

Pros

  • E-readers are extremely portable, which is wonderful for anyone who likes to read while on vacation or a business trip
  • An additional travel bonus – if you are in a foreign country, you can still download an e-book in the language you choose, instead of seeking out an accommodating bookstore.
  • Books are typically cheaper than you will find in regular bookstores.
  • Privacy – you most likely don’t want everybody to know if you’re reading a self-help book. If you’re using an e-reader, they won’t be able to tell.
  • All of your books can be found in one place.

Cons

  • Depending on the type of e-reader or tablet, you might not be able to read in direct sunlight because of screen glare.
  • Cost – while you might pay less for books than you normally would, e-readers usually cost upwards of $140.
  • If you’re accustomed to shopping in used bookstores, these books will cost a great deal more than you’re accustomed to paying.
  • Lending books isn’t always a choice.
  • All of your books are in one place – if you lose your e-reader, you’re losing all of your books if you do not buy a replacement.

In general, when you’re determining whether or not an e-reader is right for you, it’s all about preference. Some prefer the simplicity of having all of their books in one handy device. Others like the weight and feel of a book and like to show off the books they’ve read on a bookshelf somewhere.

For more comparisons of e-readers and traditional books, take a look at this article.

Keep your employees motivated with these 4 ideas

Motivating employees can often be hard to do when you’re running a small business. Funds are typically limited and there is not a lot of time to spare. Keeping your employees inspired, however, is critical to the success of your business.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to inspire employees that don’t include big bonuses. A little creativity can go a long way in terms of showing employee appreciation. Here are a few great, simple ideas:

1. Ask for input
It means a great deal to most employees to know that their thoughts and opinions are taken into consideration. By asking for input and implementing the best suggestions, you are showing them that you value their opinions and that they play a substantial role in the company.

2. Change it up
Often repetition can lead to a lack of motivation. When this happens, it’s crucial to remember the cause for the waning motivation and mix things up a little. If you know an employee is eager to exercise a certain skill, try giving him or her a project that allows for that.

3. Focus on a great company culture
Some of the best companies to work at are the ones that employees feel are unique. Creating a great company culture can actually be quite simple and may help you to find and retain strong employees. A game room where employees can take a break and decompress when they’re feeling burned out can do wonders.

4. Recognize people for a job well done
Working hard on something often feels like it was pointless if you are not acknowledged for doing it well. That’s why it is so essential to show some sort of recognition for your employees to keep them working just as hard.

Something as simple as bringing up their accomplishments at a company-wide meeting or sending around an email recognizing their triumphs can make them feel appreciated. Although they may shy away from attention, they will likely be pleased to know that they’re being recognized.

All of these ideas are great, affordable options for motivating employees when you don’t have a lot of resources. Testing out a few of these ideas could do wonders for employee motivation and keep morale high.

For more employee motivation techniques, check out this article.

Smartpens can help make you more efficient – here’s how

Smartpens are a new office trend with ever-expanding possibilities. The capabilities of smartpens have grown leaps and bounds since the technology first came about, and they’re still expanding.

Most smartpens simply translate your handwritten notes into computer files for easier review. Exactly what each smartpen is capable of, however, varies greatly.

IOGEAR Mobile Digital Scribe
This smartpen was the first on the scene. For that reason, it doesn’t have all of the great features that you may find in a newer model.

It captures and stores everything you write and doesn’t call for a special notepad or piece of paper. This makes it especially easy to upload your notes to your computer. If you already have the Mobile Digital Scribe linked to your computer it will automatically transfer any text and drawings directly to the screen.

Logitech IO2 Digital Pen
The Logitech IO2 Digital Pen performs most of the basic functions that you can find on IOGEAR’s pen. Once you transcribe your notes, you are able to save them in a number of different formats and file types.

You can then search for words and phrases by date, file type, or file name. You can add items to your calendar just by writing them down. The Logitech IO2 Digital Pen doesn’t work on any surface like the IOGEAR pen, but it works with Post-It notes and Franklin Covey’s iScribe software and digital planning pages.

Livescribe Echo
The Livescribe Echo smartpen is by far the most technologically sophisticated of all the smartpens out there. It not only transcribes everything you write down, it also records audio and converts the recording into a number of different audio file types.

The Livescribe Echo now has a feature called Pencast, which plays back your audio and synchronizes it with the notes you took. You can play these Pencasts with your iPad, iPhone or iPod making the files super easy to share. This is great for any individual who wants to share the contents of a meeting with their coworkers but doesn’t have the time to tell them about it or transcribe the entire thing.

Smartpens are a cool technology that is sure to keep becoming more popular in the office setting. They make it easier to become a more efficient worker with little effort.

To check out a review of the Livescribe Echo, click here.

Motion is the next popular trend from Google

Everybody has been talking today about the new feature to be revealed by Google. It is called Gmail Motion and it lets users perform standard email commands with simple gestures.

Simple actions like search, forward, reply and mark as unread can all be performed with gestures, instead of the click of a mouse. This makes users feel more in touch with both their email and their computers and makes for an overall more enjoyable email experience.

How does it work?
Gmail Motion integrates your computer’s built-in webcam with Google’s new, patented spatial tracking technology. Basically, your webcam tracks your movements and interprets them as Gmail specific commands.

How to use Gmail Motion safely
Safety precautions are very important when it comes to operating Gmail Motion. Just like any other physical activity, injuries are possible and the proper steps must be taken in order to avoid them. Ensuring that the area around you is clear is the first step. The technology may overwhelm you at times and cause you to make quick, jerky movements, which can result in injury.

Google also advises that you take regular breaks every 30 or 40 minutes, just as you should with any other sort of deskwork. It is easy for your muscles to get fatigued as well, which is why you should always take time to stretch between sessions.

If this technology interests you, try taking a look at the Gmail Motion website, which profiles how-to videos and a printable Motion Guide that contains all of the possible gestures. If you are a business user who is wondering when you will be able to take advantage of this technology, have no fear – you will soon be seeing Google Docs Motion.

This technology is sure to excite people because it changes the way we interact with our computers. If you are a little undecided about the new technology, you’re not alone. Many people think that this is a ridiculous move on Google’s part – and they’re right. This is just another one of Google’s yearly April Fools’ Day gags.

Happy April Fools’ Day!