Ahh a good old brainstorm, where creative juices are flowing, ideas are flying and solutions to problems are being offered up left right and centre i.e. the ultimate exercise in collaboration. This is when things go right, brainstorms can also be plagued with uncomfortable silences or an hour wasted discussing something irrelevant. So, when it comes to virtual brainstorming, it’s important to bare these challenges in mind, not to mention some that are specific to an online environment.
Not to worry though, we’re here to offer 5 tips for a successful online brainstorming session, so that the many of us working from home can still collaborate effectively.
Right, this seems contradictory to the whole free flowing nature of a brainstorm, but it’s important to stay on topic. Otherwise, your session has the potential to spiral and suddenly you’re all debating the greatest films of the 80s rather than how your next campaign can successfully raise brand awareness.
We’d recommend opening with the problem, this will help everyone get in the right mindset and keep the brainstorm focused on finding an appropriate solution.
When you’re asking from input and ideas from several people, particularly if the people you’re asking can be described as vocal then things can get quite noisy and there is a tendency for people to talk over one another. Unfortunately, this is amplified online as there are less non-verbal clues to pick up on, which act as an indicator of when someone is about to speak.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. To keep your online brainstorming session productive, have one person speaking at a time. When other people aren’t speaking or contributing, politely ask them to mute themselves. This will help bring about some order, where everyone can contribute, not solely the people with the loudest voice.
For online collaboration to work, it’s crucial that you’re able to see the person you’re speaking to. Choose a video call platform with stellar video and audio quality (ahem, us, ahem). A video call tool will also include other features that make it easier to run a successful virtual brainstorming session.
You can use a virtual whiteboard, where you can all scribble down thoughts and ideas (be sensible, nothing naughty), making it perfect for a brainstorm. Screen share allows you to share your screen, giving the group something central to focus on and discuss. Last but certainly not least, with present document you can upload a specific document, and all annotate said document.
By setting a time limit for your online brainstorming session, you’re setting a precedent that unnecessary waffle is banned. You’ve got an objective for your session and this doesn’t include wasting two hours of everyone’s time. Sticking to a time limit will keep the session relatively disciplined and focused, increasing the chances of it being productive.
However, don’t put pressure on the session or feel disheartened that in the one hour you didn’t come up with the solution you wanted. Putting pressure on the session is more likely to stifle creativity rather than encourage it. Instead, put together some follow up actions that will ensure the next session is more successful.
The last point leads nicely onto this one. Whether your online brainstorming session was a roaring success or the opposite, don’t forget to follow up. It’s important that everyone who attended the session has a clear understanding of what is expected of them.
Send out a message thanking everyone for their participation, a list of what was discussed and any follow up actions that need to be taken. This will reiterate the importance of the session and prevent people from forgetting about why it was important in the first place.
So, there you have it, our tips for a successful virtual brainstorming session. Looking for more productivity tips? Check out how to prepare for a video call.
You’ve done it, you’ve decided to use video calls. You enter your first meeting with video and you’re slightly bemused. How do I turn on my webcam? What is VoIP? What do all the features do? Do I really look like that? Well, we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to be a tech wizard to have productive meeting using video. Whether it be yourself who struggles or a certain family member, here’s a brief guide to video calls for the non-tech savvy.
Right, let’s do this chronologically. The first step is joining the meeting. You’ll be happy to know that this is incredibly straightforward. All you need is a meeting invite, the person holding the meeting will share beforehand. This will include a Guest PIN, which adds an extra layer of security, so you don’t have randomers joining your meeting. Enter this PIN and you’re in. Easy enough right? On top of that, when using our video call product, you won’t need to download any software. You can access it straight from your browser!
Next, you’ll be asked how you’d like to join. You can either dial in using your phone or connect using your webcam and VoIP. Woah there, what is VoIP? VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. In Lehman’s terms, it means connect your audio through your computer. The most important thing to remember here is that you’ve allowed access to your webcam and computer microphone. If you’ve accidently blocked access, then you will need to enable it in your browser settings. See an explanation here.
You’ve made it into the meeting room. Now it’s time to explain a bit about what the standout features do, how to use them and why you’d use them.
A feature you’re likely to become closely acquainted with is the mute/unmute feature. With our product to mute/unmute yourself all you need to do is hover over your video feed and click the mic icon. Nifty when you’re somewhere with a lot of background noise or when you just don’t have anything to say. Just remember to unmute yourself when you want to speak (easier said than done).
A real crowd pleaser, this is one of the most useful features you can use on a video call. The clue is in the name, but it allows you to share your screen, more specifically your entire screen, an application window, or a browser tab. To initiate a screen share all you need to do is click ‘Share screen’, decide what you want to share and you’re ready to rock. If it’s your first time using the feature you will have to download a small plug in, which doesn’t take long.
Why would you use screen share? This feature comes in handy when you want to visualise your point. If you’re struggling to sum up something using mere words, count on screen share to come in and save the day.
Like screen share this feature allows you to upload and present a document. To use this feature, click ‘Document’, choose the document you’d like to upload and present it to the audience. This makes it much easier to receive instant feedback on a piece of work, rather than having to wait a week for an email response.
Want to make a point but the presenter is on fire and you don’t want to interrupt them? Introducing online chat. It works just like any other chat or text feature you’ve used; simply enter the message you want to share, and press send. This can also be used to share links to websites of interest and to communicate if your internet connection is playing up. Letting the group know why your beautiful face isn’t on camera, why you’ve chosen to dial in etc.
Other features included in our video call product are agenda, sentiment, bookmark and whiteboard but we’ll let you discover those yourself with our 14 day free trial. Hopefully, this post has reassured you that you don’t have to be tech savvy, leave that up to us!
Strap in, we’re about to delve into the history of the video call! When and where did it all start? Who invented it and how have they been developed? Well, you’ll be buzzing to know you’re about to find out all this and then some. Why are we doing this? To show you just how far this piece of tech has come.
You might be surprised to discover that the concept of a video communication was floating around way back in the 1870s. However, actual work on tech began in the 1920s, with video conferencing first making an appearance in 1964. The company who unveiled this technological miracle to the world was AT&T, at the World Fair in New York (a worthy stage for such an invention). In the 1970s they developed a contraption known as the ‘picturephone’.
Check out the video below, highlighting some early picturephone features such as zoom control, height control, mute, document share and more.
Credit: AT&T Tech Channel.
You might also be surprised to find out that Bell’s picturephone wasn’t a roaring success, surely everyone would want to be nabbing this up. There’s no doubt it was technically, an amazing feat but Bell lost half a billion dollars due to extortionate monthly costs for the average consumer. It needed to be developed and be affordable for people to use it.
Even back in the 1970s, many of the core features of the picturephone are the same as what we see today. But, with any piece of tech, the key to improving it is making it more refined and accessible for the people using it. For many years, the tech remained expensive and progressed slowly.
In 1982 a company called Compression Labs introduced the CLI T1, which was coined as the first commercial video conferencing system. Take a guess at how much you had to pay for this system. Well, it certainly still wasn’t what you’d consider affordable. In fact, you’d have to first dish out $250,000 (£187,123 in today’s market) for the tech itself and pay $1000 (£748.62 in today’s market) an hour for using the system.
We have titled this a brief history, so we are cherry picking the highlights here. So, when did video calls start being used on a wider scale? The invention of the webcam in 1991 was pivotal, as it meant that to use the product, you no longer needed to install equipment that occupied an entire room. The next revolutionary moment for the tech happened in 2003 where a Swedish man named Niklas Zennström founded a company you may have heard of called Skype. This was the first video platform that was adopted by your average person and really made them accessible to everyone.
Here at PowWowNow we expanded (blossomed some might say) from the world of conference calling to HD video calling in 2018. We also utilise video in our webinar product.
Today, we see video calls being used by essentially everyone as they’ve become the go to tech to communicate with people when we’re unable to meet them face-to-face. The tech has come an awful long way and the mass adoption of it means we are likely to only see in get better. For now, you can sign up to our 14 day free trial to experience our video call product!
With the world now attending events that would have once been face-to-face virtually, it begs the question, what tool is most effective for learning? Over here we’d say webinars. With the platform allowing you to present to a large number of attendees, without having to worry about unnecessary interruptions, they are the perfect tool for teachers who want to deliver online lessons. Here are just some of the benefits of webinars for learning.
As we mentioned, online events allow a presenter or multiple presenters to deliver content to a large group of people. The audience doesn’t have the ability to dial in or show their face on webcam, meaning they can’t interrupt the speaker. This benefits students and people who want to learn in general as it’s easier to focus and engage with what’s being presented.
However this doesn’t mean the audience isn’t encouraged to participate, far from it. They allow the audience to get involved in a productive manner through polls, Q&As and surveys. Similar to how a real life lecture operates, you have the presenter teaching the lesson, usually with a bit of time put aside to ask and answer questions.
An obvious one but with the current climate, mass gatherings of students in lecture halls and classrooms isn’t possible. An online events platform provides an efficient and safe way for students to continue learning. It doesn’t require them to travel, all they need is a mobile phone and laptop and their able to tune in.
Leading on from our previous point, as well as negating the need for a student to travel, online events are also very flexible. If you find the idea of presenting your lesson live nerve wracking (we don’t blame you) then you can always pre-record and create a SimLive events. This allows you to perfect your event before delivering it to a bunch of students.
You’re also not tied down by location. Students will be able to access your event from wherever in the world.
Our webinar product offers an on-demand feature, which means even after the event has concluded, students can access the event. This is crucial for those who were unable to attend for whatever reason, or those who just want to brush up and improve their knowledge specific to that lesson.
As well as being an inexpensive solution, they are super easy to set-up and use. Our platform offers a knowledge base, with how-to guides throughout. As someone delivering a lesson, you’ll be able to set up quality events in no time, with a variety of content to keep your audience engaged throughout.
To sum up, webinars act as a brilliant learning resource for students who are unable to attend a lesson in real life. They encourage productivity, are inexpensive, easy to use, extremely flexible and can provide value for many months. To learn about how you can use them for teaching, book a 1-to-1 demo with one of our specialists!
When it comes to webinar providers you’re spoilt for choice. If you’re relatively new to the world of online events it can be fairly overwhelming, particularly with the pressure riding on your event being a success. Well before you have a complete meltdown, we’re here to offer some practical tips on how you can pick the right webinar!
To answer the first part of that question, it depends. The product is a web-based seminar, hence ‘web-inar’, so similar rules apply. As is the case in a seminar, it comprises mostly of the presenter or headline speakers discussing a topic or sharing industry insight with their audience. This means you would use a the platform when you need to give insight or present to a large audience, only online instead of in-person.
With you now knowing why you’d use the product, time to decide which one to go for.
In order to pick the right online events platform, you need to clearly understand your objective and how you envision your event. Do you want to present using video, what sort of content do you want to upload, how many people do you expect to attend, are you going to have multiple presenters and so on. These are all important questions to consider before choosing your platform. Answer these questions and you can make a more informed decision.
Your experience with online events will influence your decision. If you’re a newbie and this is your first webinar, then you’ll want to choose a platform that offers dedicated support and is intuitive to use. Something our platform prides itself on is being great for beginners, you’ll get an expert guiding you through the process and our extensive support means you can set up events in minutes. Here’s proof of just how easy it is to set up an event using our platform:
Alternatively, if you’re a seasoned pro, you might want a platform that allows you to push the boundaries and extensively tweak and tailor how your event is delivered. Experience with tech is crucial to making sure you pick the right webinar.
How often are you looking to host online events? This is a question you should ask yourself when choosing your product. If you’re just looking to hold a one off event, to trial the effectiveness for your company then you’ll want to look for a provider that offers one off events (like us 😉). If you’re looking to frequently host online events then you’ll want a platform that is reliable, easy to use and offers fantastic support if you run into any technical difficulties (you guessed it, like ours). Our platform is brilliant for these reasons but we understand it isn’t going to suit everyone’s needs, so do your research before committing to a purchase!
What are some of the consequences from choosing the wrong platform? Let’s have a look shall we.
If you decide to choose a product without trialling it previously, you may arrive at showtime and realise you haven’t got a clue how the platform works. You’re panicking because you’ve completely missed the scheduled start time and you don’t understand how to upload any of the content, can’t get your audio to connect and lots of other rubbish scenarios. This might mean that you have a rather peeved off audience who have registered for your event and are not getting what they signed up for, turning them off from any future events. What’s the lesson here? Before committing to a platform, make sure you trial the product and are familiar with how it works.
Most, if not all platforms will allow you to use a variety of features to engage with your audience. Make sure the product you choose has features such as surveys, polls and Q&As so you can use your content to interact with your audience. There’s nothing worse that presenting a slide deck and asking absolutely nothing from the people who’ve decided to attend. What’s the lesson here? Choose a platform that offers features that allow you to get creative with how you deliver your event.
Last but not least, ensure the tool allows you analyse your event. Our tool as an example (shock), offers in depth reporting and analytics, helping you understand what went well and what didn’t. These sort of analytics are vital to improving your next event, without them you’re in the dark when it comes to ensuring your next event performs better.
Before choosing your product, understand your objective, evaluate your experience, determine how often you’ll be hosting events and don’t choose a platform that means you end up with a rubbish event. If our words of wisdom have proved inspirational, you can always book a 1-to-1 demo with one of our experts here.
So, you may be wondering what exactly the National Infrastructure Strategy is (we don’t blame you). In the simplest of terms to avoid keeping you till the next millennium, it’s a 30-year plan laid out by the UK Government, including funding projections for transport, local growth and digital infrastructure. We’re keen to look at the last one.
The strategy doc for 2020 is yet to be published, so we can’t offer a definitive take on plans concerning broadband infrastructure. What we do know though, is that the drastic shift to remote working due to the pandemic has highlighted glaring issues with connectivity in the UK. To support UK businesses, employees and the struggling economy improving network reliability and connectivity should be a top priority.
Compared to developed countries around the world, the UK is falling behind. Most of our broadband infrastructure still relies on copper wires, with Ofcom reporting that only 14 per cent of UK homes can access full-fibre broadband. According to an article published by the Guardian in 2019, despite the UK ‘being the world’s fifth-largest economy, it ranks 35th out of 37 countries assessed by the OECD for the proportion of fibre in its total fixed broadband infrastructure’
The Government has pledged to roll out full-fibre broadband across the UK in its National Infrastructure Strategy, but the concern is that it will be too late. The economy is struggling now and to have the best chance of recovering, the UK needs to be able to rely on its broadband infrastructure to work productively, whilst working remotely. Might we add that remote working is here to stay, so the issue will only become more pressing as time goes on, not less.
With 100% of the UK having access to full-fibre broadband, this will ensure no matter the location, all businesses and employees can work effectively and efficiently. People living in rural areas can be just as productive as anyone else and won’t have to constantly worry about connectivity issues getting in the way.
Here are just some of the benefits of full-fibre broadband. Increased speed, more reliable connection, improved cloud access, greater signal strength, better bandwidth, increased security, cost savings and excellent support for HD video calls. From these benefits alone, it’s clear to see how this can benefit businesses and employees across the UK.
You may be thinking, why are we harping on about this? Well, us and other SMEs have decided to take action by writing to the Government, calling on them to accelerate the rollout of full-fibre broadband across the UK in its National Infrastructure Strategy. Good news is you can get involved as well. Don’t worry, you won’t have to write a letter, it’s much simpler than that. To find out how you can show your support, visit here: https://www.powwownow.co.uk/connecting-the-uk.
Let’s make this happen and ensure everyone has fair opportunity to be productive when working remotely!
Right, you’ve made the decision that you want to host a webinar. Now you’re thinking what exactly do I need? Well hallelujah, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be going through some essential equipment you need to hold an online event and our recommendations. If you’re someone who regularly attends online meetings, then you’ll likely have some of, if not all this equipment lying around anyway (happy days)!
You probably saw this one coming but since you’re hosting an online event, you’ll need a laptop. Hopefully, you already have one of these as they’re an integral part of getting anything done nowadays. But, just in case you’re still toiling away on a typewriter here are our top recommendations for laptops, from cheapest to the most expensive.
Although we’ve given our recommendations, we’d advise you do your own market research when it comes to purchasing a laptop. You want to ensure it has good enough performance specs to handle running a webinar (most modern laptops will).
When running your online event, your audio should be crystal clear, so that your audience can appreciate the awesomeness of your event. That’s where investing in a quality headset is important. Plus, if you happen to have several presenters all crowding around one mic, it could get a bit messy.
You’ll want to choose a headset that has good noise cancellation, a quality mic and something that can be seamlessly muted/unmuted without causing any distraction. We’ve already put together a list of our top conference call headsets, which would all be suitable for webinars.
If you want your audience to see your lovely face whilst presenting your webinar, then you’re going to need a top notch webcam. Here are our top picks:
Like the laptops we’d recommend you do you own research before committing to a purchase, but all the webcams listed here will work great for your online event.
You’ve got all the gear, now comes the time to choose which webinar platform to go for. The choice is yours but we’re obviously going to recommend PowWowNow. Starting from as little as £90/per event, not only do we offer great value, but we also offer a wealth of resources that make hosting your online event easier than ever.
If you’re interested to learn more you can always book a 1-to-1 demo with one of our friendly experts, who will be more than happy to run through exactly how and why you’d use our product!
You’ve hopefully heard whisperings already but in case you haven’t, here it is! We’ve sent a letter to Government, calling on them to accelerate the rollout of full-fibre broadband across the UK in its National Infrastructure Strategy.
To get behind this incredibly important cause and join many other businesses, you can show your support here!
The Coronavirus pandemic has exposed an inadequacy in the UK’s critical national infrastructure. A transition away from office-based working has led to increasing pressure on the way in which businesses and individuals operate and this is only likely to persist. This is why we are writing to you as SME representatives from a number of industries to urge the Government to consider expediting the rollout of full-fibre broadband, in order to ensure the economy can fully recover from the impact of coronavirus.
Full-Fibre connections are the technology of the future and we are pleased to see this as a priority for the Government. However, whilst we welcome the Government’s commitment to the roll-out of full-fibre broadband and investment in critical national infrastructure, we are concerned that this technology may be deployed too late and pledges are not being backed up by action.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already redressed our world to an extent that was once unimaginable. This is a pattern which is likely to continue in the long term, with surveying predicting that the number of employees regularly working from home will double. This will undeniably place pressure on the UK’s copper based broadband network, ultimately resulting in demand outstripping data capacity. In a study of the UK’s network capabilities, OFCOM noted that the crossover point wherein total data demand would exceed the abilities of the network would arrive in the next decade, chiefly due to the proliferation of smarter devices, homes, businesses and infrastructure reliant on an internet connection. This assessment was made prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated transition to working from home, and this will only bring forward the date on which demand outstrips capacity.
Internet connectivity is a critical utility to almost every sector and industry, enabling workers to access information or work documents, or to keep in contact with their colleagues remotely via videoconferencing solutions like PowWowNow, Zoom or Teams. In fact, research suggests that 60% of SMEs based in the capital value “high broadband speed and quality” as more critical to their business operations than a fully functioning supply chain.
However, the UK’s copper-based network leaves millions at risk of slower connections that are less reliable and have a greater likelihood of network dropout. These inadequacies will also disproportionately impact SMEs, the driving force of our economy with a recent study highlighting that over a third of SMEs are not able to fully transition their business to an online model. We have grave concerns that the lack of provision of FTTP broadband across the UK could disproportionately prevent SME’s from thriving post-Covid.
To prevent this, we are calling on you to commit to ensuring that 100% of the nation has accessibility to full-fibre ultrafast broadband as part of your forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy. Not only can full-fibre broadband offer speeds hundreds of times faster than the older services with greater capacities, it has five times fewer faults than copper based broadband systems, and has been estimated to save £5bn in operating costs over the next 30 years. Further, rural areas and ‘not-spots’, many of which already suffer in terms of digital connectivity, must not be forgotten about, and the Government must provide funding for infrastructural improvements in areas where a commercial case cannot be found. By doing this, not only will some of the most disproportionately impacted communities be given a digital lifeline but it can play a vital role in delivering the Government’s levelling up agenda.
The UK’s future prosperity will be contingent on fully operational national infrastructure, and we must make investments now to ensure that we do not impede our future. Inaction is not an option.
We look forward to discussing this further with your officials.
If you agree with the cause and would like better connectivity across the UK, show your support here.
With lots of us now working from home, we’ve never had to rely so much on our internet connection to be productive. From having stable video calls to using the internet to carry out vital research, all our jobs are dependent on our internet connection to a certain extent, especially if you’re in a household battling for bandwidth supremacy.
To support UK businesses especially during these times, something needs to be done about the UK’s unreliable internet connection. Here are 3 ways upgrading the internet in the UK will help improve working from home.
You’ve probably all experienced a case of poor audio or what we like to call frozen face when on a video call. It can be frustrating and embarrassing when your audio keeps on cutting out or your video keeps freezing. Video meetings can be a wonderfully collaborative experience at the best of times and an absolute train wreck at the worst.
Improving the UK’s connectivity will help address these issues and allow you to hold meetings with confidence. Knowing that the audio and video will be crystal clear, will mean your meetings can run so much more efficiently (we can’t promise that if you’re using Zoom though 😉).
All forms of communication with colleagues when working remotely depend on the internet and it being reliable. If you’ve ever had your WIFI go down for a couple of hours whilst working from home, then you’ll know just how hopeless you can feel. Desperately trying to hotspot your phone, so that you’re not completely offline.
With a more stable WIFI connection, you won’t have to worry about missing that deadline or look like you’re straight up ignoring your colleagues. You’ll be able to communicate throughout the working day effectively and clearly. If it does go down though, there is always a free conference call to get your through! Whoop Whoop!
One of the benefits of being in the office is usually having your IT team in the building with you. Unfortunately, working from home doesn’t grant that luxury. The first people you turn to when your internet is getting in the way of your day job is your IT team. So much time can be wasted just trying to resolve the problem. Before you know it, two hours have gone by and you’ve been unable to do any of the work you were supposed to.
Having a reliable internet connection will help you focus on the tasks you need to be doing. Rather than worrying about when the next spell of bad WIFI will be.
There’s countless more reasons improving the UK’s internet connectivity will help you work from home more efficiently, but we don’t want to keep you all day. After all, you’ve probably got work to be getting on with.
But, as the shift towards remote working is only going to increase, meaning more and more people will have to rely on their internet and WIFI to work from home, the UK Government needs to address this, as a way of supporting UK businesses. You’ll hear more from us on this issue, so watch this space.
It’s safe to say that 2020 has been an unpredictable year. If you were to say in 2019 that there was going to be a nationwide lockdown, you probably would have chuckled and exclaimed, ‘behave!’. But that’s exactly what did happen and as a result, we’ve been busy making changes. So, here’s a round up of changes PowWowNow has made since lockdown and how we’ve shed the £££s, allowing colleagues to easily stay in contact, at an affordable price.
With lockdown, we saw a drastic change in user behaviour. The office spider phone was swapped out for mobile, with many of us now having to work from home. To address this, we decided to introduce free conference calling across all our plans, with our ‘0330’ number. Now, anyone who signs up for our Basic plan can make conference calls in the UK and we won’t charge a penny. On top of this, minutes used will most likely be included in your landline/mobile bundled minutes.
Our main mission is to support UK businesses, particularly during this trying time when companies need to be equipped with remote working tools to communicate effectively. As our way of making this happen, we are offering 50% off all paid plans. Meaning our new ‘Lite’ product will be slashed from £6 to £3 per month and our Pro plan, we’re offering for £5 instead of £10 per month. We also still have a 14 day free trial on our Pro plan, if you want to try before you buy. No credit card, no downloads, and no commitment.
We know that not everyone wants a fully-fledged, guns blazing video call product. There’re many reasons for this. You might not use the product often as you simply don’t have many meetings, you might prefer conference calling over video calling, screen share does the job etc, etc. That’s why we’ve launched our ‘Lite’ product, which offers free UK calls, screen share and 1-to-1 video, for those occasions when you do fancy switching the webcam on. You’ll also get other handy features such as audio recording, screen share recording, online Guest list and in-meeting chat.
The change in user behaviour also spurred us on to make some massive improvements to our mobile App. Previously, only offering conference calls, with our latest update Lite and Pro plan users can host and join video calls through our App, using our browser based product. Available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
We hope these changes make a big difference for many UK businesses and as always, we will continue to make improvements that benefit our consumers and support the continued shift towards remote working. So, watch this space!