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The Nissan & IBM Outsourcing Agreement

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Introduction

In the year, prior to the turn of the millennium, Nissan was a company in a serious financial crisis. Debt had approached $22 billion by 1999. The company had been too complacent, and had taken its prior success, for granted [2].

Did Nissan’s decision to outsource their IT Infrastructure to IBM in 1999 make good sense? Nissan was a very troubled auto-manufacturer in the late 1990’s. Senior executives from the company were known for their conservative outlook on business, and their ‘old boy’s network,’ mentality. Profits were dropping dramatically, eventually forcing the company into the $22 Billion debt that it then faced. There were no signs indicating a change in the market that would encourage profit growth. The vehicle sales needed invigoration.

Mergers were the flavor of the day in the automotive industry during the late 1990’s. Nissan executives approached Daimler Chrysler and Ford to discuss a possible merger, but there was no interest from either of the companies [2]. There was only one alternative left, which was to reinvent themselves and reduce unnecessary overheads. This was the defining point that led to the business process outsourcing decision.

This paper seeks to answer the question “Does the cost of implementing an in-house solution outweigh the benefits or does Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) make more sense?” We reviewed the example of the automotive manufacturer, Nissan, when they decided to outsource their entire Information Technology department to IBM in late 1999, to answer our question.

Nissan – A brief history and the events leading up to the BPO decision

I. The Boom years

Nissan was established in Japan in 1933 as a heavy industry manufacturer. After the Second World War they turned their attention to automotive vehicles. In the 1950’s, they finally had an impact on the global market with the introduction of the Datsun branded sedans and small pickup trucks. The company eventually opened full-time operations in the USA in September 1960 [6].

The company experienced dramatic growth with the introduction of the ‘Z’ series sports sedans in the early 1970’s, with the 240Z becoming the fastest selling sports car of all time. This success led Nissan to the top of the U.S. vehicle importers market by 1975. Vehicle sales in the USA topped over 250,000 units per annum by 1970 [6]. The company was young, its leaders dynamic and the future looked very bright. They were competing for the U.S. market with the likes of Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors, showing improved quality and production efficiencies over their competitors.

The company was growing at a phenomenal rate, opening new manufacturing plants around the world on a regular basis such as Australia (1976), Spain (1980) and the United Kingdom (1984) [6]. There was no respite to the pace of growth and new business generation coming from the company.

In 1983, the company began the worldwide marketing of vehicles under the Nissan name which was felt to have a stronger quality image and started the six year transition from Datsun to Nissan on vehicles, dealerships, facilities and marketing materials. Sales continued to grow, eventually reaching 830,767 in 1985 [6]. The decade closed out with resounding success for Nissan with their domination of the North American market.

In 1993, the mid-line Stanza sedan was replaced with an all-new Altima and non-competitive Japanese-designed minivan was replaced with a new U.S. created Quest, which was the first minivan with car-like handling. Sales came roaring back in 1994 to near-peak levels of 774,405 [6].

In 1996, sales began to slip once again, fueled by a change in American vehicle tastes. Trucks and SUVs gained market share at the expense of sedans and sports cars [2]. Nissan’s position as a manufacturing driven company, which helped them in the ’80’s and early ’90’s, then had new problems with the dollar/yen balance which began to hurt their competitiveness against market driven companies.

Unlike their competitors, Toyota and Honda, which were focused on key volume segments, Nissan did not dominate any individual segment and competed in identical segments against Toyota and Honda.

Unfortunately for Nissan in the 1990s, the Japanese “bubble economy” burst, a downturn in Europe coincided, so there was more pressure in the U.S. to perform. Unfortunately U.S. customers didn’t have a genuine brand reason to shop Nissan except for the ‘best price’ deal.

Former Nissan president, Mr. Nakamura, announced a “Back-to-Basics” plan. The key elements of the plan were to reduce inventories, eliminate unrealistic sales targets, and increase dealer profitability. Unfortunately for Nakamura and Nissan, the plan did not work [2].

II. Trouble looms for the auto-manufacturer in 1990’s

In the early 1990’s, trouble began to brew in the organization. The once revered executives at Nissan were now viewed as arrogant members of the old-boys club and were ignorant to the changing needs of their customers and the overall automotive market, in general.

As the company progressed deeper into debt, it met with more challenges. Nissan’s business partners and suppliers were charging a premium for their goods and services. Nissan was obliged to meet its financial commitments and by so doing placed itself further into debt. Finally, the company was in debt to the tune of $22 billion. Even the company’s financers were tightening the noose around them. Nissan felt the situation was hopeless.

III. Steps taken to address issues

Nissan executives were looking for a way out, a way to rescue the company from entering into bankruptcy. The first approach was to find a partner. Both the newly established DaimlerChrysler and the Ford Motor company were approached, but both organizations rejected the idea of a merger [2]. Finally, Renault, the French automotive company recovering from a similar predicament, decided to enter into negotiations with the flailing Japanese company. A senior executive at Renault, Carlos Ghosn, was a huge supporter of the merger idea.

After much negotiation, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry agreed to allow Renault to purchase a substantial stake in Nissan. The Nissan-Renault alliance was born and Ghosn was appointed Chief Operating Officer.

Nissans Executive decisions and major events

I. Creating a global alliance vision:

The following is excerpted from the Nissan/Renault alliance vision:

“The Renault-Nissan Alliance is a unique group of two global companies linked by cross-shareholding. They are united for performance though a coherent strategy, common goals, and principles, results-driven synergies, shared best practices. They respect and reinforce their respective identities and brands.”[2]

The Alliance set itself three objectives, with the goal of being amongst the best three automotive groups in the following areas:

1. Quality.

Achieve customer recognition as being a quality and value added product.

2. Technology.

Lead in key technology development and implementation with a focus on excellence in specific areas of the automotive business.

3. Operating Profit.

Consistently generate a high operating profit margin and vigorously pursue growth.

II. Appointing a new leader

Ghosn, given his enthusiasm for the merger, his demonstrated tenacity, and his experience of the automotive industry, was a natural choice for a senior position at Nissan. His initial appointment as Chief Operating Officer (COO) was just a temporary assignment. In 2000, he was named President and in 2001, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

As CEO, Ghosn was very aware that the ‘buck’ stopped with him. He was the final decision maker. Some important and very serious decisions were made to save the ailing company. Ghosn had to use all of his valuable experience gained from rescuing other organizations, such as Michelin and Renault, to save Nissan.

III. Decision making to save a troubled auto-manufacturer

With Ghosn’s arrival in Japan in the spring of 1999, he immediately set about researching Nissan’s root problems. The newly appointed COO had a management philosophy that stated “you must always start with a clean sheet of paper because the worst thing you can have is prefabricated solutions… you have to start with a zero base of thinking, cleaning everything out of your mind.”[2]

For the first few months, Ghosn flew around Japan, meeting and greeting employees at all levels, absorbing information and formulating a plan. He used this information to plot a picture of Nissan from a global perspective, identifying issues, and problems that had created the dispersed, unprofitable organization.

One of the many issues Ghosn identified was the lack of communication around the organization. Seniors managers around the world were aware of some of the issues that caused the downturn of fortune in the company. They even had solutions to them, but had lacked the necessary authority to implement or communicate the solutions back to Corporate Headquarters.

Finally, the major issues were whittled down to five key issues: [2]

• Lack of clear profit orientation. Nissan was not focused on driving profit, but were rather focused on market share and ended up having to buy their market share at the expense of the declining profits.

• Insufficiently focused on customers and too much focus on competitors. The company was too concerned about the competition introducing a new line which would have dug into the Nissan market share. For example when Volkswagen introduced their new Jetta sedan Nissan saw a significant decline in their Maxima sales.

• Lacked cross-functional, cross-border, and intra-hierarchical lines of work in the company. Nissan seemed to operate as separate islands scattered throughout the globe. There was no centralized purchasing function or in fact any of the other major business activities. The organization was not making maximum use of its global presence or buying power.

• Lack of sense of urgency. The executives in Nissan were complacent in their activities. Things had gone so well for the company in the preceding 60 years that they felt that there was no reason to embrace change.

• No shared vision or common long-term plan. Senior management within Nissan did not have a joint plan for the different brands within the company. Each division did their own thing with little or no thought for the greater good of the company. An example was the Z series that had achieved phenomenal success throughout the 1970’s and ’80’s but was suddenly dropped from production when sales dropped. The obvious thing to have been done was to test the market with a modernized design. Instead Nissan chose to ignore the market and drop the brand.

To address the issues, Ghosn announced the Nissan Revival Plan on October 18, 1999. This seven-point plan was aimed at reducing costs and debt as well as creating and launching new automotive brands to raise sales and market awareness. The goals announced in the plan were far-reaching and encompassed: [2]

• The reduction of operating costs, net debt, global head count, and vehicle assembly plants and manufacturing platforms (the latter in Japan).

• The generation of new product investment through the launch of twenty-two new models.

The cost-cutting plan called for centralization of purchasing, procurement, human resources and information technology. By centralizing these essential functions, the plan aimed to assist the company in achieving its aggressive cost reductions.

Expenditure, particularly in the information technology function, was perceived as being out of control. Ghosn’s message to senior level executives was clear, “cut costs in every possible area.” If that meant outsourcing non-core activities because somebody else could do it cheaper, then that had to be fully investigated and determined. The management was ruthless in their execution of the plan [2].

Nissan looks at Business Process Outsourcing as a means

I. Will outsourcing non-core activities save money?

There are well-documented records of company’s saving money and others of outsourcing horror stories. Success really depended on the situation and the provider.

Most experts agreed, though, that you needed to use BPO in strategic decisions, for example refocused efforts on core competencies and not merely for cost cutting activities [1]. Stephen Withers of ZDNet said in his on-line article that you should only “use BPO for strategic purposes, not to take advantage of a (possibly transient) cost saving.” Withers then asked the reader, “Does outsourcing the IT Infrastructure make sense?” To answer that question corporate Chief Information Officer’s (CIO’s) would need to have completed extensive research and have done a thorough analysis of their business processes.

This is exactly what Nissan’s CIO did, or rather what Ghosn told him to do. The company had invested over 80 billion yen (over $US760million) in 1998 on IT services, but their processes were still not providing the management with the infrastructure that would assist in building their competitive edge [5]. The final decision was made to approach various outsourcing service providers for the much needed help.

II. Does outsourcing the IT infrastructure make sense?

If Information Technology (IT) truly was a commodity, like gasoline or electricity, then companies only competed on price, with very small profit margins. In that event, the decision to turn over IT to an outsourcer was as simple as it was a century ago to turn to motor vehicles instead of using the horse and cart. However, while personal computers and the networks they run on may be standardized, the services provided by IT outsourcers vary in many ways. Services such as data analysis, application development, and IT decision-making allowed companies more competitiveness in the market therefore, those elements of IT are far from being viewed as commodities [8].

With regards the decision to outsource, many factors were considered in Nissan’s case. Ann Moynihan in her article in the Albany Business review states “Outsourcing can help you: [3]

• Reduce and control operating costs.

• Free staff to focus on core business.

• Gain access to specialized skills and technologies.

• Introduce positive change.

• Gain control over a difficult-to-manage function resulting from uneven workloads, insufficient or unskilled resources.”

With Nissan, in 1999, this was exactly what they were looking for. Refocused staff efforts, introduction of positive change and control gained in all critical areas led to the outsourcing decision.

The choice of IBM as Nissan’s outsourcing partner was a strategic one. In the late 1990’s there were not many outsourcing companies that had the breadth or the global reach that IBM had. Competitors such as EDS and CSC were not considered because they were only outsourcers and could not offer the hardware and software technology that Nissan required to update their infrastructure [5]. If either one of those competitors were selected over IBM as a partner Nissan would still have faced the same infrastructure issues. IBM was the only logical partner.

Did the relationship work between Nissan & IBM?

I. A further look at the relationship between IBM and Nissan

In a joint IBM and Nissan press release published in Tokyo on June 19, 2000, the two companies announced that they were “Extending their global partnership for information system (IS) operations which Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and IBM agreed in October 1999, Nissan and IBM today jointly announced that Nissan will outsource its IS operations in Japan, to IBM Japan.

The service includes Nissan’s regular maintenance and operational activities as well as part of its application development, but excludes the planning and design of new systems. The two companies will start operations from October 1. [7]

In North America, Nissan has outsourced these same operations to IBM Corp. since October 1999. This latest agreement in Japan is expected to further accelerate the standardization, integration and centralization of Nissan’s IS on a global level.”

Ghosn further noted, “The Nissan Revival Plan cannot be accomplished without effective information systems. Following upon the recent agreement with Japan Telecom, this latest partnership with IBM puts in place the global infrastructure which is key to support Nissan’s long term profitable growth.” [4]

II. Hypothetical view of the Return-on-Investment model used

Before they could calculate their Return on Investment (ROI), Nissan first had to look at the Total Cost of Ownership model proposed by IBM. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a type of calculation designed to help consumers and enterprise managers assess both direct and indirect costs and benefits related to the purchase of any IT component. The intention was to arrive at a final figure that will reflect the effective cost of purchase, overall [8].

The TCO model used, had to calculate the costs that were required, beyond the fees of outsourcing. The organization had to evaluate specific criteria’s that could have added expense to the outsourcing project. They also had to calculate the ongoing expenses throughout the lifetime of the contract [8].

Then, after calculating the payback period, Nissan were in a position to calculate their ROI. Once the numbers were crunched, a thorough financial and risk analysis was conducted. The ROI measured the profit or cost savings realized. It was calculated by estimating, for a 3-year period, the investment was made and the resulting profit created through that investment.

The results were conclusive. Nissan and IBM entered into their agreement and operations scheduled to commence on October 1, 1999.

Conclusion

I. Did Nissan’s BPO reach its stated objective?

Nissan’s stated objective for the outsourcing of the IT infrastructure was to control expenditure, improve efficiencies, and update the infrastructure. By outsourcing to IBM, Nissan achieved all of its goals.

In controlling expenditure, outsourcing gave companies the opportunity to have a predictable monthly budget for expenditure. That amount may or may not have been lower than current expenditures but the component that was crucial to a large organization such as Nissan was that the amount is predictable. There was no variable component to the pricing. The only time the pricing may have fluctuated was when additional services, which were out of scope of the contract, were required.

In Nissan’s case, that was never a requirement. The company was in the first stage of a major, global, restructuring project and there were no new initiatives taking place.

The second objective in the BPO was to improve efficiencies. IBM is the world’s largest information technology company with revenues close to $100 billion [9]. When companies outsource their operations to IBM they are gaining best-of-breed technologies, excellent consultants and some of the best systems architects money can buy.

The way that any global outsourcer makes its money is by achieving economies of scale. The only way to achieve these economies of scale is to ensure that they deploy the best hardware, software, and infrastructure possible and make that equipment work to maximum efficiencies. By taking full advantage of this best-of-breed technology, Nissan met its second and third stated objectives.

II. What if the IT Infrastructure had been retained in-house?

If Nissan had decided to retain its IT infrastructure in-house and attempted to implement an updated and modernized system, it would have lead to a significant increase in their expenditure. Ghosn’s prime objective, when he took over the company in 1999, was to reduce expenditure by 700 billion Yen [2]. He was not interested in spending any additional money to modernize existing equipment.

To support the intended improvement in competitiveness, Nissan had to ensure that their infrastructure supported the additional workload. There was no way they could do the intended improvement in efficiencies without external support. Nissan did not have the expertise and the additional work force to handle the required upgrades and the reengineering of business processes.

III. Final assessment and summation of the relationship

Robert Greenberg, Nissan’s CIO of North America was on record as saying in 2006 that, “We were happy with the services from IBM but the world had changed.” This comment sums up the relationship as it stands now, almost 8 years later [5]. When Nissan announced its Revival Plan, in 1999, the company had very clear objectives; cut costs, and return to profitability.

Nissan was looking for help in 1999 and IBM fulfilled this role for their IT Infrastructure. Greenberg also stated in his Q&A that “One of the things that also took place with the original outsourcing to IBM was we probably outsourced too much.” [5]

Greenberg was not working for Nissan when the original outsourcing decision was made in 1999; he only joined the company in 2005. He is on record though as saying that he thought that they should have either retained some of the infrastructure in-house or perhaps have multi-sourced, thereby ensuring that they had the best possible solution and price.

In 2006, when the contract came up for renewal, the CIO decided to put everything out to bid and compare what the other vendors were offering with what IBM had provided for so many years. The decision to look at new vendors was actually excellent timing for the company as Nissan had decided to relocate their North American corporate headquarters from Los Angeles, CA to Nashville, TN and any transition could be timed to coincide with the move.

Ultimately, what Greenberg opted to do was to accept IBM’s proposal to “manage desktop systems, network services, help desks, dealer systems, and other key infrastructure elements for Nissan North America.” He then outsourced the application and maintenance to an Indian firm, Satyam and brought the remainder of the services back in-house [5].

When asked about the decision to bring IT back in-house, Greenberg said, “By bringing it in-house you increase the alignment. It’s a matter of building the knowledge internally [that] can be used to help drive the business activity, which is much harder when a business analyst function is sitting within a third party.” [5]

IV. Does the cost of implementing an in-house solution outweigh the benefits or does BPO make more sense?

As Stephen Withers stated in his article, BPO decisions should not be made for cost-cutting exercises but rather for strategic directions [1]. In other words, companies should not view BPO as a cost saving tool. Outsourcing the IT operation makes sense when an organization is looking to improve efficiencies and business processes or when they cannot attract, or retain, the human capital who have the expertise and ability to modernize or improve the infrastructure.

Nissan’s CIO Robert Greenberg thought that he would actually save money by bringing some of the work back in-house because he was “not paying margin on the individual [headcount].” [5]

Some of the individual lessons that Nissan’s Greenberg has learnt from the outsourcing agreement with IBM has been that certain services developed by the IT organization can indeed be outsourced or developed externally. However, he felt strongly about retaining in-house IT skills in such value generation areas as business analysts who have a strong understanding of the business, sometimes even better than the business customer does. Insourcing these skills could result in ideas and dialog with the business, with the end result being a service delivery or product development than can then be outsourced.

In summary, the answer to the question, ‘Does the cost of implementing an in-house solution outweigh the benefits or does Business Process Outsourcing make more sense?’ is that it depends. It depends on the available skills; it depends on the overall objectives (cost saving vs. process improvement) and it depends on the organization. For the most part the majority of major corporations world wide that have been through an outsourcing contract or are in an outsourcing contract will agree that there are substantial benefits to implementing an outsourcing contract and there substantial benefits in retaining those skills in-house. What each organization needs to do is ascertain which of those benefits outweigh the other and base their decision on that analysis.

Works Cited

[1] Withers, Stephen. “BPO: Save money or fix your processes?” ZDNet.com

[http://www.zdnet.com.au/insight/business/soa/BPO-Save-money-or-fix-your-processes-/0],139023749,139156391-10,00.htm 17 August 2004. Downloaded October 22, 2007

[2] Magee, David. Turn Around: How Carlos Ghosn rescued Nissan. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 2003.

[3] Moynihan, Ann. “Outsourcing enables owner to focus on core business.” http://www.bizjournals.com/albany/stories/2002/10/14/focus10.html October 11, 2002. Downloaded October 22, 2007

[4] IBM Press room press releases. IBM.com “Extending Their Global Partnership, Nissan, and IBM Announce IS Outsourcing for Japan” http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/1670.wss June 19, 2000. Downloaded October 19, 2007

[5] Thibodeau, Patrick. “Q&A: Nissan CIO reshapes automaker’s IT”

[http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=110024&intsrc=industry_list] March 29, 2006. Downloaded October 23, 2007

[7] McDougall, Paul. “IBM, Nissan Outsourcing Deal Spans The Globe” http://www.informationweek.com/outsourcing/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=181502685 March 10, 2006 10:00 AM. Downloaded November 02, 2007

[8] Ikin, Paul. IBM Representative on Nissan Global team. 1998 to 2001.

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7 Internet Marketing Tricks to Help Boost Profits

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Running your own Internet-based business can be a difficult, and daunting task. It will test every ounce of your creativity and stamina. It will push you to the edge and make you wander if that 9 to 5 wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

It may be tough, but at the end of a long day you know deep down that it definitely worth it. Being your own boss and determining the outcome of your life is definitely worth it.

The following 7 tips are just a few ideas to help you get started and keep you going on your journey as an internet marketer.

Take a look at how you can earn money as an Internet marketer!

1. Track your Ads

You need some sort of tracking in place to be able to see how your ads are doing. Most any advertising services, like Google Adwords, will have this in place. By using split testing you can compare two slightly different versions of the same ad to see what does best.

2. Sell Content

An easy way to produce income online as an internet marketer is to sell content. Content can can be almost anything, from simple ebooks to complex graphics. Finding sources to have these things made is simply a search away.

3. Submitting Articles to Directories

One of the biggest parts of being an internet marketer is generating traffic to your site. (see link at the bottom of the page for list of directories) Article marketing is a major part of that traffic generation. Submitting the articles to directories will definitely help by getting those much needed backlinks and help improve search engine rankings.

4. Submitting Your Site to Link Directories

Another traffic generating idea is to submit your site to link directories (see link at the bottom of the page for list of directories). When you submit to link directories, you are usually able to include a description and your keywords to help your rankings.

5. Repeat What Works

The marketing business is a trial and error business. Find what works and stick with it!

Keep analyzing and discover what isn’t working and stop doing it. The definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting different results.

6. AdWords

– Boosting Your Click-Through Rate

One quick way to help improve your CTR (click-through-rate), is to use the main keyword in your headline of your AdWords ad. This will cause the keyword to be bolded in the headline and when it is searched for and help increase the chances of being clicked.

– Use the Right Headline

Once you are tracking your ads, you will need to start testing your results. The best way to find out how well a campaign is working is to split test an ad with small changes.

7. Affiliate Products

A great way to generate additional income besides selling your own products is by selling affiliate products. Great affiliate products are easy to find and the numbers of products are growing everyday.

Top 50 Article Directories: http://www.vretoolbar.com/articles/directories.php

Top Link Directories: http://www.strongestlinks.com/directories.php

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Make Money With Affiliate Marketing Through Google Traffic

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The least mentioned “Secret” of Affiliate Marketing Success is you, because no one else determines your level of Accomplishment. Making Money online may prove a little more challenging than is often suggested with some Affiliate Marketing Programs, leading to misdirection resulting in failure as a result of the wrong Mind Set. Another so called “Secret” is Search Engine Optimization or SEO, which usually send shivers down the spine of many a newbie and with good reason. But Getting Google Traffic through SEO and Keyword Placement is the undisputed champion of High Quality Traffic, and it’s as simple as telling Google what your Blog is about.

The Basic Most Important part of SEO – Search Engine optimization and Blogging is nothing more than a series of Objective Steps toward a Primary Goal, driving Google Traffic to your Site or Video. With Video Ranking for instance, you simply include the Search Phrase you wish to Rank for (The Audience You’re Targeting) at least twice within the first 160 Characters of the Video, Blog or Blog Post Description.

The most important part of getting recognized by Google, be it Video or your Blog comes down to Heading and Description. The first 160 Characters of any Description, Blog Post Body and even Meta Description determines the direction your work will take. Focusing on H1, H2, H3, and H4 Headers with regard to Titles and Headings you want to always keep within 15 – 65 Characters, also counting spaces. The same goes for Image Title or Alt Attribute.

Identifying the H1 Heading – May sometimes also be a Post or Blog Page Title but this usually refer to the Blog, Site or Video Title. The H1 Heading is where you include the Primary Search Phrases you wish your Site or Video to Rank for in Google within 15 – 65 Characters. It is important to preferably keep the H1 Heading within 60 Characters, because the H1 Heading will appear at the top in Google Search Result pages. Make the H1 Heading both Easy to Read and to Remember.

Identifying the H2 Heading – This is usually the Blog Post Title and once again the desired Search Phrases and Keywords need to populate this Heading. Numbers play a huge role with H2 Headings, and strangely enough uneven numbers have a more striking effect, combine this with a “Reason Why” kind of suggestion and you have a winner H2 Heading.

Identifying the H3 Header – Post Titles often also make up the H3 Header, along with Widget Descriptions within the Blog Side Bar. When you use the Text Widget to load HTML code, then the “Alt=” Attribute usually appear as an H3 Header.

A Blog post Title also appears as an H3 Header when you use an SEO Plugin like “All in One SEO Tools” and your Blog Post Title appears after the forward slash (/) to the Primary Domain. Using an SEO Plugin will allow you to submit all your individual pages, posts, tags and categories as individual site maps.

Identifying the H4 Header – This can be defined as something like the Tagline to you Blog Title Tag or H1 header. A Logo image is also often accepted as an H4 header within certain Plugins which may display a logo icon.

Add Descriptions to Tags and Categories – When you open your Posts from within the WordPress C-Panel, the drop down menu provide you with the option “Tags” and “Categories“. This is where you add descriptions to the tags and categories, keeping the description within 160 Characters while including keyword search phrases within context.

In fact any Description, Tag Line, Title, Category, Header or single Tag must contain the keywords within context because that’s what Google is looking for. Just a bunch of keywords crammed together in a desperate attempt to Rank faster will just result in the opposite, as sites with better content and keyword placement will Rank above you.

The Site Map Description – Your Blog Site Map is extremely important, and for this you simply install the Plugin “Google XML Site Maps”. This Plugin will share an updated your Blog Site Map to the Google Search Console each time you make changes, but the changes may take a while (Normally 2 – 3 Weeks) to show up in Search Results.

It is however important to manually check for the Site Map Acceptance from inside the Google Search Console, even with the Google Site Maps Plugin Activated. There may be times when certain errors occur with your Blog Site Map inside Google, which means Google cannot find your Blog.

You have to then test the site map with the tools provided from within the Google Search Console, fix the errors found from inside your Blog C-Panel and test the Site Map again. When the results return with Zero errors found, you simply delete the old site map and upload the new site map.

Accessing the Google Search Console you will need a Google account, as with all the Free Tools Google gives you and it’s a Lot. You simply need to look in the right places and then take your time getting to know how to use the tools. Simple Search your Browser (Preferably Chrome) for the search phrase “Google Search Console” and simply follow the instructions after opening the link on the search result page.

The Blog Site Map is what Search Engine Spiders use to Crawl your Blog so it can be categorized correctly, sending the right visitors your way. This is why the presence of Keywords and Search Phrases are so important throughout all content on your Blog, just the right ones in the right positions.

It’s all about Direction and Precision with Search Engine Optimization because it’s a Numbers Game, but nothing on Earth equals the Volume of Quality Traffic from Search Engines. Google alone processes over 40,000 Search queries every Second and over 3.5 Billion per Day. Adding all other Major Search Engines like Bing and Yahoo just increases that exponentially.

If you still need to start your own Blog, then you will need the required Training for guidance on how to leverage these tactics to your advantage. This is Search Engine Optimization, using keywords and Plugins to drive Interested Visitors to your Blog.

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How to Keep a Man Challenged? Here is the Core Key to Make a Guy Want You All the Time

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Guys love challenges and this is why they are more inclined to be romantic and attentive at the first part of the relationship when they are challenged to win you. There’s a sense of triumph and victory in the chase which provides some kind of fulfillment for them.

Guys have a competitive nature, thus, they want to excel in almost anything and nothing challenges them more than pursuing a girl. To be able to keep a man challenged and interested, here are some helpful tips:

Be Unpredictable
Guys want unpredictability, it’s in their nature. Once a girl becomes too available, they tend to become bored and they would easily divert into another source of mystery. Be unavailable once in a while, this will make him work for your time and attention, even more.

Be Confident
Guys love a confident woman who knows and gets what she wants. Even girls look up to a woman such as that. Be successful at your chosen field. Do your best at your craft. Being a confident woman will make a guy want to win you and when he’s in a competitive mode, that’s when he’s most romantic!

Dress to Kill
Sweat pants and t-shirts are comfortable but as comfortable as they are, they’re just not suited for women. When you go out on a date, dress to impress. You can dress comfortably without compromising your looks. Making a few heads turn will make a man want you more. Remember, guys fall for women who they can proudly parade around with so be worthy of that honor.

Be His Support System
Shower him with compliments and praises and be there when he needs you most. This will make a him realize that you’re not just a prize that he needs to win but also a support system that he could keep. Once a girl gains that status, she definitely will have the stirring wheel.

Be Chase-worthy
The world already knows that guys love a chase. Being chase-worthy does not imply that a girl has to be supermodel-ish. It simply means that a girl needs to be worthy of his sweat and his energy. If you’re in need of a more common term-be the best that you can be.

Sense of Humor
We know that men love a good laugh and a girl with a witty personality will most likely interest a man more than a beautiful girl who spurns drama. The rule is not to take yourself too seriously.

Be Independent
There are some things that a girl needs to do on her own. The more you indulge in these things, the more a guy will appreciate you for being able to take care of yourself and being able to stand on your own feet.

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Online Background Verification – The Latest Trend in Safety & Security

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Today, more and more consumers have started realizing that they can be duped easily and are victims of frauds. Let us look at some examples.

Mr.Liyakat Ali, a resident of TN, India, ran an elaborate online matrimonial racket spanning four major metros of India and targeting gullible families. When the long arm of the law finally caught up with him, police were surprised to find that he had cheated over 37 women living in various cities across the country.

In another case, early this year, tampering of land records in another city, Pune, India led to developers building ambitious projects on tribal land. When the scam was unearthed, the developers had vanished and hundreds of investors were left in the lurch.

All across India, such disturbing cases are rampant and it is only now that authorities are waking up to the threat of sham marriages and land grab cases. However, with a little more care and caution, such cases can be avoided and the hard-earned money of consumers can be saved.

There are a variety of service providers who conduct a background check on an individual. The various kinds of verification services an individual can conduct on another person are:

1. Address verification: Address verification is the need of the day as it authenticates and proves the genuineness of a person. It includes verification of details such as name of a person, relationship, ownership details of the house and period of stay in that particular location and matches it to the details provided by the person.

2. Employment Verification: Whether you are a parent searching a match for your son or daughter or a landlord renting out your precious house to a tenant, getting the employment details of the concerned person verified will ease your worries and unburden you from future worries. Also you are assured of the fact that the verified person has a regular source of income, as he has quoted.

3. Education Verification: False educational claims are one of the most common background check issues. Verification Services can conduct a check on the applicants educational background to verify his or her Educational Claims. This helps you in taking the correct decision when it comes to hiring or placing confidence in the applicant.

4. Passport Verification: Fake or Forged passports are a part of identification theft and play a major role in most types of frauds like financial crimes, Identification theft, and illegal immigration. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to verify the Passport or identity of a person to avoid any association with criminals and their associated fraudulent activities.

5. Marital Status Verification: With the increase in popularity of online marriage communities, cases of individuals fabricating their marital status is also on rise. Verifying your prospective partners marital status not only relieves you of a burden but also help build a bond of trust with them.

No person wants to hire a felon as an employee or marry someone who lies about their marital status or employment status. An individual can be sure of another only after certain details about them are verified.

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Share Your Faith With a Men’s Silver Cross Necklace for Black Friday

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Why do some men love to wear their necklaces with a cross? These pieces are worn by men who are followers of Christianity. Apart from that, the wearers often get a sense of protection from evil. These are also worn all throughout the world by Christians as well as many non- Christians as a fashion accessory. Ornaments made of sterling silver have become quite popular in recent times.

Appeal of this striking metal

Among the precious metals, sterling silver is the brightest. A vast majority of the people love wearing men’ silver cross necklace compared to other kinds of metal because the dazzling, shiny look is appealing to them. This vibrant look can only be attained in this type of metal. Not just the value of these products has risen over the years, but they have soared in popularity too. This mineral is way cheaper than platinum, diamonds or gold. So this has provided scope for new designers to carve out new pieces for selling in today’s market. The increase in popularity of these metals has motivated established designers to start using this as material.

Variety of designs

You can get a wide array of designs cast in this material. Men’s silver cross necklace is an interesting piece of jewelry. You can even present it to your father as father’s day gift. In fact, most of these necklaces are produced in such creative manner that it will grab the attention of other people around you. Irrespective of the nature of the design, be it a crucifix halo or ring pendant piece you will be spoilt for choices. Nowadays they are available at obscure flea markets and also in high-end stores. You can browse in fashion-forward sites to get hold of the latest trends.

Indicators of status in society

Crosses are worn as pendants in different parts of the world as indicators of their commitment to Jesus. They are suspended from the neck down by a chain. Sometimes cords are also utilized for this purpose. Pectoral crosses are worn by some Christians. They are an indicator that the wearer is a senior member of the clergy. While the clergy and laity of Christian faith both wear crosses, there is a clear distinction between the two types. The pectoral crucifix differs concerning its size and its placement. These crucifixes are worn in the center of the chest and not merely beneath the collarbones.

Power of jewelry

This jewelry has the capability of sending signals about your commitment to your faith. The moment you step outside people will observe the artistry in these unique collections. This will become a topic of conversation for many people in a casual setup. Stainless steel has a neutral tone. So they do not prove to be too flashy like the gold ornaments. You can wear it comfortably with any outfit be it formal or casual. You can pair it off with both dark colored clothes in the winter season and light colored clothes in the summer season. These metal pieces are incredibly durable and can withstand the different levels of stress made with time.

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Invent New Magic Tricks With Old Magic Principles

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It is said creativity is about giving old things new uses. When it comes to magic, same principles applies. Many creative magic tricks are actually derived from old tricks or effects. Let’s take a look at the appearing handkerchief in decanter trick. The original effect is a handkerchief quickly appearing inside a decanter achieved by the pulling of an invisible thread. This can become totally different in appearance if milk bottle is used instead of decanter, or any other kind of bottles. Or you may try to use a tie instead of handkerchief. The possibilities are unlimited.

Sometimes a very little change made in an old magic effect can make a huge difference. The change may be even smaller than using a different container. We now compare another trick that look completely different from the decanter trick, but in fact utilizes the very same thread pulling principle.

The trick is called the Orrin’s Spider Web Trick. The trick effectively uses the same principle as the old decanter trick. This trick is to produce a card on a spider figure on a table also using the pulling thread principle. The table is painted with a spider web background which could help hiding the thread and the secret opening on the table. A card is used instead of a handkerchief and a spider figure is used instead of a decanter.

Another important change made to the tricks is the pulling method. Originally the thread is pulled by an assistant or a counter weight. But Orrin improved the pulling by incorporating the action into another flourish action which is turning the table. The turning of the table also helped in concealing the path of the card. So the effect becomes like this: the magician display a spider figure on a web. He then turns the web and the chosen card mysteriously appears at the mouth of the spider.

We are not saying that the magician Orrin created the effect by substituting the objects like that. We are just illustrating how this principle can be used to produce an innovative effect from an old trickery.

The steps to change the old decanter trick into the spider web trick may be as the following. First, we make a different object to appear. We use a card instead of a handkerchief. Second, we change the appearing location from a transparent decanter to a spider figure. Third, we change the pulling method from application of a direct straight line force to a turning torque force. Forth, the appearing location is moved instead of the appearing object. Fifth, a disguising background is used to conceal the thread which allow the trick to be performed more close up.

From the spectators’ point of view, the two magic performance maybe very different. But in fact, they use the very similar principle in substance.

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Tips To Help You Achieve Success As A Real Estate Investor

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If you are looking for a great way of building your net worth, investing in real estate is a great idea. You can make a lot of money if you do it the right way. However, if you don’t follow the right techniques, this venture can cost you a lot of money. Therefore, we have shared a few tips with you that can help you achieve success as a real estate investor.

Opt for a Good Location

Location is the first thing that people consider when they need to buy a residential, vocational or commercial properly. Ideally, the property you are going to buy should be near a workplace and school. Similarly, if it’s close to the marketplace, people can go there without burning a lot of gas or killing a lot of time. Therefore, it’s much better to choose a better location.

Upgrade or Renovate Your Property

It’s better that you upgrade your property features to make it more appealing. For instance, you may add home automation, such as automated lighting. The same is true about commercial real estate as well.

If you offer wheelchair lifts, for instance, it can make your property more useful for people with disabilities. This will attract many more buyers. Actually, it all depends upon how convenient your property is. If your property offers features that can help people make their lives easier, more people will show their interest in what you offer.

Improve Property Conditions

More buyers will contact you if your house or apartment is well maintained. However, make sure you don’t go beyond the limits. In other words, you may not want to spend an arm and a leg just to make your property more beautiful. It won’t increase the value of your property exponentially. Although it may be worth it in certain situations, spending too much is not a good idea.

Let’s take a look at a few tips that can help you make your property well-maintained.

Kitchen: if you do it right, your kitchen can increase the value of your property by up to 80%. Therefore, if you renovate your kitchen by spending $15,000, you can sell your house at 80% higher price.

Plumbing: we all need clean running water. Keep in mind that rusty pipes pose a health hazard in addition to reducing the beauty of your house.

Landscaping: If you maintain your landscape properly, it can add ambience to your house or apartment. In addition, landscaping helps reduce your energy bills.

Do Your Research

Make sure you consider the type of people that you think will be suitable if you want to sell or rent your house. If you want to get the highest return on your investment, make sure you contact the right people. Otherwise, you won’t be able to earn a lot of profit or find good buyers. Opting for the right clients can help you find a great deal.

Conclusion

So, these are a few tips that you can follow if you want to get the most out of your investment. Hopefully, you will find these tips pretty helpful.

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Patent Process Outsourcing in India – Emerging Trends

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Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO), a forte sector within the Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) space, is attracting international law firms who are outsourcing legal work to India. Within the LPO industry, it is patent outsourcing, which is catching up faster than the rest of LPO jobs. While major firms in the US quote up to $15,000 for preparing and filing a patent application, companies based in India deliver the same work for $2,500-3,500 in India. This allows companies to file additional patents within the same budgets.

India’s participation in the outsourcing market has been exceptional in the last decade. Both, overseas customers and Indian entrepreneurs constantly search for newer areas to render professional and commercial support at reasonable costs with quick turnaround. The Indian involvement in the patent-related market is still in a nascent stage. In my view, it will soon take off – especially since India has many lawyers and even more people in science and engineering streams. A marriage between them will surely support the patent-market.

Patent outsourcing includes literature searches, prior art searches, technology and patentability assessment, infringement, FTO, Ideation, IP Valuation, patent proof reading, patent claim mapping, drafting response to objections by US examiners, preparing/filing/prosecuting trademark applications, infringement studies, other IP litigation, IP asset management, Patent mining and administration.

During the last few years dozens of Indian outsourcing services firms has emerged and most of them are making good business. These firms offer variety of patent related research.

Technology changes rapidly and it is often difficult to keep track of all the trends swirling on the Internet, all the ideas bubbling in academia, and the range of innovations you and your competitors are working on. The outsourcing firms provide sophisticated service to track technology trends, juxtaposing academic research, market data and patent filings information worldwide. Cheers , with an exception help you put together your technology roadmap and identify innovation partners around the world, along with other IP services. IP Landscape Reports are detailed “as is” analysis of an existing technology. These reports cover broad landscape on areas of research and development – such as an entire product category – that are critical to the clients. These reports are based on analysis of several hundreds or even thousands of patents and other unstructured information.

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Issue Management Methodology for Tracking Project Issues

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1. What is an Issue?

An issue is an incident, circumstance, problem or inquiry that affects or potentially affects the timely delivery of the project, product or service, it may also impact the quality of deliverables and the cost of production.

Some projects are ongoing and the definition of an issue is a little different. A help desk defines an issue as a request for help that requires a response. A service department keeps track of service requests as issues. A software maintenance group tracks reports of software bugs and enhancement requests as issues.

Because of the impact issues have on a project, product development or ongoing service, issue management is an important aspect in any management methodology. This issue management methodology promises to make the handling of issues a seamless part of your larger scoped methodologies rather than a process separate from them.

It is usually not hard for team members to identify issues, but it is still worth having a working definition of an issue. Remember that the more ambitious your project the more issues will arise.

Action item: The project team must be made aware of what issues are, provide some examples, and ask other team members to provide some examples.

2. Requirements

A central repository of issue information easily accessible to all team members, because it is good for team morale and productivity to know that their issues are being addressed. An automated central repository like Issue Tracker [http://issue-tracker.glm2.com] is desirable because it make the issue management and reporting much easier.

Action item: Choose a central repository for your issues.

An issue manager is the person chosen to oversee all issues. It can be the project manager, team leader or another person in a responsible leadership position. The issue manager is responsible for making sure that there is consistent, disciplined and continuous progress made on all issues. The issue manager is accountable to upper management for the progress made on all issues. The issue manager communicates issue progress to the team, upper management and all stakeholders.

Action item: Appoint an Issue Manager and notify the issue manager of their role and responsibilities.

This issue management methodology represents best practice for managing issues. However, the goal is to have a successful project, product development or service, the goal is not to follow a methodology fanatically.

Action item: Adapt the methodology so your project’s success is maximized.

3. Steps

3.1 Discovery

Issues can arise at any time. When an issue is discovered it is recorded in the central repository.

It is important to allow issues to be recorded by a broad group of people including team members, upper management, users, customers, stakeholders, vendors and contractors. It is important because if there are barriers to reporting an issue then there is an increased chance that the issue will go unrecorded. You cannot address issues that you do not know about. It is not necessary that everyone has access to central repository, but the more you can allow the better.

Action item: Set up access to the central repository for those people that need it.

3.2 Recording

Training people to identify issues is often unnecessary, however getting people to record the issue in the central repository will take some training and encouragement. For example, a team member may mention an unrecorded issue to the project manager during a coffee break or other informal occasion, this team member needs some encouragement to record such issues in the central repository.

For all kinds of issues, prevention is better than correction. Also, issues tend to be less severe if they are addressed earlier rather than later. This means that every effort should be made to report issues as soon as they are discovered, instead of waiting for the issue to become “serious enough” before recording it. Do not be afraid of duplicating an issue or overlapping with existing issues, it is better than missing an issue.

A complete description of the cause of the issue should be recorded in the central repository. Resist the temptation to describe the issue in terms of a solution. Any implication of the issue should be recorded. Attach any supporting documentation, screenshots, report output, faxes, error messages and other media that describes the issue.

The person who is recording the issue can make a recommendation for a solution, if they have one. This person

should also assign the issue if possible, even if it is only assigned to the issue manager for re-assignment.

When an issue is initially recorded it should be recorded in the central repository with a status code that reflects the fact that it is new issue and has not been reviewed. An attempt should also be made to categorize and rank the severity of the issue.

The date and who created the issue should be recorded in the central repository. This is done automatically for you in systems like Issue Tracker.

Many teams describe issues in terms of the desired solution, leaving others to deduce the actual issue. This is not best practice since it limits the scope of possible creative solutions. As an example a badly worded issue: “We need more people.” There is no indication in this example of what the issue actually is, so finding alternative solutions is impossible. If the example issue had been worded as “The shipping department has swamped us with product, there is a possibility of spoilage if we cannot get the product delivered.” With the issue worded this way perhaps the shipping department can become aware of how there actions are causing issues down the line and adapt their actions.

3.3 Initial Review

The initial review is a triage of new issues. It is usually performed by the issue manager or deputies who are familiar with the scope and priorities of the project. If the team is small the entire team can meet for the review. For each new issue the status, category and severity are reviewed and the issue assigned to someone for action and optionally an owner is identified as follows.

Sometimes the same person who records the issue may be doing the initial review, so these two steps can be fused into one in this situation.

3.3.1 Issue Status

A decision is made about the next state of the issue. (The previous state was “new”.) The next status of the issue reflects the nature and timing of the action to address the issue. It is one of the following:

  • open: immediate action will be taken to address the issue
  • deferred: action will be deferred until some future time
  • referred: action will be taken by some other group, probably because the issue is beyond the current
    scope
  • cancelled: no action will be taken now or in the future

3.3.2 Categorize the issue

A first attempt at categorizing the issue was made when it was first recorded. But, now during the initial review the category can be refined.

The proper issue category is helpful when prioritizing the resources required to address issues. It is especially useful for reporting purposes.

Action item: Discuss with the team how best to categorize the issues you expect to get, and document the categories that will be used.

3.3.3 Rank the issue severity

The severity reflects the importance of getting the issue resolved. Obviously, you want to direct resources at the most important issues before the lesser ones.

Action item: Choose a small set of severity codes that have a clear ranking. For example: Trivial, Standard, Important, Critical. Some people prefer: Low, Medium, High, Very High.

3.3.4 Assignment

From the start, the next person to take action on the issue must be assigned to the issue and notified. Issue Tracker will automatically notify the person assigned to the issue via email.

If the issue description is incomplete, the issue can be assigned to the appropriate party to gather the information necessary to make the issue description clear.

Assign a person and not a group. Experience has shown that assigning issues to individuals leads to greater accountability than assigning issues to groups. An individual can be confronted about lack of progress, it is much harder to confront a group of people. A group can be represented by a group leader, so you can assign an issue to the group leader who will take action to reassign the issue to correct group member who will actually address the issue.

3.3.5 Ownership

It should be possible to decide which stakeholder is the owner of the issue. Having an issue owner is a way of recording who is accountable for the issue’s resolution.

Owners must review the issues they own for progress to resolution. If the progress is not sufficient the issue manager should be told so that the situation can be remedied.

3.4 Taking Action

The process to address an issue iterates over the following sub-steps until the issue is resolved.

  • The person assigned to the issue, takes action to address the issue.
  • The person assigned to the issue, documents the action taken as an issue event in the central repository. An issue event has the person’s name, the date and a description of the action taken.
  • Some issue processes require an approval step before further action can be taken. This approval should take the form of signing off on a proposal. While paper based signatures are acceptable, an automated system is better. Issue events in Issue Tracker can by used to sign off, since a user is required to log in to identify themselves, this is as good as a paper signature.
  • If there is documentation to support the action taken, like a cost-benefit analysis of a proposed system change, the supporting files are attached to the issue.
  • The process of finding a solution may help refine the issue description. This refinement should be reflected in updates to the issue description and title, as well as attaching further supporting files. It may also require that the issue be re-categorized.
  • If the next iteration is the responsibility of another person the issue is reassigned.
  • If the issue is resolved in this iteration, the status is updated to reflect the fact that the issue is inactive.

Notice that the action taken may involve reassigning the issue, changing status, refining the issue description, changing the category of the issue. All of these changes should be recorded in the central repository. Changing of status, category and severity are automatically logged for you in an automated system like Issue Tracker.

3.5 Ongoing Oversight

Consistent and continuous evaluation of issues by the issue manager and the team must take place to bring the issues to resolution. This can take place through a periodic review of all active issues in the central repository with the team and a separate review with the stakeholders.

Escalate issues as needed by re-assigning or by changing issue ownership.

Report and communicate progress on all issues to upper management and to the team, subscriptions can be used by upper management and the team to follow progress on individual issues. This reporting can be integrated into project status reporting.

Analyze issue progress and adapt actions. The central repository should be able to provide feedback on how efficiently the issues are proceeding from creation to resolution. If it is taking too long to resolve important issues, then the issue manager must find ways to improve the turn-around time.

4. Finally

The following are a few further action items

Action item: Distribute copies of this issue management methodology to team members and stakeholders so that everyone knows how and why issues are managed.

Action item: Adapt and scale this issue management methodology to suit you project’s scale and quirks.

Action item: Create your central repository, and get started today.

This issue management methodology has evolved over many years. It evolved from experience on projects with budgets from $500,000 to $50,000,000 which had a total number of issues ranging from a few hundred issues to many thousands. In half the cases the project team was physically dispersed in several countries.

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10 of Our Favorite Video Conferencing Tips

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Video conferencing is a highly technical, vastly complicated technology that has been structured from the ground up to be as simple and user-friendly as possible. Even though video conferencing has only really become a viable medium in the past few years, it’s taken off as an attractive option when communicating with friends, families, colleagues, and clients. Despite its simplicity, there are many things you can do to – or not do – to ensure a great virtual meeting.

1. Give and take — questions and answers — are the bedrock of communication. In a video conference, you are hampered by not having everyone in front of you. This is especially apparent when you ask a question, as it is sometimes difficult for your participants to know who you are talking to. Make sure you say a person’s name at the beginning of your question.

2. An issue specific to virtual meetings is the mute button. Mute buttons are essential to having a well-ordered and quiet meeting, and their use should be encouraged. However, they can slow up Q&A sessions, especially impromptu ones. When you ask someone a question, make sure you give them a few seconds to respond. This allows them time to unmute themselves.

3. With everyone separated, it’s difficult to get a consensus. Asking people to raise their hands if they agree only really works in smaller video conferences where you have a window for each person. On larger calls or multiple meeting rooms, it can be impossible to get an accurate answer. Couch your questions to address the least amount of responses. For example, don’t ask if everyone understands; ask who doesn’t understand.

4. Video conferencing technology is hi-tech, but that just means it will do what it is supposed to. Shouting or speaking loud is not only annoying, but it also shows inexperience with virtual meeting technology. Speak in a normal tone of voice. Don’t worry, they will hear you.

5. If you can’t help but worry that people can’t hear you, test your sound first. Get your participants to introduce themselves at the beginning of the conference. Not only will this help break the ice, but will also allow you to hear their volume and sound quality. If you’re still anxious about your own output, simply ask someone if they can hear you well.

6. It may feel counterintuitive, but you shouldn’t look very often at the people on your screen, especially when you are addressing them. The best place to look while speaking is directly into the camera lens. Your participants will get the impression that you are looking directly at them. This creates a more trustworthy, congenial experience between them and you.

7. If you’ve done your preparations correctly, you know exactly how far you can move while in front of your camera. To help you hit your “mark,” use your mouse as your anchor point. Hold on to the mouse naturally while setting up your camera. Then, as you move back and forth pay attention to how far your arm bends or straightens. When you’re live, you’ll be able to keep yourself on screen without distracting yourself.

8. Unless you have dropped $50,000 to $150,000 on your video conferencing setup, you won’t have perfectly smooth, indistinguishable-from-real-life video. So, you need to work within the limitations of you and your participant’s equipment and bandwidth. The most important thing to remember is to keep your gestures small and your movements slower than normal. A little attention to this detail will minimize any choppy effects.

9. Your cloths say a lot about you, but through a video conference, some clothes say it loudly. To provide the best view of you, try to dress in light pastels and muted colors. Bright, loud colors can make your skin look weird on screen. Don’t wear all-light or all-dark colors to avoid any white balance or contrast issues. Busy patterns too are something to avoid.

10. While your clothes are telling your participants about you, so is the spot that you chose to do your conference from. Other than the obvious point that what you have on your desk and behind you will make impressions on your participants, they can also be detrimental to your video quality. Try to have a clean or bare background with a neutral color. Keep all camera-visible areas neat and decluttered. Not only will you look better on screen, it says something about how you work.

Video conferences are a great way to save money, time, and energy while still getting as much or more work done than before. They are hi-tech and worth a lot of “cool” points in the business world. If you put in the time and planning, your video conferences can be like the technology itself: complicated, yet smooth and on the cutting edge.

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