Monday, February 24th, 2014 .

We’re an innovative company so we made an innovative hire.  We’ve hired a comedy writer.

Meet David Raether, the newest member of our Marketing and Communications group. Raether, 57, has had a varied and, well, let’s just say “interesting” career prior to joining UberConference. A graduate of Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN, with a degree in English and philosophy, Raether worked as a newspaper journalist in the Upper Midwest for several years, and then he lived in Mexico and taught English in a high school there for a while. Or at least that’s what he’s telling us.

In the 80s, Raether joined computer trade magazine publisher IDG at their division in Peterborough, NH, as a publishing executive, where he was involved in the launch of nearly a dozen magazines.  After eight years there, he reconnected with an old Minneapolis friend, the comedian and actor Tom Arnold, and joined the writing staff of “Roseanne.”

Raether was a writer on 111 episodes of that ground-breaking comedy.  During his years on the show, “Roseanne” received several Emmys, a Golden Globe, and the prestigious George Foster Peabody award.  In 2012, Entertainment Weekly magazine named the Roseanne writing staff as one of the Ten Greatest Writing Rooms in television history.

In addition to “Roseanne”, Raether wrote for programs on HBO, CBS, ABC, the WB, along with pilot development for studios such as Sony, Castle Rock, and Universal. He also did feature film rewrite work for a wide variety of pictures, ranging from “Homeward Bound II” (the movie with the talking dogs and cat) to the searing Oliver Stone-produced drama “Savior” about the civil war in Bosnia. In the years following the end of his television and film career, Raether specialized in content creation and editing for a number of companies, including several Bay Area startups.

In 2013, he published a highly-regarded memoir, “Tell Me Something, She Said.”  A portion of that book was excerpted in an essay on the San Francisco-based website, Priceonomics.com.  The essay, “What It’s Like to Fail”, about his post-television years, attracted wide attention and was named one of the “Five Best Essays of 2013” by LongForms.org.  Portions of the book also have been excerpted on Salon.com and The Good Men Project’s website, as well as being featured in an upcoming edition of the Times of London magazine.

In fact, our CEO, Craig Walker, happened to read “What It’s Like to Fail” and found it compelling and brought Raether in for an interview as a writer for the company.  And now we’re stuck with him because he keeps showing up and it’s just too uncomfortable to ask him to stay home.

Raether has eight grown children, and lives in Berkeley, CA.

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Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 .

We do our best to listen to feedback from our customers, and we’ve been hearing quite a few requests to give UberConference organizers the ability to choose who receives the summary emails sent after each conference call.

We originally implemented this feature to give meetings more context. The summary emails contain links to any shared documents or recordings, correlating with meeting notes for reference. They also include interesting stats, like who was there and who talked the most and the least.

If UberConference Pro and Business organizers would rather not have the email summaries sent to every participant after the conference ends, they now have the ability to manage that in their settings.

To specify who should receive the conference summaries, go to uberconference.com/settings (when logged in), and scroll all the way down to the “Notification Preferences” section. Under “Call Summary,” you will see the option to disable or enable the conference call summary for participants or for yourself. Don’t forget to click on the “Save Changes” button on the bottom of the page.

 

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We’re continuously trying to make Business features more robust for our customers, and disabling call summary emails is just one of the many ways you can customize your conference calls with UberConference Business. Business users also get advanced features like custom hold music, up to 100 callers, dial out to add guests to call, local conference phone numbers, and more.

UberConference Free users still maintain control over the summary emails for themselves.

Follow us on Twitter to stay in the loop on all things UberConference! @uberconference

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 .

We’re excited to announce a totally redesigned UberConference! Our new interface makes conference calls even easier. Best of all, absolutely no PINs are required for Pro users and their guests.

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  • No PINs: For Pro accounts, now there’s no PIN required for anyone in your meeting. For Basic (free) accounts, the meeting organizer dialing-in from their own phone still doesn’t need a PIN.
  • Better security: As always, our visual interface lets you be sure who is and isn’t on your call. No need to worry if someone is still there from your last call or ask “who just joined?” Now you can “lock” and unlock calls whenever you want to prevent others from joining. Simply click the lock icon, or press ## on your phone to lock and unlock.
  • Free New interface: It’s even easier to schedule and host instant calls. Your online conference room is now totally redesigned with many usability improvements.
  • Free call recordings: With this update, even Basic account holders are able to record and share meeting recordings.
  • Mobile apps: Experience our new fully featured Android app(iPhone coming soon). Now easily schedule future conferences in addition to instant conferences while you’re on the go.

Friday, April 11th, 2014 .

Last week, we began our analysis of the eleven types of people who can ruin a perfectly good teleconference.  We looked at the Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Said Guy and the Irrelevant Topic Gal.  These are about two of eleven types Conference Call Ruiners have identified in my academic research.  (Please note my credentials: I am ABD (all but dissertation) at the University of Duluth (France) in Human Behavior, so I think I can confidently state I AM an expert.

Today we’re going to look at the Completely Unrelated Anecdote Guy and the Hello? Is This Thing Working? Gal.

First up: the Completely Unrelated Anecdote Guy. At first, this type can be charming.  He’s got a million great stories: his life on the high seas as a crab fisherman, the years he spent in minor league hockey, cutthroat tales on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.  Oh, I could go on and on.  And so could he.

Here’s how this thing sort of plays out:

CALLER 1: Now as far as the language in Hold Harmless sections here.

CALLER 2: It’s fairly standard language.

CALLER 1: And that’s our problem —

COMPLETELY UNRELATED ANECDOTE GUY: Did I ever tell you guys about the wrestling match I was in in the Phillipines back in 1979?

CALLER 1: What?!  What does that have to do with what we’re talking about?

COMPLETELY UNRELATED ANECDOTE GUY: Well, we’re talking about holds here, right?  Let me tell you, I was working the professional circuit in those days.  Very popular character: Uncle Sam the Hammer.  Patriotic type.  Striped pants.  Red, white and blue outfit.  Top hat.  Although in the Phillipines, the Uncle Sam the Hammer character was a villain.  Anyway, one particularly steamy night in Manila —

CALLER 2: Excuse me, but what does this have to do with the Hold Harmless language?

COMPLETELY UNRELATED ANECDOTE GUY: I’m talking about a hold that wasn’t harmless.  In fact, I’ve problems with regular urination since then.

CALLER 1: Eeeeww!  Get out you.  Hang up on him.

COMPLETELY UNRELATED ANECDOTE GUY: I was at a hanging once.

The Completely Unrelated Anecdote basically is a narcissist. They are staring into every situation and seeing themselves. In the Greek myth of Narcissus, Narcissus was so enamoured of themselves as he stared into his reflection in a pond and then fell in and drown.

Similarly, the best way to manage this person on a conference call is to let them know two things:

1. If they tell one more anecdote, they will be hung up on.
2. You’re not kidding.

They will respond thusly: “Sorry. You know, I worked in the merchant marine once with a guy who had a million stories.”

Once this happens, you will hang up on the person. When they call back in, remind them you weren’t kidding. And that you have one finger on the hangup button on their line.

We now come to the Hello? Is Thing Working? Hello? Gal.

The answer is: Yes. Yes, it’s working. Stop asking that question. We all know you can hear us. Stop pretending. It goes like this:

CALLER 1: Okay, as far as Thursday’s agenda,

HELLO GAL: Hello? Hello?

CALLER 2: Yeah, Denise. We hear you.

HELLO GAL: Is this thing working?

CALLER 1: Yes, it’s working. Now, as far as Thursday–

HELLO GAL: Can you all hear me?

CALLER 2: Yes, we can hear you.

HELLO GAL: I can hear you guys. But can you hear me? Hello?

CALLER 1: YES!  WE CAN HEAR YOU!

HELLO GAL: Gosh, Bob, you don’t have to yell.

CALLER 1: Good. Thursday’s agenda will have–

HELLO GAL: Hello? I think I just lost the connection. Are you all there?

At this point, things are about to turn ugly. What all of you could do is start yelling at her. But what does that get you? Nothing, my friends. Here’s what you all do. Sit perfectly still for a minute, all of you. Nobody moves or makes a sound.

She’ll keep asking if you’re and when you don’t respond, she’ll think she’s lost the call. She’ll hang up and you’re in the clear. You can finish the call without her.

Friday, March 21st, 2014 .

“The jungle is dark, but it is full of diamonds, Willy.”

-from ‘The Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller

And that is the problem salespeople have had for years and years and years: the jungle is dark but it is full of diamonds.  There are sales out there to be made.  People, businesses, organizations, families — they need the things salesmen sell.  The problem is the jungle was dark, and finding the customers who need or want to buy what you are selling is time-consuming, wasteful and exasperating.

My first job straight out of college I was in sales. I sold dictation equipment for Lanier.  It was a grind.  I’d walk the streets of San Francisco — my territory was from the point where Market Street and California Street meet and extended as a triangle all the way to Van Ness.  This was old-fashioned knocking on doors selling.  I had virtually no information about any prospect and would try to find a picture on a desk or trophy on the wall to find something we had in common.  It rarely worked.  How great would it have been to have the LinkedIn profile of the guy I was pitching?  Where he went to school, where he used to work, etc?  Or what connections we had in common!

When I’d stay in the office to cold call, that was it…COLD.  Blindly dialing businesses.  Ouch.

Everyone who has ever worked in sales immediately recognizes this scene from “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

That was sales preparation in those days: here are the leads, now go out there and make some calls and close some sales.

It was a remarkably frustrating and inefficient system.  All I knew about these “leads” was a name, a business and a phone number.

This has begun to change dramatically in recent years.  A number of cloud-based software packages have emerged that significantly increase the amount of data a salesperson can access from almost anywhere about customers and potentials customers.

Knowing more about my leads, as I do today…boom!  Success.  And I don’t need to be in the office tied to some proprietary database to do this…it’s all in the cloud.  I’d rather do it from home in my pajamas anyway, and now I can.

Salesmen are now armed with enormous amounts of information.  They have access to prior purchases with the company (great for upsells, renewals, etc), complaints from the customers (Zendesk), and basically every interaction anybody in the company has ever had with a prospect or existing customer (Salesforce).

They also have the ability to work from anywhere, 24/7, and appear as professional as if they were sitting in their office, thanks to all the cloud-based information and tools.

My frustrating experiences in sales informed a lot of the product decisions we made early on in designing our company’s teleconferencing product: UberConference. UberConference makes great sales calls possible in four ways:

1. We make it easy for a potential customer to get on a call (no PINs).  The easiest way to lose a potential customer is to provide them with even the smallest barrier to communicating with me.  PINs are a potential barrier.  That’s why I insisted we not require them in UberConference.
2. You won’t waste everybody’s first 15 minutes figuring out who just joined the call (visual).  We provide on-screen updates so you know who is there as soon as they sign on.  No need to reintroduce yourself each time a new caller signs on.
3. You know who’s talking at any point: is it the IT guy or the finance guy? That may not only be helpful to know, it could be critical in closing a sale.
4. You get a rich UberProfile on each caller.  You can see their LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ accounts and get an idea of who the person is to whom you are speaking.  This could prove to be crucial in the trust-building phase of a sales relationship.  The more you know and understand about your customer, the better you can serve them… and sell to them.

I lasted only one year in sales.  I realized it was too hard for me so I went back to school to get my MBA and then to law school to hide for a longer time.   Had I had these tools I may have stayed in sales.  Thank God they didn’t have them back then!