REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 4, 2005 – Russell Minchew, an Alabama telecommunications network manager, is always looking for new ways to turn irate callers into satisfied customers and grow more confident in his role. New Jersey human-resources business partner Diane Litchko craves opportunities to further enhance her professional skills and hear exceptional business leaders talk about what makes them successful.
Both of these busy professionals devote several hours a week to participating in the Microsoft Office Live Meeting Leadership Forum, a series of presentations led by some of the world’s most respected motivational speakers, executive coaches and business management experts – without spending any money on travel or even leaving their desks. Peppered with inspirational messages, practical advice and interactive discussions on a diverse range of topics, the series has attracted tens of thousands of participants over its three-year history. Participants need only the hosted Microsoft Live Meeting service, a phone and a PC with an Internet connection.
“The value I gain from that hour on my computer is just incredible,” says Litchko, who has participated in more than 45 Leadership Forum seminars over the past year. “Every session has given me the chance to tap into fresh ideas, connect with other professionals, and get exposed to different business approaches and cultural attitudes that I might never have the time or budget to pursue through in-person seminars.”
Having attended nearly 20 Leadership Forum sessions, Minchew says he also finds plenty of opportunities to apply the topics to his job at BellSouth Telecommunications in Birmingham, Ala. “Pretty much every time my phone rings, it’s a customer either asking for something to be done sooner or trying to get some problem resolved,” he says. “A lot of times in the past, I would have gone running to my boss for help in dealing with those customers. But one piece of advice I’ve gained through these seminars is to maintain a cool head, look past the emotions involved in the confrontation and focus on the real issue so both sides come away happy.”
Series Attracted Nearly 49,000 in One Year
Microsoft recently re-launched the Web seminar series, which has been known by different names since it started in early 2003. In addition to joining in one to three new seminars each week, participants can view more than 250 archived presentations stored on the Microsoft Office Live Meeting Web page (see Related Links). The Leadership Forum series has attracted nearly 40,000 attendees in the past year, a 40 percent increase over the previous 12-month period.
“One of our primary goals with this series is to provide effective and interesting content that helps expand people’s knowledge in a variety of areas,” says Janice V. Kapner, director of RTC marketing for the Microsoft Real-Time Collaboration Group. “We also want to give more people the experience of engaging in a Web conference through Microsoft Office Live Meeting so they can experience the power and impact of real-time collaboration through this technology.”
Microsoft Office LiveMeeting is a hosted Web conferencing service that helps information workers communicate and collaborate – using just a PC and an Internet connection. Features of the service include the ability to easily launch a meeting from familiar Microsoft Office applications; show, share and edit original documents created in Microsoft Office programs such as PowerPoint, Word and Excel; integrate and flexibly control audio input; and allow participants to modify or add to the content they’re viewing on screen. Live Meeting also lets people interact through instant polling, exchanging messages via online chat, drawing on a shared whiteboard, typing ideas into a text slide, summoning Web pages for the group to view, and other tools.
“When people attend one of these Leadership Forum seminars, we hope they will find value in the content shared by these leading speakers and see for themselves how easy the Live Meeting service is to use, so that they too might be inspired to try out the service within their own organizations,” Kapner says.
“The Cycle of Leadership,” “Being a Great Manager”
The Leadership Forum series continues today at 9 a.m. Pacific time with a presentation by Noel Tichy, professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management at the University of Michigan, titled “The Cycle of Leadership: How Great Leaders Teach Their Companies to Win.” On Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 9 a.m. Pacific time, author and researcher Marcus Buckingham presents “The One Thing You Need to Know About Being a Great Manager.”
Minchew says he’s eager to integrate Live Meeting into his work routine sometime soon. “For the project teams that I’m involved with, having a Live Meeting session where people can view the PowerPoint slides, Word documents and Excel spreadsheets would help ensure that everyone is paying attention and knows what their responsibilities are,” he says.
Recent topics in the Leadership Forum series have ranged from enhancing personal accountability on the job, to igniting passion in one’s work and personal life, to forming business partnerships that will help attract and retain more customers. The roster of speakers includes best-selling authors, widely respected university professors, current and former executives of Fortune 500 companies, and corporate trainers whose in-person speaking services might ordinarily cost thousands of dollars per day.
The seminars typically attract anywhere from 200 to 1,200 participants, with certain speakers commanding even larger audiences. More than 2,000 people participated in a session last December with internationally known business guru Tom Peters and Kevin Roberts, worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi and author of the book “Lovemarks,” a study of corporate brands that inspire enormous consumer loyalty. “That event really underscores Live Meeting’s scalability to handle the demands of even the largest organizations,” says Kapner.
Conversing with Hundreds – Minus the Travel Expense
Marshall Goldsmith is one of the prominent motivational speakers and management experts to join a Microsoft Office Live Meeting Leadership Forum.
Marshall Goldsmith, an authority on helping successful leaders achieve more positive and long-lasting behavioral changes in themselves as well as their teams, says presenting a recent Live Meeting Leadership Forum seminar was a unique opportunity to reach a new audience with his messages. “I really enjoyed being able to converse with hundreds of people who might not have even heard of me before, without the logistics expenses involved in having everyone travel to a single location,” says Goldsmith. “A large percentage of the value that people gain from an in-person seminar can be captured with Live Meeting, at a fraction of the cost.”
He also has found distinct benefits in Live Meeting features such as the polling tool. “In one part of my presentation, I wanted to drive home the point that successful people tend to overrate themselves,” Goldsmith recalls. “So I asked the online audience to rank their performance – above 80 percent, in the 60 to 80 percent range, and so on – in relation to their professional peers.” As expected, he says, the results of the impromptu poll showed 85 percent of participants considered themselves in the top 20 percent of their peer group.
“What’s great about that outcome is my message to the audience was validated not by some dry statistic or abstract idea I recited, but by the instant feedback we generated through Live Meeting,” he says. “Also, being able to see people’s comments and questions on the screen during my presentation helps me tailor my remarks and the examples I use to better match the audience’s interests. That’s much harder to do with a roomful of people.”
The atmosphere of a Live Meeting presentation is active, conversational and visually rich. During a July 2005 seminar on “The Seven Irrefutable Rules of Small Business Growth,” presented by Steven S. Little, participants submitted a steady flow of queries and comments via the Live Meeting Question Manager window. Visible to all participants, except for input the session moderator chose to address privately, the string of responses allowed people to build upon Little’s comments and react to each other’s input without interrupting the flow of the presentation. Following his prepared remarks and a short period for follow-up questions, Little continued typing back and forth with a few participants while about 20 others participated in a formal demonstration of the LiveMeeting capabilities.
“If people want to explore Microsoft Office Live Meeting in the context of their own businesses, Microsoft offers a free 14-day trial of the service,” says Kapner. “We see a lot of people convert to Live Meeting subscribers once they enjoy the seminar experience and then get in and try out the various functionality of the service for themselves.”
Says Litchko, who has used other Web conferencing applications in her previous jobs, “Microsoft Live Meeting is just head-and-shoulders above all the rest.”
“As a training specialist and presenter, I know that the ability to get instant answers from the audience and save a record of everyone’s input is invaluable,” adds Litchko, who is currently seeking a new job. “At the next company I join, I want to make sure we use Live Meeting, especially with people who are geographically dispersed. It just makes a world of sense to collaborate this way instead of just having everyone on a conference call.”