Throw Away Your Pager If all your pager can do is page, your wasting valuable space on your belt. BellSouth Wireless Data, Woodbridge, N.J. is leading the new generation of interactive pagers with a service launched last fall that combines traditional paging with wireless e-mail, fax, and telephone communications. From our experience after a two-month test drive, it's only fair to warn you: BellSouth's Interactive Paging Service is an addiction waiting to happen.
The hardware for the service is the Inter@ctive Pager 950 from Research in Motion Ltd., which has a full (if tiny) keyboard, backlit screen, and 386 Intel processor. A thumb wheel acts like a mouse, allowing users to navigate through various functions (compose messages, send message, edit address book, etc.). Each entry in the pager's address book can accommodate a name, e-mail address, fax number, phone number, and two pager numbers, as well as notes.
Using the system is intuitive: Click on "compose," then click on a name in the address book, then choose among e-mail, phone, or fax. A screen appears for creating a message. The typing is not nearly as difficult as you might imagine, although small fingers are undoubtedly a plus.
The message is delivered--over BellSouth's wireless network--either as an e-mail, a fax (with a nice BellSouth cover sheet), or as speech read by an electronic voice. Another option: people can call a toll-free number and dictate a message to an operator who will forward it to the pager.
Of course the wireless network doesn't work everywhere. The service covers "93 percent of the urban business population located in 266 metropolitan areas," according to BellSouth, with in-building paging in the most populated areas and on-street paging in a radius around that. Fortunately, the system keeps messages even when the pager is out of range or out of batteries, and delivers them when service is restored.
The pager retails for about $359, and the BellSouth service starts at $24.95 a month. (Fax and phone access is extra.) For information, contact BellSouth at (888) 423-9663, or visit www.bellsouthwd.com.
If you've shopped online, you know about clicking on an item and adding it to your shopping basket--a cyberspace conceit for the purchase order. At www.leadingauthorities.com, you can put speakers in your shopping basket. That is, after you've read their bios, seen what they've written, and watched a few minutes of them in action via the RealPlayer plug-in. Watching the clips is a great concept, but execution--at least on your reviewer's 28.8k modem--is less than optimal. The sound and motion come and go with the vicissitudes of packet transmission over a standard telephone line.
Leading Authorities, Inc.'s list of speakers is searchable by topic, price range, and location, as well as the company's own speaker categories; these are mostly straightforward except for the American Legends selection, where one may find the likes of Sam MacDonald and Linda Ellerbee (Well, who are we to say who is or is not a legend . . .).
Leading Authorities recently added four new technology speakers to its roster. Jay Walker, founder of priceline.com; Sheldon Laube, chief technology officer for USWeb; Christina Jones, president and founder of pcOrder, ; and Donald Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things and former vice president of Apple Research laboratories.
Ever hear of sticky floor syndrome? That's when your keynote speaker stands stiffly with a zombie-like expression. Such behavior is just one of the Top Ten Mistakes Made by Presenters, an article featured on www.presentersonline.com, sponsored by Epson America, Inc. You can use the site to boost your own presentation skills, or help your speakers prepare.
Don't miss the Power Tip on the home page--when we reviewed the site in March, the tip reminded presenters of the "ME Rule": Always start by telling attendees how they will benefit from the program.
The site features tutorials on various presentation skills, which allow you to click on subjects you are most interested in, such as creating handouts in PowerPoint. Once you've navigated through the steps to creating a presentation, a series of questions comes up: Do you remember how to set up the projector? Have you saved a backup copy of your presentation? Not sure which cable is which? You can then click on the presenter's checklist, a cables 101 section, or step-by-step articles on how to connect laptops to projectors.
If your weakness is "poor visual aids," another of the top-ten mistakes, you can use the site to liven up your programs by downloading free clip art and templates. You can also pick up sound effects--everything from yucks and boos to classical music. A case study section, which will allow you to share your presentation stories, is under development. All sections except the Presenters Club are free, and that you can join for $9.95 per month--or less. When we visited, the club offered a free, six-month trial membership. Members can get advice from presentation consultants and are offered additional clip art and sound clips.
Can you imagine better entertainment than this? Two clean-cut guys--who sometimes like to dress in tights--will coax your CEO on stage, strap a helmet with rods sticking out of it to his or her head, set those rods on fire, start them spinning, and then toss sickles back and forth to each other on either side of your esteemed leader. That crowd-pleasing trick is called the Flaming Helmet of Death.
"People love to see an authority figure up there being tormented by jugglers," says Jon Wee, one half of The Passing Zone, a juggling/comedic/motivational speaker team.
Wee and his partner Owen Morse made their names by tossing around chainsaws to the strains of Strauss's Blue Danube Waltz, and they want to entertain you with their "Chainsaw Ballet" at your next meeting. They've performed on TV programs like The Tonight Show and for companies like IBM.
Wee and Morse have won 18 gold medals from the International Jugglers Association-more than any other team in the world-but it's not only their coordination that makes them a favorite at corporate events. You also can hire The Passing Zone as keynote jugglers. While juggling, they'll drive home messages about teamwork, risk taking, and achieving goals. They'll also teach employees how to juggle to promote cooperation and concentration, and reduce stress.
To review a video for yourself, call (415) 379-3995; for more information, visit their Web site at www.passingzone.com.
ou've worked hard on your presentation--and it pays off. Your work team agrees right away to your proposal for how to organize the next conference. You're thrilled, right? Wrong. "When agreement seems to come too quickly and easily, be suspicious." That's the advice from Effective Meeting Skills, a new Web-based course offered by the American Society of Association Executives' virtual campus (www.asaenet.org/Education/Desktop).
The course is actually a book--A Practical Guide for More Productive Meetings, by Marion E. Haynes--put online, with no interactive features added. You need old-fashioned pen and paper to complete the self-tests. But, the upside is that you don't have to leave your office, and it's available any time.
Focusing on staff meetings, the course's most useful section is on conflict management, or as illustrated in the example, how to unearth the conflict under the surface. When everyone readily says yes, make sure all agree for complementary reasons, Haynes suggests. The course provides techniques to elicit participants' feelings and opinions, as well as strategies for handling hostile attendees. Effective Meeting Skills costs $10; ASAE membership is not required.