Are you teleconference calls muddled by background noises to the point of distraction? Are your teleconferences beset by overlapping speakers and trouble identifying voices? Perhaps you feel left out because others always talk first and monopolize the discussion and the facilitator is overwhelmed.
For a conference call to be a pleasant and professional experience, participants need to know how to use teleconference technology. As people register to participate, immediately send an email that gives guidelines and logistical information for the teleconference number and passcode, the correct time, day and time zone. Include information on technical support in case of technical difficulties. Let participants know how to disable call waiting or the implications of answering their second line while on the conference call.
Once you have made participants aware of conference call etiquette, you want to eloquently handle issues as they happen on a conference call. Even if you’ve sent out an email in advance, at the beginning of the call, take time to reiterate important points of teleconference etiquette.
For example, “I’d like to highlight a few tips about teleconference etiquette from the email I sent you. Here are some conference call etiquette tips that will make our call as enjoyable as possible for everyone. First, make sure you are in a quiet room, with no dogs, children or adults to distract you. If you do need to speak with someone, please ensure you have pressed the mute button on your telephone, or you can mute yourself on the conference call by pressing *6, and at anytime you want to interact with us on the call, just press *6 again to be able to speak. If you start speaking and I don’t acknowledge you, then you’ll know you are still on mute and we can’t hear you.
Please always say your first name before you speak. For example, Chris here, then begin speaking and be as clear and succinct as you can. This is an interactive call and I’ll be asking you questions and for your ideas, so please be prepared to participate at any time. In order to make the most of what you get out of this call, I ask that you resist the urge to multitask during the teleconference.”
When it is time for group participation at the teleconference, prompt your callers in such a way as to direct their thoughts to a single focus. As the meeting facilitator, you might ask if any of the callers need clarity, have any questions relating to teleconference etiquette. Remember, in some instances, silence is golden. People need time to reflect on what they have learned, to gather their thoughts and to form an opinion. Further, everyone should be allowed ample time to share those same opinions and thoughts they just formed.
The meeting facilitator might say that or something similar. Those guidelines should then be enforced tactfully for the call’s duration. If there is obvious noise in the background, pause and inject a comment such as, “We’re picking up a good bit of background noise. It sounds like someone is cooking dinner. There’s not enough for me, is there?” A little fun is certainly permissible! If a dog is barking, for example, you might say, “Sparky seems to approve!”
Occasionally, one person will dominate a call, and if you do not respond tactfully, your professional reputation might suffer, and other parties might want to end their participation. Keep in mind that you only get one chance to make a first impression. And while this adage is accurate enough in a situation that involves face to face contact, it could prove even more viable in a virtual environment. Without body language to interpret, unhappy teleconference colleagues can stop participating, or even hang up, damaging your relationship with them.