Mastering the Conference Call

Queen-of-theConference-CallTechnology is invading all aspects of our lives and business meetings are no different. On a typical day you could find yourself in more than a couple of meetings and they probably are not all face to face. With more people working remotely across the country and the world, meetings have moved from the conference room to a conference call majority of the time.

Just a couple of years ago a conference call looked different did it does today. Back then employees would all be on “hard” phones from different locations and now we have virtual meeting all conducted through the computer and most have some visual component as well. Since the times have changed, so have the rules for attending meetings.

Here are my #savvy tips for mastering a conference call.

Check Your Technology – Sounds simple but if you don’t take this step, you could end up looking like a fool because you are late to the meeting. Generally, about 30 minutes before the meeting, take a little time to check the meeting invite, verify the method of the meeting, and make sure you have the technology to connect. If you are dialing into a conference number, make sure your phone is working. If you have a service, make sure you are good to go and can make and receive calls before the meeting starts. When the meeting requires you to log into a special site to connect, make sure you have all the necessary software downloaded and you are good to go before start time. If you try to “check your system” at 2:00 on the dot, then you could be waiting for several minutes for your computer to update, thus making you late and not setting a great impression.

Quiet Space – Plan to take conference calls in a quiet space. If you work in an open area where you know it will be noisy and the others on the call can hear, find a place where your background will not be distracting. It may be appropriate to take a call in your office with the door closed or drop into an unused conference room to meet virtually. The goal is to make sure your surroundings are not heard by the others on the call.

Limit Distractions – This is a hard one, I know. However, it is important that you limit distractions while you are on conference calls. Most of us multitask when we are on conference calls because we know that the other people cannot see what we are doing (checking emails, reading blogs, filing our nails). This is a horrible habit. When you are on a conference call, try to close all the other windows on your computer and shut down your email. Hopefully, if you are attending a meeting it’s because you add value to the conversation and you need to be there. Since you are there, you should pay attention.

Take Notes – Along with limiting distractions and focusing on the meeting at hand, taking notes is a good practice. Most of the time the meeting will end with take-aways and action items. In any meeting whether in person or virtual, note-taking is a good practice and habit to pick up. By doing this, you remember what you need to do (or at least you have it written down), and you look like the smartest person in the room when you can easily recite what was just discussed.

The Art of Mute – Mute is your friend, if you use it correctly. When on a conference call, if you are not talking, you should be on mute. This way, people can’t hear you breathing…yes, breathing is very distracting. However, while you are on mute you should be very much attentive to the meeting and ready to jump in and comment at a moment’s notice. Do not get so comfortable with mute, that you forget that you are on mute, and act as if you are not even on the call because you are distracted or multitasking (see above). I’ve seen this happen so many times that people just hear their name called, that triggers their attention, and then they are dumbfounded because they don’t know the question that was asked. Don’t let this be you. It’s better to be the person that is ready to jump in at any moment with a question or comment but nobody could hear them because they were on mute (“Sorry, I was on mute”). Conference call etiquette pulls a bit from in-person meeting etiquette with a virtual twist. I hope these points are helpful in creating career long habits for successful virtual meetings. Do you have any #savvy conference call advice, habits or peeves? We’d love to hear from you.

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