Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today I want to look at how to participate in a teleconference.
With modern technology, you don’t have to be in the same room to have a meeting with other people. Teleconferencing tools allow us to connect by phone, VOIP, or video from across the country, or around the world. You can even join a meeting from home, your car or on plane at 30,000 feet in the air. Sure, it’s amazing, but teleconferencing brings special challenges, and we have to be mindful of things that real-life meetings don’t require.
For starters, you need to take steps to ensure clear and clean sound. You’ve probably been on a teleconference before and become annoyed by the sound of someone typing away at their keyboard. Or you’ve heard someone’s music or the clanking of cups and plates in a busy coffee shop. It’s not just irritating; it makes it difficult to hear people. So minimize this kind of background noise. Find a quiet place and use your mute button wisely. And try to avoid distractions. Some people think a teleconference is a good chance to get other work done, or check Facebook, but there’s nothing worse than getting asked a question when you weren’t really paying attention.
Now, there are several other ways that you can be a good teleconferencer. One of the keys is giving good verbal clues to other participants, because they don’t have any visual clues to go on. When you join the call, announce that you’ve arrived and let everyone know who you are. For example, a simple “Hello, it’s Dave here” should suffice if it’s an internal call. And if you join in the middle of the call, wait for a good time to introduce yourself rather than jumping in right away.
Besides introducing yourself at the beginning, you can say your name when you start speaking about something, like “Dave here. And I’d just like to add that we did even better than our original forecasts.” In fact, that example shows another handy technique that we might call “signposting.” Basically, signposting is when we announce what we’re about to do. It could be “I just want to add something,” or “I have a question,” or “I’d like to make a comment about that.” This helps manage the flow of discussion and makes it easier for people to follow you.
Sometimes the discussion gets chaotic. For example, it often happens that two people begin talking at the same time. In this case, it’s polite to let the other person go first, with a simple “please, go ahead” or “after you.” And being a polite and active participant also means demonstrating active listening techniques. In person, you can see someone nod or smile. But on a teleconference, you don’t have that kind of visual feedback, so you need to throw in a few “yeahs” and “rights” and “mm-hms” to show that you’re engaged, or that you’re even still there.
Of course, there are times when you might need to duck out mid-call. In that case, it’s best to just let everyone know, and to briefly announce when you’re back. You don’t want people asking you questions and getting dead air in response.
Now, sometimes it happens that you’ve got several people in a room crowded around one phone hub. It’s usually pretty obvious, because you get a lot of background chit chat. That can be really distracting, so keep that chatter to a minimum. And explain what’s going on in the room if necessary, like if people are laughing because of a joke.
If everyone can take steps to reduce background noise and be active participants in the ways I’ve described, you can have a great teleconference. And when it’s time to wrap up, don’t forget to officially sign off rather than just hanging up. Something like “Thanks everyone. I look forward to the minutes,” or “Great work everyone. Chicago signing off.”
Speaking of signing off, that’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.