Joining a teleconf via your mobile – Don’t be that guy!
You: sitting there with a beaming grin at the thought of how convenient this is to be able to have a meeting with your manager and clients whilst making dinner.
Your boss: head in his hands, squirming at the noise your ‘gently-does-it-chopping-onions’ technique is making.
He can’t say anything to you since clients are taking part in the conference call and you can’t see him.
Let’s avoid this scenario shall we?
Teleconferencing has long been a popular choice for holding meetings with teams and clients spread over wide geographical locations. Just like face to face meetings, there is a certain unwritten etiquette to teleconferencing but unfortunately, nobody prepares you for this and not all the aspects are immediately obvious.
Know your stuff. If you have ever taken part in a teleconference, you will know that there is something unnerving about not being able to include people’s facial expressions and general body language in the dialogue. It can make it hard to judge responses or know when it is your cue to speak and generally makes the meeting less fluid than a face to face one. Although preparing doesn’t necessarily combat this challenge, it certainly makes the process easier as knowing what to contribute is one less thing to worry about.
Go to the bathroom, finish eating and get into ‘professional mode’. People take advantage of the flexibility and mobility of teleconferencing. They see it as an opportunity to have a professional meeting in a setting where they can do other things at the same time. However, hearing a toilet flush or someone chewing food, portrays an unprofessional image – so don’t do it! The way to think of a teleconference is the same way as a face to face meeting – the only thing missing is you don’t have to be professionally dressed (unless it is a video conference).
Don’t get distracted. Although this overlaps with the last point; it is so important that it is worth focusing on specifically. It is common for there to be lengthy periods of time when you will be listening rather than talking and it is easy to use these ‘breaks’, as an opportunity to talk to someone else, or do something else. You wouldn’t do it in a face to face meeting so you shouldn’t do it in a teleconference either.
The mute button is your best friend. When you join the call, after you have introduced yourself, you should hit the mute button. In fact, after you finish saying anything, you should hit the mute button unless of course, you are in the midst of a fast paced conversation. This avoids background noise being picked up by the other participants, and gives you the flexibility to shuffle papers or do whatever you need to do, without disturbing the call or making yourself sound unprofessional.
Stay in one place. Just like you wouldn’t move locations five times during a face to face meeting, avoid doing that in a teleconference – tempting when you are on a mobile phone. It can open a can of worms, from dropping out of reception to you not having vital documents at hand when you need them. Instead prepare the area where you will sit for your teleconference and for the duration, treat it as your meeting room.
Make notes. If you are anything like me, you remember faces but are terrible at remembering names. However, since eye contact isn’t a luxury available to you, making a note of the names of the participants is a great way to ensure that you can command yourself with a high level of professionalism at all times. Equally, bear in mind that when you speak, people are not necessarily going to know who you are especially if there are a lot of participants so always state your name before speaking.
Don’t shout! Unlike face to face meetings, you cannot know how loud someone has their speaker turned up to. So shouting can be louder for the others involved than you intend it to be! If you are concerned that they can’t hear you simply turn your microphone volume up and let them adjust their speaker volumes to what works for them.
Allow for pauses. Due to transmission timings and the lack of being able to assess body language, you should account for longer pauses after you have say, posed a question, than you would in a face to face meeting. It is good etiquette to also use these pauses as your cue to say something without which, you risk interrupting someone else.
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