Video and teleconferencing are set to be a standard communication tool over the coming months.
Some businesses are highly familiar with Skype, Zoom, GotoMeeting, WhyPay?, Teams and the myriad of other platforms out there already. But not all are familiar with how to best utilise them.
Dependent on the size of the meeting, different platforms are more appropriate, but teleconferencing etiquette remains the same irrespective of platform. Hers’ some quick pointers: –
- Test the audio and video beforehand
- Treat it like a normal meeting
- Make yourself heard
- Think about your environment and how it may affect others
1. Test the audio and video
Before you are due to start a call, make sure you have checked all your computer settings are working. If it is a new conferencing system that you haven’ used before, it’s always worth dialling in a few minutes earlier in case there is a patch needed on your system.
If you are working from home, your broadband may not be as good as at work, your mobile phone signal may not be great – so (if you have one) using your landline may be the best option.
2. Treat it like a normal meeting
It is just as important in an online meeting, to have the same etiquette as if you were meeting in person.
If you are not speaking on the call, put yourself on mute. Some of the larger facilities can mute all callers, but most phones have a mute button so please use it. And then remember to turn mute off when you want to speak (think of the countless times we’ve heard “name, are you on mute?”)
Don’t put yourself on hold
We’re all guilty of a little multi-tasking at the best of times, but if you put the conference call on hold to take another call, there will be an interruption for everyone else on the call, and they will know you put them on hold – just don’t do it!
I used to run weekly global conference calls at IBM and they started promptly on the hour. It is more respectful to be punctual, and to then allow the conversation to flow rather than the host having to repeat earlier points. If you do arrive late, apologize and catch up.
3. Make yourself heard
Say who you are
Unless there’s a handful of you, and you’re also on a video call, it’s important to introduce yourself – and with your full name in case there are multiple John’s.
Raising a question
When everyone is on the phone, and unable to read visible social cues it is difficult to know when to speak. If you have something to say, say your name and then wait until the host/moderator asks you to contribute.
If you’re on a video call, the moderator may also suggest you raise your hand and then they will come to you when the time is appropriate.
There may also be a chat function where you can make the host aware that you wish to make a comment.
At the very least say your name before making a statement, asking a question.
4. Manage your Environment
One of the most frustrating things is when someone calls in with a bad signal or a noisy location. Pick a quiet area in which to call. If you’re at home, put a note on the door asking others to keep quiet for the duration of the call (we’ve all had those calls when you can hear someone hoovering in the background!).
And it sounds obvious but be near to the microphone when you’re speaking.
On video calls, try not to sit with a window behind you (or if you have to, consider closing the curtains), and do take a look at the setting behind you as that is what others will see!
Most conference calls are normal meetings, but I have been known to sit in board meetings lasting three hours. Don’t underestimate the need to be comfortable – your choice of chair, having water handy and such like.
It’s a standard joke that people on conference calls only dress their top half. Just use your common sense and dress as you would for any other meeting you would participate in.
A word on being a good host
What are the objectives of the meeting? What outcomes are you looking for? Do you need a quorum in order to make decisions? Circulating an agenda in advance and letting people know who else will be on the call is a good way to start.
Have someone assigned to check-in who is on the phone from the outset. There is nothing more frustrating than having to keep repeating who is on the call. The coordinator or host should then repeat the names of who is on the line, which then gives an opportunity for any latecomers to add their name at the end.
Have an agenda and stick to it – it is important that you are respectful of people’s time – it is best to finish early than run over.
Make sure you check in with people to ensure you are getting their contribution. If your conferencing facility doesn’t have a chat function, it might be useful to have an alternative function open so people can direct message you if needs be – remember we’re all different t social styles and some people want to be asked that feel that they’re ‘butting-in’.
If you’re hosting a long conference call, be aware that most phone companies charge at sixty minutes. If your meeting is going to go on longer than this, it might be worth taking a break (never a bad idea) to allow people to dial out and dial back in again.
And at the end, recap on the discussion and suggest next steps.
What else? Don’t eat, don’t fidget, don’t do your shredding in the background (remember mute) – but most importantly tune in to the conversation and participate.
Remember, teleconferencing can make us more productive. We can share files, share screens and most importantly keep a good level of human interaction and engagement.