• Traci Shaw

Successful Conference Call Tips During Social Distancing

Updated: Mar 25


CONFERENCE CALL AND ONLINE MEETING TIPS


COVID-19 has more people working off-site than ever before, replacing in-person conversations with email, instant messaging, and conference calls. As we all navigate this shift in how we communicate in a world of social distancing, here are a few tips to help your next conference call.



PREPARING FOR A CONFERENCE CALL OR ONLINE MEETING


AGENDA – Agendas are helpful for any meeting, but conference calls have their own unique way of causing distractions. Send out a simple agenda before the meeting so everyone knows what to expect, including the dial-in number, a pin if needed, and the URL if they are joining on their computer.


MEETING EXPECTATIONS – Will you be screen sharing or planning a video call? Be sure to let people know so they can join on their computer and not just by phone. Also, getting caught off guard with a video call is like accidentally turning on the camera when you are looking at your phone – it’s awkward and you’re probably going to be making a weird face. It’s best to give people a heads up if video will be involved.


BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS – “Hey Alexa – turn off.” If possible, try to silence background noise. If you will be on a video call, try to find a location where the background won’t be too distracting and make sure there is enough lighting.


EQUIPMENT CHECK – How does your battery look? Do you need to plug in your power cord? There’s nothing worse than dropping out of a call and missing a part of it while you scramble to re-join.



GETTING STARTED


DIAL IN / LOG ON – Join the meeting a few minutes early if possible. This will help give you some extra time if you have any technical difficulties and make starting the meeting a little more smoothly.


ROLL CALL – Once you’re ready to start the meeting, the meeting leader should introduce themselves and do a roll call to verify who is on the call. If you join a meeting after it has started, wait until a break in the conversation to announce yourself.


AGENDA – Nope, this isn’t a duplicate! Remember to review the agenda at the beginning of the meeting to set expectations.


NOTES – This goes for typical meetings, too, but having a dedicated note-taker can help keep track of what was discussed.


MUTE – This can’t be stressed enough. You may be able to shut off your music, but you can’t always mute other parts of life like pets, kids, or the sound of you crunching on your salad during that noon meeting. Mute is your best friend. Be sure to mute yourself when you aren’t talking to reduce the risk of background noise for other participants.


STATE YOUR NAME - When on larger calls, especially with a group that isn’t familiar with each other, it’s beneficial to state your name before you speak. “This is Traci – I’d be happy to pull something together for that project.”


TAKE TURNS – This one can be tough. You can’t always avoid accidentally starting to talk over each other but do your best! The meeting leader may need to choose whose turn it is to keep the conversation going. In online meetings, especially big ones with a lot of people, you can use the chat function to let the facilitator know you have something to say, then get called on when appropriate.


SILENCE… - How uncomfortable is silence on the radio? Conference calls can have the same feeling, making us want to fill the void or move on to the next topic. Be careful to not assume silence means agreement or understanding. Actively ask for feedback and call on individuals for comments.



ENDING THE MEETING


RECAP – Let’s be honest – people sometimes multitask or get distracted when they aren’t physically in a room together. Doing a quick recap at the end of the meeting will help make sure everyone hangs up knowing the next steps, timeline, and who is responsible for what.

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