There’s no way around it: Teleconferences are frequently awkward, especially when you’re the one calling in. You may not know who is speaking, much less if the question a co-worker posed was directed at you. Worse still, you have to try to announce your presence at the get-together through a disembodied box that typically sits in the middle of the conference table, next to the refreshments.
And yet, teleconferences are essential to creatives because they enable geographically dispersed teams to easily collaborate. Following are some teleconference etiquette suggestions for making the most of these meetings:
Introduce yourself. The moderator of the teleconference call should introduce you when the meeting begins; if he or she doesn’t, make sure you introduce yourself to the group. A simple, “Hi, this is Amy Smith calling from Virginia. I’m working on the branding for this project” is all you need. As the conversation unfolds, be sure to reiterate your name when you interject comments, especially if a large group has gathered.
Offer verbal cues. Because those on the other end of the line can’t read your facial expressions or body language, it’s important for you to verbalize your thoughts. Nodding your head and smiling is effective in face-to-face meetings, but a conference call requires you to make your voice heard. Saying something along the lines of, “Yes, I understand” or “I see your point” when someone’s talking to you can go a long way toward aiding the flow of the conversation.
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Focus. It’s critical to show common courtesy to your colleagues by resisting the urge to multitask while you’re on a teleconference call. If you must send an e-mail or instant message, be sure to put yourself on mute. In addition, it’s best to avoid phoning into a teleconference with a cell phone while you’re, say, shopping at Target. Not only will you be distracted by the sign announcing two cases of Oreos for $5.99, there’s likely to be a lot of static for those listening on the other end as your reception goes in and out. Instead, try to take the call from home, in a private, quiet part of the house far away from barking dogs and crying children. And turn off the TV during the call—no one is going to take your ideas about the annual report’s layout seriously when they can hear “General Hospital” in the background.
Don’t keep them waiting. Call-waiting is a great feature—except when you’re on a conference call. Disable your phone’s call-waiting function before the teleconference call. Clicking over to another call could derail the meeting, leaving your colleagues with the annoying task of trying to talk over the static or hold music featuring “Jesse’s Girl.” If you have to take an incoming call, hang up and dial back into the teleconference. And try to warn your colleagues about the potential disruption beforehand.
Play it safe. Steer clear of the ultimate phone faux pas: the mute-button mishap. There’s nothing worse than making a sarcastic or snippy quip under your breath only to discover that the subject of your criticism heard every word. The best approach is to only make comments you’d be comfortable offering if every participant were in the same room.
Communicating effectively when you’re phoning into a meeting can be challenging. But by following some of the simple etiquette rules above and understanding how best to get your point across to those at the meeting, you’ll leave the impression that you’re in the room instead of calling from across the country.