3 top tips to avoid a conference call catastrophe

As the coronavirus lockdown has forced more of us to work from home, so more of us have had to conduct meeting remotely, meaning conference calling is playing a bigger and bigger part in the working day.

And while working from home has its benefits – notably, you’ll miss the daily commute but never have to miss an episode of Come Dine with Me again – it’s also filled with potential pitfalls, particularly where the conference call is concerned. Although our conference calls are simple to set up, we have no control over what goes on once the call is connected, and people’s conference call etiquette can often leave a lot to be desired.

It’s can be complicated enough when the teleconference is done over the phone; eating is out and coughs must be stifled to avoid deafening the other participants. And throwing video into equation makes things even worse as this means you actually have to get dressed for work – if only from the waist up.

If the idea of a remote conversations gives you the pip, then simply follow our three top tips to avoid conference call catastrophe…

1. Make sure you’re ready for the call

It’s not always necessary to check your meetings schedule while working in the office as there’s a good chance that someone will give you a gentle reminder at some stage, even if it’s an abrupt intercom message informing you of where you should have been five minutes ago.

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However, this is not the case when working from home and so you need to know exactly what time any conference calls have been scheduled for and make sure you’re ready and waiting for them when they come through.

If the first thing you know about a conference call is that the phone is ringing or your webcam kicks into life then there’s every chance you could get caught in your dressing gown with a mouth full of toast while reading the morning papers – good luck explaining that to your colleagues who’v been in the office for an hour already!

2. Familiarise yourself with the system

Remember in primary school when the teacher would wheel out the television and video and let the class watch an educational programme instead of hitting the books? And remember the way it would always take about 10 minutes for them get the thing working; “Which one’s the play button again..?”

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Well you could find that if you don’t get to grips with your conference calling system you could end up playing the part of that teacher, holding up proceedings while the rest of your fellow conference callers sit waiting for you to get started.

More importantly, once you know where the ‘mute’ function is, or how to deactivate the webcam, you can happily eat your way through lunch, finish the washing up or perform any number of other tasks without disturbing everyone else on the call.

3.Mind your body language

One of the big problems with conference calling is that, unlike in a face-to-face, in-person conference situation, you can’t read other people’s body language, which means it’s easy to interrupt someone if they haven’t finished making their point – and this invariably leads to an awkward silence or raised voices.

Always keep listening and try to time your responses right.

On the other hand, during the course of one of those face-to-face, in-person meetings the minutiae of people’s body language is usually overlooked. During a video conference call, however, rolling your eyes, biting your nails or, if you’re so inclined, picking your nose will all be magnified for the rest of the group to see – so make sure you mind your body language.

Have you had a disastrous conference call? Let us know…

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