After more than twenty years experience working with global virtual teams, providing training in optimizing conversation techniques and presenting online, I would like to share the dos and don’ts.
Before the conference call starts
Fix Technical Difficulties
Anyone who ever uses conference calls is familiar with waiting for people who could not dial in. Make sure that you check the invitation a few hours before the call and that you are not only prepared for the agenda as hopefully for every meeting, but also the conference tool, (WebEx, Zoom,) test. Most tools have a test environment where you can test the use of your device, the sound and the camera.
Your conferencing device (laptop, phone or whatever device you’re using to make a call) should be charged.
Choose the right location
Make sure to choose a quiet area for the call. Your partners will be annoyed to hear passing cars or side conversations during their call. Have the right camera angle with keeping your webcam at eye-level.
TIP don’t forget to double check the background. Neat office good background. NO bathroom door in the background (yes, that actually happened).
Inform all the participants about the details of the meeting.
If you are the leader of the call, make sure to inform all the participants about who will be attending the meeting and whether the use of a camera is desirable.
Send out an invite with agenda for the call with time, date and participant names. This way people will know who they will be talking to and what they need to prepare.
Set time limits
Set strict time limits and remember that you have a specific amount of time to handle everything you need to discuss.
Prepare your agenda
Your time is not endless, you need to have a detailed agenda to guide you through the meeting and discuss everything on topic.
During the conference call
Don’t be late and do not wait to long for people who might show up.
Let’s agree together that a conference call is also a meeting. You try to be on time in real life meetings, right? Treat conference calls similarly, be on time.
TIP: Some people avoid waiting for people who are late by scheduling pause time between calls or scheduling the start of a call 5 minutes past the hour or half hour. I personally am not a fan of delaying the start and sometimes waiting 10 minutes for people. This is not pleasant for people who are on time and can cause unwanted behaviour for your upcoming calls.
As with every meeting, don’t be surprised. Make sure that everyone is aware of the duration of the meeting in advance. This way you can take into account last minute changes and adjust the call accordingly, postpone or propose a 1 to 1 session with that person.
Introductions or role call
Don’t assume everyone recognizes your voice. When starting a conference call never forget to let everyone introduce themselves or take a role call at the start of the meeting, highlighting the missing attendees.
It’s very important that people know and get accustomed to your voice, so they understand who is talking. If there are people who you’ve never met, make sure that everyone introduces themselves by the name, so the speakers will have a better understanding of who are the attendees.
Let other people talk
While talking pause regularly between your speech. This will give an opportunity for participants to clarify or ask something.
TIP: speak a little slower than usual, especially with people who are not native in the language used. Speaking slowly gives you more time to think about what you are going to say and those involved can better understand what you are saying.
Leaving the conference
Inform people about leaving the conference
If you are leaving during the conversation, you should let other people know since it will be awkward and rude if somebody talks to you and then finds out you weren’t on the call all that time.
TIP: if you do not want to interrupt a conversation and still want to leave the call, you can send the chat leader a chat message