Conference calls should be like a routine check-up with your doctor: as clear and painless as possible.
Too often, though, they're like a trip to the urgent care clinic: the people there seem confused or bored, and there's a lot of waiting.
How can you avoid phone fails during a conference call? Read on to learn about some common blunders.
Interjections and interruptions can be frustrating in person, but they're especially maddening when they happen over a conference call. Five people all introducing themselves at the same time is funny once.
If it keeps happening, it's going to seem like no one involved knows how to conference call.
This is why the best conference calls have one or two people running the show and using phrases like "Let's all introduce ourselves. Susan, would your team like to go first?"
What if you're in charge of a call for the first time? Look up tips on leading a conference call. You want to make sure to come in with a clear agenda that includes time for questions.
If you do step on someone else's statement, apologize quickly and say, "You go ahead."
If the conference call starts at 10 a.m., when should you dial the number or log onto the group video chat? The best answer is 10 a.m., but if you have to be early, don't be more than a minute or two early.
Dialing in five minutes early means you'll probably be the only one there. It will make you more anxious than you should be, almost like you're sitting in some sort of tense conference call waiting room.
It might also mean you run into the one other person who also dialed in early, and there are few things more awkward than two near-strangers showing up early to the same place, even if that place is a phone line.
Walking into the room at 10:02 for a 10 a.m. call isn't the end of the world, but it becomes hard not to notice someone joining the call five or especially 10 minutes late.
They're often a little out of breath, like they had to sprint to catch an elevator. That's not a crime, but it adds to the perception that someone wasn't quite as prepared as they should have been.
If you're that person, don't say, "I'm such a moron!" or otherwise put yourself down. You should also avoid launching into a long explanation of how the clock in your cubicle is always two minutes wrong no matter how often you reset it.
No one needs that information. Harping on the details of yours goof-up up is way more awkward than acknowledging the mistake and moving on.
Remember those days when you sat in your high school math class and ignored the lecture? You might have been writing a love note to a crush or just plain daydreaming. Naturally, that became the exact moment the teacher decided to call on you to answer a question.
That's embarrassing enough in high school, but at work, it can get you fired if an executive asks you a question you didn't hear. If you need a way to occupy your hands, grab a fidget spinner or something that won't distract you from paying attention to most of what's being said.
I'm not positive, but I like to think the phrase "With great power comes great responsibility" was first said about the mute button during a conference call. It's a handy tool, but too many people go to one extreme or the other when they use it.
It's normal to mute a conference call while you make a quick note to the co-worker seated next to you. It's not so normal to leave the mute button for the entire call and never contribute anything other than an "Uh-huh" or "Sure."
What if you aren't sure how to mute a conference call? In that case, get to the room 10 or 15 minutes early and figure it out. Ask for help if you need it, because it's a lot better to look silly in front of a trusted coworker than to look silly in front of a dozen corporate bigwigs.
Are you a remote worker? If so, you've got company, as 7 in 10 people work remotely at least once a week. If you are working remotely at the time of a conference call, you should be in a quiet room inside your home, not a loud cafe down the street.
You may love your favorite barista, but that doesn't mean they need to be part of your conference call. If you must have that iced caramel macchiato, get it to go a half-hour before the call begins.
Uttering a quick "I'm at home" will help the others know how to react if, for instance, your dog starts barking at a squirrel in the front yard. Never lie and say you're in an office if you aren't.
If you're at home and your dog lets out a quick bark, that's fine. The other callers might even find it cute.
But you should not be participating with something like a screaming child in the next room. If that happens, apologize and excuse yourself. You'll be doing everyone a favor.
Ideally, you should leave the conference call within a couple of seconds of everyone else. But if an urgent e-mail pops up on your laptop and you need to go address it, don't hang up without a word.
A hang-up like that should only be reserved for the peskiest telemarketers. It should not be something you do on a business call.
Again, be brief. Everyone knows these things happen, so you don't have to perform a dramatic monologue.
It takes practice to master conference calls. Even experience CEOS make mistakes sometimes. In at least one case, that mistake cost Tesla $3 billion dollars in market value.
If you don't have time to practice, that's where we come in.
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