While technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last half century, human evolution has yet to make the necessary adjustments to adapt. Even though we’ve been conducting conference calls since the days of the party line in the 1950s, many subtleties of face-to-face conversations are lost when our conversations go from the boardroom to the virtual universe. From nodding in agreement to handshake introductions, most of us forget the social pleasantries with virtual participants, leaving them feeling left-out or entirely irrelevant.
To get the most out of a conference call, make the effort to engage members who aren’t present in the room. While virtual meetings can be almost as good as the real thing, it requires an effort to make those who can’t be there in person feel like they are.
Before you start your next conference call, consider how the following 7 tips can help you engage with everyone on the phone as well as those in the room.
1) Limit small talk. There’s nothing worse than sitting on the line listening to other people talk about the trips to the Bahamas or sharing pictures of their children. If you want to catch up with your friends around the conference table, do so after the call has been completed. Most people hate meetings to begin with. Having to suffer through ten minutes of summer vacation stories and “isn’t he cute” baby comments, without actually seeing the photos, is intolerable.
2) Don’t speak without introducing yourself. While you may believe your voice is distinctive enough for everyone to recognize who you are when you are speaking, it may not be that obvious on the line, especially if the conversation is heated or moving quickly. Failing to introduce yourself or addressing the person you’re speaking to by name creates unneeded confusion. If you anticipate a large gathering, consider assigning a note taker who can distribute the information after the meeting to avoid any confusion and clear up any ambiguity.
3) Don’t brainstorm on a conference call. While it may be tempting to reach out to a large pool of stakeholders to resolve a problem, recognize that opinions of people in the room will down out any potential participation on the line. Without visual cues, it is nearly impossible for virtual participants to follow the flow of the conversation or interject at the appropriate time. If you’re truly looking for new ideas and have no other alternative but to conduct a conference call, check into utilizing a video conferencing software. If video software isn’t available or not possible then solicit written ideas in advance that can be shared with the team in an organized way on a conference call using PowerPoint or some other visualization aid.
4) Don’t deliver policy updates on conference calls. Unless you’re expecting feedback, send policy updates via email rather than gathering people on a conference call. There’s nothing worse than listening to someone read a document that you could have read yourself at your convenience. If it’s absolutely necessary that you ensure everyone hears the policy change, ask for a read receipt with the document. If you respect the time of participants they will be far more included to attend your conference calls when they are truly needed.
5) Don’t deliver bad news via conference call. The human voice is a limited communication tool. When delivering bad news, non-verbal cues like crossed arms and shaking heads provide far more valuable feedback than words. To address concerns and mold the conversation, in person contact is vital. If the bad news you’re delivering requires no feedback, send an email and start looking for another line of work. If you’re unwilling or unable to accept feedback, you’ll never lead people to success.
6) Never forget who’s on the line. The old cliché “out of sight, out of mind,” is never more true than on a conference call. While you may believe you know who’s listening, most conference calling technology allows for meetings to be forwarded and participants to engage anonymously. While you may believe you’re safe in slamming the latest corporate cost cutting strategy or green initiative, you may get more than you’re bargaining for.
7) Never eat a meal. Whether you are participating in the room or on the phone at home, the sounds of chewing, grunting, burping, or any number of other disgusting noises will only amplify on the phone, especially if you’re located near a microphone or forget to press the mute button. If you are conducting a virtual luncheon, mute all the lines and only allow the speaker access to a microphone.
While technology can be an invaluable resource, it’s only a tool. Before you launch yourself into the virtual universe with webinars, conference calls, and online interactive chats, make sure that you haven’t forgotten that participants are human. It may seem like we’ve come a long way from sharing stories around the campfire, but our minds have yet to evolve to accept all of the aspects of virtual living.
At SCR, we know providing Quality People equals Quality Projects. We can help you find the experienced, innovative energy sector talent you need to complete your next project on time, and on budget. Contact us today!