Conference calls can be awkward – talking over each other, noise on the line – and having no nonverbal cues to rely on, like facial expressions, can make it difficult to communicate effectively.
In the second instalment of our series on business etiquette, Orla Brosnan, Founder of Etiquette School of Ireland, shares her top tips to allow you to focus on the topic, not the technology.
Computer Says No
Fix technical problems before the call. Dropping a call can be annoying, especially if you are having a conversation with a number of people in different locations. Make sure your phone system is working perfectly before you dial into a conference call. You will appear unprofessional if you can’t manage your companie’s logistics.
Perhaps ask your network providers to enhance your system by providing HD voice, this will improve the voice quality of your conversations, and it will eliminate static that plagues conference calls.
The ideal conference call should take place indoors in a quiet area. But if for some reason you are on the run you may have to dial into a conference call from a location with background noise.
Just in case they think there is some problem with their phone system, or that you are just being disrespectful, best to be upfront, apologise, and explain, for example, that you are near traffic or in a busy airport terminal and ask them to let you know if the interference gets too bad.
If you are chairing a conference call, it’s a good idea to send out a Google calendar invite to all participants so that everyone can get a sense of who is coming, along with the time, the date, and the estimated duration of the call. It is common courtesy that translates into solid conference call etiquette.
Always introduce yourself or be introduced by someone. This is vital for a conference call to unfold without confusion – always a factor if it is unclear who is speaking. If someone else introduces you, at least say “Good morning, or good afternoon, or just Hi, so the other participants can hear what your voice sounds like.
Tone and Communication
Always try and speak loudly and clearly. When you speak, slow down the rhythm of your speech, take pauses and speak loudly into the speakerphone. If you have a soft voice sit as close to the phone as you can, to ensure that you are heard clearly.
Long pauses and silence can sometimes lead to confusion; the other side may assume technical difficulties, or that you are unresponsive. If a situation arises where you need to perhaps, find a file or pull up an email, explain what you are doing… e.g. “I am just logging in to my email to check that for you….” Narrate the sequence of events. “Let me think on that for a second…” – these types of skillful management shows that you have strong conference call etiquette.
Let People Leave If They’re Not Needed
If you are in a meeting with a large group of people and you and another participant are dominating the discussion with a lengthy topic that is not relevant to anyone else in the group, it is a waste of the other participant’s time. Ask that person to have a follow up call with you after the conference call is over.
At the end of a conference call, outline what was accomplished during the meeting, what steps need to be taken, and schedule another conference call if necessary.
Follow up on any promises you made during a conference call, email people who need to be emailed and any other outstanding items that need to be completed.
When you connect with others on Skype they will be able to see certain profile information about you – make sure it’s correct and up to date
6 Tips for Skype & Video Conferencing
Skype is a valuable business tool, it’s a great way to increase the connectedness of the conversation. Here are a few ways to get the most from your call.
1. Eye contact is crucial, so be sure to look into the camera at all times. Don’t keep looking at yourself in the bottom corner of the screen!
2. Dress appropriately, in a suit or normal work attire. Maintain good posture, avoid slouching, and moving side to side, or figeting with a pen or anything else that may indicate that you are distracted. Keep noise distractions to a minimum. Tapping or background noises can come across louder to the other person.
3. Remember all Skype for business calls are recorded so you can play them back in case you need to refresh your memory on details discussed, and so can they!
4. When you connect with others on Skype they will be able to see certain profile information about you by default. Be aware what your Skype status, location, and other profile details are saying and ensure they are appropriate and accurate.
5. The quality of Skype calls is greatly enhanced by using good quality headphones, so you can save your colleague the discomfort of noise loops.
6. Conduct yourself with the same poise and professionalism as you would at a face to face meeting.
If you mind your Skype manners you will be prepared to forge meaningful business relationships regardless of the distance.
For more etiquette tips from Orla, check out her ultimate guide to dining etiquette for business: www.thedailyslog.com/dining-etiquette-for-business-here-are-the-rules-you-need-to-know/
About the Author
Orla Brosnan is Founder and Director of Etiquette School of Ireland, a modern consultancy that runs courses in Communications, Presentation skills, Business & Social Media Protocol, International Customs and Dining Etiquette. Catering for Irish and international clients, our consultants are experts in what constitutes good Etiquette in today’s world.