Teleconferences are valuable tools — if you mind your manners

The teleconference — or online meeting — you either love them or hate them. But even though today’s wireless world eliminates the need for teams to spend their work days in the same location, no amount of technology will ever eliminate the need to meet.

Ask anyone in today’s work environment about the pitfalls of the teleconference and you’ll hear a litany of complaints, most of which can be eliminated by simply muting the call: barking dogs, ice crunchers, potato chip munchers, heavy breathers, the “wind in my hair” walking callers, who sound like they’re walking through a mild hurricane.

Then there are the just plain rude ones – the interrupters, the late joiners who chime in with “Hi, this is Prudence. Sorry I’m late – who’s on the call?” The technology lightweights who constantly disconnect, who don’t know how to mute, learn how while on the call, then later deliver brilliant soliloquys that no one ever hears because (1) they don’t know how to unmute their phone and (2) they forgot they were even muted to begin with.

So what makes the perfect online meeting? An informal polling of frequent teleconference participants offered up a few points to make the calls more enjoyable for everyone.

First, the call leader can nip a few problems in the bud, just by setting up the call correctly and laying out the ground rules:

  • Provide an advance agenda and stick to it
  • Establish a few guidelines about speaker etiquette – 
    • At the beginning of the call, remind participants of the commands for muting and unmuting and ask everyone to please mute when not speaking
    • Call the roll (eliminates long-winded introductions from participants)
    • Ask and remind speakers to identify themselves before they speak
    • Remind speakers to be brief (people tend to talk longer when they can’t see body language from others that sends a signal they’ve gone on a little too long)
    • If there’s a presentation, make sure everyone can see it or download a copy in advance
The participants:
  • If you’re new to teleconferencing, try to learn a little about the system you’ll be using – most systems, such as Cisco WebEx, provide easy-to-follow instructions and helplines
  • Be on time – it’s very disrupting when callers join after the call begins
  • Mute your phone after the roll call and don’t forget to unmute when you speak
  • Identify yourself when you do speak

By following a few simple rules of etiquette, the web/conference call can be a valuable tool for your business. It enables you to convene a meeting quickly when decisions or brainstorming sessions are needed and eliminates unnecessary travel.

Posted by Becky Babineaux at 1:58 PM
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