Posted by Robert Half on 07 July 2013
No doubt about it, today’s technology can make distance irrelevant. As the workforce becomes more dispersed and companies recognise the cost savings of connecting remotely, phone, video and web conferencing – and especially, applications like Skype – are growing in popularity. It can be difficult, however, to know how to interact with colleagues and business contacts who are in different locations. Follow these tips to stay on the up-and-up.
Take a trial run
Know how to use the conferencing technology prior to scheduling a meeting. If you’re not familiar with the video screen, web-hosting software, webcam or telephone features, plan a practice run so you can troubleshoot issues without wasting others’ time.
Watch the clock
Would your colleagues in the UK appreciate a conference call at 3 a.m. their time? When scheduling a meeting that involves individuals from several locations, keep their local times in mind. Websites such as timeanddate.com can help you decipher time zones. Avoid hosting a meeting very early, late or during lunch, if possible.
Get the team ready
In advance of a conference call, give attendees what they’ll need for the meeting – dial-in number, pass code, login information and attachments (e.g., presentations, sales reports). If you want them to review the materials in advance, say so. Include a brief agenda so people can come prepared with some thoughts instead of coming in cold.
Be a good host
Here’s your chance to show your true skills as a facilitator. If you’re leading the call, make appropriate introductions before giving a brief overview. Keep the discussion moving and have an eye on the clock so you can leave a few minutes at the end to address questions, recap, and confirm next steps and deadlines.
Out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind. If part of the group is meeting in person, don’t forget about those joining via phone or online. Ask them for their thoughts if they seem quiet.
Make the introduction
You may think your voice is distinctive, but it’s not always easy to tell who’s talking. Encourage everyone to introduce themselves before they speak. Also, be sure to acknowledge someone who joins midway through the call.
Enjoy the silence
It can be a virtue, and who enjoys being interrupted? In virtual meetings, it can be difficult to determine whose turn it is to speak. A lag in the connection may also cause a delayed response. Allow for pauses in the conversation so everyone can weigh in and catch up.
Don’t get caught daydreaming. It’s easy to let your mind wander during a remote meeting, or you may begin to multitask if you’re not being directly addressed.
Don’t put people on hold
More than one conference has ended prematurely because on-hold music has prevented the conversation from proceeding. Remind attendees at the beginning of the meeting to hang up if they must attend to something else.
It’s just common courtesy to limit distracting background noises when you’re listening to others. Remember to turn your mute button off before it’s your turn to speak. Video conferencing can be a challenge, especially of your technology is not exactly up to date. Be sure to follow the above and you’ll be on your way to conferencing success.