The good and evil of speakerphones and conference phones.
Joining a meeting through your phone’s speakerphone or a conference phone is an effective way to communicate with people across the world without having to leave your desk. Convenience can easily lull any worker, from entry-level to executive-level, into a false sense of security.
Convenience shouldn’t overshadow professionalism. The best way to ensure your conferences are as professional as possible is to follow some basic etiquette.
1) First of all, test out the equipment. Adjust the microphone and speaker to ensure optimal audio quality for you and your listeners.
2) Be prepared. Do a little research or have some paperwork ready for the meeting. Scrambling through the Internet looking for answers to expected questions leaves other participants in an uncomfortable silence.
3) Be on time. Nothing is more annoying for the other conference participants than for someone to join late and interrupt the flow of conversation.
The meeting is underway! Here are some tips to ensure your time is spent as effectively as possible.
Silence is awkward… and so are distracting noises.
Pretend that you’re on the radio. The listeners can’t see you nodding your head in agreement. They might confuse silence with indecision. It’s audio only! Hand motions, eye movements and everything else that we humans use to communicate are mute.
For conferences with lots of participants, it’s useful to start your talking point with “Hi, my name is _____ from _____.”
Paper shuffling and finger taping might sound quiet to you. Through a microphone, it could be deafeningly loud. Noise cancellation technology is designed to block background sounds, but high-pitched noises right next to the microphone can be particularly distracting.
Mute your microphone when you are looking through notes or when you are not speaking.
Dress for the part or don’t take part.
Put on a tie or wear your best shoes. A professional appearance can remind you to be on your best behavior. A bedroom desk, hotel room or car is a more laidback environment than an office full of coworkers and bosses. Tricking your brain to turn on “corporate mode” is a useful skill for those of us that quickly turn into someone else outside of the office.
Pour a glass of water and dress for the part.
Speaking of the environment… nothing derails a conversation like a dog barking, a child crying or anything else that the other conference participants aren’t expecting.
Keep an agenda and take notes.
If you are sitting with a group, appoint a leader. This person will be responsible for answering questions or quietly directing others to speak.
Assign someone (or yourself) to take notes. Not keeping up with the conversation is as good as hanging up the phone—the other side is talking to dead air.
At least have an idea as to how you want the meeting to proceed. Following an agenda keeps the conference on track and productive.
Setting rules ensures that people aren’t talking over each other. If you do need to interject, do so carefully and try not to do it very often. Write down questions and ask them later, if you can.
It’s all sound waves to the phone.
Don’t yell into the microphone when others can’t hear you. In fact, don’t yell into the microphone ever. Make sure to use your best speaking voice possible. Any drive-thru employee will tell you that being loud, muttering or not using pronunciation is a sure way to get the wrong order.
A problem known as listener fatigue is a common occurrence in call centers with poor audio systems. The listener has to strain to understand the speaker. Over time, the entire conversation becomes an exhausting chore.
Test all of your equipment and follow these tips to receive the best experience from your conference calls. Many modern speakerphones and conference phones use state-of-the-art technology to boost call quality, but its still up to you to do your best.
Hurray! You’re now proficient in conference phone etiquette. The human aspect of the meeting is important, including how we use our voices and communicate. The hardware is equally important, so make sure your speakerphone or conference phone is in excellent condition and up to date with the latest technology. Good luck!