Recently, we gave our top three tips on what makes a good conference call. While it's important to recognise what you need to do to get the most from your meetings, it's equally vital to acknowledge some of the common traps people fall into that can undo that hard work in one fell swoop.
It's only natural, therefore, for us to follow up our last list with a collection of tips and advice to help you avoid making any teleconferencing faux pas.
#1 Don't forget you're still in a meeting
Just because your fellow participants can't see you, it doesn't mean you shouldn't be giving the courtesies you normally would if you were meeting with them face to face.
With this in mind, you should always be mindful of giving the conversation your full attention. If not, you can easily be caught out if someone suddenly directs a question your way. Of course, this can be difficult if you are surrounded by distractions when taking your call, so make sure your environment is suitable before dialling in.
What do we mean by suitable? It needs to be quiet, for a start. Make sure colleagues or family know you are not to be disturbed if you are in the office or working from home. Secondly, try to stay clear of televisions or computer screens that aren't helping you make a contribution.
After all, regardless of whether your meeting is being held over a phone line or in a boardroom, if you are seen to be either disengaged or just plain rude it will never be a good thing. Don't eat, play on your smartphone or strike up a whispered conversation with someone not on the call and you're halfway there!
#2 Don't railroad
Without being able to use body language to convey your thoughts or tell when someone has finished making their point, it can sometimes feel like you're trying to do your job with one arm tied behind your back.
However, the more conference calls you participate in, the more you will feel comfortable with communicating using only your voice. In the meantime, it's important to be aware of what behaviours you need to avoid.
Railroading is a common faux pas – and something that is often exhibited by people who are scared of losing their opportunity to speak. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it happens when two callers talk at the same time, with one or both continuing to make their point and talk over the other one instead of stopping to listen.
Waiting your turn and knowing how to politely interject is a key component of teleconferencing etiquette and blatantly blocking someone out with your voice is not a way to win friends.
Instead, try to look for natural gaps in conversation where you can say your piece. If it doesn't look as though that's going to happen, try to interject by opening with a filler word like "erm" to let the speaker know you would like to say something. You'll pick up your own tricks as you go along!
#3 Don't be late
As is the case with physical meetings, it can be very annoying if someone comes in late.
However, as far as teleconferencing is concerned, tardiness is even more disruptive because your arrival can come as a surprise to other participants on the call (it's not like they can see you coming) and completely disrupt the flow of the conversation.
Of course, once you've joined the call there's also the problem of not knowing what's already been discussed – and this can be quite annoying for other colleagues or clients who don't have the time to go over matters that they covered a few moments beforehand.
It's always better to turn up early than late! Make sure you check and double-check what time you are required to dial in and join the call a few minutes early, just to be on the safe side.
Hopefully, you should now be well equipped to make a success of your future teleconferences. For more tips, visit our conference call user guide.