Teleconference Like a Pro
There will come a time in your professional career when you will have to teleconference. It might be because of a global pandemic, or it may be because it’s more cost effective for the meeting organizer. Either way you need to know what you are doing in order to come off as the consummate professional you are.
Set the Stage
Before you go online you need to prepare. This begins with knowing which software is being used and becoming an expert at using it. Do not try to figure it out 15 minutes before the meeting. Make sure it is installed and in functioning order long before you have to join the meeting. You do not want to waste the time of others in the meeting with your technical difficulties. Also, check that your name and title that will be displayed on the screen are how you want them to be and not self-populating with extraneous information from somewhere on your computer.
You will want to join the conference from a neutral location. You want to be somewhere that’s quiet, and without a lot of action in the background. You don’t want distractions for you or the others in the meeting. I recommend sitting in front of a blank wall in a quiet part of your home or office with the door shut.
Just like with any meeting, make sure you are ready to go when it starts. Have something to drink if you need it, use the bathroom beforehand, and make sure you have all your supplies and materials close at hand. You wouldn’t want to have to dash back to your desk to get something for a normal meeting and you don’t want to do that in this situation either.
This is not the time to multitask. You need to give your full attention to what is going on in the meeting. This is especially important if you are the only one, or one of a handful of people in conference calling in. Others in the meeting will be acutely aware if you are looking away, staring at a different screen, or having a snack. This could lead to them inadvertently leaving you out of the discussion – since you apparently aren’t interested in it anyway.
Also, be aware that you may be on a screen that projects you as larger than you are, especially if you are the only one conferencing in. This will make any actions you are doing even larger. I was once in a meeting where one participant was teleconferencing in while eating a salad and drinking water from a mason jar. Since she was projected on a large screen every bite or sip was a looming distraction. Don’t be that woman.
Above everything else, MUTE YOUR AUDIO WHEN YOU ARE NOT TALKING. This is especially important in meetings where several people are teleconferencing in. Meetings can come to a screeching halt when ambient noise is taken as someone trying to join the conversation.
When you do want to talk remember that this is not a normal conversation. You need to take a moment to unmute your audio and make sure they know you are about to speak. Interjections are not very teleconferencing friendly, so keep notes on what you would like to comment on and then make several comments at once when taking your turn.
Make sure you are following the agenda. Just because you are not all in the same room doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be following the same course of action. Keeping the meeting on track will benefit everyone involved.
Teleconferencing is a skill we are all going to have to master, virus or no virus, eventually as business gets more global. The better you are at it the more involved you can be in your profession regardless of where you are or what circumstances may be present.