As many offices have shifted to remote work, office protocols have adjusted as well. Teleconferencing has taken on a bigger role in collaborating with colleagues, maintaining relationships with clients and vendors, and simply conducting daily business.
With teleconferencing as a centerpiece of critical communications, employees should try to adhere to best practices for virtual communications as much as possible. Here are tips for effective ways to help guide calls and meetings:
Before the call
Finalize the date and time — especially if people will be joining from different time zones — and establish who will be initiating the call. Send an email or other reminder the day before to reconfirm the meeting.
Make the process for all as smooth as possible. Several conference call services offer one main telephone number, which can be toll-free, and a security code for access. Depending on comfort level of the participants, consider Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This is a cost-free alternative for attendees if they have the software and hardware needed.
Prepare an agenda. This will help participants stay on track and not stray from the discussion. It can also be used to inform everyone of attendees and allow people to address issues or action items.
Ambient noise is frequently a factor in teleconferences. To alleviate that issue, you might suggest participants use headsets. One with a microphone that plugs into the telephone or computer can make the call clearer by eliminating background sounds.
Consider additional web-conferencing software. If participants will need to access resources, such as a slide presentation or other visuals, web-conferencing software helps keep everyone organized and properly informed.
Record the meeting, especially for those who can’t attend. Just make sure that you alert all participants at the start of the call the meeting is being recorded, along with anything they contribute verbally, and how the recording may be used in the future. (This is required by law in many states.) Allow participants to opt out if they are not comfortable with being recorded.
During the call
Everyone’s time is valuable, so begin promptly. You do not need to wait more than a minute for latecomers. It is important to be sensitive to everyone who connected on time and is prepared.
Turn off call-waiting or mute other lines so that background sounds do not interrupt the teleconference.
Take the roll and ask attendees to acknowledge their attendance. For those who don’t know each other or newcomers, the call leader should take a moment to introduce them. Also, don’t assume someone is not on the call just because they did not immediately answer.
Start the call with enthusiasm. It helps to set the tone for a positive and productive meeting. The call leader should be engaging and encourage participation.
Present the agenda and outline the objectives. Inform participants each person will have time to contribute, and set firm rules and guidelines, so each person can be heard. It’s important to be clear and strict about time limits. Prevent attendees from talking over each other and encourage respect when someone else is speaking.
Pay careful attention to the mute button. Many professionals have gotten themselves into trouble by saying something during a call when they thought the mute button was activated, but it wasn’t. To prevent any issues, it’s best to avoid saying anything not intended for the entire group to hear.
Monitor the discussion, and keep participants focused on agenda topics. For attendees who tend to remain quiet, engage them with a question or ask for their feedback. Schedule a 5- to 10-minute break every 60 to 90 minutes, if the teleconference runs that long.
End on time. Toward the close of the meeting, the leader should address each participant to be sure all comments have been heard and to ask for any final feedback. Quickly summarize the discussion, clarify action items and offer any additional instruction before disconnecting.
After the call
The call leader should send an email to all attendees thanking them for their time and participation; summarize the discussion; reiterate action items; provide information about follow-up meetings; and send contact information for anyone who needs to reach others.
Source: ComPsych Corp.