Email may be the predominant form of communication in business, but it’s not the only medium. Moreover, it’s not used for the most important moments. Face-to-face meetings or live phone calls are required for urgent problems or significant planning issues. Live communication is personal and direct. No matter how commonplace email has become, we still have to be humans from time to time.
Conference calling will always be popular because, while more informal methods like email can get convoluted, more formal meetings are problematic logistically and otherwise inconvenient or invasive for most people. From underlings to CEOs, conference calls drive exchanges outside the company. Expect to spend a fair amount of time, particularly some of the most significant moments of your career, on the phone with others.
Representing your organization in a conference call comes great responsibility. It really is no place for rookie mistakes. Here is a consideration of the 12 most certain ways you can ruin that conference call.
- Eating Over The Phone
It’s not polite, and even though I may be eating a sandwich while typing this article, no one wants to hear a sandwich being chewed or a nasally voice talking over chewing. Beyond that, you certainly don’t want ten other people having that image of you. Eat before the meeting or at least bring in something quiet to eat or drink.
- Using Dating Sites or Social Media
Some faux pas are so evident that they are obnoxious to even suggest, too obvious to consider, but weird things happen all the time. In fact, there was at least one poll claiming ten percent of people admitted to perusing dating sites during conference calls. Social media can be an addiction, but tell your girlfriend you will favorite her latest tweet after work and use social media for major updates regarding the industry or the company.
- Falling Asleep
Another seeming no-brainer, Wall Street Journal acknowledges over 25 percent of people admit to having snoozed through a conference call. Even Morgan Freeman was busted sleeping during a video conference. Get a good night’s sleep before going to work.
- Checking Email or Other Divided Tasks
Most people do other work during conference calls, including checking email. There is always something coming up, something more to do. Writing a report during a call is not doing a favor to the client or your organization. Multitasking is an important workplace skill, but focus needs to be prioritized to the clients and business matters at hand, then move on.
- Using the Toilet
Hello? The 21st century is calling. Modern convenience reigns supreme. We can get anything on a moment’s notice and aren’t particularly good about remembering how to do things the old way. We used to take breaks to do things like eat, smoke, go to the bathroom, etc. These days, we work all the time. Half of conference callers go to the bathroom while on the phone. This isn’t even polite to do with a friend, don’t let your source of income hear your gastrointestinal noises.
- Inviting the Entire Company
While it is good practice to be inclusive and transparent as a company, it’s not the best practice to flood one room with people talking over each other. Clients on the other end need a cohesive review from a well-informed representative. It’s important to include concerns from colleagues, but co-workers have more valuable job duties besides snoozing through conference calls.
- Not Being Battle Ready
It’s one thing to be behind in work. It’s another thing entirely to not have materials prepared to share with someone who scheduled time to listen to you. They don’t want to hear that you are not quite sure whether you got that email or why you don’t have the data that was requested. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row before the call.
- Not Knowing How to Use the Equipment
Despite technological innovations, dogs are still man’s best friend, technology is not. Glitches, crashes and a myriad of horror stories, plague office equipment. People understand things happen, but there’s a limit to patience. Save excuses of mishaps for rare occasions. Make sure you know how to manage multiple lines and other trickery of smartphones or computer programs before making the call. Don’t accidentally drop the call when you meant to mute it for a second to sneeze. Dropping the ball at the wrong time can lose the game.
- Having the Call In a Noisy Place
The random locales for conference calling by the Wall Street Journal include a truck stop bathroom, a pool in Vegas, even a closet at a friend’s house during a party. While it’s considerate to dedicate some intimacy to a meeting, being at a party in the first place was probably a bad idea. Callers don’t want to hear some guy walking by with a boombox, but that doesn’t mean an echoey shower stall is the place to get away from the noise. Find something halfway professional.
- Rambling On and On and On
Everyone hates meetings. Everyone. Short and to-the-point is a recipe for success. Of course, don’t cut people short or disregard issues. Bring everything necessary to the table, not including why your mother didn’t like the last conference call interrupting lunch plans and a multitude of other needless things that are an annoyance to people and their busy work days.
- Not Being Interesting
Some people are boring. Personally, I am as monotone and deadpan as they come, but it doesn’t mean I am a stick in the mud. Have some ice breakers, some funny things to reduce tension. Try to show that you’re a real person. If the callers wanted an automated response, they would just send email. Don’t be so focused on the product you’re selling that is becomes the only mission you care about. Customers buy with their emotions, not their analytic minds. Make that someone excited to buy from you or work with you. That only happens if they think you’re personable.
- Driving While Conferencing
Smartphone sophistication extends to car stereos and other hands-free devices, making driving and talking convenient. People won’t be too upset if you schedule a last minute meeting during a drive to Denver, but make these cases rare and don’t make it too obvious that you’re driving. People get upset when others drive and use the phone, even people that drive and use the phone themselves. Accidents happen because people’s minds are on other things. It’s important to keep your mind on the road, so you make it to Denver. When possible, save the call for a time that your client won’t hear you squeal off the highway to your death.
A good number of points from this list share a common thread: don’t be distracted. If you need to, be distracted by doodling or playing word games related to the meeting. It takes a lot of practice to keep your head in the game while also being distracted. And when you attend 20 calls per week with a rotating cast of characters that drop in to portions of calls, it’ll get tedious and frustrating. Bad stuff will happen. Corners will be cut. A smart person will let that happen to someone else. When it comes back to bite them, you will be in line to win the contract.
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