Host or attend your next meeting after a crash course in conference call etiquette
With an 80% rise in its ranks since 2005 and accounting for more than 3 million American professionals, the remote workforce is one to be reckoned with. Or at least one to invite to important meetings every once in a while! Remote Nation© citizens understand how important touching base with fellow co-workers can be to their continued success as remote workers. Conference calls have emerged as a standard operating procedure as more and more staffers work offsite. So, what is accepted conference call etiquette in this day and age, and how can both employees and employers maximize the occasion’s time and usefulness?
Try emphasizing these best practices to improve productivity.
5 Rules of Conference Call Etiquette
Every successful meeting starts with an agenda, of course. But for facilitators, as well as for participants, a positive, worthwhile experience starts well before the first item is read and the first greeting is exchanged. Keep these rules in mind throughout the conference call process.
1. Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
The more planning you do up front, the more productive your conference call will be. Above all, be clear on your goals for the meeting. Build detailed agendas and prepare supplementary materials and visual aids, and make sure to send them out in advance of the meeting. This is particularly important if your team is international: For colleagues who speak English as a second language, last-minute information leading up to a meeting is problematic and will negatively impact participation.
If you’re a remote worker who wishes to speak on an agenda item, make notes in advance to ensure your input is effective. Research the subjects at hand and familiarize yourself with the materials so you can assert yourself with confidence and contribute.
2. Essential Staff Only
Include the personnel who need to be there. People with a vested interest in the items on the conference call’s agenda will pay more attention and participate with enthusiasm. Set your rules of conduct, objectives, and expectations, and if individuals don’t cooperate, address the issue outside of the meeting. If necessary, strategically exclude disruptive employees.
If you’re a remote worker, you can make yourself essential by participating more often and paying close attention during the conference call. Always be ready, especially if you’re new to the company – you never know when your moment might come!
3. Value Each Other’s Time
Meetings can cut into everyone’s time, but especially remote workers’, whose rhythms vary from those of their on-campus colleagues. Facilitators: It’s a must that you start and end your conference calls on time. This is a matter of professional respect. If you finish early, finish early – there’s no need to keep the party going just to fill up time! Keep your agendas as short as possible, since briefer calls with focused scope will get you better results. Inviting only essential staff will help in this effort. Try to table departures from the agenda unless there’s something urgent. Keeping things quick, crisp, and relevant will endear you to your colleagues. After all, everyone hates meetings, but smart professionals understand the necessity as long as their productivity isn’t being wasted.
If you’re a remote worker, be respectful of your colleagues’ time just as you would if you were on campus. Conference call etiquette dictates that you be prompt, direct, and courteous. Nobody’s looking for a class clown, and just like you, everybody wants to get back to business!
4. Allow Room for Multitasking, but Also Maintain Attention
Look, when working remotely, we all sneak in some work (or even a load of laundry) during a conference call here or there, and that’s OK. But excessive multitasking, let alone total mind-wandering, will derail a meeting, or at best leave “participants” retaining little to nothing. If you’re the facilitator, you have to do just that: facilitate! It’s up to you to lead, moderate, and keep time. It’s also your job to hold people accountable – keep the discussions respectful and objective. Keep them moving, too, by asking people to be active, take ownership of aspects of the agenda, and capturing their attention with questions and requests for comment.
If you’re a remote worker, use moderation when deciding to multitask during a conference call. Remember: You have a stake in the success of this meeting, and in all future endeavors of the company. Act like it!
5. Follow Up, Follow Up, and Follow Up Some More
When setting deliverables, get dates and commitments verbally. Make sure everyone has clarity of mission and is on the same page going forward. After the conference call, send out summary notes or minutes with all pertinent information and stated deliverables, naming assigned parties. Remote workers will need this information immediately. Remember, you weren’t having the meeting for fun – it’s time to put the agenda in action!
If you’re a remote worker, don’t be shy if you have questions, and make yourself available for subsequent conversations so that you know exactly what your next steps involve.
Conference Call Etiquette: The Bottom Line
Building a reputation as a great conference call facilitator will earn you the appreciation and respect of your colleagues and help your company’s efficiency. Similarly, involvement, attention, and courtesy on the part of remote workers will keep their presence felt even when they’re miles away – or oceans – away. It all comes down to planning and accountability.
What are your rules for conference call etiquette? Let me know in the comments!