Meetings are a fact of business life. Ideally, all would be face-to-face, but a fast-moving world and widely dispersed groups make conference calling an indispensable alternative.
We usually give little thought to conference calls. Individual attention to the points below can improve your group experience tremendously.
1. Quiet Location
Choose wisely the spot from which you join the conference to maximize your productivity. Urban myths tell of people doing all their work from a mobile device in a coffee shop. However, if the outcome of the conference call is important to you that may not be such a good place for business.
Ideally, you should join the call from someplace relatively quiet and free from distraction. If you’re away from the home or office, find a quite spot where you can focus. Avoid public places with continuous background music or announcements. Not only is it annoying to your colleagues, it’s a security risk (even if the other patrons only hear your part of the conversation).
If you’re working from home, minimize sources of noise or distraction. If taking the call on your home phone, silence your mobile phone for the duration of the conference. Turn off the television or radio. Put the dog in another room. Close the door, and the window too, if the gardener is leaf-blowing.
2. Solid Connection
How you choose to connect not only determines how well you can hear the conversation but also how well everyone else hears you. If your participation on the call matters, you should be strategic about your choice.
Even today, a traditional landline is the most consistently-reliable way to join a conference call. If you’re at home or in an office where a landline telephone is available, connect that way to sound your best.
Perhaps a mobile phone is your only option. Call quality on mobile phones varies for many reasons. You’ll have the best results if you join from a quiet location with known good cell coverage. Avoid joining the call while travelling since gaps in coverage drop you from the call; be prepared to immediately reconnect if you do drop.
A Computer-Based Soft Phone
Computer-based alternatives, such as Skype or VoIP, are another alternative. Such options can work but introduce more variables into the mix.
We have found that Internet-based solutions work best when the computer has a hard-wired Ethernet connection. Connecting via Wi-Fi, while convenient, can be problematic. Momentary loss of connectivity can result in lost or choppy audio, bringing the conference to a crawl.
A headset is especially important when using computer-based access. A headset with a boom-mounted microphone reduces the chance of unwanted echo or background noise.
3. Avoid Speakerphones
Many enjoy being hands-free while on conference calls. Most desk and mobile phones include a speakerphone feature enabling hands-free convenience, but that speakerphone can exact a terrible cost in the call experience.
A poor-quality speakerphone causes anguish for everyone else on the call. They’ll struggle to hear you well, even as they suffer through hearing every keystroke and pen tap like thunderclaps. A high-quality speakerphone is better but often delivers the impression of being distant, as if your participation in the conference is unimportant.
The very best conference experience is achieved by choosing the handset over the speakerphone, at least for those times when you need to speak; if you are just listening, the speakerphone is OK, but be sure to MUTE.
If you must be hands-free full-time, invest in a headset. This keeps you hands-free to use your computer or take notes, while eliminating that distant impression and minimizing distracting background noise. In a conference room, use a purpose-built conference phone and face toward its microphone whenever you speak.
Conference calls can be the most productive part of your working life. While we can’t help with your agenda, a solid connection from a quiet location with a clear voice will help to ensure you enjoy a productive, high-quality conference experience for yourself AND your colleagues… so the agenda moves swiftly.