As you might well imagine, I attend my fair share of conference calls. I recently joined a call announcing my arrival in standard fashion, “Hello everyone, this is Michael.” That would have been fine, except that on this particular call, there were in fact three people named Michael!
This had the potential to create considerable confusion. It certainly illustrates the value of making introductions at the start of conference calls. This helps everyone on the call associate a voice with a person at the outset, but it’s not a complete solution to the problem of knowing who is speaking as the call proceeds.
Imagine yourself at a weekly staff meeting. With the entire team gathered around the conference room table, it’s plainly apparent who is speaking at any given moment.
Now close your eyes. Is it still as easy to identify the person speaking? Most people find that identifying people by sound alone requires more effort. This is true even with teams that already know each other, located in the very same room!
Now re-imagine that meeting as a conference call, with everyone joined by telephone from different locations. Some people are at their desks, connected by a traditional phone line. Some are in the field, connected by mobile phone. A few are in a meeting room, grouped around a conference phone. One person is en route to a far-off supplier, called in via mobile phone from an airport.
Some people are easier to hear than others. Some are loud, while others are quiet. Each connection adds a different sort of background noise. All of these factors make it difficult to identify who is speaking by voice alone.
If you haven’t talked for a while, others will probably have a hard time recognizing you. State your name as you start, and speak clearly, distinctly and directly into the handset or microphone.
Relatively small courtesies, like briefly introducing yourself when you join a call, or restating your name when you begin to speak, go a long way to improve the conference experience, for everyone.