Teleconferences – what we gain in efficiency we lose in human contact. How can we ensure that teleconference meetings are productive and retain that human touch? Here are my observations from years of chairing and taking part in teleconferences.
1. Manage the time waiting for people to join the call
How do you deal with those embarrassing moments with someone you don’t know (on-line) whilst waiting for others to join the call? Talk about the agenda.
“So whilst we wait for everyone to join, I hope you received the agenda. Are there any points you want to make?”
2. As chairperson be clear and in control of the set up
It is easier with face-to-face meetings to show control – on conference calls I often don’t know who owns the meeting. This leads to a confused start to the meeting. If it is you – don’t be shy.
“Hello everyone, I am Dan and I have called this meeting for us all to discuss……..”
3. Ensure that everyone is introduced and that we know why they are on the call.
Your job as chair is to ensure that everyone knows who is online and why they are here. When humans are together they are often grown up enough to introduce themselves to each other. On teleconferences you have to do some of this for them.
“So before we get going, let me just make sure that we all know who is here. I’d like to introduce Jane…..she is going to talk us through… thank you Jane.”
4. Give structure to the agenda
This is normal practice for any meeting – but more important with teleconferences as you may not have the attention of everyone. Also, you cannot check whether everyone has the agenda in front of them or has even read it. In face-to-face meetings you can check by scanning the room – with teleconferences you need to make sure.
5. Explain the protocol if the technology fails
Participants need to be clear what to do in case their connection fails. So, decide whether they should message you on Skype, WhatsApp* or SMS, or email or whether to call them back.
*If you are a group that meets regularly consider setting up a WhatsApp group.
6. Learn to provide spoken confirmations
In face-to-face meetings we use our emotional intelligence and eye contact to assess whether the other people in the room are taking any notice, looking bored or confused. We can then restate our messages. We can also judge when to shut up. For teleconferences use spoken confirmations to add structure.
“So, is what I have said clear to everyone?” “Does anyone have any comments at this stage?” “Can we move on to discuss……?”
7. Speak in clear, short sentences but don’t over rehearse your lines
In meetings we tend to speak in a more informal, chatty way. Dialogue is messy grammatically and this is ok (up to a point) when we are together, but sounds unprofessional online.
Aim to use short, active grammar sentences that are self-contained. You can make notes to speak from (the others won’t be able to see them) but remember this is not a script. Try to get the balance between chatty dialogue and precision speaking. You don’t want to come across as robotic but avoid going off message. Disorganised chat over Skype is annoying.
8. Speak phrases that show you are following
Learn also to speak phrases that show that you are still following other people – they may think you have gone to sleep or gone off-line to make a cup of tea.
“Ah, yes, that’s interesting….” “I see what you mean.” “Would you mind saying it again? – I didn’t quite pick that up.”
And like any meeting – summarise, thank everyone for their contributions.
And finally treat yourself to some training – with us!
At Communicating Europe+ we train people to present at and run face-to-face and teleconference meetings. Our trainers have experience of attending committee meetings so they know what it’s like, first hand. Details of our training are here Teleconference-meetings
Training in groups and online We organise this training in groups (all together in the same room!) or via Skype Business / Webex.
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