4 Ways to End Voice Conference Hell

Posted on December 09, 2016


Is your team drifting apart? Enabling flexible and remote work, as well as servicing global markets, means we’re increasingly communicating across distances. Technology makes it possible for teams to collaborate: but effective communication is more important than ever.

Take the conference call: they’re convenient and cost-saving, but often produce a more stilted, uninspired meeting. It is possible to reap the benefits of a dispersed team and hold vibrant and productive phone and video conferences.

First, get the technology right

Consider implementing telephone and video-conferencing tools as part of a unified communications environment and ensure a dependable data connectivity, so using the tools becomes a seamless part of your team’s workflow. Otherwise your team could spend the whole meeting trying to hear and see each other, or cutting each other off.   

Make sure your network is properly configured to prioritise voice and video, so users have a seamless experience. The easier and less cumbersome, the better the experience.

Second, understand the barriers to great communication

When you’re on the phone, it’s harder to look people in the eye, pay attention, interpret non-verbal cues, and accurately express or gauge emotional intent. The good news is, the way you conduct your meetings makes a huge difference.

Dr Peter Carey consults on digital technologies for the Catholic Education Office of WA, and regularly runs meetings and professional development workshops via video conference, for both small groups up to 180 teachers at a time.

He advises striking a balance between viewing the speaker and supporting content on-screen, and providing opportunities for people to discuss and work on their own in their locations instead of trying to fill every minute.

“You don’t want people to come in and just talk, talk, talk: you want to make it very interactive between the presenters and the audience,” he said.

Dr Carey said it was important to establish a set of ground rules—for example: how to ask questions, and rules about movement during the meeting to avoid interruptions.

“You need to remind participants that side conversations at remote sites can spring up more readily than they would if everyone were in the same actual room.”

“Provide a video conferencing etiquette summary for the participants so they know not to tap their pens on the table, shuffle papers, place materials on top of the microphone, as well as when they should mute their microphones and how you would like them to interact with others,” he suggests.

Run a better conference call: four tips

  1. Choose a good facilitator: Give someone the task of keeping the meeting on track. Choose someone with a clear grasp of the purpose of the meeting, who can draw out the best from all attendees (hint: it may not be the most senior employee).
  2. Remove other distractions: You need to rely more on listening, which means being free from other distractions. Everyone should agree to locate themselves in a quiet spot, and not to use other devices or try to multi-task.
  3. Practice taking turns to talk: The facilitator needs to engage everyone and invite them to contribute feedback, by calling on them individually. It can be awkward to know when to speak up during a conference call, and more timid team members might miss their chance—which could mean you miss a great idea.
  4. Summarise and set tasks: Take a few minutes at the end to summarise what your meeting outcomes were, and ensure everyone understands the next steps. Give people a chance to clarify what’s expected of them.

Be patient when introducing video into your conferencing solutions. It does change interactions, but it does take time for people to adjust. It’s also a great time to address meetings and make changes to become more productive.

Certainly at Vocus, the introduction of video did take some time to get used to. We now love it, and quickly look to implement video into each new site we move to. We even push to use video in meetings with suppliers and partners.

One major benefit is that we’ve found the of video cuts down the duration of meetings. And that’s surely a great thing.

Apply integrated ICT and excellent communication practices, to ensure your next phone or video conference fosters genuine collaboration.

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