And now suddenly we (and our pets and tiny interns) are all professional conference and video call leaders/attendees. To add to the litany of changes we’ve experienced in the last month alone, the way we communicate has taken a hit as well. Grateful that it’s happening now and not when video conferencing was less accessible! I’m sharing some humor and a general conference call etiquette refresher for us all while we navigate social distancing.
The benefit of video conferencing makes it a thousand times easier but still, the struggle is real. Whether it’s people who have gotten used to the open pod concept or the surprisingly many who haven’t used video-conferencing much in their fields at all, it seemed like a good time for a few refresher tips on how to navigate your video/conference calls with grace and style and of course some laughter thrown in for good measure.
Have an agenda
If there’s anything the last few weeks have taught us, we are not in control. Let’s throw in a little structure where we can and create an agenda for your calls. Sure, it may change but giving people an idea of where things are headed can ease tensions and help keep everyone on track.
You knew I was going to say this one. ;-) Get dressed as though you are there to work. And as tempting as it might be to go with the mullet-style of dressing – business on the top, pajamas on the bottom, don’t do it! One stand up slip and your secrets are revealed. Clothes make a difference in how you approach your day. Dress for it!
I Got Here First
There is never a better time to be early to a meeting than a conference call – especially if there is video involved. Signing on early gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with whatever tool is being used this time, know what everyone else is seeing, and resolve any technical issues before the meeting starts.
Location, Location, Location
It’s possible you or someone on your call have never actually attended a conference call from the semi-privacy of their own home. Let’s talk about where you should be taking these calls. From a chair. In something that looks like a normal place you would want to have visitors, your coworkers, church group, or multitudes of strangers visit you in real life. What does that mean? Taking the call from your bedroom on your bed, or somewhere in any bathroom – no matter how big and how you’ve come close to making it look like a real room – we all recognize the echo – are both off limits.
Say Your Name, Say Your Name
A few tips specific to non-video conference calls.
- If it’s a non-video conference and there are several people on the call who are new to each other or where a few sound similar, say your name when you speak. But listen, if these are the same five people who you talk to every week, don’t you dare do that. They’ll think you’re in the beginning stages of The Shining.
- If you have the call on speaker phone, announce that you’ve put the call on speaker phone and who is in the room as well (unless it’s the tiny interns – they get a pass).
- Speak in front of a mirror or a reflective screen or window. We lose more than half of the communication available to us through body language when on a conference call. Seeing yourself while you are speaking can make you speak more animatedly and engagingly. A more engaging tone makes it easier for those listening to follow along. Calls and video feeds blunt some of your overall vocal tone, expression, and projection. You’d really have to go overboard for it to be “too much.”
Dramatic Pause For The Win
Never has a dramatic pause been more important. After you finish sharing your thoughts, PAUSE. Possibly for longer than you feel comfortable pausing. There is no doubt a lag in transmission, especially if there are international attendees on your call. Pausing gives them a chance to hear everything you’ve said, process a minute, and then respond. Silence can give us anxiety I know, but it will save so many, “I’m sorry, go aheads.” and a few other squares on your bingo card.
As I Was Saying
You’re going to say something valuable in your meeting – deadlines, expectations, operational news – that someone will miss (remember what we said about all the distractions). Show some grace. As you’ve no doubt heard 1000x these are unprecedented days.
Somebody on your call is worried about their parents, someone is worrying about their retirement plan, someone else is worrying about their or their spouse’s job, and someone is else is considering who will be a good caregiver for their kids when they kick them out of the house on Quarantine Day 12. And that doesn’t even count the distractions brought in by technology and a whole houseful of people when we’re all used to meeting in focused privacy.
We’re all professionals, the work that needs to get done will get done. In the meantime, send a bullet point list of To Dos and Next Steps after the call so anything that was missed will be there as a reminder. Whatever the reason – internet connection, tiny interns running rampant, government press conference mid-call – distractions happened. Follow-up is always a good thing.
Humor Wins Every Time
There’s a reason sending around memes is becoming a professional pastime. We all need a little mood lightening and laughter given what’s happening in the world. Don’t be afraid to make a joke on a call (socially conscious of course). Know it will likely fall flat because most will be on mute, but do it anyway.
To that end, I put together a Social Distancing Version of the popular Conference Call Bingo. I’ve included a few of the usual catch phrases and added in the fresh round of “crazy times” we’ve heard more than once in the past several weeks!
Conference Call Bingo: Social Distancing Edition
Stay safe, distanced, and enjoy all the interaction you can get as we navigate these crazy times! [Bingo!] We’re going to get through this together. Apart.
I hope you enjoyed this conference call etiquette refresher! If I missed any tips you notice on your own calls, comment below or pop over to Facebook and/or Instagram and share them with me! I’ll make adjustments to the post as needed.