Let’s pretend that you have. Perhaps you hit “Reply All” to a company-wide message. Maybe you sent your snarky message about your boss, to your boss, instead of to your friend, whose name is quite similar to what your boss goes by… like Chris and Christine, Stella and Steve or Carl and Carol. It happens. Or maybe even you deleted 17 unread messages on your phone, by accident.
For the sake of this fable, you get to choose your punishment. Your options are as follows:
Punishment #1: You take a week off without pay.
(Sounds delicious, right?)
Punishment #2: You insert a stick in your eye.
(Painful but maybe just for a moment or two.)
Punishment #3: You are forced to listen to a 90-minute “weekly check-in” conference call with 11 people on site and 7 at other places.
(#2 looks a lot better now.)
Conference calls are common communication currency at work. Trouble is, most of them don’t need to happen in the first place. Seldom does the person in charge stop to calculate the dollar value of each person’s time… not to mention opportunity costs. So if you can’t eliminate the conference call, make it work better for everyone. They will be eternally grateful and may actually thank you.
Here’s what you can do to make those conference calls less painful, and perhaps even more productive.
1. Be clear on the purpose.
What is the point of this conversation and who needs to be in on it? Don’t include people “just in case”. Just-in-Casers can catch the next call, if appropriate.
Let everyone know the purpose of the call. Other conversations not related to that Official Purpose of this Call will take place at another time and place. Now everyone has a weapon to deal with the manager who wants to get on a different soap box or the raving rambler.
2. Have an agenda.
This is basic, but it wouldn’t be on this list if the author had not been subject to countless conference calls without an agenda. Even if you don’t have time to distribute it beforehand…. you can always review the main points first thing. Again, this helps keep everyone on track… not to mention awake.
3. Introduce yourself briefly when you get on.
If you have to leave the call early, NOW is the time to say so. Otherwise your motives are questioned.
4. Say your name each time you speak.
Don’t assume everyone knows or remembers your voice. Lots of people confuse my phone voice with that of my teenage daughters. I’m still not sure if I sound that immature, or if they sound really sophisticated and glamorous. 🙂
5. Pause before answering a question or making a comment.
This is actually good practice for when you get called to be the expert on a video conference with CNN or BBC. There’s always a lag when the anchors ask questions to these experts, or even to their on-site investigative journalists. And even if your bandwidth is so marvelous there is no lag, a pause makes you seem more important and intelligent.
6. Be punctual.
Start on time, even if everyone hasn’t reported in yet. You’ll set the precedent. End on time. End early if you finish business earlier than expected. No one will complain about a conference call ending early. Promise.
7. Be generous in your interpretations.
Sometimes people sound snarky when they really aren’t. Perhaps they’re confused or not good at conference call etiquette. If someone sounds like they’re attacking or being rude, ask them to explain what they “really” mean. Be nice about it.
If things or people get testy, you might want to table that discussion for a future time. Or talk to people individually or in some other context. The point is to keep this current conference call moving.
Now if you want to email this list to someone, not because they’re rude on conference calls but for other reasons, use the “print” button right above this post. (My Web Guy believes you are so smart that you don’t need a separate button for emailing posts when the “print” button works just fine for that.)
What do you do to keep your conference calls pain-free and productive?