Category Archives: Meetings

Skills 360 – Teleconferences (Part 2)

Free Resources: Lesson Module | Quiz & Vocab | PDF Transcript | Mobile Quizzes


Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today I want to look at how to lead a teleconference.

Leading a meeting is rarely easy. You’ve got to manage time, an agenda, and – most importantly – a diverse group of people. Now, what about if the meeting happens by phone, with each person or small group calling in from a different location? Nobody can see each other, and there may be a variety of distractions that you, as the leader, can’t shut out simply by closing the door. Sure, teleconferencing is a marvel of modern technology, but it can be challenging.

If you’re leading a teleconference, the usual advice about facilitating meetings becomes all the more important. That includes having a clear agenda and starting on time, which is sometimes difficult because of an added layer of technical complexity. So well before the meeting, make sure everyone has the correct call-in instructions and that everyone knows what time the meeting starts in their local time. Then sign in early so you can deal with any technical problems as people join.

And what should you do as people join? As the leader, you need to welcome them, by saying things like: “Oh hi Dave. Glad you could make it,” and “Welcome Janet from Miami.” Take the time right at the beginning of the meeting to introduce everyone, or have everyone introduce themselves, saying their name and where they’re calling in from. Remember, people can’t see each other, so they only have voices to go on. Doing a roll call at the beginning let’s people associate names with voices.

Now, during the meeting, your job is similar to that of a traffic controller. You need to help the discussion flow around each point on the agenda and lead the group to destinations, or decisions. A free-flowing discussion is somewhat easier in-person, when everyone can see each other and signal that they want to say something.

But on a teleconference, this is more difficult. You might want to try more formal turn-taking – or “go around the circle” – at certain points because it’s more orderly. For example, you could say: “Okay I’d like to hear what everyone has to say on the CFO’s announcement. Let’s hear from Susan first, then Sam, then Nick and finally Brenda.”

If you do let the discussion flow, you may have to encourage participation from everyone. It’s pretty easy on a conference call, especially with lots of people, to hide in the background. Feel free to call on people by name, like “Tanis, do you have any thoughts on this?” As you manage the discussion, you may also need to help people understand. For example, you might say “Just so everyone’s clear, Tanis just said…”

Managing the flow also means responding when people want to cut in or cut people off, like this: “Okay Roger, if you can just wait a sec and let Tanis finish please.” Or if two people begin talking at the same time, you might have to say something like “Okay, let’s have Wendy first, then Frank.”

The whole point of this traffic control is to instill order and improve understanding. But how do you know if people understand? You don’t have frowns and furrowed brows to tell you that people are lost. So conduct regular check-ins, like this: “Okay, is everyone clear on this so far? Any questions?”

Difficulties with understanding are not only due to a lack of visual clues. Sometimes it’s about how people are speaking. If they are too fast or too soft, ask them to slow down or speak up. And if there’s background noise that’s driving everyone bonkers, suss out the cause and resolve the problem. Remember, people are relying on you as facilitator.

We’ve talked about starting and managing the meeting, but what happens at the end? Just as with an in-person meeting, it’s good to summarize action points before thanking everyone and giving some kind of closing statement. That might sound like “All right, thanks for taking the time today everyone. Have a great day and I’ll send the minutes around later.”

And there you have it. If you follow these tips, you should have a great teleconference. That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.

Skills 360 – Teleconferences (Part 1)

Free Resources: Lesson Module | Quiz & Vocab | PDF Transcript | Mobile Quizzes


Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today I want to look at how to participate in a teleconference.

With modern technology, you don’t have to be in the same room to have a meeting with other people. Teleconferencing tools allow us to connect by phone, VOIP, or video from across the country, or around the world. You can even join a meeting from home, your car or on plane at 30,000 feet in the air. Sure, it’s amazing, but teleconferencing brings special challenges, and we have to be mindful of things that real-life meetings don’t require.

For starters, you need to take steps to ensure clear and clean sound. You’ve probably been on a teleconference before and become annoyed by the sound of someone typing away at their keyboard. Or you’ve heard someone’s music or the clanking of cups and plates in a busy coffee shop. It’s not just irritating; it makes it difficult to hear people. So minimize this kind of background noise. Find a quiet place and use your mute button wisely. And try to avoid distractions. Some people think a teleconference is a good chance to get other work done, or check Facebook, but there’s nothing worse than getting asked a question when you weren’t really paying attention.

Now, there are several other ways that you can be a good teleconferencer. One of the keys is giving good verbal clues to other participants, because they don’t have any visual clues to go on. When you join the call, announce that you’ve arrived and let everyone know who you are. For example, a simple “Hello, it’s Dave here” should suffice if it’s an internal call. And if you join in the middle of the call, wait for a good time to introduce yourself rather than jumping in right away.

Besides introducing yourself at the beginning, you can say your name when you start speaking about something, like “Dave here. And I’d just like to add that we did even better than our original forecasts.” In fact, that example shows another handy technique that we might call “signposting.” Basically, signposting is when we announce what we’re about to do. It could be “I just want to add something,” or “I have a question,” or “I’d like to make a comment about that.” This helps manage the flow of discussion and makes it easier for people to follow you.

Sometimes the discussion gets chaotic. For example, it often happens that two people begin talking at the same time. In this case, it’s polite to let the other person go first, with a simple “please, go ahead” or “after you.” And being a polite and active participant also means demonstrating active listening techniques. In person, you can see someone nod or smile. But on a teleconference, you don’t have that kind of visual feedback, so you need to throw in a few “yeahs” and “rights” and “mm-hms” to show that you’re engaged, or that you’re even still there.

Of course, there are times when you might need to duck out mid-call. In that case, it’s best to just let everyone know, and to briefly announce when you’re back. You don’t want people asking you questions and getting dead air in response.

Now, sometimes it happens that you’ve got several people in a room crowded around one phone hub. It’s usually pretty obvious, because you get a lot of background chit chat. That can be really distracting, so keep that chatter to a minimum. And explain what’s going on in the room if necessary, like if people are laughing because of a joke.

If everyone can take steps to reduce background noise and be active participants in the ways I’ve described, you can have a great teleconference. And when it’s time to wrap up, don’t forget to officially sign off rather than just hanging up. Something like “Thanks everyone. I look forward to the minutes,” or “Great work everyone. Chicago signing off.”

Speaking of signing off, that’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.