"Show me that smile aaagggain!" Now that we've gotten the "Growing Pains" theme song out of the way, I can admit: occasionally, I've not been camera-ready for a conference call from my home office. If the camera isn't on, no problem, right? I mean, I'm by myself after all, offending no one with my coffee and yoga pants. No big, correct?
Except, it is. Even on a non-video conference call, things like what you're wearing impact all of your conference call skills. And keeping those skills honed and top-notch, just like any other communication skills, is key to making sure that you actually have a successful call, and not one where your listeners tune out in droves.
Here are 7 conference call skills tips for your next virtual meeting that you might not be thinking of. Or maybe you are, and you just haven't put them into action. What are you waiting for? Try these:
1. Dress for success: Got an important call coming up? Any actor will tell you that costumes complete characters. Whether you're on a video call or not, dress for an important conference call as you would for any other face-to-face meeting. Even if you can't be seen, dressing for success will influence how you sit, which will influence how you breathe, which will influence how you sound, which will influence how your audience receives your message.
2. It's a quiet thing: Have you ever been on a call with the bustling sounds of a busy office emanating from one attendee's microphone? Or the blaring traffic of Times Square filtering through because one caller HAS to have the window open? Extra background noise is a killer distraction on a conference call, and nothing turns listeners off faster than feeling they need to fight against a caller's environment. Go further than simply muting yourself and actually find a quiet place to conduct the call. And if your office overlooks a busy place like Times Square (Wow! Lucky you!) try to keep windows closed to block out street noise.
3. Try and try again: Whether you're presenting on the call or just attending, make sure ALL of the technology you will interact with is in working order. That goes for your WiFi, as well. Are you the presenter? Rehearse your tech before. You'll greatly lessen the chance of an on-call issue.
4. The 75% Rule works for meetings, too: When it comes to presentations, you know we advise filling only 75% of your allotted speaking time. The same thing goes for a meeting. Got a half-hour call coming up? Your agenda should take about 22.5 minutes. Time it.
5. Give a little respect: This great article from themuse.com encourages you to really think about your attendees with an oft-forgotten question: who REALLY needs to be on the call? Just because people don't have to physically move themselves to attend your meeting, doesn't mean you should just ask anyone to call in and attend. Who really needs to be there? Respect everyone's time and schedules by only requesting the presence of the most necessary attendees.
6. Hello, your name is....?: Often, people are afraid to waste the time of those they already know by introducing themselves on a call. But guess what? Even if there is only one attendee who doesn't know who you are, they deserve a proper introduction: "Most of you may know who I am, but for those who don't my name is Jane Smith, and I'm the Senior Analyst here at Acme." In order for someone to take your message to heart, they need to know who you ARE.
7. Check in with your listeners: OK, raise your hand if you've ever drifted away from a call to check your email. Hey, we're all human! If you're leading a call, it's your job to keep your listeners engaged. A great way to do this is to build some time into your presentation between major points to check in with your audience: "Are there any questions on the floor? Any concerns or thoughts?" Even on a video call, your listeners mind may drift. Help them out by talking TO them, not at them, as you would if everyone was face-to-face. Your audience will appreciate it.
Need a good conference call laugh? A while back, we shared Tripp and Tyler's conference call in real life. If you haven't seen it already, it's worth revisiting. Who doesn't need a laugh?
What conference call skills do you swear by? What's the worst call you've ever endured? Let us know in the comments below!