The day of the teleconference has arrived, and you think you've done all you can as host to make sure teleconference etiquette will be observed and the meeting will run smoothly. But don't assume that your work on teleconferencing etiquette is done. There are plenty of behaviors that you -- and your participants -- will want to avoid during the teleconference.
Perhaps one of the most important is don't wait around for latecomers and start late. If participants feel that the teleconference is taking valuable time, a late start will only confirm this and frustrate them. You'll be off to a rocky start before you say a word.
As you begin, don't move right into the agenda without taking time to:
- Ask each participant to say his or her name. By introducing the participants, you'll know if anyone is missing, and everyone will have a chance to familiarize themselves with each other's voices.
- Quickly review rules of etiquette and request that each participant to identify him or herself before making a comment.
- Ask mobile device users to flip ringer switches to off and everyone to ignore phone calls and other interruptions so they can focus on the teleconference.
Once the teleconference starts, don't:
- Let anyone enter the teleconference without noting their arrival. That way, participants won't feel like someone is listening without participating.
- Allow participants to wander into off-topic discussions. Summarize the relevant points made and direct everyone back to the next item on the agenda.
- Tolerate inappropriate language or rude comments. Try to defuse the situation, if tempers are running high, remind everyone of the rules of etiquette and move back to the agenda.
- Forget to pause frequently. You'll want to give participants time to think about what's being said and to add their own comments. Participants can't see each other, so a pause gives them a chance to step in without feeling that they're interrupting.
- Let it run overtime, or tempers may flare. Keep a close eye on the agenda, and if there's no time to discuss other important topics, indicate that they'll be handled through an e-mail exchange or on the agenda for the next teleconference.
- End the conference without indicating an opportunity for polite feedback. Send an e-mail asking participants to let you know how the teleconference went. Was it worth the time? Did the technology work? What could have been done differently?
If you're a participant, you'll want to avoid:
- Showing up late. You'll find yourself trying to catch up with the discussion, and the host will have to take time to introduce you to the group.
- Losing focus. Keep your mind on the teleconference, instead of multitasking by also answering e-mail, shopping online, playing video poker, prepping an agenda for an upcoming meeting or handling a departmental crisis.
- Allowing distractions like phone calls, employees with questions or visiting friends to make their way into your office.
- Having call waiting on your phone send beeps into the teleconference. Turn it off before the meeting starts.
- Speaking without saying who you are.
- Addressing a question to the group instead of to a specific individual. You'll get an answer quicker if everyone doesn't pause to figure out who will respond.
- Responding with anger or sarcasm to comments that someone else makes.
With a little advance planning, efforts to minimize distractions and simple courtesy, a teleconference can be a worthwhile meeting that brings people together for a purpose when they can't all be in the same room.
For lots more information about teleconference etiquette and related topics, check out the links on the next page.