Phone Conferencing Use and Etiquette
As state government continues to look for ways to use technology to reduce travel costs, more and more people are using phone conferences to hold meetings. Most phones will allow between 3 to 6 other phones to be connected without any fees. Other services such as Premiere conferencing exist for phone meetings of a larger size.
If you choose to hold a phone conference, here are a few tips to make the meeting go smoothly:
- in advance of the meeting, send out any documents you wish to review during the conference. Make sure the documents are easy to use during the conference by including reference points such as page numbers, dates, headings, etc. in the format of the documents;
- if the meeting uses a conference calling service, be sure to include the number and the pass code in an Outlook meeting invitation header – this allows easy access for the users;
- be sure to start the meeting on time;
- the meeting facilitator should take a role call at the beginning of the call and have participants introduce themselves;
- every meeting needs a facilitator to manage the agenda, ensure that participants have equal opportunity to participate and to keep participants focused on the topic with one person speaking and others listening. This facilitation role is critical for phone conferences, without facilitation the group in the meeting room will often monopolize the discussion and sometimes degrade into various groups speaking to each other in side conversations. For the listener, this is a painful experience and makes it nearly impossible to follow the discussion;
- frequently reference the attendee list to ensure that everyone has a chance to be heard - reference the caller by name and ask them if they have any comments or questions;
- coach everyone to speak clearly and loud enough that everyone can hear;
- ask phone participants to mute their phone when they are not speaking;
- cell phones are generally not conducive to conference calls and should be avoided if possible;
- before wrapping up the meeting session, call on the list of participants one last time to ensure that everyone has been heard; and
- send out notes as soon after the call as possible.
- try to join the meeting on time;
- avoid noisy, open office areas if possible – don’t shuffle papers, type on a keyboard, or leave a fan on near the phone – all these noises are magnified on a phone conference;
- mute your phone when you are listening;
- if a group of people will be calling in from the same location they can sometimes use a conference room with an appropriate conference phone;
- treat the call like a meeting – stay focused, avoid distractions and be engaged in discussions; and
- if you feel that you are being left out of the conversation, speak up and ask to be heard - sometimes meeting facilitators forget to ask the callers for input or have their hands full managing a room full of participants.
Phone conferences can be very effective and helpful in keeping groups productive. In future newsletters we will look at other conferencing options available such as Juniper Network Access Instant Meeting and Secure Meetings. Conferencing options available to state agencies are listed on the web on our conferencing services web pages.