Making a phone call is an integral part of almost all businesses. Even the street dog vendor occasionally needs to reorder buns. It's a good thing then that telephones have kept up with the vast changes we've gone through in the past twenty years. The technology may have improved, but old habits die hard.
1. How many times have you said, "I'll have to ask about that and get back to you"? How much time has been wasted and progress halted by this phrase or variations of it? When this happens to you again – and you know it will – hang-up, start a conference call, and outdial the person you were just talking to and the person you need to talk to. Now all available information is at hand in the call. Questions and follow-up questions can be asked, decisions can be made, and time isn't wasted.
2. Do you ever get a writing cramp trying to keep up taking notes on a lively discussion? Ever miss important points on a long list? Have you regretted not writing down a great speech? A lot happens during a conference call and this is why most have an "auto-record" feature.
If you don't already, make sure you're conferences get recorded automatically. It doesn't cost extra and the recordings can be easily downloaded. The next step is to get into the habit of using those recordings. Review a meeting to make sure everything got covered. Listen to make sure your list matches the actual one. If there was a great soliloquy, you've have it on tape.
3. The mute button is your friend. It is imperative that everyone in a conference call know how to mute and unmuted themselves. Muting cuts background noise to the minimum. It helps avoid embarrassing situations such as kids running into a room, or a loud, suspicious leather chair squeak. Using a group mute such as lecture mode allows a speaker to talk freely without interruption and lets you choose when to take questions.
There is a flip-side to muting to be acquainted with: mute delay. If you and your participants are on the ball and mute whenever not speaking, then if a question is asked, there will be a delay. Unlike a telephone where someone can instantly respond, a muted person needs a few seconds to be able to speak. Give them that time by how you phrase your questions:
Incorrect: "What were last week's numbers, Mike?"
Correct: "Mike, I've got a question for you: what were last week's numbers?"
Saying Mike's name get's his attention. Announcing you have a question for him gives him time to unmuted. When it's time to answer, Mike will be ready with an answer.
These three habits may seem little, and they are to a point. But despite their size, you'll find yourself having more effective and efficient conference calls if you use them often.
Posted by George Page, Communication Specialist