"What do you think, Mr. Smith? Mr. Smith? Hello, are you there?"
"Oh, sorry. Ah… what was the question again?"
Obviously Mr. Smith wasn't giving the conference call his full attention. Even if you've been in just a few conference calls, you've probably experienced a similar situation. These days, we have so much technology and productivity at our fingertips; it can be difficult not to get distracted.
Email is one of the main culprits of distraction when audio conferencing. It's almost impossible not to click on the inbox when you hear that little chime, or see some unchecked mail. But when we do, we run the risk of losing track of what's being said. Unless exchanging emails is part of the conference call, the best idea is to close your email until the call is over.
Chat, or instant messaging, is both a blessing and a curse for audio conferencing. With chat on, at any time a window could pop up with something important, or something frivolous. Either way, we stop paying attention to the conference call.
However, sometimes things need to be said during audio conferencing that can't actually be said out loud. Chat is excellent for this. It's instant and just between you and the other person. Quick messages like, "You've got one minute left, wrap it up," or "The answer is blue," can be invaluable.
Because instant messaging can be invaluable as a means of backdoor communications, you might not want to shut it off. Instead, switch your instant messaging status from "Available" to "Busy" or "In a meeting." That way, you won't be bothered except by an urgent message from another participant in the meeting: "Don't forget today is Mr. Smith's birthday!"
But during the audio conference when you ask someone a question, don't assume that someone is distracted just because they don't answer immediately. Good audio conferencing manners dictate that you mute yourself when not speaking to cut down on background noise. They may just be trying to find the unmute button. Here's a good tip on asking questions during an audio conference.