The ability of VoIP for Business to host Conference calling and remote meetings is now an essential part of an organisation’s business tools. Unfortunately, there have been many reports of failures and poor performance using ZOOM and other collaboration tools.
While some poor conference calls may have been because of VoIP for Business technology failings, most are because participants are not familiar with the etiquette of conference calling and how to make them effective. Basically, using the same approach as for face-to-face meetings will provide quality meetings. Here are ten suggestions:
Just because it’s an online meeting, doesn’t mean that it can be less organized than a face-to-face one.
Send out calendar friendly meeting requests in good time and repeat
Most attendees won’t be IT experts and may need help and guidance to join the meeting. Have an IT support person to hand to assist. It’s getting easier, but many conference call services can be cumbersome to join. If the meeting request email provides an automatic link to an attendees calendar, all the better.
Zoom, for example, provides automatic links to a calendar and to the meeting itself, where the attendee only needs to click on a link to join. Send out a reminder, again with a joining link, just before the meeting time.
Send out Etiquette Guidelines
It might seem presumptuous to instruct attendees to behave during a meeting, but hopefully, you only need to do this once as a full document. Perhaps a short summary as part of the meeting request?
Have an Agenda
Meetings need to stick to the point. With no agenda or clear objective, a meeting will not be successful and to put it bluntly, waste everyone’s time.
Have IT check the connection and setup
Nothing is more frustrating than sitting waiting to join a meeting and not being able to connect because of a technical fault.
Start on Time
Starting on time is vital, especially if the meeting straddles several time zones. Don’t wait for stragglers, because if you do, you are signalling that it’s ok to join whenever you feel like it.
Have the Chair open the meeting
This is no different from a face to face meeting. The chair must open the meeting by thanking everyone for attending, explain the agenda, and nowadays, ask everyone to switch off cellphones. Thye host must also set expectations. Request that everyone announce themselves. Some attendees may be in sound only.
Try to finish the meeting early. That will be much appreciated by all attendees.
Microphones to be muted unless you are speaking
Because this is a remote meeting, people may be attending from all sorts of strange locations, coffee shops, home, cars for example. That can produce a lot of distracting noises and communications problems. If you aren’t speaking mute your microphone to cut down on outside noises.
No interrupting or talking over
It’s just common etiquette, don’t talk while someone else is interrupting. During a person to person meeting, we can observe non-verbal cues in other attendees. In meetings where this is not possible, perhaps because some attendees are attending on voice only, it is easy for a meeting to descend into chaos.
The host must maintain control, and attendees must observe the rule of only speaking when invited to.
Ask for feedback
Some attendees will speak a lot, some not at all unless asked to. It is easy to assume that just because someone has not expressed an opinion that they agree. Ask them directly.
People can also zone out and decide not to participate. Meetings can speed up and be more productive if you ask each participant to contribute verbally.
Have a closing review and repeat conclusions
As already pointed out, visual cues are absent in conference calls, even if a video feed is available. Even if they promise not to, people can become distracted from the meeting and start other activities. It’s easier with remote meetings because they can easily hide what they are doing from the meeting.
It is essential, to have a recap periodically during the meeting and at the end, have a full summary.