How to have successful conference calls

With more of us likely to be working from home in the next weeks, what’s the best way to prepare for remote conference calls?


Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Many of us at have worked from home for a number of years, with occasional meet-ups and attending of events, etc.

Over the years we have gone through many different systems for doing remote calls. Here are some of the things we have learned:

1. Everyone seems to use different systems for remote calls because there are new ones coming online all the time, promising bigger and better things. So if you are doing a remote interview/call with someone using a different system from yours, make sure you do all the set-up well before you start the call and not in the five minutes beforehand when things might not go as smoothly as planned. Otherwise you will end up dialling in late and slightly the worse for technology-related stress.

2. Conference calls tend to dispense with the small talk, but it’s important to have an agenda and someone to lead it who can invite others to speak rather than having people interrupting and speaking over each other. Small talk – the general social chit-chat – is important, though, and even more so in a world where social contact generally is limited so make sure you keep in touch with people on a personal basis, whether through instant messenger or other forms of messaging or, better, through regular phone calls.

3. There is a strong temptation to do some work while you are on the call or to scan the news. Try to avoid this, where possible, as you may suddenly get asked a question and have completely blanked the whole lead-up to it. This is also why it is important to keep calls as short as possible to ensure everyone is focused throughout or to do general issues at the beginning and let those people not needed for certain items go before the end.

4. If you are working with a small child in the house, for instance, if schools or nurseries are closed due to the coronavirus, be very aware where the mute button is, even if you have someone around to care for them. We all recall that BBC interview where the children came in during a Skype interview.

5. The general advice is to be dressed when working from home. Working in your pjs may be comfortable, but it’s all about mindset. Plus more and more conference calls are video ones so you need to be dressed, at least from the waist up. Going for a walk around the block before you start work can help with this too. It draws some kind of a line between work and home.

6. Make sure you have the technology you need – it’s always a good idea to have access to a back-up computer in case yours breaks down and to ensure you have good phone reception. Ask your employer about all your technology needs.

7. If you have hearing difficulties or are in a busy environment, a good headset can cut out unnecessary background noise and help you to focus better.

8. In the event of video calls, be aware of your background as everyone on the call will be able to see it. You might want to move your computer so that you have a book shelf [depending on what’s on it…] or a blank wall behind you.

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