Conference calls and meetings have become the new norm upon the advent of the global coronavirus pandemic. While there are certainly work from home pros and cons for this kind of setup, conference calls will most likely continue even if the spread of the virus eventually mellows down in the future. Online meetings will act as a preemptive measure to protect the health of everyone in the office.
Since conference calls are now integral to our daily life, people need to be mindful and learn proper online meeting etiquette.
This list will provide you with tips and pointers when attending and leading conference call meetings.
Things to do before attending/starting the conference
There are several things you need to prepare before starting and attending conference meetings. Check if you follow this good pre-conference meeting routine:
1. Determine the agenda of the meeting and role of the participants
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When setting up conference call meetings, participants should know who will be hosting the call, who will be attending the conference, and what is expected from each participant.
This is to avoid confusion among the distribution of tasks and the roles of people who will participate in the meeting. You don’t want to finish a two-and-half-hour session realizing that the person in charge of writing down the minutes didn’t do his job just because he wasn’t adequately informed.
Inform all participants about the duration of the conference meeting and the topics to be discussed. Avoid inducing burnout among participants by stretching meetings that always veer off-topic. This is also important since some people may have other scheduled meetings, while some have limited available Internet data allocation.
2. TRIPLE check the devices you will be using for the meeting
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Part of a pre-conference call routine is making sure that the devices you will be using are optimal. Because you didn’t encounter problems from your last call, it doesn’t mean there won’t be with your next one.
Check the camera and audio quality of the devices that you will be using. Consider also which method is the best for a particular conference call. Sure, you could attend the meeting using only your smartphone, but nothing beats the versatility that a desktop or a laptop provides.
In case there are problems with your devices, inform the participants regarding these issues. You don’t want people to feel confused and frustrated when your camera constantly glitches during the call.
3. Make sure you allocate a conducive space when attending conference calls
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Provide yourself with a sufficient amount of space as much as possible when attending conference meetings. Condo owners might find it challenging to look for their quiet place, especially when they share the space with a large group. Don’t worry; there are several guides and interior design tips online on how to maximize your condo’s space for this kind of event.
Keep pets from disturbing the meeting. It might be cute when your pug is barking in the background, but it will quickly get annoying when your dog continually disrupts the flow when everyone just wants to continue.
As much as possible, avoid setting up your workstation in your bedroom. This is because your mind trained you to think of this as a space for rest. One of the disadvantages of doing conference calls is that it blurs the dividing line between work and home.
Always think of ways to motivate yourself while working at home. Remember when you were dreaming of your bed during actual pre-pandemic meetings? This time, it’s just a few steps away from where you work. And it’s darn hard to resist when it’s in your line of sight, and it’s calling you and beckoning you just to lie down.
4. Discuss with your family the importance of the conference call
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Participants of conference calls shouldn’t be the ones informed about the meeting, but also family members who share the household. This is to prevent any awkward encounters, such as someone suddenly walking in the camera view half-naked.
Some family members might also disrupt your meeting by accidentally messing up the Internet speed when they download several Netflix episodes all at once.
Establishing excellent communication with your family and informing them about the meeting is an important tip that will help not only your conference meeting participants but also your household members. This is important when you want to establish your career while at home.
5. Wear appropriate clothing
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Keep it professional. Wearing appropriate clothing is a must when attending the conference call meetings. You don’t necessarily have to wear a coat. A simple shirt or long sleeves will do. Avoid anything flashy and flamboyant. Treat this event, just like the meetings you attend before the pandemic started. No one wants to know the color of your boxers or undergarments in the middle of a discussion about company sales.
Things to Remember During the Meeting
Now that you are all set, it’s time to know the dos and don’ts when your conference call starts. Continue reading to understand how always to keep it professional when you are in an online meeting:
6. Greet everyone cordially and reiterate the agenda and rules of the meeting
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Now that the conference call has started remember to greet and thank the participants for attending the meeting. You may also ask them how they are holding up since the pandemic affects each individual differently. Doing this will also provide late attendees with a grace period.
Reiterate the agenda of the meeting and discuss the flow of the conference call. Remind everyone of their tasks such as who will be taking down notes and so on. Who will be speaking after who? What topics should be discussed, touched upon, and reserved for another conference? Doing this will keep everyone from straying off-topic.
Set the rules to inform everyone what is expected of them. Do they have to leave their videos on? What do they need to do when they want to chime in a certain topic?
Using the “raise hand” option in Zoom calls, for instance, is a good practice when someone wants to comment on a particular topic. Establish that anyone should briefly mention their nickname or last name before they speak to avoid unnecessary confusion.
7. Mute yourself when it’s not your turn to speak
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The golden rule of conference call etiquette is keeping your audio off when it isn’t your time to speak. Even if you remain quiet, your microphone could catch distracting background noises. Leaving the host the responsibility to mute you is rude and unprofessional. Always be mindful of others.
8. Avoid switching browsers and playing games during the meeting
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A two-hour conference call is enervating, and most likely, participants will eventually get bored in the middle of it. However, this is not an excuse to constantly check your social media while a meeting is ongoing. Imagine your colleagues finding out that you shared a funny meme at the same time when the call was being conducted.
It’s also incredibly rude and unprofessional when a speaker has to repeat what he/she said because you weren’t paying attention.
Try using handheld devices made for fidgeting during meetings to keep yourself from getting bored and being tempted to check your favorite star’s latest IG story. You could also download apps that prevent you from accessing social media such as Cold Turkey. With this, you can set the duration and time of when it will block your access to distracting websites.
For conference hosts, allot short breaks for people to refill their coffees or do body stretches. Avoid cramming in topics that aren’t supposed to be discussed and keep the meeting short as much as possible.
9. Incorporate Kanban Feedback Loops to Maximize your productivity
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Even if you’re not in charge of keeping the minutes of the meeting, you should always write down notes of important points. This way, you can quickly remind yourself about what transpired in your last session when you attend the next one.
When taking necessary information, jot it down on a notepad or notebook. Avoid using your phone or using an application for note-taking on the same device to keep yourself from getting distracted by hopscotching through various opened tabs and apps.
One way to maximize your team’s productivity is by practicing the Kanban Feedback Loop. Feedback loops provide opportunities to increase the productivity of each participant’s performance.
Several points need to be considered when practicing a good Kanban Feedback Loop routine. Start by assessing and collecting the gist of available data and information that has been tackled in the meeting. Then, follow this up by encouraging participants to analyze each item to be able to have a more in-depth understanding of the data. Finally, make decisions on properly executing the gathered information, such as creating concrete plans to increase the sale of particular goods.
Having a systematic approach to handling and conducting meetings prevents your team from scrambling and going all over the place when discussing and approaching data sets to develop essential plans for the future.
Things to Do After the Meeting
Now that the meeting’s over, maximize your productivity by following the last two tips. Read towards the end to know how to nurture yourself even if you work at home:
10. Switch off your device and immediately arrange all the notes you wrote down
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Do not immediately return to using social media or playing games. Instead, arrange the notes you’ve just written down in an orderly and comprehensive manner. File it in a folder or keep it in the drawer where you store your important belongings.
Delaying this could mean it may never be done because procrastination will just get the better of you. Stop being a clown by fooling yourself that you will get this finished later. Take advantage of the period when your mind is still in “work mode.”
Switch off your screen and take the time to process everything that was discussed. Perform the necessary tasks that need to be done.
11. Relax and enjoy the rest of the day
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Reward yourself after each meeting to continually keep your mindset about these conference calls positive. Take a break, lie down, or, better yet, find ways to motivate yourself and boost your mood. One of the worst things you can do is dreading the next conference call that you have to attend because that negative mindset encourages you to detest what you’re doing, thus making you prone to doing unprofessional things.
These are the critical things you have to follow when, during, and after attending online conference call meetings. Remember that this kind of setup will continue to be practiced even if the coronavirus pandemics mellows down. Incorporating these rules and tips to your habit will help you become not just a productive member of your company, but also a professional one.