Tips for holding a successful conference call

With more working dads working from home through the coronavirus crisis it’s important to get to grips with conference calling

Telephone Interview


There’s a reason why most meetings, until this week, still took place face to face.

It’s because conference calling technology isn’t quite there yet. Everyone knows the drawbacks. The person who arrives late. Or the person whose internet keeps dropping out. The person who doesn’t know the magic of muting so the whole meeting has to listen to their heavy breathing/dog barking/etc.

There’s a reason this YouTube video has attracted so many views!

But in a working world altered by the Covid-19 coronavirus conference calling is king. And it certainly doesn’t have to be bedevilled by problems.

Mandy Garner, editor of our sister site and an expert in working from home, drew up this invaluable list of tips for successful conference calls.

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. If you wait till the five minutes beforehand things might not go as smoothly as planned. 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. 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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