Here at the Academy we live on conference calls. When there are three people involved there is never an issue. More than three people and things start getting interesting.
1) No speakerphones. Even on regular calls it is a bad idea to be on speakerphone. Background noise, echo and the feeling that the call isn’t confidential are potential problems. Another important reason to avoid speakerphone is that some are monoplex and others are duplex. This means if you’re speaking on a monoplex speakerphone, you can’t hear anyone else until you stop speaking. (Duplex speakerphones allow you to hear others while you’re speaking, but it still doesn’t communicate the importance of the call).
2) Breathe and pause once in a while. A common issue on conference calls is that the speaker continues speaking when others are trying to respond. If they’re on a monoplex speakerphone, it’s impossible to jump in. Don’t dominate the call. Don’t interrupt and don’t cause others to need to interrupt if they want to participate.
3) Be on time. This is such a pet peeve of mine. Everyone’s time is extremely valuable, so if four out of five people are on time, that 5th person has just wasted all five participants’ time whether it’s 2 minutes or 8. My rule for being on time is to be one or two minutes early. Then you know you’ll be on time.
4) Have an agenda, share it, and stick to it. Every call should have a designated moderator who will ensure there is an agenda and everyone is aware of the points on the agenda. That person is also responsible for reeling in the conversation if it gets derailed or too heated. Small talk is fine but only for about 15 seconds (a tad more if you’re a yacker, but certainly only as a greeting). It doesn’t hurt to also have ground rules for your calls. “Save questions, take notes, we’ll go from one person to another for comments.” This up front agreement will eliminate a lot of issues that can often arise.
5) Stop talking if others start. If you’re interrupted by someone who wants to add or discuss a point you’ve raised, be polite and stop talking to give that person an opportunity to voice their concern or addition to your point. Talking over each other is unproductive. Someone must yield the floor and there’s no crime in you being that person.
6) If you’re not talking, mute yourself. It reduces the commotion and possible background noise which can interrupt the quality of the call for everyone else.
7) Make sure your headset is charged if you use one. If it’s not, often it’s garbled or causes you to sound faint. Quality of the line can also tie to how you’re perceived. If you’re faint and hard to hear — it makes the speaker sound unprepared or uncertain about their points to cover. You don’t need to be loud but it’s good to sound strong and confident when speaking in small groups whether on the phone or in person.
Chief Operating Officer
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555