Ask any group of regular teleconference presenters about the challenges of presenting with screen-share and a sound only connection to the listeners and they will all say pretty much the same things. Here is a sample of what they will tell you:
- It’s very hard to be sure people are listening and to keep them interested.
- It’s a challenge to engage with people you cannot see and get a reaction from them.
- Participants seem to come and go as they please and either all try to speak at once or just say nothing.
Let’s face it, participants in a teleconference call could be doing anything, from checking their emails to cooking dinner and you would not know about it unless there were some tell-tale signs on the audio. It is of course practically impossible to police this as to some extent, it goes beyond your absolute control. Don’t just throw up your hands in despair. Do what you can to provide the best possible framework for the call and the presentation with some advance planning and by sharing some rules and guidelines for everyone to adhere to. For teams who communicate regularly in this way, these rules and guidelines can should become practice.
Advance planning for a teleconference
- Use a reputable and reliable service provider, making a reservation for the date and time of the call if this is required.
- Contact all participants and give them the date and time of the teleconference. Be sure to specify which time zone you are referring to – a critical point that is often overlooked!
- Issue any joining instructions / necessary links to the participants and provide them with your name and contact in-formation in case there are any problems.
- Create an agenda for the teleconference. Send the agenda, handouts and supplementary material to participants early enough so that it arrives before the teleconference, and participants have time to read it and generally prepare.
- Including short biographical information on the participants is a nice addition, especially when people aren’t familiar with each other.
- Share any rules that people need to know about up front e.g.the need for punctuality, switching off mobile phones and call waiting, understanding where the mute button is for use during the call.
Basic teleconference etiquette
- Always take a roll call at the beginning so that everyone knows who is involved and listening. If participants don’t know each other, briefly introduce each or better still, ask them to introduce themselves.
- Give participants the basic etiquette and guidelines for the call as you would like it to be handled. E.g. tell them to say their name before they speak.
- Let them know if you want them to wait with their questions until after the presentation and tell them how they should signal to you that they have a question. Some platforms have a texting option or feature for this that does not immediately interrupt the presenter
- If some background noise is unavoidable, ask people to use the mute button when you they are not speaking.
- When someone does arrive late, don’t immediately cut into the conversation to introduce him or her. Wait until there is a pause, and then simply say, “Sorry for the interruption, but it appears that John Smith from London has joined us.”
This may all seem obvious but these seemingly small details are frequently forgotten when the call is being set up and disruption will inevitably follow. It’s worth checking to make sure that everyone has, knows and understands the rules and guidelines that help you to ensure that your teleconference presentation runs smoothly.