With my new job I’m making a ton of conference calls. We’re constantly in online meeting with other offices and vendors, discussing new products, launches, and issues that affect everyone. I usually have about 6 conference calls a week, so it’s felt a bit like being thrown in to the mix. It’s something I was definitely not used to at first, I never had to deal with conference calls before, so I didn’t really know what to expect or how to handle them. It can be difficult, because the information and discussion is as important as a real meeting, but it’s a million times easier to get distracted by emails or a difficult problem you were working on beforehand.
This happened just last week, I was in a pretty important conference call going over status updates and I got an email from a supplier that completely threw me off guard. All of a sudden I realized someone asked me a question and I had no idea what was asked of me. It was so embarrassing, I felt like a dummy stumbling over my words!
The problem is it’s so easy to get distracted or not give your full attention. So to all of those out there who have to deal with conference calls and don’t want to make the same mistakes I’ve made, here are some tips to keeping sharp during those Skype sessions.
Turn off Notifications & Hide Your Email
This is key for me. If my email is up, I’ll be focused on my inbox instead of on the call. Same goes with my to-do list and any other tasks I was working on prior. Once I know I have a call I close everything else out so that I can give my full attention to the matter at hand.
If your one who struggles through these things, it’s best to take some notes, even if it’s not necessary. It will help you stay alert to what’s going on so you don’t miss anything, but it will also make you remember what was discussed even more since you’re physically writing down the take-aways.
Go Through Action Items at the End
Towards the end of the call, don’t be afraid to ask if everyone can go over takeaways. You’ll end up looking like a champ who is focused on action & results, but also you’ll get a chance to review what was agreed upon and make sure you’re on the same page. That’s what we call a win, win, my friend.
Mute is Your Best Friend
This sounds counterintuitive, but I always have my phone on mute unless I want to speak. That way no one has to hear my breathing, sighs of annoyance or frustration (it happens), or incase the person next to me starts laughing uncontrollably (also happens). Although it may seem like you aren’t being as present as you should be, you’re really respecting the call by not letting background noise distract the discussion and looking more professional in the long-run. No one wants to be known as the person who breaths really heavily on each call!
Ask Questions, But Use Your Name
Definitely ask any question that you have during the call, it will help show that you’re engaged and paying attention – which can be a bit too much to ask for usually than 50% of the people on the phone. But also, if you’re going to ask a question, especially if you’re new or at a lower level, make sure to say your name. This helps 1) give a more natural break in the conversation or presentation 2) to make sure people know who is talking and 3) let everyone know who is paying attention, learning, and interested in what’s happening.
Do you deal with a lot of conference calls at work? How do you handle them?!