By: Brad Ball
Big Buzz Idea Group
According to a 2017 Gallup study, nearly one half of the American workforce spends at least some time working from home (WFH). While the study doesn’t specifically identify nonprofit professionals as part of the inquiry, experience tells us that WFH is becoming more commonplace all the way around. One of the more important ways to connect when team members or volunteers are working from home is via the conference call. Available as both dial-in audio-only and increasingly common video conference, here’s a list of how to conference like a pro.
Know Your Technology and Be On Time
The only thing worse than starting a meeting late because you’re waiting for someone is being the person everyone else is waiting on. “Sorry, I couldn’t access the meeting,” is a terrible way to join a meeting. Nearly all conference call or online meeting tools allow you to log in early, even if you must tolerate some cheesy music. Arrive five minutes early, scroll your Twitter until someone else arrives, and pat yourself on the back for being the person no one had to wait on.
The Mute Button/Function Is Your Best Friend
Know how to use it, and for heaven’s sake, use it. Background noise kills conversations and productivity in meetings. Having a meeting interrupted for “Can someone please mute their phone?” is almost worse than being late. Just remember to unmute yourself when it’s your turn to talk.
Be Where You Are
In other words, behave the way you would as if you are at an in-person meeting. Whether you’re on a video conference or just a dial-in audio call, the Golden Rule applies: Treat others as you wish to be treated. If you are the kind of person who checks email during a meeting (you shouldn’t be), don’t do it during the call. If email is more important, do your email instead of being on the call. And remember that on a video conference we can see your eyes and can tell if you’re not paying attention.
Have a Great Internet Connection
Pixelated video or choppy audio quality is bad juju and super unprofessional. It may be a beautiful day outside but don’t take your call from the porch unless your wi-fi connection is strong out there. Not sure how to check? Use an online speed test like this one here. This also applies to your cell phone connection. Don’t take a call from your basement office if you don’t get good reception down there. You must find somewhere else to take the call where you have the strongest signal possible. If this is a problem for many areas of your house, check with your cell phone provider about an at-home signal extender.
For Video Conferences, Be Considerate of Your Lighting and Background
The preferred setup is to have light on your face and a clean and tidy background. You may have to do some out-of-the-ordinary things to achieve this – maybe move a lamp or tilt the shade for better lighting. Avoid being backlit – no one will be able to see your face. Watch out for what’s behind you as well. Is there a door? Well it’s possible that whatever comes through that door will make its way into your video conference. We’ve seen those go viral and they’re funny for everyone except you. And while we’re at it, be sure to dress the part: your company culture for appearance expectations applies to video conference as well. If a t-shirt is what you wear to the office, that’s ok, but if business or business casual is the expectation, be sure to dress the part.
Following these tips will make you a superstar and someone people will look forward to inviting to meetings. For a laugh, and maybe a reminder of why the ideas presented here are important, check out this video on what a conference call might look like if it was in-person.