I’m sure I’m not alone when I admit that I have been packing up my things and saying my farewells at the end of a committee or board meeting only to be startled by a voice arising from the middle of the table. “Thanks for a great meeting,” it will often say while the rest of us realize we’d totally forgotten about their tele-presence.
Here are a few tips that allow for maximum participation from those attending meetings by phone only:
1) Reserve a spot at the table for those on speaker phone and create a colourful name card for them that everyone can see. Whenever anyone glances around the table to request ideas or feedback, they’ll be reminded of the phone attendee.
2) Have everyone who speaks state their name first. This is done on the radio for panel or round table discussions. It will improve the ability of the phone attendee to listen and participate.
3) Allow some “white space” between individual’s comments. This doesn’t have to be very long – a few seconds – but it helps eliminate those speaker phone time delays which often result in two people talking at the same time.
4) A bell or whistle or gong – something with a pleasing sound – should be used by the individual on the phone to notify everyone they wish to speak. (if you know everyone’s got a sense of humour, you can use a squeaky toy!) Around a boardroom table someone who’s ready to speak gives us a wide variety of body language clues, but on the telephone sound is the body language.
5) As a chair of a meeting with a telephone attendee, remember to ask them for comments often, definitely before moving on to a new agenda item.
What works for you (or doesn’t) when attending a meeting by phone?
And … to add a wee bit of humour (and with thanks to Kevin Doucette, Renewable Energy Services Ltd), I direct you to this hilarious video entitled A Conference Call in Real Time (running time is 3 minutes 30 seconds prior to a promo for Leadercast – but worth every laughter-filled second!).