One of the most common questions I get from training colleagues outside of the conferencing industry is “How do you train over a conference call? There are way too many distractions!” While I can see where their anxiety may be coming from, I’ve put together a list of 5 ways to remove distractions from your next virtual meeting.
1. Loud Background Noise
I could write a whole post on this one. Dogs barking, phones ringing, babies crying and the airport loud speaker all fall into this category. The great thing about conference calls is that you can dial in from anywhere and still run training or meet with your team. However these types of disruptions not only degrade your experience, they affect the whole call.
So, if your cell phone has a mute button, use it. Otherwise, most conferencing bridges have a touch tone command that you can use to mute your line. If you are the leader on the call you should also have the ability to mute all lines except your own and then un-mute those lines for discussion.
2. Hold Music for Everyone
Some offices and cell phone providers include a hold music feature. It’s nice if you’re the only one on hold. But if you put your phone on hold while in a conference, it interrupts the entire call. Make sure to remind your participants that if they have hold music on their phone and their second line rings, they should not put the conference line on hold.
All participants on the call will be able to hear the hold music. If they love their hold music and are proud of it, feed it into the conference before the meeting starts.
3. Static on Your Line
We all love our cell phones (mine is never more than a foot away from me at all times) but, a conference call is not always the best place to use one. Ideally, everyone on a conference call would be using a handset plugged into a land line. I know – that’s totally unrealistic. Cordless phones, cell phones, headsets and wireless headsets are all very convenient but they can all cause static.
The easiest way to clear this up is to have that person disconnect and dial back into the conference call without the wireless device or using a different phone. If that person is unable to hear you over the static you can request an operator and they will be able to zero in on which line is causing the static and either mute or disconnect that line.
4. Not Testing Your Speaker Phone
Using a speaker phone is often a great way to get feedback from a group of people. These days, most speaker phones are full digital duplex and do a great job of delivering sound quality. However, do make sure you test your speaker phone before the conference. Consider how many people will be in the room, how big the room is and if the phone will cause an echo into the conference.
If your speaker phone is equipped with microphones throughout the room, definitely test and use them. If you’re the only one presenting, I would recommend using your hand/headset for the call and then using the speaker phone for Q&A so those in the room can hear the questions.
5. Beeps & Blaring Signals
If you are dialed into a conference call from your cell phone or home phone, you probably have call waiting enabled. When you hear a tone notifying you that another call is coming through, that tone also plays into your conference call. So, turn off your call waiting during your meeting.
Occasionally, you may also get a loud blaring sound into your phone. This is usually feedback caused by another electronic device like a Blackberry or laptop. If you get this noise, try moving away from those devices and the feedback should stop pretty quickly.
With most conferencing providers there should be an option to go online and manage your conference call in real time. This is a great option that may allow you to see which line is causing the problem and fix it easily! So there you have it – my top five recommendations to make your conference calls less distracting and more productive.
If I missed one that really bugs you, let me know and I’ll throw out some suggestions as to how to avoid it. If these suggestions aren’t helping your call sound better, maybe what you need is an operator assisted call where someone can help control the noise for you. Remember that your conferencing service provider is there to help you get better sound quality. So, give them a call.