Teleconferencing is, perhaps, the most effective communication breakthrough of the 20th century. The idea is to enable a group (three or more people) interactive communication through an electronic medium between people at different locations!
Teleconferencing is being used in the following forms today:
- Audio conferencing, using telephones
- Video conferencing, using interactive televisions with sound,
- Computer conferencing, using printed communication through computers and keyboards.
Massive cost saving on group meetings that includes cost of traveling, setting up the venue, food, and other related costs.
Meetings are focused and less time is lost.
People and speakers who can’t spare time for face-to-face meetings can participate.
The most basic problem with teleconferencing is technical failure. A nightmare for all organizers, teleconferencing also requires basic training or orientation for participants in use of equipment. Teleconferencing is also a hindrance in interpersonal communication required for negotiation and bargaining.
It is also difficult to break ice during a teleconference and establish a rapport between participants. A successful teleconference depends on detailed planning of the event.
The following tips can help you have a better teleconferencing experience:
Plan the Agenda
It is absolutely imperative that you plan your items on the agenda. The agenda itself should be clear, well defined and should spell out the expectations from the participants. Keep in mind the participation and if you expect an input from everyone on every item, then make sure that you have built in enough time for the meeting. Also, suggest to the participants that they go through the agenda before the teleconference.
It is important that all participants have prior access to dial in number and pass-codes. You must also convey if you are offering a toll-free number. Check all equipment before the conference and ensure that you have a back plan for technology failure.
If you are the facilitator, it makes sense to be the first one online. A team-building exercise could help get the meeting to a good start (specifically if the group is diverse and is meeting for the first time!). Be careful to establish the protocol and the talking order to avoid confusion and a situation where one person monopolizes the meeting.
‘Least disturbance’ should be the decorum of all teleconferences. As a participant it is your responsibility to ensure that you don’t introduce noise in the form of noisy background, buzzing sounds of low quality cordless phones, reception errors of cell phones any other noise like rustling paper or tapping pens. If the calls are long, the organizers must offer breaks at predestined times.
If the call is an international one, be aware of accents and avoid speaking too fast.
Other Tips for Organizers
- Use names to get attention.
- Use more than one speaker to break monologue and boredom.
- Involve everyone and if required go around in circles asking for input.
- During breaks, pair off people to facilitate interaction.
- Share duties, like taking notes, with participants to encourage interaction.
- Do take feedback for which you need to be ready with feedback forms.
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