Conference Call Survival 101
So you’ve got to pitch or present something by phone.
First, my condolences. While it is so much easier than traveling somewhere e it does change the nature of a meeting. This is my advice for having a successful call (since many of us at least occasionally work from home I won’t assume that you are always calling from your office).
- Book your meeting room and block your calendar with a little wiggle room should the call go long (which it will)
- Know your technology. Some conference call services have a function where two people can’t talk at once and it is really frustrating for the client if they can’t ask a question during a presentation. I was on a call about a year ago presenting and when I took a breath the client nearly jumped through the phone because he had had a question and had to hold it in the whole time. If you find yourself on that kind of system build in time for pausing for discussion.
- Test your technology more than 30 seconds before the call. If you are using speakerphone because there are a few people in the room make sure you are sitting very close to the speaker.
- Get dressed. It is a mind game but I swear I can tell when someone is in the pjs from home!
- Confirm that everyone has the right dial in number before the call and make sure they have it in at least two places. Always put it in the Outlook invite and also in an email the morning of the call.
- If this is a high stakes meeting you should rehearse. Time yourself so you don’t run long. If you are trying to sell something leave yourself enough time for the pitch and don’t waste too long on the windup!
- Establish who is in charge of the call on your end and who will be stepping in if anything goes south
- Make sure you are always the first one dialed in. I’ve been in client service my whole career and I consider it my job to make sure I am early to any appointment the client is making time for. They shouldn’t have to wait for you to dial in. I can count how many times the client beat me to a call on two hands.
- Try not to kick-off the call with weather small talk. It might just be me but I find talking about the weather to be such a cop out. Plus it is painful small talk. Find something else while you wait for the others to dial in. Something you read that morning is good as long as it isn’t about politics or sex or religion.
- Make sure everyone is introduced quickly and for extra credit include names and titles/functions in the notes section of the calendar invite. Don’t just say “Meet Sally. She is a Vice President here” because that doesn’t mean anything. Instead say “Meet Sally. She is going to be your daily contact and is a rock star at XXX”
- Do not eat. At all. Do not drink. Do not open a wrapper. Over the phone, opening a seltzer can sounds exactly like opening a beer can.
- Do not walk around. I shouldn’t have to say this but I will – Do not go to the bathroom while on a call even if you have put the call on mute. Like I tell my kids before car rides, “go before we go.” It is not worth the risk of a technical difficulty resulting in people hearing you flush. Hard to recover from that!
- Do not tap away on your keyboard even if you need to take notes. Sounds like a court reporter is attending. Ask someone on year team to dial in and mute themselves so they can take notes from their desk.
- Be careful of your pace and your tone. A pensive look while you are thinking of answer is one thing when you are in person but on the phone a silent pause can feel like a statement of its own. When a call gets silent I always fear that they are sitting around a room and looking at each other and writing insults on Post It pads to each other. Likely unfounded but still…
- You do not need to answer every question or request while on this call. In fact, you shouldn’t. This is where agencies get themselves stuck with an epidemic of scope creep. Tell them you will look into things and then actually look into it and respond to them swiftly.