You have to both be engaged and seem engaged. You will need to fight just for. one. second. to jump in and add your two cents without feeling like Godzilla, stomping on other people’s words. You will need to somehow catalog every team member’s voice and distinguish one from another. And you have to wrestle with bad connections, sound delays and also other technological voodoo that appears to curse every call.
“I always marvel which we have people in space stations and placed men around the moon, but we’re still so lousy at teleconferences,” says Debra Dinnocenzo, author of “Working From the Distance: Being Your Very Best When You’re Not With The Rest” and president of VirtualWorks!, a company that helps employees and organizations work efficiently in the virtual workplace.
Thankfully, we have a self-help guide to navigate you through the pain sensation points of calling into meetings as a telecommuter:
1. Give consideration (for real). Being 100 % present (or else literally) is extremely challenging when working remotely. Twitter, emails and instant messages lurk in nearby tabs, with out one would ever determine if you sneaked in some mid-meeting Facebook scrolls. Just you and your browser’s little secret!
But here’s the thing: While you’re commenting on photos of your own cousin’s new dog, your colleagues are commenting on how to solve some team problem. And what will happen after they require your input? You’ve likely heard the resulting silence heard ’round the international conference calls using their company callers caught unawares, once they wait a beat too long to unmute and say their piece. “That’s a sure sign you’re doing something else, Dinnocenzo says. Here’s the best way to stay focused on the call – and prove it in your co-workers:
Stop multitasking. Act as if you were actually there within the conference room, Dinnocenzo says. You wouldn’t be checking email and instant messaging, do you? (Well, obnoxious meeting attendees may do it, although not you!) Bonus: “If you’re actually watching the conversation, you’ll understand the rhythm and ways to talk normally,” says Brie Reynolds, career advisor and director of online content at the professional job website FlexJobs, which offers telecommuting opportunities. No more anxiety about talking over people or perhaps not talking enough. (More on that later.)
Take meeting notes. Another tip from Reynolds, who indicates that “you’re kind of forcing yourself to pay attention.”
Speak up. Reynolds adds that she’ll sometimes set goals for herself to, for example, ask two questions during a meeting or praise three people’s comments after they’ve spoken.
2. Be assertive. Unclear if others about the call can hear you? Can’t hear your co-workers? Have no clue if it’s Jim or Dwight who’s talking? Speak up! As Dinnocenzo puts it: “[Remote employees] hold the responsibility to assert their very own needs.” In the end, she says, you can’t adhere to the conversation in the event you don’t know who’s talking and – heck – when you can’t hear. “That’s like placed in the meeting with mufflers on the ears.”
Asking who’s talking, clarifying an announcement or gently interjecting to ask whomever is conversing with sit nearer to the microphone isn’t selfish – it’s needed for a productive meeting, Dinnocenzo says. For that end, if you call into regular meetings that could be run more smoothly for those calling in, suggest improvements. For example, ask that folks say their names before speaking. “Even though you’re not leading the meeting, you could share strategies to make the meeting more successful,” Dinnocenzo says.
3. Just say it. OK, I’m likely to jump in here after Pam – or was that Angela? – wraps up. No, now someone else is saying something! Is my point even relevant anymore? Am I going to need to interrupt someone only to say something which mattered back when Pam was talking? Better not.
Stop this inner turmoil, and simply speak up. “It’s every male or female for him or herself,” Dinnocenzo says. “You need to be assertive, and jump in whenever there’s the tiniest little break.”
And if you speak up, and – ugh, needless to say! – other people starts talking a beat when you, follow Reynolds’ advice: “Carry on, finish your thought then turn it up to them,” she says. “This can help avoid those silences where people are being polite and looking to not talk over each other.”
Or, when someone else starts talking first, hold back until he or she finishes, and then chime in by asking provided you can add yet another thing, Reynolds advises. “[This] allows you to jump in without feeling too pushy,” she says.
4. Perfect the technical aspects. Of course, nobody will hear your brilliant comment when you can’t learn how to dial into the call. Triple-check numbers, passwords and meeting times, and test out your headphones, if you plan to use them.
When the call requires a certain software or program, test that, too, Reynolds says, preferably with another remote team member. “There’s always an update to download or a program that doesn’t work with one browser like Firefox, and often will assist another like Chrome,” she says. “Discover all of the little issues before hand so dexlpky29 once the meeting actually arrives, you’re capable to log in without issues.”
5. Control your environment. Now to conclude with a few Telecommuting 101: Call into meetings from quiet areas free of barking dogs, honking cars or chatting baristas.? (And if you can’t, mute yourself – but be ready to unmute pronto, Dinnocenzo says.)
“It’s very easy to distract individuals a remote meeting with background noise wherever you are, so close your own home office door, or step out of the cafe if you can,” Reynolds says. “Your co-workers will thanks for it.”