You need to both be engaged and seem engaged. You need to fight for only. one. second. to jump in and add your two cents without feeling like Godzilla, stomping on other people’s words. You need to somehow catalog every team member’s voice and distinguish one from another. And you will have to wrestle with bad connections, sound delays along with other technological voodoo that seems to curse every call.
“I always marvel we have people space stations and set men in the moon, but we’re still so lousy at teleconferences,” says Debra Dinnocenzo, author of “Working From the Distance: Being The Best When You’re Not With The Rest” and president of VirtualWorks!, an organization that can help employees and organizations work efficiently within the virtual workplace.
Thankfully, there exists a guide to navigate you through the anguish points of calling into meetings being a telecommuter:
1. Give consideration (for real). Being 100 percent present (or even literally) is specially challenging when working remotely. Twitter, emails and instant messages lurk in nearby tabs, and no one could ever determine if you sneaked in a few mid-meeting Facebook scrolls. Just you and your browser’s little secret!
But here’s one thing: While you’re commenting on photos of the cousin’s new dog, your colleagues are commenting on the way to solve some team problem. And what occurs whenever they ask for your input? You’ve likely heard the resulting silence heard ’round the international conference call service using their company callers caught off guard, after they wait a beat too long to unmute and say their piece. “That’s a sure sign you’re doing something different, Dinnocenzo says. Here’s how you can stay focused on the call – and prove it to the 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 this, although not you!) Bonus: “If you’re actually watching the conversation, you’ll be aware of the rhythm and the way to talk normally,” says Brie Reynolds, career advisor and director of online content with the professional job website FlexJobs, which offers telecommuting opportunities. No longer 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 be aware.”
Speak up. Reynolds adds that she’ll sometimes set goals for herself to, as an example, ask two questions during a meeting or praise three people’s comments after they’ve spoken.
2. Be assertive. Uncertain if others on 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] have the responsibility to assert their very own needs.” After all, she says, you can’t stick to the conversation when you don’t know who’s talking and – heck – should you can’t hear. “That’s like being placed in the meeting with mufflers on your ears.”
Asking who’s talking, clarifying a statement or gently interjecting to inquire whomever is speaking to sit nearer to the microphone isn’t selfish – it’s necessary for a productive meeting, Dinnocenzo says. To that end, if you call into regular meetings which can be run more smoothly for anyone calling in, suggest improvements. By way of example, ask that folks say their names before speaking. “Even though you’re not leading the meeting, you could always share strategies to create the meeting more productive,” Dinnocenzo says.
3. Just say it. OK, I’m going to start here after Pam – or was that Angela? – wraps up. No, now someone else says something! Is my point even relevant anymore? Am I going to need to interrupt someone in order to say an issue that mattered back when Pam was talking? Better not.
Stop this inner turmoil, and only speak up. “It’s every man or woman for her or himself,” Dinnocenzo says. “You really have to be assertive, and jump in whenever there’s the tiniest little break.”
And should you speak up, and – ugh, needless to say! – somebody else starts talking a beat as soon as you, follow Reynolds’ advice: “Carry on, finish your thought after which turn it onto them,” she says. “This helps avoid those silences where individuals are being polite and seeking never to talk over each other.”
Or, when someone else starts talking first, hold off until he or she finishes, and then chime in by asking if you can add one more 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 understand how to dial in to the call. Triple-check numbers, passwords and meeting times, and test out your headphones, if you plan to make use of them.
In the event 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 possibly a program that doesn’t work together with one browser like Firefox, and definitely will assist another like Chrome,” she says. “Figure out those little issues before hand so dexlpky29 as soon as the meeting actually arrives, you’re capable of log in without issues.”
5. Manage your environment. Now to conclude with some Telecommuting 101: Call into meetings from quiet areas free from barking dogs, honking cars or chatting baristas.? (And when you can’t, mute yourself – but anticipate to unmute pronto, Dinnocenzo says.)
“It’s very easy to distract folks a remote meeting with background noise wherever you happen to be, so close your own home office door, or step out of the coffee house provided you can,” Reynolds says. “Your co-workers will be grateful for it.”