Monday, September 27, 2010

Use a signal to break into speaking on audio- or video-conferences

This New York Times article on staying professional on conference calls and video conferences offers tips on everything from whether to multitask to a favorite topic on this blog: How to break into a conversation if you're distant from the main meeting room.  The bottom line? You need to give the group a signal:
If you want to cut into the discussion during a teleconference, you need to prompt the group first, so say something like “Excuse me” or “Question” and then wait a couple of seconds before continuing...In a videoconference, the speaker will be the biggest image on your screen, but there is usually a smaller window where you can see everyone else, so prompt the group by raising your hand, or by raising your hand and saying, “I have a point I’d like to make."
Those are the do-it-yourself options, but you also should take the time to ask for these extra helps to make it easier to break in and contribute:
  • Email the session leader in advance and ask her to establish that people should say "Question" or raise their hands when they have something to contribute--and ask her to keep tabs on who needs a turn;
  • If you see or hear someone signaling and not getting a turn, point it out. Say "I have something to say, but Janet has had her hand up earlier. Janet?"  It's a reminder to all to share the mic.
  • Request a "catch up and questions" time after each agenda item, to make sure all contributions are heard.
What are your tactics for breaking into a conversation when you're not in the same room as those with whom you're meeting? Share them in the comments, where there's room for everyone to take a turn.

Related posts:  Speaking when the audience isn't visible: Tips for conference calls

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