International Conference Calling Best Practices
Whether you will be hosting international conferencing calls or have been invited to one, an international conference call’s success depends in large part on how it’s been planned and organized as well as on the etiquette of its attendees. If you are a host, avoid holding a poorly planned teleconference by following these best practices for international conferencing hosts. If you are a participant, use the best practices tips for international conferencing attendees to ensure that you can contribute to the call’s success.
Best Practices for International Conferencing Hosts
Choose a high quality international conferencing service provider. Not all international conferencing services use high quality telecommunications networks. Poor connections, noise on the line, echoes, and other sound quality issues will adversely affect your global conference call. If the sound quality is bad enough, attendees will struggle to hear, or worse, abandon the meeting.
Schedule the international conferencing with convenience in mind. This isn’t always possible, but it should be attempted when possible. Use a world time zone map or world meeting planning tool to determine which block of time falls within business hours for most attendees.
Determine who needs to attend the call in real time. Not all international conferencing participants need to actively participate in real time. Consider who will be asked to speak and whether there will be an opportunity for questions and answers or other interactive exchanges. For example, you may decide that you want your regional sales managers present so that they can provide input and get their questions answered; however, their sales teams may not need to participate in the live call and could benefit by listening to a recording at their leisure. By limiting the call this way, you could reduce the number of participants on the call while offering them a more convenient means of obtaining the information that was discussed. This also reduces the overall cost of the call.
Treat international conferencing as you would treat a meeting. It’s helpful to create an agenda for the call and to actively monitor the call as it progresses. If you’ve allotted ten minutes to discuss a new regulation, for example, and fifteen minutes have passed, your call will likely run longer than expected unless you take action to keep the meeting on track. As the host of the call, it is your duty to keep the meeting on track.
Get familiar with the international conferencing tools available to you. For example, do you know how to mute a noisy phone line if the participant is unaware of the excess noise being blasted to the group? Do you know how to quickly and discreetly get operator assistance while running an international conference call? Do you know how to record your conference call? You may even want to practice using your international conferencing plan with a friend or colleague before you go live for the first time.
Best Practices for International Conferencing Attendees
As a conference call attendee, your duties are less involved than that of the host. However, you do play a role in the success of the call. Below are a few best practices for participants.
Prepare for the conference call. If the host has distributed an agenda or outline for the call, take a look at it a few days in advance. Think about the topic and how it applies to you. What do you expect to learn from the call? What ideas do you have that you might be able to contribute? What questions do you want to ask if the host doesn’t address them? If you’ve been asked to speak during the call, gather any supporting documents you may need (such as sales reports, study results, customer satisfaction ratings, etc.) and prepare your statements. Ask for clarification if you are unsure about what’s expected. For example, if you’ve been asked to discuss customer satisfaction ratings but weren’t told how much time you’ve been allotted to speak, ask the host how much time you have.
Be on time. International conferencing is notoriously difficult to coordinate, and you may be asked to call in at an unusual time of day. Even if you’re expected to call in at midnight, you should be prompt and ready to contribute.
Use a landline if possible. In some countries, the per minute cost of a call is dramatically higher for calls made using mobile phones. While the host may provide you with a toll free number, if you have access to a landline, using it instead of a mobile phone is a courteous gesture that can reduce the cost of the call for the host.
Find out how to mute and unmute your phone line. With potentially dozens of participants on an international conference call at once, background noise is a major problem. Each participant is expected to know how to mute their phone line when not speaking and then unmute it when it’s their turn to speak. It’s usually a simple matter of pressing *6 on your phone’s keypad.
Be respectful of the group. Most international conference calls are scheduled with an agenda that leaves room for questions at the end of the call. Write your questions down and wait until the end to ask them. While it would be nice to be able to go through your list of questions one after another, make sure to give other people the chance to ask their questions as well. Because time is limited and you may not be able to ask all of your questions, determine which questions are the most urgent and ask those questions first.
International conferencing is a group effort. Whether you’re the host or an attendee, do your part to make the call a success.