Holding an international conference call with a diverse group of people from around the globe can be a communications challenge. After all, you’ve got multiple time zones and multiple people who may or may not speak the same language.
Once you’ve overcome the logistics of scheduling the international conference call, one of the biggest challenges involves communicating your message in a clear, concise, and engaging manner. Use the tips below to improve your communications during a global teleconference.
1. Always go for exceptional sound quality. When it comes to using a international conference calling service, you have a myriad of options including free conference calling, VoIP conference calling, and traditional teleconferencing services. While price is certainly a consideration, sound quality is of utmost important. All participants, regardless of their location, should be able to hear one another without having to suffer through sound delays, static, echoes, and dropouts. The better the sound quality, the better able your participants will be to hear and understand your message.
2. Always identify yourself before speaking, and encourage all participants to do the same. By stating your name, company, and title before you speak, you give participants an important frame of reference. If you’re the moderator of the international conference call, you can help your participants by referring to other speakers by name.
3. Conduct your international conference call from a quiet location. Remember, you can call from virtually anywhere. So, if your office is particularly loud due to a construction project taking place next door, consider calling in from a quieter setting such as your home office or a soundproof conference room.
4. Use your international conference calling plan’s moderation features. Most international conference calling plans have features for muting and unmuting individual phone lines as well as for turning off chimes used to announce new participants.
5. Never put your phone on hold during a conference call. This applies to moderators and participants alike. Doing so often triggers your company’s music on hold system which then takes over the call. Not only is the music distracting, it will prevent others from conversing. If you must step away, use the mute feature to mute your phone line.
6. Turn off potentially noisy interruptions. This includes your cell phone’s ringer, your computer’s email notification chime, pager, and interoffice intercom. In general, anything that beeps, rings, chirps, or makes unexpected noises should be turned off during the international conference call.
7. Start the international conference call with a brief summary of what the call will be about. This can be as simple as saying something along the lines of, “We’ll spend the first 20 minutes discussing A, B, and C and then we’ll open up the call for 15 minutes of questions and answers.” This lets everyone know what’s coming up and what to expect.
8. Speak slowly and clearly, using plain language. With international participants, the language used to communicate during the call may not be their first language. This is not the time to rush through your comments or use slang words that are likely to cause confusion.
9. Paraphrase the comments of others. For example, during a question and answer session, after someone asks a question, paraphrase the question before giving the answer. This helps to ensure that everyone hears and understand the question, even if the person who asked it had a heavy accent or soft voice. Paraphrasing also helps to clarify that you’ve interrupted the question correctly before moving on to the answer.
10. Proactively manage the conversation. It’s not unusual for discussions to wander off track. If a discussion becomes irrelevant to the purpose of the international conference call, table the matter for another time and direct the conversation back to the scheduled topic. Not only does your active moderation keep the conversation focused, it can prevent an international conference call from going over its allotted time limit.
11. Engage all participants. Some participants will naturally be more vocal than others. Some will prefer to sit back and listen. However, their voices should be heard, too. Use your moderator’s dashboard to keep an eye on who’s on the call, who’s speaking, and who has not had a chance to contribute. From there, actively engage those who have been quiet. For example, you could say, “Barbara Jones, we haven’t heard from you yet. What do you think?” This isn’t to put her on the spot, but rather to give everyone the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. This can also prevent naturally talkative participants from becoming overly involved in the call.
12. Do a quick recap. At the end of the call, do a quick recap, summarizing what was discussed along with the next steps.
13. Consider sending an MP3 recording of the international conference call to all participants after the fact so that they can review the call as needed. You could also have the recording transcribed and then send a PDF transcript to participants.
Focusing on sound quality, speaker identification, clear speaking, active listening and paraphrasing, conversation management, and engagement can lead to more communicative international conference calls.