Well, Friday afternoon we made it through our first conference call training meeting for the collegiate facilitators. With our registration numbers becoming more final and the core group that will end up in DC slowly sorting itself out, it was time for us to get on the phone, get to know each other a little bit and then for me and my 2 colleagues to lay out expectations, programming plans and schedules for the next month and a half.
This leads me to some simple comments about conference call etiquette, based on observations that I made during the call and which can beneficial to anyone just learning how to function in this now old-school form of distance meeting.
1) When the system you're using for a meeting doesn't work or you have connection issues, be prepared to find an alternative way to run or join the meeting. We had some pretty severe communication issues at the beginning with voice connections not working and luckily everyone was well enough prepared that the meeting ran without much of a hitch. That includes props to some of the facilitators who were dealing with the inclement weather, bad connections and power outages.
2) Many call in systems result in feedback between the audio output and your mic input. Without IT knowledge to fix this being common this is just one of the reasons why people need to mute their mic input when not talking, and prevent double audio output with computer and phone systems to limit this.
3) Another reason to mute your mic is because it picks up and magnifies even the largest background sounds. It's bad when we have to ask the person eating chips to mute their mic and we've never even met these people before.
4) Muting your mic isn't an excuse for not paying attention to the meeting. Many people think they can just get away with being on a call and multi-tasking or even Facebooking. But people always know, and it's easy to tell later who the people were that paid attention during the call.
5) Interrupting is probably my biggest reason for hating conference calls. It seems that even if you don't mean to, you're always butting in on someone else and that by the time they're done talking they've already said what you wanted to say anyhow or changed the topic enough that your discussion is now irrelevant. This system aimed to prevent this by putting a click control over who could talk and when but since nobody was properly educated on this prior to the call, we were never able to use the technology properly.
Regardless, conference calls can be really good for getting people together, especially for trainings and I think ours was a definite success. As the time rolls on I'm getting more excited for the conference in DC.