That Moment When…. Your Conference Call Goes Wrong
The White House “Listening Only” Snafu and Conference Call Best Practices
Unfortunately a lot of us have been there. You’re about to make a much-anticipated presentation and all of a sudden you hear it – the dreaded dog bark in the background. Or perhaps one of the attendees has their webcam turned on but isn’t aware. It may come in the form of hold music or background noise. Whatever the case may be, there are several variables on conference calls that can make for an uncomfortable situation.
Even the White House experienced one such glitch on a January 2018 conference call, as reported by Slate. The call “descended into chaos,” when, for 22 minutes, administrators scrambled to enable the “listening only” feature and mute “noisy” attendees. Frustrations ensued, and at the end of the call, officials didn’t have any time left to take audience questions, as the technical difficulties had resulted in a significant delay.
What’s the takeaway from this highly public conference call chaos? None of us are immune to technology failures. And while unified communications technology, in particular, is designed to lend efficiency to our daily operations, these tools must be utilized effectively in order to have an impact. Had the listening only mode been enabled, the interruptions could have been avoided and the call likely would have had a more streamlined start. Tech can also be used to your advantage as a contingency for both human and technological error.
3 Best Practices to Avoid Conference Call Challenges
There are a few best practices that you can employ to avoid the all-too-common conference call snafu.
For informal calls, you can ask that attendees mute themselves and then un-mute as needed to participate or ask questions. When setting up a formal call it’s best to employ the “listening only” mode that was needed on the White House briefing, or set up the call as a webinar. Attendees can submit questions via chat, that can then be conveyed by one of the speakers or a moderator.
A lot of time is wasted identifying who is on the call, who is speaking, etc. By associating each call in ID with an attendee name – which can be done by asking each attendee to enter their ID when calling in via phone – you can eliminate the guesswork.
Have a Contingency Plan
Despite the best efforts, there still may be glitches. It’s advisable to send an agenda and the presentation out beforehand in case some attendees aren’t able to connect to the meeting. Keep in mind that some attendees may be away from their computer so to best cater to those callers, verbally call out what’s on the screen periodically so they can also follow along with the content.