Woman on a conference call working from home using mobile phone

Conquering the Conference Call

As I write this post, the whole world is in the throes of the global pandemic that is COVID-19. For many people, the efforts to reduce social contact mean that they are working from home for the first time.

A crucial part of working from home is staying in touch with the rest of your team, and this is where the dreaded conference call rears its head!

When I run public speaking workshops a lot of women say they dread their turn to speak at a meeting, but if you’re working at home and relying on conference calls to stay in touch with your colleagues, you might have the opposite problem—you want to speak but you’re finding it hard to interrupt!

Communicating with your colleagues via conference call or video chats requires a different approach and skillset to a normal meeting, to ensure that your points are communicated clearly and effectively. 

  • Appoint a chair or leader for the conversation, who will ensure that everyone gets a turn to speak and the conversation is moved along. 
  • On a conference call, where you cannot see each other, everyone should identify themselves before speaking. 
  • If you are asking a question, clearly state who it is directed towards at the start of the question so they can focus on it—people have a tendency to multitask when on conference calls, and there’s a strong chance they could be feeding their cat rather than listening to the question! 
  • On a conference call people can tend to waffle on as they cannot see the usual non-verbal cues that others are giving to show they want to speak. It’s counter-intuitive to our manners, but sometimes there is no other option than to interrupt—a skill used daily by every good radio presenter, especially in current affairs programming. Decide to do it, commit to doing it in full voice, be pleasant but firm. 
  • Use ‘cut in’ phrases such as “If I may just add…” or “Excuse me for interrupting…” to turn the attention of the group to you before you state your point, so that the start of what you want to say isn’t lost in crosstalk. 
  • If possible, stand up for the call, with your feet hip distance apart, your shoulders back and your spine erect. A good ‘power pose’ posture not only makes you feel and sound more confident but allows your breath to fill your lungs more deeply and your voice to project better. 
  • Hold your phone your ear rather than putting it on speaker, so the sound quality your colleagues will hear is better quality. Don’t cradle it between your head and shoulder as this will restrict your voice. 
  • You will always be more confident in your speaking if you know your subject matter inside out. If you have some important points you really want to get across, prepare them and practice them. Have some key facts and figures written large on a sheet of paper close to hand. Try memorise them if you have time beforehand. If you have time and feel it is important enough, practise saying them out loud. 
  • And finally, smile! It comes across in your voice if you smile. It also tricks your brain and body into feeling happier—even if the meeting is stressful you will come across better, and calmer, if you smile as you speak. When people can’t see you, the only impression they have of you is your voice, so make sure yours comes across as strong, clear, pleasant and warm.