For many jobs, teleconferencing is a major part of work-life. From talking to remote colleagues to communicating with external vendors and customers, countless people spend a great deal of time in virtual meetings.
These kinds of meetings certainly have their benefits, such as their convenience, the ability to connect participants across the world, and the fact that you don’t need to commute to have the conversation. Teleconferences are here to stay; however, it’s understandable if you feel exhausted after sitting through enough of them. Being on camera for long periods is distracting and makes you feel scrutinized. At this point, you may even wish your conference calls were old-fashioned and voice only, but still with the advantages of modern technology.
As common as video is, audio conferencing is making a comeback. Here are a few tips to make audio conferencing work for your business and how to host efficient meetings:
You can have the most well-planned agenda in the world, but it won’t matter if your equipment isn’t suited for your needs. Your cell phone is (usually) perfectly conducive to audio conferencing, but make sure its microphone is working properly and check for any static or feedback when you put it on speaker mode.
By “equipment,” we also mean software. A typical phone call isn’t sufficient for meetings with more than two attendees, but a smartphone is fit for audio conferences because it can download third-party apps. Spot, for instance, is an audio conferencing app that ensures crystal-clear sound and transcribes your meetings’ dialogue. It offers many of the perks of modern meeting platforms without the need for video.
Once you have your equipment in place, audio conferencing etiquette matters. It’s time to plan an agenda and address questions like:
You can plan the agenda before the meeting and distribute it to attendees or collaborate once the call begins with a shared notes feature. Try to stick to your schedule as best you can so the meeting flows well, accomplishes what it needs to, and ends on time, but don’t shy away from making it flexible, either. The more audio conferences you conduct, the more you’ll learn and be able to improve on the next one.
A must for any teleconference is a meeting host. This individual is typically whoever schedules the meeting, but anyone skilled with keeping the conversation on track can facilitate the discussion.
Meeting hosts are essential because they keep each conference from turning into a free-for-all. Calls can become chaotic without someone to steer the conversation. People start speaking over each other, tangents become more frequent, people get left out, and participants lose sight of what they’re supposed to be accomplishing. A host is there to ensure everyone is able to contribute in an orderly fashion.
Note-taking is crucial in any meeting so no one forgets what was discussed and what needs to be done afterward. It’s convenient to have meeting notes to turn to if you need a reminder or to reference a point someone made.
Don’t appoint someone to take notes long-hand, though. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one person who cannot record everything. Instead, use an audio conferencing app that automatically transcribes your conversation, so you have an accurate record of what happened. This method makes specific discussion moments easier to find and saves you a lot of hassle in the future.
One of the most significant caveats of teleconferencing is background noise. It happens — trains go by, dogs bark, children cry, and typical microphone feedback makes obnoxious noises. For audio conferences to work, though, you need as much peace as possible, so ask participants to situate themselves in quiet places or keep themselves on mute when they’re not speaking. It’s also possible to use conferencing software with a noise-canceling feature that mitigates distracting sounds.
Like video meetings, audio conferences at your desk can be boring. You’re already more inclined to pace because you’re not required to stare at a screen scanning for visual cues, so why not just go all in and take a real walk around your neighborhood or a local park? Walking gets your creative juices flowing, so you’ll be more productive, innovative, and able to make the most of your conference calls (plus, any opportunity to enjoy the outdoors is a good one!).
Audio-only calls require a different approach because participants can’t see each other, but that’s one of the best things about them — and with the right strategy, you can make audio conferencing an effective and productive meeting format.