With all communication media there are factors that influence how effective it is as a means to inform others. With conference calls the aspects that have the most influence over the effectiveness of such calls are the technical issues and human factors.

Technical issues with conference calls

Whilst the technical issues are less common than in the past, you still need to be aware of certain issues of a technical nature that can impact the effectiveness of your conference calls. Some will be under your control, such as replacing poor or old equipment, ensuring that all users are familiar with the equipment. Others are things you will have to work with as best you can, for example, lack of bandwidth.

Other technical issues and possible ways of dealing with them to ensure your calls are an efficient use of yours and others time include the following:
Do not use a 'hold' facility - if you do this whilst on a teleconference you will force the participants left on the call to listen to the music your telephone system plays to those on hold. This is an unnecessary diversion and will quickly lose the attention of the other callers resulting in a poorer contribution from them and ultimately a poor outcome from your call.
Avoid using sub-standard handsets - some types of handset are prone to annoying static as they pick up background noise and sound like you're speaking in a tunnel. Both of these things will quickly result in callers losing concentration and the thread of the call. This problem is not the only one that applies to those who use speakerphones when teleconferencing. These users also lose the flexibility to speak and hear at the same time, which effectively "clips off" parts of the conversation and often causes messages to be misunderstood, creating confusion.
Turn off 'call waiting' - anyone trying to reach you will cause your phone to beep you warning you of a call waiting, a sound that will be heard by everyone on the conference call. It is an unnecessary and irritating interruption that can very disruptive to the flow of conversation.

Overcoming common technical problems with conference calls

Use the mute facility - when you are joining a call from a room with multiple participants. If possible you are best to utilize a polyphone or other technology as this enables everyone to hear and participate. Regardless of how many participants are on your end of the line, put your phone on mute when you are not speaking in the meeting so that everyone can focus on the main conversation and not interrupt unnecessarily.
As the underlying technology improves, many of the technical problems associated with conference calls and web based communications are becoming less common.

You may also be interested in: An Introduction to Conference Calls , Types of Conference Call , Technical Issues Affecting Conference Calls , Human Factor Issues , Maintaining Your Productivity , Adapting Your Communication Style , Advance Planning , Controlling the Call and Conference Call Etiquette .


Key Points

  • Whilst the technical issues are less common than in the past, you still need to be aware of certain issues of a technical nature that can impact the effectiveness of your conference calls.
  • Try to avoid using a 'hold' facility or a 'call waiting' notification as these can be distracting to other participants.
  • Place your phone on mute when you are not speaking so that background noise is minimized.
  • As the underlying technology improves, many of the technical problems associated with conference calls and web based communications are becoming less common.

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