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How to Prepare for What Can Go Wrong During a Teleconference
by Gilda Bonanno

In addition to preparing the content for your teleconference, you also have to consider teleconference logistics and be prepared for any glitches. You want to think about what could go wrong and how you will handle it.  Being prepared will allow you to handle the teleconference calmly and confidently without allowing any problems to distract you from focusing on your presentation and the audience.

Know the environment

Which teleconference service are you using? What are the phone numbers and access codes? Are you going to be at your desk or in a different room? Will there be anyone else in the room with you? Do you know how to use the phone/headset? Are you going to have a laptop in front of you with slides?

Deal with noise in the room or on the line

Before the teleconference, check the room you will be using for noise, like a loud air conditioning vent or sounds from outside or the office next door.  What will you do if there is a lot of noise or static on the phone line? In that case, I recommend asking everyone to mute themselves (or you can mute them all) and if that doesn’t solve the problem, the worst-case scenario is that you ask everyone to hang up and dial back in.

Assume the mute button is broken

Assume that the mute button on your phone is broken and that everyone on the call can hear everything you say.  Don’t say anything to yourself or to somebody else in the room that you wouldn’t want the participants to hear.  It’s fine if they hear you cough, but you don’t want them hearing you complain, “Mary was supposed to give this presentation, and she didn’t show and now I’m stuck with it.”


Assume there are more people on the call

Never assume that there are just two people on the call.  Once I called into a teleconference and heard the presenter having a conversation with another person on the line, assuming it was just the two of them.  She didn’t hear the beep when I joined or she had disabled that function, so she chatted with the other person about the weather and weekend plans, without realizing I could hear them.  I finally coughed loudly and announced myself.

Prepare for technology problems

It happens.  Your laptop unexpectedly shuts down (due to automatic updates, low battery or an unplugged power supply) so you can’t see your slides.  The phone line goes dead.  Be ready with an extra power cord, a printout of your slides or notes and a physical (not just electronic) reminder of key information like the teleconference call-in number and access codes.

Have an alternate way to reach people

If the conference line you’re using disconnects for some reason, you need another way to reach people, such as via email, text or chat, to let them how you’re handling the technical problem. It also helps to have somebody you can call for technical assistance.

Keep what you need close at hand

Make a list of what you might need during the call and then keep those items nearby.  For example, you might need water, tea, cough drops and tissues. You don’t want to be running into the conference room at the last minute and then saying, “Oh wait, let me go get water.”  If you need to have notes or other documents, keep them easily accessible on the table in front of you, not buried in a folder or your briefcase.

Give yourself breathing room before the call

It will be more difficult to conduct an effective teleconference or deliver a good phone presentation if you are rushing and flustered in the last few minutes before the call. Give yourself a minimum of 15 minutes (ideally 30) before the call so you can calmly get set up, test the computer connection, make sure the phone is working, get focused, review your notes and pull everything all together.

If you think about the logistics of your teleconference and prepare for what could go wrong, it will be easier for you to be fully present to your audience.  And if something does go wrong, you’ll be better able to handle it calmly, with grace and humor, rather than letting it completely derail the teleconference and your presentation.

Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.

Copyright (c) 2014

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