If you’ve read our previous two articles in this series, you already know a lot about the Dos and Don’ts of online voice conferencing via Voice over IP. You’ve got your hardware in place and have familiarised yourself with the features of your voice conferencing software – now all you need are some final useful tips and best practices. If you follow the advice from this article, nothing will keep you from hosting successful online voice conferences the first time, every time.
Keep Your Own Channel Clear
With the right voice conferencing software, you can mute participants in order to avoid background noise. As long as you are talking yourself, however, make sure that your surroundings are quiet. Ringing phones, barking dogs, and chatting colleagues can all be very distracting for your conference partners. If you don’t have access to a private room for your online conference, finding the right settings for microphone sensitivity will work wonders by ensuring your participants hear only your own voice and not the surrounding noises. Test this before your first actual voice conference so that you’re ready when the time comes for your first real call.
Start and End the Conference
No matter how many presenters you have during the online conference, you as the host should be the first and the last person to speak. Once everyone has arrived, welcome the participants and start the meeting. When you’ve reached the end of your conference call, thank everyone for their time and contributions before you close the meeting – don’t just shut the virtual door in their faces. Not only will your participants appreciate the gesture, it also gives you a chance to sum up the contents of the meeting and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Be Clear from the Start
When you start the online meeting, the first order of business should be to explain the rules and process of the conference. Tell your participants that you are going to mute them during the presentation, and when they will be unmuted. Be sure to let people know about the features they can use (emoticons, chat, etc.) and when you will hold a round of questions.
Even if you will answer questions in a special section at the end, you may want people to ask them via the chat feature as you go along. Let them know about your preference before you get started with your presentation. This ensures that your voice conference can run smoothly and without interruptions. Additionally, participants will feel better taken care of and will be able to focus fully on the contents of your presentation when they are aware of the meeting process and how they can raise questions.
We’ve said it before, but that won’t keep us from saying it again: test everything with a colleague or a helpful friend before you host your first voice conference via VoIP. Even if it feels unnecessary, a short test will go a long way. Obviously, the most important things to check are the audio quality and headset configuration. If you have the time, though, try out the features that are available in the software as well. Test the mute-button – for example, Mikogo has a “mute” and a “force-mute” feature – and the chat, have a look at the emoticons, and simulate different test scenarios.
Your first online voice conference will be a guaranteed success if you iron out the kinks in advance and get familiar with the tools at hand.
This concludes our short article series on best practices for online voice conferencing. You’re officially ready to get started! If you’ve missed the first two instalments, here are our tips for Knowing the Hardware and Your Software Settings.
Discussion: Have you hosted an online voice conference yet? If you have any tips, tricks, and experiences to share or questions that you want to ask, feel free to post them in the comments below.