Conference call in English. Part 1 – Preparation

The coronavirus epidemic introduced totally new rules for the business. Being in lockdown, we still do our best to keep the business going. That’s where modern technology comes in handy. Zoom, Skype, Hangouts or any other service that you or your company uses is a wonderful tool to stay afloat in these challenging times. That doesn’t mean, however, that conference calling in a foreign language is easy. Even if your written and conversational English is excellent you may still struggle over the phone or during video conferencing.

And that’s not always your fault. Some of the problems you may encounter during online meetings are:

Poor sound quality. Low internet connection. Background noise. Large number of participants.

In addition, you might be stressed about presenting yourself professionally on camera.

Here is what you can do to make this experience less stressful for you and your team.

Before you start

  1. Learn the software you are supposed to use. If you are new to some tool or program, you can definitely find a tutorial on YouTube that will explain how to use it and give useful tips.
  2. Make sure you’re not distracted by others. It might be difficult working from home when you have small kids around. Find a quiet place to take a call, use headphones. If that’s possible, ask your partner to keep an eye on kids while you are having an important conference call.
  3. Prepare. Make sure that you’re absolutely confident with whatever it is you’re going to have to talk about, or present during the call. You can write down a list of phrases or plan your speech or questions you wanted to ask.
  4. Key words. Particularly if you’re going to be asked to speak, run through some words and phrases with a colleague who’s a native speaker. You need to make sure your pronunciation and intonation is really clear, particularly for conference calls when the sound quality might not be perfect.
  5. Get a copy of the agenda so that you can follow the structure of the call. This will help you to anticipate some of the language you’re going to hear.

In the online meeting

  1. Don’t hesitate to say that you have a problem with hearing other participants. If there is background noise, ask your colleagues to mute the mics if they are not speaking at the moment.
  2. You can help others by speaking slowly, loudly and clearly. Remember that the Internet connection or call quality may not be the best, which can lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
  3. Use names. When you want to speak up, it’s always good to be noticed by others by naming yourself or raising a hand (if you are in a video call). Try to address everyone else by their first names. This will help others to keep focused and engaged into the meeting.
  4. If you get really stuck or if you have low Internet connection, use the Chat service (if available) to type a message to the group.
  5. Don’t forget about eye contact and facial expressions. You’re on camera!

After the meeting

  1. Give feedback to team members on video/sound quality, share your ideas for making a conference call more efficient for your team.
  2. If possible, ask to have the call recorded or keep the minutes so that you can check that you followed everything that was said.

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