15 Mar 2017
don't go viral when you teleconference with kids

How To Teleconference Without Going Viral

The viral video of Professor Robert Kelly’s children interrupting his live interview on the BBC was impossible to miss last weekend and for good reason. It caused everyone who’s ever participated in a teleconference to sigh with relief that our own mishaps and near-misses were not watched by 7 million people.

I’ve worked with teams across the region for several years, so I regard myself as somewhat of a teleconferencing veteran. And still, I’ve had those moments, such as my first virtual meeting with the entire Spectrum team. It included the unexpected appearance of one very hungry 8-month-old and one bleary-eyed preschooler.

A quick peek on the internet will reveal that hiding in our cars and bathrooms to take important calls is becoming the new normal. Most likely, things are only going to get worse.  A study by Strategy Analytics predicts that by 2022, 1.87 billion people or 42.5 per cent of the global workforce will consist of mobile employees. It goes without saying that the increase in flexible work arrangements coupled with changing attitudes and better technology will continue to blur the lines between our private and professional lives.

Thankfully, my colleagues on that fateful day reacted with understanding and sympathy, and I am pleased to report that I still have a job. However, if you’re worried about finding yourself in the same boat, here are some etiquette tips worth noting:

Wear Pants

This might sound obvious, but you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve prepped for a call and considered wearing pyjama pants paired with a work top. Avoid the temptation to go full newsreader and only dress the top half, because you never know when you’ll need to get up to whisk a child away from your computer. If the call is audio-only, by all means, wear what you like.

Juice up

Charge your phone or computer batteries. There is nothing worse than missing important information because your batteries have decided to call it a day in the middle of someone else’s presentation. (Or worse, yours!)

Watch the clock

Because your call may span a few time zones, be mindful that some participants are dialling in outside of normal working hours. If you’re the host of a call, wait a maximum of 5 minutes as a courtesy for late arrivals to the teleconference and keep to your allocated time.

Heads Up

I’ve taken calls from unconventional locations like my children’s daycare centre, the subway and even a playground.  As much as we try to be as prepared as possible, there are some things that are simply beyond our control. If you expect to hear a crying baby or barking dog, for example, make sure to warn others of potential distractions. They generally make for a great ice-breaker and lighten the overall mood of the call.

Roll with it

If all else fails, just go with the flow. When my children gatecrashed my own call, I scooped one up onto my lap and let the other say “Hi”. That move alone satiated their curiosity enough to let me finish the rest of the call in peace. It also helped that they were cute and could get away with it.

There you have it. While the list above is by no means exhaustive, I reckon it’s a good starting point to have others swooning in admiration over your teleconferencing game.

Have your own tale of a teleconference that turned into a disaster to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


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