Teleconferencing has been around for a long time, but with travel costs growing and telecommunications costs shrinking, it's becoming even more common.
The problem with teleconferencing is that if it involves more than two or three people, it's easy to get confused about who's speaking at any one point.
This is especially true if you're the outsider calling in while everyone else knows one another and is in the same room. Unless the speakers identify themselves each time they speak, you end up hearing multiple voices without knowing who said what.
This is even the case if you're being videoconferenced into the meeting. Unless everyone is on a separate camera, it can still be unclear who's saying what.
As a result, it can be extraordinarily difficult to "read the politics" of the meeting and figure out what specific issues need to be worked separately with individual attendees.
Fortunately, there's an easy fix for this. Before attending a conference call, bring up the LinkedIn profile of each attendee in a separate window and arrange the windows on your screen so that all of them are visible, like so:
Immediately before the meeting, review each attendee's profile. When the meeting starts, as each person introduces himself or herself, look at the photo and "anchor" that voice to that face. This is easy because your brain does this automatically anyway.
You'll find that, as the meeting progresses, you'll know exactly who's speaking, even if the interchange gets a bit chaotic. Just as important, because you have the profile on screen, you'll be better able to assess where each person is "coming from."
At the end of the meeting, you'll find that your notes make more sense, and you have a much better idea of who made specific commitments and where you need to follow up to move your agenda forward.
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