One of the constants for facilitators is to set ground rules at the beginning of every meeting. It’s like having an agenda. Stating the ground rules up front helps the meeting go smoothly. It gives the facilitator a reason to drag the meeting back from the brink. It helps justify imposing order when emotions begin to get out of hand. And often it helps to prevent emotions being stirred up in the first place. Every meeting should start with a set of ground rules.
And that includes conference call meetings.
It doesn’t matter what the purpose of the conference call is… teleseminar, telecourse or remote meeting… it’s important that the call begin with setting the ground rules.
Here are three ground rules for conference call meetings that every facilitator should consider.
1. Respect for other people.
This is probably the first and most important rule no matter what type of media you are using for your meeting. It doesn’t matter if you are running a Teleseminar or live workshop, this rule is core to all the rest. It’s the basis of the golden rule. Respecting other people involves a number of good behaviors. It means listening to the other person before commenting. It means honoring their feelings as something personal. It means accepting that other participants will have opinions and that they have just as much right to express those opinions as you do. And it means accepting that the facilitator has a job to do and that job may mean cutting off further discussion.
2. Silence is golden.
This is one of those ground rules that are specific to conference calls and teleseminars. Keeping background noise to a minimum is part of respecting other people. After all, you wouldn’t want someone to be carrying out a (not exactly) private conversation while you are trying to make a point. Neither does anyone else. Participants need to be aware of the effect of background noises on the meeting. They need to actively work to prevent background noises being inflicted on the rest of the meeting. This may mean muting your line when you aren’t talking. Or it may mean closing the door. Or it may mean not responding to the person who just walked into your office and started a conversation.
It may even mean that the facilitator needs to mute everyone when one or two people forget their responsibilities to the ground rules.
3. Ask if you don’t understand.
One of the realities of conference calls and teleseminars is that non-verbal feedback is non-existent. If a participant doesn’t understand something they need to actively ask for further clarification. If they have a question undoubtedly others also share that question. And unfortunately, the facilitator can’t read the blank looks on the faces of the participants. So questions are mandatory.« Back to Glossary Index