The (Often Dreaded) Conference Call: Survival Tips and Tricks

Conference calls are often an inevitable part of any major company’s management system, and they are, more often than not, a dreaded exercise for those involved. We live in an age where we expect instant gratification and in which we’ve developed short attention spans; we anticipate our questions being answered immediately, we expect those to whom we’re talking to listen effectively and react accordingly, and we hope (and often expect) that our problems will be solved promptly. This is due, in large part, to the age of technology. Technology, such as email, text messages and Internet on-the-go, has led to this sense of entitlement, this desire for instantaneity. During a conference call, the likelihood of instant gratification is slim, and your full attention is required to get the most out of the call. It is imperative that you take this into account and adjust your behaviour accordingly in order to protect your EP (executive presence).

conference call        The reason why instant gratification is unlikely during a conference call is simply due to the amount of people on the phone at the same time; there are many opinions on the line, many voices to be heard, and many questions to be asked and answered. Our egos can often get in the way and we may abandon what we know to be good, professional behaviour in order to get our thoughts heard. We may also think that our EP is protected because our colleagues can’t see our face, but that is not the case.

Of course, every conference call has a different purpose, however there are some simple tips and tricks that can help you make it through your conference call, all while protecting, and perhaps even enhancing, your EP.

Conference call tips and tricks:

  1. Keep excellent track of conference call dates and times, as missing a call due to disorganization definitely doesn’t enhance your EP. It is also often a good idea to call in a few minutes early to ensure you will be on time.
  2. Eliminate background noise! There is enough going on over the phone already without the need for those on the call to hear your Starbucks barista grinding coffee beans for ten minutes.
  3. Remember, you can’t read body language over the phone. That’s why it’s so important that you ask for clarification if you’re not sure what a colleague meant. We can often tell, by a person’s body language, if what they are saying is positive, negative, or neutral (or something else for that matter), but this gift is not available to us over the phone.
  4. It is important to always state your name before speaking. Because all attendees are not in the same room together, it is important for the effectiveness of the call that all members know who is speaking.
  5. Wait your turn to speak. Interrupting someone mid-sentence can be perceived as a huge EP blunder.
  6. If, however, you feel it necessary to interject because you have something integral to add, it is important, to protect your EP as well as your colleagues confidence and ego, to bring the conversation back to what they were saying before you broke into the conversation.

It can often be harder to protect and enhance your EP over the phone, mostly due to the lack of visual cues that are so integral to thorough and complete communication. That is why it is imperative that you take the necessary steps to adopting proper conference call etiquette – these manners and communication skills will serve you well over the course of your career, and can often translate into the physical workspace.

 

Internal Communication and Respect: Just as Important As External Relations

article-new-thumbnail_ehow_images_a01_ur_gr_win-employees-respect-800x800Have you ever been to a shop or a restaurant and spoken with a friendly, helpful manager – only to watch that manager turn around and speak rudely to his or her employees? At that moment, did the store or restaurant suddenly lose its credibility? Think about this situation and apply it to your own company: does your organization respect its employees as much as its external clients and partners?

Even for companies that prioritize customer service and external relations, it is essential to foster positive internal communication and respect for employees. Without a strong internal foundation, external relations can’t follow suit – and external contacts will notice fissures in an organization that has weak internal relations. Also, an organization likely will have less focus and lower quality outputs if internal staff does not communicate well or feel appreciated.

Here are a few strategies to consider for improving your company’s internal communication:

  • Invite different forms of communication.
    While certain employees might feel that a face-to-face discussion is the most effective way to communicate, others may be more comfortable with email correspondence. As management, suggest different forms of communication through which employees can reach you or their supervisors directly. In addition, resources such as staff-wide forums (online or in-person) or informal monthly gatherings keep multiple communication channels open – and set the tone for a culture of communication.
  • Provide clear solutions for problem solving.
    It is important for employees to know where to go or whom to speak with when issues arise in the office. Otherwise, small problems occasionally can grow into job-threatening issues. The most obvious solution is having a strong and approachable Human Resources department. Ensure that HR employees are at the top of their game through professional development training and conference opportunities
  • Promote interdepartmental communication.
    In most companies, various departments rely on one another to complete their own work, whether directly or indirectly. However, many departments end up working in silos with little to no understanding of the objectives of other teams in the same company – even those working right down the hallway. Through team-building solutions and company-wide events, promote interdepartmental communication.

    It is important for staff to understand how their work fits within the work of the whole company as well as how it contributes to the efforts of others. With a better collective understanding of the overarching institutional objectives and strategies, employees will be able to pinpoint how their work contributes to the company as a whole – thereby finding more meaning in their own work.

  • As management, find ways to respond to employees directly.
    Simply because of the overwhelming number of responsibilities for executive-level staff, it is often necessary for an assistant to respond to emails and manage the bulk of the communications. Occasionally, however, it is important for employees to be able to reach company leaders directly. Employees should know that upper management is aware of the work and that it matters to the success of the company. Even a brief encouraging email to a department or an acknowledgment on a first-name basis can make a difference.

 

 

International Business Etiquette – Top 6 Tips for Business Travelers

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Travelling abroad for a business trip? You might feel overwhelmed when it comes to practicing international business etiquetteor settling in and adjusting to local customs. But, don’t fret – just yet.

Travelling globally for business can actually be a rewarding experience if you’re open to learning about the traditions and practices of the country you’re visiting. In fact, showing enthusiasm and interest in your host country’s culture can actually be very good for business.

Here are top six tips offered by Fox Business, to help you adjust to a new country and come away with the business deal you want:

Observe
The best way to adjust to a new culture during business is simply through observation. Patrick Gray, president of the Prevoyance Group, has lived and worked across numerous continents.He suggested, “Watch how others dress, greet each other and interact with other locals.”

Local customs are often formed over many generations so you will certainly make mistakes. As long as you’re a conscious observer, people will know you’re trying and forgive the occasional (and inevitable) missteps.

Practice business etiquette
When you travel for pleasure, you don’t just represent yourself. You become an ambassador for your country and your company. Therefore, proper etiquette should be at the forefront of your mind. This means wearing the proper attire, being punctual and not being distracted by your smartphone when in the presence of an important business associate.

Learn about the country
Since the United States’ culture and politics reach many corners of the globe, chances are that the people you encounter on your business trip will know the name of our president, have an opinion on government and may even have a favorite American television show. You cannot be an expert on every country (nor should you pretend to be), but you should research the country to develop a basic understanding. This simple gesture will communicate that you are an open-minded individual who thinks globally.

Research differences in manners
You shouldn’t just learn about the country in general. You should also research how you should operate in the culture specifically. You are, after all, a visitor and should extend respect, as your host country conceives of it. Just a little research can go a long way in learning what your host country thinks is and is not appropriate.

Think beyond your way 
Doing business in a different country can be frustrating because you may perceive flaws in the way they execute their business affairs, just as they may perceive flaws in the way you execute your business affairs. Sometimes there are preferred methods for a particular task, but the optimal approach to a specific business maneuver won’t exclusively exist in one country or the other. This is where both cultures can learn from the other. However, since you are a guest in their country, adopt their business manners, at least at first. Enter the culture from a position of humility.

Deal with culture shock
For extended business trips, you may experience culture shock, which often manifests itself in different phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and acclimation.

During the honeymoon phase, you might see the new culture in a romantic light. The negotiation phase (which can begin after about three months) is when you start to sense the differences between your home culture with your new location in a way that creates anxiety or loneliness. During the adjustment phase (which can last as long as a year, if not longer) you slowly start to feel as if your new culture is normal and any negative feelings may decline. If you reach the acclimation phase, you will feel comfortable and sense that you can be a full participant in the new culture.

While going through the sadder, more difficult phases of culture shock, remember not to take out your frustration on any business clients. On the other hand, when you feel enthusiastic for their culture, feel free to share this with them.

Corporate Class Inc.’s International Business Etiquette module presents essential techniques and strategies for doing business with international clients. The program consists of  four linked modules:

1. Understanding cultural differences Be able to recognize the main stumbling blocks facing North Americans abroad. Assess your ability to adapt to another culture and be aware of the dangers of stereotyping.

2. Become familiar with the different categories of culture Become acquainted with how people from different parts of the world value hierarchy, status, performance, legal agreements, scheduling, deadlines, business relationships and personal ownership.

3. Learn different communication styles Assess your own communication skills in personal meetings. Learn the main communication differences: context, styles, intonation, space, gestures and humour. We will offer guidance showing you how you can enrich your communication with international counterparts.

4. Excel in international business interactions Learn the business etiquette of your target country. These include forms of address, introductions, body language, handshaking customs, business card exchanges, appropriate conversation, gift giving and dining.

If you want to land your next business deal abroad, learning  proper international business etiquette is essential. Contact Diane and get started today!