All the Fun of a Phone Conference

I am the remote worker champion at UKOLN. This is quite a grandiose title for something pretty down-to-earth. Basically I represent the remote workers whenever they could do with representation: at meetings, when dealing with management, when dealing with systems support.

At the moment I’m looking into technological improvements that could be made to help remote workers feel more included.

We have ‘breakfast meetings’ once a month where everyone who is about meets up and reports to the rest of the staff on their current work activities. Currently remote workers get to sit on the end of a polycom soundstation premier conference phone and listen in. There is a lack of visual cues and quite often the meeting drags on for ages.

I found this photo of a Conference Phone cake. The strangest thing is that the caption says "Juha made us a conference-phone-cake again!" like it happens every year!

I found this photo of a Conference Phone cake on Flickr. The strangest thing is that the caption says Juha made us a conference-phone-cake again! like it happens every year!

Although there are definitely technical things that could improve the experience chatting with my fellow remote workers has helped me come up with a quick list of activities that could improve the meetings no end.

  1. It’s essential that remote workers are sent copies of the minutes and any slides in advance of the meeting.
  2. A remote worker representative needs to be nominated at the start of the meeting, they will represent remote workers and ensure that they are being supported.
  3. Everyone should make sure that they introduce themselves at the start of the meeting, and remember to pass the mike around.
  4. After this all remote workers need to confirm that speakers are audible.
  5. People need to wait till they have the microphone before they speak. It might also be helpful to introduce themselves again if people don’t know each other that well.
  6. Remote workers should be given ample opportunity to interject e.g. “Does anyone at home have anything to add?”
  7. The meeting could be supported by other communication mechanisms such as chat or a share a common whiteboard, this gives remote workers a chance to make comments when appropriate e.g. “Could you make sure that the mike gets passed on”.
  8. Keep meetings to under 1 hour 30 minutes (preferably less) as maintaining attention without any visual stimulus can be difficult

Does anyone else have any suggestions?

I think the main thing is just getting people to appreciate how tough it is to listen in and to just spare a thought…


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  1. Pingback: The Lowering Costs of Teleconferencing « ArchivePress + APrints

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