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Hands off the mute button during conference calls

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By Dionysia Williams, Senior Facilitator

 Let’s set the scene.

You are on a conference call, everyone says a quick hello, the person in charge begins, and …

Everyone turns on that mute button.

The leader of the call asks a question.

Silence.

15 seconds goes by as everyone wakes up, then another 10 seconds for someone to unmute themselves and answer. The leader gets one answer, maybe two and then decides to move on…the lack of engagement must mean the audience gets it, is too busy multi-tasking to reply, or just bored.

Wow! This is a lovely collaborative conference call, isn’t it?!

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Conference calls – why is it that they never feel as productive or beneficial as we want them to be?

How can we make this better?

Let’s be rule breakers and try something new.

Leave that mute button alone.

In improvisation we thrive on collaboration and being a part of the conversation. That is what makes our scenes and shows great. We say 'Yes And' to an idea and help build onto it.

We never let one person stand there, doing all the work, just talking into the abyss. We show our support and interest by staying on our toes, being present in the moment, and never hitting our mute button.

Think back to our conference call.

The person who is leading the call is doing all the work. Sure, they are the leader, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need your support, your engagement, or your ideas. I

f you’ve ever been the leader you know that feeling of doubt and uncertainty the silence can bring. Are they even listening? Are they writing emails? Are they feeding their dog?

You never really know, but you may have some idea when nothing from the call gets accomplished or important parts of the project you discussed are missing.

Now I know what you are thinking, “The mute button is much more polite! I don’t have to hear outside noise!”. Blocking ambient noise is a plus, so here is the compromise.

Set the rules for how you want this to play out. Ask where everyone is and note who may need to put their mute button on so everyone else can hear clearly. Set the stage and ask for everyone to stay present, prepare part of the conversation, and be in the moment.

Think like an improviser and stay on your toes.

Now you are ready to have a conference call that produces something amazing and leaves no one hanging out to dry.

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