Dear Meeting Guru,

"We hold global meetings using an audio bridge and data conferencing technology. The smaller sites have complained that they can't hear well because participants are chatting, shuffling paper, tapping pens, etc. How can we solve the problem?"

Burnaby, British Columbia

Blessed Meeter,

Here are some rules of conduct that will cut down on the background noise in your audio conferences. E-mail these tips to everyone participating in your conferences with an explanation of the problems. Most people probably don't realize the impact that ambient noise has on remote participants. You can also print these tips on a poster and hang it in the meeting room.

Move the speakerphone as close as possible to the speaker – it will pick up less background noise
Mute the phone if your site is not actively participating in the meeting. Simply turn the mute function off when someone has a question or comment.
Save side conversations for after the meeting, even if they're work related – they drown out the speaker and distract other participants
Don't tap pens or shuffle papers. These noises sound louder at remote locations than in your meeting room.
If it won't make the room too uncomfortable, turn off fans and air conditioning. These also sound louder through a speakerphone.
Shut meeting room doors to keep out background noise from your workplace
Only one person at a time should speak

If you're willing to consider new audio conferencing tools, there are many with features that reduce background noise. A quick Web search will result in plenty of information about models and costs.

As the wise philosopher Confucius once said, "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." In other words, telling people that background noise is an issue in your audio conferences isn't enough. You must help them understand the problem, show them how they can fix it and make sure they implement these guidelines. Before you know it, your conferences will be working for everyone involved – near and far.

Until next time… may good meeting karma always be with you.



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