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怎样把电话会议开好

更新时间:2014-3-14 13:44:05 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

Surviving a Conference Call
怎样把电话会议开好

The conference call is one of the most familiar rituals of office life -- and one of the most hated.

Abuses are rife. People on the line interrupt others, zone out or multitask, forgetting to hit 'mute' while talking to kids or slurping drinks.

Sales executive Erica Pearce has seen teleconferences interrupted by home FedEx deliveries, crying children and the sound of a co-worker vacuuming his house. 'Nobody could hear,' she says of the cleaning. As leader of the meeting, she said into the phone, 'If you're vacuuming, I appreciate that, and you're welcome to come to my house afterward. But you need to be on mute.'

Another conference call ended when a participant put his line on hold, starting a stream of elevator music, says Ms. Pearce of Scottsdale, Ariz., a global account executive for a software company. Conference-call complaints are so widespread that a recent comedy video showing how ridiculous conference-call behavior such as secretly playing solitaire would look 'in real life' has drawn more than 6 million views.

But conference calls aren't going anywhere; they are too useful for businesses dealing with far-flung workplaces, flexible schedules and a clampdown on business-travel expenses. Time spent in audio conferences in the U.S. is expected to grow 9.6% a year through 2017, according to Wainhouse Research, a Boston market-research firm; about 65% of all conferencing is still done by audio calls.

There are ways to fix the problems. For instance, meeting leaders must set firmer ground rules than they do for face-to-face meetings and tighter, more explicit agendas. Leaders also have to work harder to get participants talking, both by asking more questions and by listening more.

Many conference calls are split between people in a conference room and others on a muddy-sounding call-in line. This often makes remote participants 'feel like second-class citizens, like, 'The cool kids are here,' ' says Laura Stack, author of 'Execution Is the Strategy.'

She advises leaders to have all participants say their names when they speak so remote callers know what's going on. If someone cracks a joke and the room bursts into laughter, the leader should 'let the others know who said what and repeat the joke,' says Ms. Stack, a Denver productivity consultant and trainer.

One of the biggest problems with virtual meetings is that it is hard for participants to build rapport with each other, a hurdle cited by 75% of 3,301 businesspeople surveyed in 2012 by RW3, a New York culture and leadership training company. The absence of nonverbal cues such as facial expressions makes many people hesitant to speak up and makes it harder to pay attention. In the survey, 71% of participants cited a lack of participation by others as a problem with virtual meetings.

To build relationships, Ms. Pearce takes time during the teleconferences she leads to have participants who don't know each other introduce themselves, explain their roles in the project at hand and tell what they want out of the meeting, she says.

For teleconferences, agendas and goals should be clearer and more explicit than for face-to-face meetings. 'You need to script them more tightly' to keep people's attention from wandering, says Daniel Mittleman, an associate professor in computing and digital media at DePaul University, Chicago. Teleconferences requiring interaction should be no larger than seven to nine people, experts say.

Meeting leaders should talk less than in face-to-face meetings and listen more, says Paul Donehue, president of Paul Charles & Associates, a Londonderry, N.H., sales-management consulting firm. For a problem-solving teleconference, for example, a leader might talk 40% of the time and listen 60%, compared with a 55%-to-45% ratio when meeting face-to-face for the same purpose, Mr. Donehue says.

Leaders should spend as much time on preparing questions to ask participants as on writing the agenda, Mr. Donehue says. He advises leaders to use a form with spaces to note comments by individual participants during the meeting. This helps leaders listen closely and hold participants' attention by citing their earlier input.

Managing conflicts is harder in teleconferences. Not everyone can sense when a silent participant is frustrated or angry. 'There's sometimes a little passive-aggressiveness in that silence,' Ms. Stack says. 'Some people just check out, thinking, 'OK, you dummies, go ahead and do that. I'm going to sit here on mute.' ' She suggests posing a question: ' 'Jane, you're kind of quiet. What are your thoughts?' You sometimes get an explosion,' but this can get important issues out in the open, Ms. Stack says.

Participants can help meetings run more smoothly by volunteering to serve as moderator, keeping people on-topic and sticking to time limits. Divvying up moderating and note-taking duties can free meeting leaders to participate and keep people engaged, Ms. Stack says. Some managers encourage any participant to moderate, breaking in if a speaker wanders off-topic and asking that everyone stick to the agenda, says Steven M. Smith, senior consultant in Seattle for SolutionsIQ, a management consulting and training firm.

Time-zone differences can irritate people who have to rise at midnight to meet with colleagues in the U.S., says Michael Schell, chief executive officer of RW3. 'It's important to move the meeting times around' to be fair, he says. Also, meetings should start promptly; taking 10 minutes to get coffee might seem normal at 9 a.m. in New York, but it can seem disrespectful to a colleague in Australia who got out of bed to join the call, Mr. Schell says.

Videoconferencing can solve some of the problems. The technology is increasingly inexpensive and easy to use, and a growing number of applications, such as Vidyo and Blue Jeans Network, can connect users on a variety of devices, including webcams, laptops, tablets or smartphones, says David Coleman, founder and managing director of Collaborative Strategies Inc., San Mateo, Calif.

The technology can create other challenges, though. Mr. Smith says participants who aren't tech-savvy often consume valuable meeting time getting used to unfamiliar systems.

Videoconferencing also can make people self-conscious. Many people avoid video, Ms. Stack says, because they don't want to put on makeup or change their workout clothes. 'I cannot tell you how many times I've heard people say, 'I don't know what's wrong with my webcam. I can't get it to work, so I'm just going to be here in voice,'' she says.

电话会议是办公室生活中最常见的例行公事之一,也是最遭人恨的例行公事之一。

陋习随处可见。电话那头的人插嘴、走神或边开会边做其他事情,跟孩子讲话或大口喝饮料的时候忘关麦克风。

销售主管埃丽卡·皮尔斯(Erica Pearce)曾遇到过电话会议被联邦快递(FedEx)送货员、哭闹的孩子和一位同事用真空吸尘器打扫房间的声音打断的情况。她说,那位同事打扫房间的时候“谁都听不见了”。身为会议主持人的她对着电话说道:“如果你是在打扫房间,我理解,以后欢迎你来我家。但你得关掉麦克风。”

皮尔斯住在亚利桑那州的斯科茨代尔(Scottsdale),是一家软件公司的全球客户主管。她说,还有一次电话会议期间,一名参会人员设置保持通话之后响起一串等待音乐,会议只好终止。大家对电话会议的抱怨非常普遍,最近一段与此有关的搞笑视频已被播放600多万次。这段视频展现了电话会议期间的一些行为(比如悄悄地玩电脑纸牌游戏)在“现实生活”中会显得多么荒谬。

但电话会议的地位不可撼动。对于工作场所相距遥远、时间安排不固定、差旅支出遭到严控的企业来讲,电话会议实在是太有用了。波士顿市场研究公司Wainhouse Research的数据显示,美国音频会议所用时间预计将每年增长9.6%一直到2017年;所有电话会议当中,大约65%的部分仍然是用音频电话完成。

问题是有办法解决的。比如,会议主持人必须设立比面对面会议更加严格的基本规则,以及更加紧凑、更加鲜明的议程。主持人还需要付出更多的努力让参会者讲话,具体办法包括问更多的问题,也包括更多地倾听。

很多电话会议都是一部分人在会议室,另一部分人在听得不太清楚的呼入电话上。《执行即战略》(Execution Is the Strategy)作者、丹佛效率咨询师与培训师劳拉·斯塔克(Laura Stack)说,这常常使远程参会人员“感觉像二等公民”。

斯塔克建议主持人让所有参会者在说话的时候报出自己的名字,以便让远程呼入的人知道是怎么一回事。她说,如果有人讲了一个笑话引起哄堂大笑,那么主持人就应该“让其他人知道谁说了什么,把笑话再讲一遍”。

虚拟会议存在的最大问题之一,是参会者很难建立起彼此融洽的关系。纽约企业文化与领导力培训公司RW3在2012年对3,301名商务人士展开的调查中,75%的人都谈到了这一障碍。面部表情等非言语信号的缺失,让很多人不能畅所欲言,也让人更难集中注意力。在这次调查中,71%的受访者将其他人缺少参与视为虚拟会议存在的一个问题。

皮尔斯说,为增进交流,她会在她所主持的电话会议中拿出时间让那些相互不认识的参会者作自我介绍,解释他们在当前项目中的角色,并说明他们希望从会议中获得哪些东西。

电话会议的议程和目标应当比面对面会议更加清楚、更加鲜明。芝加哥德堡尔大学(DePaul University)计算机与数字传媒副教授丹尼尔·米特尔曼(Daniel Mittleman)说,“要更加严格地计划”才能防止别人走神。专家说,要求互动的电话会议不应超过七至九人。

新罕布什尔州伦敦德里(Londonderry)销售管理咨询公司Paul Charles & Associates总裁保罗·多尼休(Paul Donehue)说,主持人应当比开面对面会议时说得更少、听得更多。比如,在以解决问题为目的的电话会议期间,主持人可以40%的时候说,60%的时候听;而在同样目的的面对面会议中,说和听占用的时间应该分别为55%、45%。

多尼休说,主持人应当拿出相当于撰写议程的时间来准备提给参会者的问题。他建议主持人用一张带空白的表格,在会议期间记录各个参会者的发言。这有助于主持人仔细倾听,并通过引用参会者先前的发言来保持他们的注意力。

电话会议中的冲突更难管理。当有一位沉默的参会者感到沮丧或愤怒的时候,不是所有人都能觉察得到。斯塔克说:“有时候这种沉默包含着一丝被动攻击心理。有些人只管退出讨论,心想‘好吧笨蛋们,尽管那样干去吧,我就关掉麦克风坐这里了’。”她建议可以提这样一个问题:“简,你好像没怎么说话。你是什么想法?”她说,有时候对方会爆发,但这样做可以把重要问题摆到桌面上来讨论。

参会者可以主动发挥主持人角色,让大家不离题、不超时,从而帮助会议开得更加顺利。斯塔克说,大家一起协调、记录,可以让主持人有空参与讨论、调动大家的积极性。管理咨询与培训公司SolutionsIQ驻西雅图高级咨询师史蒂芬·史密斯(Steven M. Smith)说,有些管理人员鼓励每一位参与者帮助主持会议:在说话人离题的时候介入,要求所有人谨守议程。

RW3的首席执行长迈克尔·谢尔(Michael Schell)说,时差问题可能会让一些人非常恼火,因为他们为了跟美国的同事开会需要半夜起床。他说,调整会议时间以做到公平是很重要的。谢尔指出,会议应当在约定的时间立即开始;早上九点钟抽10分钟时间弄杯咖啡在纽约或许显得正常,但对于在澳大利亚起床就参加会议的同事来说可能显得不够尊重。

视频会议可以解决一部分的问题。加州 马特奥(San Mateo)Collaborative Strategies Inc.创始人兼董事总经理戴维·科尔曼(David Coleman)说,这项技术越来越便宜、好用,越来越多的应用程序(如Vidyo和Blue Jeans Network)可以把摄像头、笔记本电脑、平板电脑或智能手机等各种终端上的用户连接起来。

但该技术也有可能形成其他一些挑战。史密斯说,不太精通技术的参会者常常会消耗宝贵的开会时间在熟悉陌生系统上。

视频会议也有可能让人觉得不自然。斯塔克说,很多人都会避开视频,因为他们不想化妆或是不想换掉运动服。她说:“我都记不清有多少次听人说过,‘不知道摄像头是出了什么问题,没办法恢复,那我就在这里用语音好了’。”

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