How to take a conference call when you absolutely hate taking conference calls

Posted by for Life

Hate taking conference calls while working from home? Stylist spoke to an expert who shared her top tips to overcome the fear.

This week, Stylist’s digital team has held conference calls every morning and afternoon while working at home. It’s a chance to pitch articles, discuss ideas and, perhaps most importantly, hear each other’s voices. This morning, we all turned on our cameras, so that we could see each other’s familiar faces. It’s the best way to plan the day’s work, iron out any worries and feel like a part of a united team.

But, as comforting as they are, these conference calls are still part of a day’s work. And for anyone who usually hates taking phone and video calls (oh, hi!), it can feel very uncomfortable – and sometimes excruciating – when your computer’s camera is suddenly focusing on you.

So what can you do to combat those awkward stutters and silences? International speaker, impact expert and author of Goodbye Glossophobia: Banish Your Fear of Public SpeakingEsther Stanhope, shared her tips on how to take conference calls with Stylist. 

Why am I scared of taking conference calls?

The fear of watching yourself back or seeing yourself on screen is massive. (I personally hate watching myself on camera, it makes me self-conscious and I have had a lot of practice by working at the BBC.)

Also, you might worry that others on the call aren’t listening to you and are zoning out, because you don’t know if what you are saying is engaging and you can’t read their body language.

Then there’s radio silence: you make a point and wait for a reaction then… nothing… tumbleweed. You can’t tell how your point has landed.

Sounding stupid is an obvious but massive factor.

And there’s the fear of technology going wrong – which always happens. When I first did a conference call I didn’t have my microphone turned on, I was on mute for ages. I thought they were ignoring me.

A woman typing
How to work from home: use technology to stay in touch with colleagues.

How can I overcome these reasons for conference call fear?

Do it, do it, do it again – then it becomes normal, like driving a car. Realise that no one else exactly loves conference calls and they might even feel worse than you.

Warm up and get yourself in the zone before the call. A tongue twister is good: “Irish wrist watch, Irish wrist watch,” three times is good, try it.

Dial in early and make sure you have all the right pin numbers, key codes, UK dialling codes, hash keys and instructions at least five minutes before. Dialling in a hurry is stressful and you’ll not be as confident if you’re flustered.

What are your quick tips for taking conference calls?

I have four quick tips for video conference calls, called L.E.N.S.

L: Love the lens – look into the lens or the little green light and imagine you are talking to just one person. A little story about Cilla Black in my book: she used to call camera one “Bobby” after her late husband when she filmed Blind Date. She loved her camera, therefore 18 million viewers felt she loved them.

E: Eyes and teeth – smile! You look so much more engaging when you relax your face and your personality shines through when your eyes are smiling. This avoids you looking wooden on camera instantly.

N: Noise – no background sirens, please. Make sure you have a proper microphone or quiet background. 

S: Shot – no up the nostril shots under the chin! Make sure you feel comfortable with the shot and background that’s behind you.

Conference calls tips
Working from home: practice makes perfect when it comes to conference calls,

Is coronavirus anxiety affecting our confidence at work?

Absolutely. Being stuck at home is not good for confidence. But you don’t have to feel isolated even if you are self-isolating. That’s why conference calls and virtual meetings (both social and professional) are so important.

We are out of our comfort zone and in unknown territory. Confidence comes from knowing you can achieve something, the trouble with Covid-19 is we don’t know anything, how can we be confident when we don’t know if our kids are going to be in school or our parents are going to get sick?

It’s important to keep our confidence levels up by connecting with people and having regular human interaction. Video calls are the answer. I’m doing a lot of virtual coffees and virtual Prosecco Zoom meetings this week. Chin chin.

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Working From Home with Stylist is here for you during the coronavirus pandemic. You can catch up on the latest news, tips, advice and chats here.

Images: Getty

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…