Editor’s Note: This blog post was a tag team effort by “Ash.O”, our Client Experience Manager, and “Sarah H.”, our Executive Administrator.

One word – Communication. If it seems so simple, why isn’t it?

Communication is a complicated process. You have to not only listen to what the other party is saying (as well as what they are not saying through their body language and intonation), but you also need to react to what they have said with something of your own. A statement, comment, or question indicating you have indeed heard and understood what they have said, while providing your own desired input. It can be a tricky situation, especially if you’re not communicating face-to-face.
It is estimated that most conversational and social cues come from body language, so when you’re communicating with a bodiless voice over the phone, a body of text on a computer screen, or a couple lines of text on your mobile, your cues are cut by at least half. E-mails and texting are in a completely separate category altogether compared to a conversation over the phone. On the phone, you at least have intonation from which to understand the other party. To listen effectively over the phone, you need to rely more and more on the other person’s tone, emphasis, and your own hearing and focus.

If you are merely waiting to talk, you are not listening and you’re probably missing out on the most important parts of the conversation. This is what makes conference calls so much fun! As you can imagine, the more people you add into a call, the more complicated and confusing things can get. Person A is talking to Person B, but Person C thinks Person A is talking to them, Person D is talking to Person B, and Person E is answering Person A’s question and asking one of their own, which Person D asked earlier in the conversation. See what I mean? Effective listening becomes even more important.

Active listening can solve all of your problems. This is a 3-part system designed to ensure you are listening effectively. The first part is to comprehend. This is attained by actually listening to what is being said and asking questions for clarification. The second part is retaining. This can be accomplished by remembering what the person has said or even taking notes as they speak. The third part is responding. This is when you put the first two parts to good use. When responding, you paraphrase their statement(s) and then provide your response or input. This lets the other party know that you are hearing what they are saying, helps keep both parties on the “same page,” and further engages them to continue the conversation with you while feeling more consulted and understood than ever.

Here are 7 tips for easier effective listening during conference calls:

  1. Get to a quiet place with a clear phone line and connection.
  2. Minimize distractions – trust me, Facebook can wait.
  3. When going into a conference call with a client, perhaps speak with the other parties on your side of the call prior to getting the client on the line to setup who is talking about what and when.
    1. If you know your agenda and order going in, it will be easier to keep a pace to the call while still including the client in the conversation. It will also avoid talking over each other, at least from your company’s side and provide the client with the feeling that they are communicating with a unified team.
  4. Listen to what everyone is saying, even if it’s not connected to what you want to say.
    1. Take notes, even if someone else already is, it will force you to pay attention to what people are saying and will avoid repetition.
  5. Keep an ear out for changes in tone, volume, and emphasis – in a call, those are the only conversational cues you have.
  6. While speaking, keep things clear, concise, and at a slower speed.
    1. This should reduce instances of conversational steamrolling, information overload, and repeating information already covered.
  7. Remember – what the other party has to say is just as, if not more, important than what you have to say.
    1. An attitude like this poises you to listen effectively instead of waiting to talk.

Happy Communicating!