As Regional Medical Director, I am frequently at one end of a PHC teleconference – either video or phone – doing the best I can to understand and participate in the meeting. PHC clinicians are currently spread over six counties, making teleconferencing and videoconferencing a necessity. With the upcoming geographic expansion of managed MediCal, PHC may move into even more northern California counties. Clinicians might be joining our teleconferences from locations far from PHC’s home office in Fairfield: Alturis, Susanville, Arcata, Yreka, and others.
While attending a meeting in person – i.e. being there – is generally more satisfying, our far-flung geography means we need to make the best of our proliferating videoconferences – i.e. not being there. In this posting, I want to review 7 rules of teleconference etiquette. These easy-to-follow rules can make the meetings more satisfying. And they’re much easier to implement than, say, the electronic health record.
- HARPO: The most critical phone button is the one called MUTE. It is distracting when participants in a teleconference have to listen to background noise, side conversations (even gentle low volume voices), and squeaky chairs. We all need to learn how to press the MUTE button.
- Avoid THE THEATER EFFECT: don’t you just love the candy-unwrapping person next to you at the critical point when Cary Grant realizes that Deborah Kerr is paralyzed? Well, all the paper shuffling proximal to the microphone has the same effect, magnified to class 4 tornado proportions. Using the MUTE button can help.
- Do away with BIC TICS. While you may not notice when you yourself click your ball point pen again, and again, and again, and again, and again, others do. Ditto for when you rock your squeaky chair back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Using the MUTE button can help. I’ll speak no more on this topic.
- When you are going to say something during the conference, SPEAK UP. Be aware that the microphone at your site may not be near you. Others may not be able to hear you if the mike is far away or you’re speaking in a soft voice. Talk loudly enough to reach the person farthest away in the room. Folks at other sites can always turn the volume down at their end if your voice comes across too loudly. But trust me, this rarely happens.
- And don’t be an INCREDIBLE SHRINKING VIOLET – once you speak up, stay speaking up and don’t fade away to some unintelligible …
- While it is easy to tune out during a teleconference/videoconference, try to stay engaged and share your thoughts with others, when the right time comes. Conferences are much more meaningful for all if everyone participates.
- And finally, please avoid THE DISEMBODIED VOICE. When you do have something to say during a videoconference, try to sit in view of the camera so others will see you.
Thank you for listening, and for participating in our PHC network.
Marshall Kubota, MD