Remotely Managing Project Teams – Audio Conferencing

This is the first in a series of articles providing hints and tips on how best to remotely manage project teams. In this article, we will gain an insight into proven ways to get the most out of running your meetings via audio link.

Audio conferencing is a tool that has been available to the project manager for a number of years. There are a variety of service providers (e.g. Webex, Genesys, etc) and, whilst the tools they provide may vary from company to company, their offerings are broadly the same.

How does audio conferencing work?

  • The meeting organiser creates an account with an appropriate service provider – they are then provided with a master phone number (often with regional / international alternatives) and a conference number which is controlled via a Personal Identification Number (PIN).
  • The meeting organiser sends out an invitation to potential participants who, accept, decline or mark as tentative, the appointment in their diary.
  • At the appointed time, attendees phone up using the supplied phone number. When the call connects, they type in the conference number and wait for the meeting organiser to insert their PIN to open the call.
  • Normally, participants are announced by an audible ‘beep’ but, they may be given the opportunity to record their name which is then announced as they join / leave the call.
  • Any number of participants can join the call and so it is a great tool for getting everyone together to cascade information or to discuss project progress.

How can you get the most out of audio conferencing?

  • Restrict the number of attendees to those that are likely to contribute the most to the audio session. This will save on resource time and also keep the number of participants to a manageable level.
  • As meeting organiser, rather then opening the call through your telephone handset, access the audio conference through the web portal that will be supplied to you by the service provider; this will give you greater functionality and enable you to control the call more easily.
  • When you access the call via the website, you are able to easily perform the following tasks and identify at a glance, the status of each function:
    • See how many people have dialled into your call.
    • Identify who each line belongs to (you can even label them) so you know who is talking even if you have not known the group long and find it difficult to tell voices apart.
    • Close the virtual meeting room door to stop unwanted participants from joining the call.
    • Easily identify and mute individual lines if someone is in a noisy environment – background noise can be a real distraction to everyone on the call. You can also use this function (in extreme cases) if someone is behaving inappropriately or is not allowing others to speak.
    • Mute everyone’s line so they can only hear what you have to say; the lines can then be opened again once you have finished your presentation, so you can take individual questions from your attendees.
    • Disconnect  the call at the end of the meeting to ensure the line is closed, forcing all participants to leave the virtual meeting room.

In summary, audio conferencing can be a great way to bring geographically remote teams together to interact and move project tasks forward.  You can gain greater control of your meeting by accessing each session through the web portal rather than through your telephone handset.