June 2014 - In Honor of the Coming Summer

Summer vacation is here, well, not ours, but our kids’.
Despite the fact that it comes by every year, somehow it manages to surprise us each time. Even though we plan ahead properly, we sign up the kids for camp, we set up dates when they will camp out at the grandparents or at the cousins in the north/south/center (cross out what is extra). And out of the 60-70 days of vacation, we also have to take our turns as the entertainers. And after all this, there will still be “holes” in the calendar, either long or short, until they return to school.
True, as I mentioned, the vacation is theirs, everything continues as usual at work. Other than the one week of vacation that in some places is customary to take in August, we get up as usual to go to work.
So what changes?
You will have to take a few extra days of vacation, leave earlier than usual and change your work routine to match the summer schedules of your kids. These vacation days, or leaving early from work, raise the chances that you will have to join a conference call. You may be at home, but work goes on as usual and you are part of it. So how do you combine all these demands on your time? How do you join a conference call from home or from your vacation and enjoy the best of both worlds?
Right before you join the call, either a teleconference or a video conference, I have organized some tips to help you be effective in your conference  and will reduce as much as possible the background noise of the chaos in the house.
In general:
· Distance yourself as much as possible from the center of the house and all its activity. The best option is a dedicated home office, but even a quiet corner, maybe in a bedroom might do the trick.
· Let everyone in the house know that you are joining a conference call and the times that you will be unavailable. This way you can prevent the kids from yelling your name while they look for you while you are on the call.
· For certain ages, it is recommended to find something to occupy the kids based on the expected length of the call (a TV show, board game, etc.)
In audio conferences:
· Your voice represents you – be in a quiet place that enables you to hear and be heard as necessary.
· If you are using a cell phone, I recommend using a headset. This enhances the audio quality as well as prevents your ear from warming up too much.
·  Do not use the speakerphone on your cellphone or on your landline. This negatively affects the quality of the call and adds unwanted noise for the rest of the participants.
· Reception – choose a location that does not have cell reception issues, or that is not too far away from the base of the cordless phone(reinforced rooms can sometimes be a problem and often the home office is located within them).
· If you have to join a conference from a noisy place, put yourself on mute until you need to speak, and then put yourself on mute again. You can put yourself on mute by using the mute button or by pressing star (*) followed by the five (5). You can press the same buttons to cancel the mute.
In video conferences:
·  Here the visual aspect comes into the picture – now the physical location that you are sitting in is important
· Background – try to have a solid background, not too light and with few decorations. Make sure there is no hallway behind you where family members will pass through, or a door that will open.
· Lighting – try to stay away from lighting that is too strong, or a window that is directly behind you. Close the blinds to ensure a better quality picture.  Because in all likelihood the video conference will take place at night, you should try to be lit from the front.
· Keep your self-view window open throughout the whole call so that you can check how the other participants see you.
· Noise – just like in an audio conference, choose a place that you can sit comfortably and be effective in the conference. Leave yourself muted until you need to speak.
· How do I look? – You may be at home, but you can no longer hide behind a phone handset. Make sure that you look presentable according to your company’s dress code. This includes clothes, shaving if necessary, etc. Yes, just like the urban legend about television anchors, you can be sitting in your shorts, after all, it is summer, just make sure not to stand up during the call ;-).
·         And last but not least, speak loudly and clearly and try to avoid multiple participants speaking at the same time.
So let’s have an enjoyable and safe summer that is still effective because of our conference calls. And by the way, you can take (some) vacation and disconnect :-).