Holding a Successful Phone Conference

11 February 2008

In the 29 Nov 2007 column, I explain how to register for the CERN eDial system (76000) and to book phone conferences. Here I give some tips for running a successful conference.


Q: Where should I hold the meeting?

A: Two possibilities:

1. At CERN, book one of the rooms that is properly equipped (see last week's article on booking facilities).
2. Hold the meeting with everyone at her/his own phone.
Do not try to create an ad-hoc facility (e.g. placing a CERN phone off its hook). You will disrupt the meeting.

Q: How do I prepare for a phone conference?

A: Here are a few steps to take before the meeting:

1. Choose a participant other than the meeting chair to monitor the meeting (true for any kind of conference)
2. Require that new participants and participants using un-tested hardware join at least 15 minutes ahead of time to debug their equipment. The monitor should help with this.
3. Require that all participants use either a head set that separates microphone from speaker (like a normal phone) or a speaker phone with echo cancellation. Multiple participants on a single simple phone risk to disrupt the meeting.


Q: How do I run the phone conference?

A: Here are a few key items to keep in mind during the meeting:

1. The monitor should not be afraid to interrupt the meeting to fix a problem. The fix usually takes a short time and prevents a persistent problem from disrupting the entire meeting. (Confucious said: "It is not the height of the mountain, but the stone in the shoe.")
2. The monitor should log problems that might be due to the system. These problems should be communicated to Telephone.Standard@cern.ch.
3. For echo: If a participant hears echo, it is not due to that participant, but someone else. Ask everyone (except the speaker) to mute.
4. For heavy breathing: Same thing. Someone is probably mulitasking (or sleeping). Ask everyone, but the speaker, to mute.
5. For electronic noises: Note them, then get everyone to mute. Try asking users to unmute one by one. It is usually due to hardware or network problems.
6. Don't be afraid to kick a disruptive participant out of a meeting.


Q: What about that annoying mute beep?

A: Most of the CERN Alcatel phones with a mute button have an incredibly inane feature that sends an electronic beep to all participants when it is in use. Nobody understands what was going through the minds of the phone engineers when this was added. All I can say is: Do not use the Alcatel mute option. Ever.


Q: But how do I mute?

A: Fortunately, the eDial phone conference system has a built in mute switch. Just enter ##1 to toggle mute on or off. This only works for 76000 meetings. Your default should be to mute, unless talking.


Q: Where can I find more information?

A: Here are some contacts:
General Conference Support: videoconference-support@cern.ch

Phone Conference Support: telephone.standard@cern.ch
General CERN Collaborative Tool Issues: forum-collaborative-tools@cern.ch
ATLAS-Specific Issues & Announcements: hn-atlas-collaborativeTools@cern.ch

Steven Goldfarb


Steven Goldfarb

University of Michigan


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