When you dial into a meeting from somewhere else, it’s actually really hard for people to tell you’ve spent the last half hour looking at pictures of your cousin’s dog on Facebook. In fact, I’m writing this on a conference call right now, and, yes, I still sound like the smartest person in the room. Why? Because of these 12 tricks.
1. Ask if everyone’s here
Before the meeting starts, ask if everyone’s here. You might even pick out a specific person and ask if she’s here, and, if not, ask if she is supposed to be here. Not only will your coworkers appreciate your diligence but also you’ll seem like a real people person.
2. Talk about the weather and/or time zone where you are
Let everyone know where you’re dialing in from, and mention the weather and ask what the weather is like where everyone else is. Talk about what time it is where you are, especially if it’s any part of the world where the fact that you’re even awake is truly amazing. Your dedication to the company will be wildly apparent, but best of all everyone will know not to expect your full participation.
3. Ask everyone who isn’t talking to put themselves on mute
Everyone hates background noise, but only true business leaders have the guts to get rid of it. Interrupt whoever is talking and ask, “Where’s that noise coming from?” Follow up with, “If you’re not speaking right now, could you please mute yourself?” Now the call will be smoother and quieter due in no small part to your executive leadership skills.
4. Stop the meeting to pull up the data
Stop the conversation so you can pull up the data, and remind everyone we should be making data-driven decisions. Ask if everyone else is looking at the data, too. Once everyone has confirmed, say, “OK, we can go ahead now,” then go back to reading sports or celebrity news.
5. Ask “Who’s speaking?”
If someone starts talking without announcing who she is, interrupt and ask, “Who’s speaking?” even if you know who it is. This is a great trick to use when you know you probably won’t say anything else on the call.
6. Take the call using some “cutting-edge” technology
Announce that you’re joining the meeting using your new smartwatch or some other cutting-edge technology. Your coworkers will always be impressed that you’re trying new things because they’ll think it means you know more than they do about the future. Apologize in advance if your call is dropped due to your game changing experimentation.
7. When someone mentions a large number, put it in terms of a city or country
When someone mentions a large number, put it in terms of a city, country, or other geographic location. If you don’t have one handy, just make up some population of people. Your coworkers will be impressed by your deep knowledge of the world census.
8. Say “That’s exciting” or “That makes sense” or “Very cool”
Since no one can see you nodding or smiling throughout the meeting, it’s important to interject at least once every two minutes so that people know you’re there and you’re totally following everything being said, even though you’re really playing Sudoku.
Some great phrases to use are: “Thanks for that insight,” “Yeah, totally,” “Going to have to think about that some more,” “Interesting,” “Wow,” or “Hmm.”
9. Instant message other attendees during the call
Send quick instant messages to others during the meeting, such as, “Is this making sense to you?” “What are your thoughts on this?” and “My lunch today was the bomb dot com.” Your coworkers will be impressed by your multitasking skills.
10. Suggest taking that offline
When you have no clue what anyone is talking about, suggest taking that offline. Remind everyone that deep discussions are better in person. When someone asks what constitutes a deep discussion, say you’re not sure, but you’re open to discussing it (offline).
11. Make sure everyone is looking at the latest version of the document
When reviewing a document, interrupt to say, “I know this has gone through a few revisions; I just want to make sure we’re all looking at the latest one.” Everyone will scramble to figure out how to verify that everyone’s looking at the same thing and thank you for pointing that out.
12. When someone asks if we’ve covered everything, say, “I had a few thoughts, but I’ll save them for e-mail”
It’s the end of the call, and the organizer wants to make sure we covered everything. This is a good time to say you still have a few things to cover, but you’ll discuss them separately. This makes you seem like you’re saving everyone’s time and no one will remember to follow up on your follow-up anyway.