Tips for Conducting International Teleconferences

By Alyssa Gregory

One great part of working on the Web is that you aren’t limited by geographic boundaries. You can work with anyone, anywhere in the world. This opens up a whole new set of opportunities for anyone who works online, from the freelancer to the small business owner.

Because of low cost, instant access and international availability, teleconferences are a very appealing way to work with others located around the world. Of course being without geographical limitations doesn’t mean you won’t face some of the other challenges that are common with international business relationships during teleconferences. Different languages, communication preferences and cultural customs can all play a role in the success of a teleconference with members from across the globe.

Here are some tips for getting around these challenges so you can communicate effectively during international teleconferences.

  • Use time zone tools like the World Clock Meeting Planner to coordinate meeting times in different time zones.
  • Provide the appropriate time in all relevant time zones when sending out confirmations and reminders for the call.
  • Make sure your conference line supports international calls.
  • Have an alternate way to access to the meeting for participants (i.e. know the local dial-in number if the toll-free number doesn’t work).
  • Select a moderator who is most familiar with all participants.
  • Know the proper way to address the participants.
  • Advise participants to use a landline when possible to cut down on static and other interference that when combined with accents can make it difficult to understand each other.
  • Be aware of any other global customs, and business or phone etiquette that can come into play during the meeting.
  • Anticipate and accommodate any language barriers.
  • Get to know the participants ahead of time, including communication styles.
  • Record the call and transcribe or distribute the recording to all participants so everyone has the same understanding of what was discussed.

The tips outlined here are geared toward the international element, but don’t forget that all of the other tips for successful teleconferences, from planning for the meeting to what to do once it concludes, still apply.

Do you frequently conduct teleconferences with international participants? What have you done to make the call go smoothly and effectively?

Image credit: spekulator

  • Chris_Haddad

    Being from New England, one of the biggest tips I’ve picked up over the years is to speak much slower than my normal pace.

    While I don’t have the traditional New England accent, my pace can be difficult for non-native speakers to follow, especially when discussing technical issues.

  • Anonymous

    Nice short article with some good reminders. I like the point about knowing the conference members beforehand. Lengthy introductions can be time consuming and detract attention from the future discussion. Sending oiut a memo with a bio beforehand is the way to go.
    I work for a start up company and am trying to get its name – AIM Integrated Marketing – online. We have the aim of going global
    http://bit.ly/9cLhYN – the we’ll start using some of your conference advice more often!

  • aeroos

    If the point of a meeting is to come to consensus on a topic, I always ensure that the actual agreement is *not* gained during the meeting, but is gained by email after the fact. A detailed summary of what was decided is sent out and all participants are asked to reply saying that they agree.
    This ensures that if someone’s having trouble understanding they won’t just say “yes” because it’s more comfortable than admitting they need more explanation. Generally, people are better able to take in more detail and complexity in writing (also, they can do it at their pace), so it’s much safer if the agreement is to something written and not just something stated. Actually, this generally works better with native speakers too when we bother to take the time to do it :)
    I agree with Chris – slower is always better. Not slower to the extreme of sounding like you think they’re stupid, but be sure you’re speaking at a moderate pace (about as slowly as you can without a native speaker wondering what you’re doing), and speak clearly. Try to make sure you’re pronouncing all the syllables. Also, I generally try to formulate sentences closer to written English than spoken English. Spoken English is generally highly dependent on sentence fragments. Also, use as few idioms as possible (and explain them very briefly when you do use them – ‘we have a saying … that basically means …’). Subject -> verb -> object – full sentences with normal sentence order seems easier to understand, and avoid complex sentences if you can avoid it. Dependent clauses are another thing that can be hard for non-native speakers to decipher.
    One last suggestion – if for some reason you feel people aren’t understanding something you said, do NOT repeat it louder or slower. Say the same thing again in completely different words. It puts less emphasis on the lack of understanding (it feels less uncomfortable to the person who didn’t understand), and the two different ways of saying something just might help get the concept across.
    My two cents from my experience,



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