This article is reprinted from The Consulting Journal

Techniques: Running a teleconference

by David Blakey

You need rules for running a teleconference successfully.

[Monday 6 April 2020]

One of the advantages of teleconferencing is that you see everyone else face-on. In a normal meeting, it may sometimes be difficult for someone sitting three seats away from you on your right to indicate to you that they wish to speak. With teleconferencing, everyone can raise a hand and you can see them all easily.

You do need to establish some rules: in many ways, you will be able to revive some of the Rules Of Order, as described by Henry Robert or Luther Cushing, especially of naming someone to invite them to speak.

Microphone etiquette

It is useful if your teleconferencing platform allows people to press a mic button when they speak, so that the system operates like radios in push-to-talk (PTT) mode rather than voice-operated exchanged (VOX) mode. A problem with some teleconferencing platforms is that they do not have a VOX function, which would be initiated by the user speaking, but instead pick up the continuous sounds of shuffling papers, coughing, putting down coffee cups, and other noises. Some noises can be transmitted by the platform that you might find difficult to mention, such as someone drumming with their fingers on their table. People might behave at home in ways that they would not in a meeting room, including heavy breathing and sniffing, without being aware that their microphone is transmitting them.

It is better to establish a rule that people will only have their microphone on when they wish to speak. Even then, it is better still to have a button that needs to be pressed continuously for that person to be heard.

Selection of participant

In the same way that Robert's Rules give some precedence to the person who is proposing an action, you should give precedence to the owner of the topic under discussion. Your agenda should include the names of the owners.


Adam Black
User Interface
Brenda Brown
Charles Grey

During discussion of Infrastructure, you will have a report from Adam Black. Subsequently, you can take comments from anyone else who raises their hand, but, if Adam raises his hand, you should take his comment next, and you should continue to do this throughout the discussion of Infrastructure. Then when you move on to User Interface, you will do the same with Brenda.

When a number of people have their hands up, it is a skill to remember all those people and to call them in turn. If you can learn this skill, it is better than jotting down names and referring to that list.


Some participants may believe that they can wander away from their screens to answer calls or to deal with people at their door. You must state at the beginning that this is unacceptable. If someone needs a break, they should announce that they are taking a break and then disconnect from the meeting. They can rejoin after they have done what they need to do. It is important that everyone who needs to be in the meeting is in the meeting.

You can release people early, if they have nothing else to contribute, but the whole meeting should be run as if it were taking place in the office.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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