When I run a training session by video conference, I always tell my participants, “Make sure you call in from a quiet place.”

That’s easy for the work-from-home brigade. But big offices never have enough quiet places.

So I’m often asked, “Why ‘call from a quiet place’? Shall I go out and call from a cafe? Or can I call in from my desk?”

I tend to let them know that if they don’t call from a quiet place, it’s going to make the call more difficult and less useful for them:

  • They’ll need to mute their microphone and whenever they do want to speak, they’ll have to actively unmute themselves, interrupting the flow of the conversation
  • Whatever they do say will be overheard by others around them, and may have to be explained later
  • Their comments and questions may be drowned out by background noise, so they won’t get the best value from the call
  • They will be surrounded by people competing for their attention – usually including the boss! – so they are likely to get distracted and miss critical sections.

It’ll be more difficult for their colleagues on the call, too:

  • Background noise can be very annoying. On group calls noise can easily be magnified, especially if anyone isn’t using a headset
  • It will be hard to hear the open-office person, so repeating stuff will take up other people’s time
  • The open-office person will tend to look away from the group or even turn off the camera, which feels very rude
  • Other members of the call will be distracted by movement in the background (worst in a cafe).

I don’t mention that it’s also more difficult for the facilitator:

  • I’m competing with distractions, so I have to work harder to hold everyone’s attention
  • I have to look out for people speaking while muted, and remind them to unmute
  • I have to make sure the rest of the group isn’t badly disrupted by the annoyances, and be ready to take action to make sure the class stays on track.

If trainers and facilitators are regularly hosting calls where almost everyone’s in an open-plan office, no wonder they don’t enjoy it much!

And that’s before we even start to think about the technology… of which, more later.

  • What’s been your experience of hosting video calls with participants in open-plan offices? High points and low points? Please comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.