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[ESL/ EFL] Having a Phone Conference
Thirteenth in a series of English language lessons from Jennifer Lebedev
Jennifer Lebedev (jenesl)     Print Article 
  Published 2008-10-08 13:58 (KST)   
Tip No.1: Making Small Talk

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As callers join a phone conference and greet one another, it's a usual practice to make some small talk before addressing business matters. Safe topics are usually weather and the well-being of family:

"How's the weather out there on the West Coast, John?"
"Sue, hope you haven't been affected by all the storms down there."
"Craig, how have you been? How's the family?"

Responses are meant to be short and light in tone:

"We've got lots of sunshine here. How about you? How are you handling the Russian winter?"
"The kids are fine, thanks. They keep my wife and me very busy."

Tip No.2: Calling the Meeting to Order

Only in very formal situations will the organizer state: "I now call this meeting to order." In a more relaxed phone conference, the following suggestions may be heard:

"All right, everyone. Shall we get started?"

"Okay. I think everybody is here now, so why don't we get down to business?"

"All right, folks. How about we get things underway?"

Tip No.3: Dealing With Technical Difficulties

Technology can sometimes fail us, so you should know what to say when things go awry:

"Excuse me. I'm having trouble hearing on my end. Can everyone hear me well?"

"Excuse me, everyone. Does anyone else hear static (OR: an echo)? It's making it hard to hear."

Tip No.4: Apologizing for an Accidental Interruption

During most phone conferences you don't have the advantage of video, so you can't use visual cues to know if someone is finished speaking or if another person has been waiting to speak.

If you interrupt someone by accident, you can say: "I'm sorry. I thought you were done. What were you saying?"

If two people start talking at the same time, one can say: "Sorry. Go ahead." ? OR ? "Sorry. Please, you go first."

Tip No.5: Eliciting a Response

Another disadvantage of not seeing other people's facial expressions and body language is not being able to immediately understand the reaction people have to a statement you've just made. If you hear silence and want to elicit a response, you might use one of the following:

"Please feel free to disagree. I'm ready to talk more about this."

"Does everyone understand my point?"

"Did you all follow that?" (less formal)

Tip No.6: Backtracking

Sometimes a conversation moves forward before you've had your say or before you can ask a question. In this case, you can ask everyone to return to an earlier point:

"I'm sorry. Can we go back to the topic of ________ for just a moment? I wanted to ask..."

"Excuse me, everyone. I hate to backtrack, but I wanted to go back to the idea of ________ and add that..."

Tip No.7: Winding Down

As the phone conference draws to an end, it's customary for the organizer to thank everyone. You'll hear something like this:

"All right. That about covers everything. If there are no other questions or comments, I think we'll end here. Thanks, everyone."

"Well, I think we can wrap this meeting up. Does anyone have any questions or final comments? No? All right. Thank you, everyone."

- [ESL/ EFL] Having a Phone Conference 

©2008 OhmyNews
Jennifer Lebedev is a teacher of English as a second and foreign language with 12 years experience. She has additional experience in teacher training and administration of an IEP and is a published author. Find more of her online English instruction on YouTube under the name "JenniferESL".
Other articles by reporter Jennifer Lebedev

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