Don’t Poop the Bed When Running a Meeting From Home

work from home phone calls

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When working from home it’s especially important to project professionalism.  Most people consider it a privilege, so don’t poop the bed and screw it up. You need to establish credibility and wash away any stereotypes people may have about working from home.  You don’t want people thinking you watch soaps and play fantasy sports all day.

Here are my guidelines when running phone meetings and conference calls from home:

  1. The first rule is do not advertise that you are working from home.
  2. The second rule is DO NOT advertise you are working from home!

No one needs to know you’re in your pajamas with a half-eaten burrito leaning against your keyboard.  Keep the dirty truth about working from home to yourself.  Pretend like you are in a real office and your customers will assume you are in a real office.   You don’t need to lie about it, but no need to bring it up if no one asks.

Home Office Setup

This probably goes without saying, but make sure you actually have a home office.  Working at the kitchen counter might be a good for an hour or so, but calls can be difficult in a high traffic area.

And make sure your office is a no fly zone.  Your wife, children, roommates, and pets should all know they need to stay on another floor of the house during work hours and especially during meetings.  You definitely don’t want your customers to hear any dogs barking or crying babies during a conference call.

Home Office Tools

  • Use a land-line if possible and avoid cell phones or Skype for meetings that matter.  You don’t want to be “that guy” with the crappy connection that keeps dropping in and out or is difficult to understand.
  • Get a quality hands-free phone (a headset or speaker phone are ideal).
  • Use the right tools for your home office.  For conference calls that I setup myself I prefer to use Freeconferencecall.com and Join.me to share my desktop.

Meeting Structure

To be perceived as a professional, you should run conference calls in a professional manner.  Here’s what I always do when coordinating a phone meeting with multiple people.

  1. Send out a bulleted agenda before the call starts with discussion points.  This sets expectations and allows you to stay focused and on task.
  2. Start on time.  Give stragglers a minute or two to join, but then get started.
  3. Introduce attendees.  Ask people to announce themselves as they dial in so you can write down attendees.  Once you get a quorum, do a quick roll-call and repeat everyone’s name.  If people have not met, do a brief introduction of each person’s title and responsibility.
  4. Time box topics by following the agenda.  If sidebar discussions go too long, politely interrupt and suggest a follow-up call.  Try to stick to the agenda to cover everything within the allotted time.
  5. End on time.  Be respectful of people’s schedules.  If you haven’t finished and your scheduled time is up, ask if anyone has any conflicts to keep going and if so, reschedule. 
  6. Sum up the action items. Take notes during the call and put stars next to those notes that require follow-up.  At the end of the call, quickly review everyone’s action items.  It’s also a great idea to send a thank you email after the meeting and include a summary and action items for all the attendees.

Conclusion

It’s ok if people find out you work from home.  The negative stigma is slowly disappearing.  However, I’ve found it’s much better to divulge that information after someone has worked with you for a few weeks and you’ve already established some credibility.

Bottom line, act professional and pretend you are in a real office or you may loose the privilege of working from home.  Even if you’re an entrepreneur and don’t have a boss, you can still easily poop the bed and lose customers if they don’t think you’re serious.

And speaking of pooping the bed…

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