Now that we’ve improved how you present yourself visually on video calls and meetings, we need to address sound, how you can reduce any noisy interruptions to your calls and meetings while working from home.
It’s essential to set yourself up for success in managing interruptions during your calls and meetings as they are sure to happen.
Partners, spouses, children, pets, and other unexpected interruptions can happen to any of us. Your partner is checking what time you’re finishing, the doorbell, a pet, or your children coming in to say ‘hello’ to you during a call.
It’s easy to manage and to reduce the impact of these interruptions with sound with a few simple approaches.
The biggest advice I can offer in regards to sound is that we all need to learn to use the mute button like a ninja.
Figure out if you prefer to use a software or hardware mute switch, and always use this approach. Only take mute off if you are speaking.
Mobile phone, home phone, and tablet
For all calls and meetings put your mobile, phone, or tablet on silent.
A useful backup in case you forget to put your phone on silent is to make sure that you have a suitable professional ringtone and alert sounds. Some things can be hard to undo. Hearing your ringtone, or message alerts during a presentation to the Board, that is hilarious on the weekend, is not something you should allow to happen to your career.
I repeat, put your devices on silent.
There are times where I am in a call where I cannot pay attention to someone at my front door. I am lucky enough to have a doorbell that lets me turn the sound off when I am going to be a presenter on a call. If you are not so fortunate then the overarching rule of being on mute at all times, and being ready to mute like a ninja, is your best approach.
Our children are the love of our lives and the centre of our world. They are the most important thing in many of our lives and why we do a lot of the things we do.
If your children are older enough to follow instructions, then I recommend that you discuss with them what is an emergency, and what isn’t. If there is an emergency, I’ve asked my children to come in and stand silently at the side of my desk until I speak to them.
This approach has enabled me to go on mute and ask them what is up. I can then decide a course of action, and tell my children what to do. This approach has worked for me once or twice and has been necessary so as not to disrupt a call or meeting.
If you have younger children, then the best approach is to ensure that the person who is caring for them while you are working is prepared, and preferably can take them outside for their hour of exercise during your most valuable calls.
Failing that, be prepared to mute like a ninja.
No matter how much advice you take, or preparations made, there is always the chance of an unavoidable interruption. If you are interrupted unavoidably ensure you are on mute and turn your video off. Combined with being on mute, you can resolve many things with minimal disruption to a call or meeting.
Using technology to solve problems is a great idea. From noise-cancelling headphones to shield you from noises around your home, or to reduce the noises from your home being picked up by your microphone while presenting and off of mute.
Bluetooth headphones are a huge plus as they allow you to move around more freely. Should you need to get up and move to another room temporarily, or accept a delivery while on mute, you can do this easily with Bluetooth headphones.
I have found my Trekz After Shocks to be a great solution to my calls and meetings. They are discreet and sit over your ears and can be ideal for use while presenting. The battery also lasts for a full day of use.
Noise-cancelling headphones such as those by Apple, Bose, or Sony are fabulous at removing environmental noises that are around you, helping you to focus on your work. However, they do not remove noise from the microphone while you are on a call. Be cautious here as you may think everything is peaceful and tranquil; your fellow participants will hear more than you anticipate.
Noise-cancelling microphones such as those from Plantronics or Jabra are used in call centres to soften and reduce the ambient noise that is picked up by your microphone. I have used these in a small office environment but have not yet found one that works as well as I hope.
Artificial Intelligence noise cancelling
An alternative to a hardware solution is the option to try a software solution with your current setup. Krisp is a software utility that positions itself between Teams and your existing microphone and headphone to use artificial intelligence to filter out unwanted noises.
You can download Krisp from Krisp.ai for both Windows and macOS. It has a free trial, and then a monthly subscription fee. I have tried this recently on a Mac and found it useful in its use of AI to remove background noise, but it was temperamental on the machine I was using when I tried to join another call. But, it has a free trial, and as they say, your mileage may vary.
In these uncertain times for us all, working from home has been an enormous success in keeping businesses moving. I want you to be confident that you are presenting yourself at your best, and positively progressing your career. I hope this series has been helpful to you and given you some strategies and approaches to improve your situation.
Featured image by Jason Rosewell on unsplash.com