The Cultural Synergist - Issue 14 March 2009

Welcome to The Cultural Synergist

Hi ,

Welcome to the Cultural Synergies March 2009 newsletter.

Kind regards

The Cultural Synergies Team
March 2009
Effective Teleconferences
Given the current global financial crisis, there has been a reduction in travel and a big increase in the number of teleconferences and videoconferences being conducted. I have been involved in quite a number of them recently as a process consultant, and have made the observation that they could be done a lot better. There seems to be little thought given to how to make these meetings effective and how to maximise their impact.  So, this month I want to talk briefly about teleconferences and about videoconferences next month.

A teleconference or a videoconference is similar to having a face-to-face meeting, there are objectives and a purpose for getting together.  The key difference is the medium.  Many of you will be familiar with Merabian�s research on communication where he found that when we are receiving a message, 55% of the communication is nonverbal, 38% is in the pitch and the tone of the voice and 7% in the words. (There is reference to this in my discussion paper on Cultural Diversity and Virtual Teams

In short what this means is, as listeners we look for congruence in the message through those channels and authentic messages are congruent. Conversely, if we get a sense that there is incongruence, it tends to show up initially in the non-verbal communication. In fact, there is a TV drama series currently playing in Australia called Lie to M.  It is a cops and robbers show, with the focus being on signals in the nonverbal form.  When we are on a teleconference, we do not have the luxury (sometimes a blessing!) of our non-verbal signals. Therefore, more attention needs to be paid to the other two factors and as you lead a teleconference, planning for it�s effectiveness is important because you do not have any visual clues from your group and neither do they of you.

Many people sit in a teleconference because they have to and it is not uncommon for them to put their phones on mute and carry on with other work, checking emails etc. The question then is how much attention is being paid to what�s being discussed. We cannot do this in face-to-face meetings but we can in a teleconference, so what does that indicate? I�m all for multi-skilling but what is the objective of attending the teleconference?

Let�s break a teleconference into three sections � before, during and after.

Before the Teleconference
  • Establish the purpose of the teleconference - is it a regular weekly or fortnightly reporting meeting? Is it to inform about changes, to discuss and gather input, ideas etc? This will dictate the number of people you will have on the teleconference. If it is merely to inform, then you can have any number of people logging in because it will be mostly a one-way communication channel; however if you expect interaction and discussion in the group, then once you start getting beyond eight people it starts getting difficult to manage or to get input from participants.
  • Prepare an agenda with rough timeframes so that you can keep track of things.
  • Send out any slides/pre-reading material beforehand and communicate expectations that they be read beforehand so that the meeting time is used as an opportunity to come together to get input and have discussions rather than information giving.  Unless of course, you just want to deliver the news.
  • Plan who is going to be there � consider if the participants have met, do they all know each other, what are the dynamics of the group, are they aware of the purpose of the teleconference etc.
  • What are the objectives of the meeting � what is your criteria for a successful teleconference?
  • Plan where/when you will get group input during the meeting and communicate this to the participants.
  • Get some mental clarity at least 10 minutes before you start (if you are leading it) so that you are focussed rather then getting focussed as you progress into it.
During the Teleconference
  • Start on time
  • Go round the room and get everyone to check in � � minute on what�s happening at their location such as the weather, current affairs, highlights.  Focus on the humanness before the task, just as we do in a face to face meeting where we tend to shake hands, make eye contact and smile while we are getting our materials ready etc. I also find it helps if you create a map of everyone sitting around a table � this helps you to gauge levels of participation from the participants, their locations etc. 
  • Provide an overview of the agenda and objectives of the meeting.
  • Be succinct, a 5 minute monologue in a face-to-face meeting tends to come across as ten minutes in a teleconference. If you are wanting input go around the �room� and invite participation.
  • Be aware of language differences, accents, time-zones etc. Invite quieter people in.
  • Be conscious of your speed, modulation of your voice and ensure clarity of language.
  • Agree on action steps if any, timelines etc.
  • Go round the room to have everyone check out.
After the Teleconference
  • Consider if a summary report needs to be created with action steps/ due dates etc.
  • Plan to follow-up with participants if there were issues that needed to be covered after the main meeting.
  • Evaluate the success of your teleconference against the objectives you wanted to achieve at the start.
  • Reflect on how you can become more effective in using this medium.
  • Get back to work!
If you would like a free copy of a Teleconference/Videoconference checklist go to 'Articles' on our 'Resources' page at :
 Recommended Book
Outliers: The Story of Success. Malcolm Gladwell (2008) Penguin Books.

This is Gladwell�s third book following on from The Tipping Point, and Blink.  I like his work because he has a fascinating way of looking at the world. In this book he explores the concept of success from a different perspective. He argues that when we look at success, we start with the wrong question, we ask �what is this person like?� compared to �where are they from?� A fascinating look at how peoples� life stories, the culture they grew up in and the way they spent their time while they were growing influence their success. He provides an interesting perspective on the commonality of Bill Gates and the Beatles, rice paddy fields and success in mathematics being born in January and ice hockey players in Canada.

In response to our growing client needs Cultural Synergies now offers Mentoring and Executive Cultural Coaching.  For further information please follow the link
Executive Cultural Coaching


'Raising Your Cultural IQ - New DVD and CD

'Raising Your Cultural IQ' explores the issues around culture, the challenges that culture can pose and provides some great strategies on how to leverage on cultural differences and similarities.

'The Invisible Elephant - Exploring Cultural Awareness', 2nd Edition by Tom Verghese

Many aspects of culture are invisible, yet culture has an enormous impact on our lives. Like an Invisible Elephant, if ignored these aspects can lead to misunderstanding, stress and conflict. Alternatively, if attention is given to the Invisible Elephant, it can enhance productivity, improve teamwork and create more joy in our lives.

Book testimonial by Asma Ghabshi, Learning And Development Manager, Shell Oman: 

"The Invisible Elephant made my perspective of my national culture in comparison to my personal culture more visible. It has given me a deep insight into dealing with people of different cultural backgrounds."

'Pillars of Growth - Strategies for Leading Sustainable Growth' - Book by Tom Verghese, Kerry Larkan, Steven Howard and Brad Tonini

Written with the business leaders and entrepreneurs of Asia in mind, 'Pillars of Growth' provides a road map to assist you in thinking through four critical concerns that impact the sustainable growth of every business.

Visit our store at


About Cultural Synergies
Cultural Synergies' mission is to improve individual and organisational performance when interacting with people across the globe. 

Take advantage of our years of international experience. All our services are tailored to individual client situations.

Visit our website for more information. 
Phone: +61 3 9654 6161 | Mobile: +61 (0) 419 999 292 | Fax: +61 3 9650 7350

Privacy Policy
You are receiving this newsletter from Cultural Synergies because you are on our email list. To ensure that you continue to receive emails from us, please add my email address to your address book today.

Cultural Synergies respects your right to privacy. We never share, rent, or sell your name or email to anyone else. Your privacy is safe with us.