As the employer, your confidence and professionalism can dictate the level of confidence and professionalism you inspire in your contractors. Being comfortable with the sharing tools, software, programs, websites, etc., that you use during conference calls is vital for nailing these over-the-phone or Skype meetings.
Here are a few tips to keep you ahead of the curve:
AGENDAS. Always set agendas for your meetings, so you know what software/programs you'll be using during the calls. You're the one in control. You set the agenda, you plan the lineup, and it's your job to be sure the call stays on track. Avoid "checking things out" for the first time during a call just because an interesting website or tool comes up in conversation. This isn't the time for impromptu testing, so take note of the name of the product or service to check it out later. Put that idea onto the agenda for the next meeting, so you -- and your team -- can come prepared to use and discuss the tool intelligently.
REHEARSALS. Using the agenda as your guide, practice using the software or websites you will be sharing with your contractor. Whether it's Google Docs or a Power Point presentation or any other online tool, take a half hour of your time (at least) to sit and learn the basics, so that you are familiar with what you're doing. Clicking icons in a desperate search for the right solution in the middle of a call is a waste of the precious time you have with your team. You are paying them for this call -- don't take your time and money for granted.
NOTES. Take notes on basic steps and keep them handy during the call. This should go without saying: Don't rely on an intuitive interface or your own ability to recall the steps to share your screen. Write down what you need to know, along with a few keyboard shortcuts to speed up the process.
QUITTIN' TIME. Know when to give up on an agenda item because the software isn't cooperating (or you haven't mastered the program). Despite your best intentions, you may still end up in the middle of a phone call, walking your contractor through a tool, when your mind goes blank,the notes you made on the tool are illegible, or the technology just isn't coorperating. Know when to call it quits and reschedule that agenda item for another meeting -- but not before humbly asking your contractor if he or she might know the solution to the problem. (You hired her because she's smart, so don't underestimate her ability to help in a minor crisis.)
Remember your phone or Skype interactions are important. Keep them professional, keep them on track, keep them regular, and if you are going to incorporate some piece of software or technology, make sure you are comfortable and confident in using it.
Have you ever had a conference call disaster because you didn't know the software you were trying to work with? Tell us about it -- turn your embarrassing moment into a learning experience for one of your peers here on oDesk.