Negotiation as a profession is a high-pressure job, and one in which negotiators could definitely do without the additional stress of issues with technology when in conference calls.
Negotiation as the art of persuasion has become a well-known cliché, but is a premise that holds true. Negotiators, as such, have a difficult job to carry out. Think about having to persuade your housemate to do their share of the cleaning or asking your boss for time off before the release of a key product.
Your success depends on how effective you are as a communicator and, ultimately, whether you are able to structure your argument in a way that allows you to persuade the other party to cede to your demands, whether they are fair and just or not.
In their work, negotiators need to prepare in-depth analysis which covers all of the angles. This means understanding all aspects of the question in hand, some deep digging and groundwork to understand who their opponent is, and, perhaps, put them on the back foot so that they can emerge victorious from the negotiation process.
In fact, the most important negotiation skill is the ability to prepare well.
Another important aspect, is the human factor: not so much the arguments and facts themselves but the person who is leading the negotiation, how good their soft skills are and how they are able to present themselves and voice their arguments.
So how then, do these professionals cope in situations when the negotiation process is conducted by an online conference call?
Sound and voice is key to putting an argument across. We change the way we speak to different people all the time, so when holding a teleconference call (especially without video), negotiators need to pay specific attention to how they voice their arguments.
Certainly, business negotiations in any case can be highly unpredictable, but there are additional issues that can arise with conducting negotiations via audio conferencing.
Five common problems negotiators face in conference calls
- Volume of speaker microphone is too low
This results in limited understanding of what the speaker is trying to express and means that the speaker can be misheard.
- Background noise
Sometimes it is difficult to find a quiet place to talk. Having to repeat oneself because of that dog barking in the background doesn’t do anything to help negotiations.
- Audio lag
Delays in audio mean parties can find themselves often speaking over one another.
- Knowing when to speak
Online conference calls more often than not involve people interrupting each other.
This may be down to someone whose computer isn’t working properly, or someone needing to mute their neighbour who is also a participant in the call; either way, it does nothing to further negotiations.
To avoid these pitfalls negotiators make additional preparations for conference calls on top of all of the due diligence for the subject matter. Some are simple, while others require specialized software.
Experienced teleconference call negotiators will always check their microphone settings before the beginning of the meeting. As mentioned above, negotiators are mega-preparers, so making double checks is just part of their nature.
1. Avoid background noise
Background noise can obviously avoided by locking oneself away in a soundproof room, but what if the negotiator doesn’t have access to this, or is constantly on the move? It is not unheard of for negotiators to take part in audio conferences in noisy places like airports.
In this situation, there is an innovative piece of software available for desktop and smartphone which cancels out background noise. Krisp’s noise-cancelling tool is easy to use and free to download. Surely a must-have download for negotiators.
2. Prevent audio lags
Audio lags may seem like something avoidable, but on many an occasion, the problem lies with the connection bandwidth. This means that calls which are using more data are more susceptible to delays in audio. Negotiators can cut the video off to decrease lag, or make sure they have a fast internet connection to avoid awkward pauses and talking over one another.
3. Structure meetings
Good negotiators are meticulous in their work. As such, they plan for every eventuality. This includes structuring meetings so that each participant is allocated a certain time slot in which to speak and ask questions. This solves issues where participants of the conference call talk over one another and gives everyone an opportunity to speak for a similar amount of time.
Echoes are a common feature of online conference calls, whether they are over important negotiations between big companies or speaking with relatives from afar.
This usually happens when there are two members of one negotiation team in the call on separate computers but in the same room. In this case, solutions include sitting in separate rooms or muting oneself when silent.
Negotiation skills are something we would all like to improve as they can be handy in all situations when you are having to converse with someone else. Preparing diligently is the key for those of us whose methods of persuasion aren’t the best.
Keep this checklist in mind the next time you use conference calling as part of your negotiations, not only will this make you look professional, but it will also give you the best chance of getting a great deal from the negotiations.