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Finding a Quiet Spot for Remote Conference Calls While Traveling

October 27th, 2016 /
remote conference calls

Image credit: Flickr user NEC Corporation of America (CC BY 2.0)

I spend a lot of time each week on the phone. I also spend a lot of time traveling—both are facts of life for a small business owner. And while they might not seem mutually contradictory, anyone who has ever had to scramble for a quiet spot to hold an on-the-road conference call knows what a headache this combination can be.

If I know about a call in advance, it’s not a big deal for me to return to my hotel. Sometimes things pop up on extremely short notice, though, and I’ll find myself on a busy street in panic mode. At least, that’s how I used to find myself. Here’s what I do now:

When You’ve Got Time (and Don’t Mind Spending a Little Money)

For particularly important calls that are scheduled in advance, it’s worth springing for real office space—you might need to have associates physically present, or access office supplies. In these cases, look for:

  • A hotel meeting room. Nearly all hotels come with boardrooms or meeting rooms that can be commandeered for group calls and video conferences.
  • Coworking spaces. As I’ve mentioned once or twice, a membership with a national coworking office like WeWork makes it pretty easy to book space for a conference call. If you don’t have a membership, you can use a global coworking map to locate the nearest location. Coworking spaces don’t always allow you to rent for a short time, so just make sure to call and ask if they have day passes or hourly rates.
  • Rent a day office. If you need a fully equipped space or can’t find a one-day coworking spot, try searching for a day office on They’ve got 3,000 rentable locations worldwide and have gotten me out of a couple of tight spots.

When Your Call Starts in a Few Minutes

Maybe one of your clients is suddenly unhappy, or maybe you’re so jetlagged that you completely forgot about a scheduled meeting. If you’ve got about 10 minutes’ leeway, there are still options:

  • Find a lobby or hallway. Hotel lobbies are easy to find and usually quiet enough that you won’t have to deal with any major distractions (unless it’s right at check-in time). If the lobby’s too loud, take the elevator up a few floors to an empty hallway. This trick also works for any other large building, especially if you’re at a conference or other work event: business travelers are so common at these venues that you’re unlikely to attract much attention.
  • Take a cab. If you’re walking a busy street minutes before it’s time to call in, hailing a cab might be the quickest option. You can ask the cab driver to cruise around the area until you finish your call, or have them drop you off at the nearest hotel so you can finish up inside.
  • Look for an empty bar or park. Your options here will vary by time of day. Bars and restaurants are typically dead between 2-4pm, after lunch but before the dinner rush, and can be a good place to sit with little distraction. I’ve sometimes had luck with city parks, as well, which tend to be relatively quiet during weekday business hours.
  • Find a single stall or family restroom. You’d probably be surprised by how many business travelers have ducked into a private restroom to take a call. A last resort, perhaps, but better than a busy sidewalk.

When You’ve Seriously Got No Time

If you just stepped onto a crowded bus or find yourself sitting in a busy coffee shop at go-time, focus on keeping the call as professional as possible:

  • Always call in anyway. Make your presence known, and then, if at all possible, mute your phone while you find a quieter place to settle down.
  • Pay attention. A dead giveaway that you’re being distracted by your surroundings is to have to ask “what was the question?” Even if you’re jogging through an airport, keep track of who’s speaking and know when it’s your turn.
  • Be upfront. If all else fails and you can’t escape the noise, don’t let others assume something is wrong with their phone system. Own up to it: “Apologies for the noise; I’m standing out on the street near traffic. Let me know if it gets too bad.”

Of course, as a JetLux member with access to free suite upgrades, I’m usually in pretty good shape if I can just manage to stay in my hotel room. But when the unexpected happens, these strategies have helped me minimize the stress of staying in the loop while on the road.

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