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Conference Calls January 24, 2007

Posted by Edwin in English, Skype, Speaking.

It has always been my intention that once I have attained a certain level of fluency in a language, my next challenge would be to speak that language in a public setting. Conference call is surely one of these perfect occasions.

I once attended a business presentation course. The instructor was asked for some tips on conference-calling.

“Conference call is brutal!” He commented. “Avoid it by all means!”

Well, we simply just can’t! Conference call is one of the most common ways to perform business communication today, due to the globalization effect and the advance in modern telecommunication technology. Controlling this kind of environment is extremely challenging. Either everyone is trying to talk at the same time, or people are not listening at all. It is very difficult to present your ideas, control the meeting flow, or even to perform basic communication.

I am required to join a lot of conference calls at work. But I am usually one of those lurkers hiding in the background (until I am being called upon, of course). Sometimes, I don’t even bother to mention that I have joined or say goodbye at the end.

Recently, I thought to myself, “What if I could master the skills of conference-calling?” I believe not only can this benefit my own career, but more importantly, it can help propelling my speaking in the specific language to a higher level.

Last Sunday morning, I joined a Skypecast for the first time in my life, hoping to work on my conference-calling skills. In the evening, I found myself hosting one!

Apparently, there was a technical problem with the evening Skypecast. No one could get in. David, the chair of the Skypecast, asked me if I could create a new Skypecast on behalf of him for people to join instead.

So I created the Skypecast with just a few clicks, thanks to the easy-to-use Web 2.0 Kantalk interface. I saw 20-30 people joining within a few minutes. Just about the moment I wanted to hand over the hosting completely to David, his machine froze! He could still hear us but we could not hear him. He asked me in the text chat if I could host the entire Skypcast for him!

Now, I was the host. I was not prepared for this at all! What topic should I talk about? Were those 20-30 people going to drop? How could I get David back?

The Skypecast was conducted in English, but it was for language learners in general. I started by throwing in questions about language learning. The audience was not very responsive at the beginning. Gradually, one or two people began to join. Then someone from Scandinavia joined and asked about my funny English accent.

We started talking about accents and other interesting language topics. Later, a few people also joined the conversation, several from Latin America. At one point, we even switched to Spanish! (though I could only utter a few words).

The Skypecast lasted for almost 3 hours. I was amazed there were still over 20 of us hanging in when the Skypecast ended.

I can think of at least 3 advantages practicing your conference-calling in a Skypcast over a normal business call:

  1. There are no real business issues, therefore less pressure when speaking
  2. People tend to be more friendly in a Skypecast
  3. You can do it as often as you like, until Skype starts charging, or goes away

I am looking forward to host more language-related Skypecasts in the near future. I am thinking of hosting them in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. It is my hope that one day, I will be able to host Skypecasts in other languages, too!



1. Steve - January 24, 2007

Yes, I know what you mean regarding the inhibitiuons people have from actually saying a few words. Thats why I believe one of the best ways to learn a language must be to immerse yourself for at least a few days (on holiday or other) in an area where the target language is spoken.

I must do this (Go to Germany) before I emigrate to Australia!!!

2. Danling - January 24, 2007

Edwin, you are my hero now. Please give me some tips and help on hosting my first ever skypecast. I participated in several skypecasts in the past. I know an experienced host makes a big difference in the quality of the skypecast.

3. edwinlaw - January 24, 2007

Thanks, Danling, for your appreciation.

You are also my heroine! I took courage to make my first Skype call because of your article.

I am not an expert in hosting conference calls. But I guess one tip I can give is to grab every opportunity to become a host. The most effective way to learn to swim is to throw your into the water.

I believe the same principle applies to language learning. I am going to throw myself into the water by participating in your Mandarin Skypecast this Friday!

4. David - January 25, 2007

By the way, Edwin, I’m more than happy to take the credit for pushing you off the cliff (untentionally). You might be a bit scared in front of your computer, but you came through to us in the skypecast as perfectly calm and in control. Great job!

5. edwinlaw - January 25, 2007

David, if pushing someone off the cliff can really help him improve, I am going to push more people off the cliff!

6. WORLDMIKEL - January 28, 2007

Thanks for coming to the Skypecast and sharing the links for learning Chinese.

There are two links for quick access to the WORLDMIKEL English Conversation Practice Skypecasts and the Public (text) Chat:


Joining the Public Chat has great advantages for chatting with others looking to improve their English, as it continues 24/7. Closing the window works better than clicking the “LEAVE” button, as it allows you to return and check-in on the activitiy.

Come again!

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