So, you been notified of your hearing date — and told that it will be a teleconference. What do you need to prepare? How can you put your best foot forward and effectively present your case over the phone?
This topic might seem particularly appropriate as we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, but teleconference hearings have already been happening for quite some time.
CPP disability hearings have been held by teleconference for years now, along with some workers’ compensation programs and the occasional long-term disability appeal. We expect to see teleconference hearings become more common moving forward into a post-COVID world (I’ll be honest, I’m already tired of hearing that phrase).
And, contrary to popular belief, teleconferences are just as effective as hearings that are held in-person as long as you follow best practices. Here at Resolute, we’ve seen no difference in success rates for the CPP disability hearings that we’ve done in court or by telephone.
Anyhow, we’ve put together 9 tips to prepare you for a teleconference hearing.
For even more information, check out our page:
COVID-19, Sick Leave, and Disability Benefits
Way before the call…
1. All written submissions have to be extraordinary
Despite what you might think, the written information you send in before the hearing is so important — we would even go so far as to say that the written stuff is more important for a teleconference than for a regular hearing. The judge doesn’t get the chance to meet you (or even see you!) so you have to set the tone, give the right arguments, and tell the best story even before your court “appearance.”
2. Ensure that you have access to your hearing file
You’ll want to have a copy of your hearing file, or similar hearing information and documents. These do need to be official documents that are approved for use — you can’t show up with just anything.
We recommend you have a paper copy of what you need, but a PDF will do if you’re confident navigating a digital document. We always print and mail copies of the hearing file to our clients. Getting this information together for the hearing and knowing what’s on the table is one less chance for things to get out of your control.
3. Organize your presentation for your case
If you’re representing yourself, this is a big one that you’ll probably put quite a bit of time and thought into.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to think carefully about what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, and the order in which you’ll present your information. By all means, practice it beforehand if you need to. Be prepared to answer any questions you might be asked.
You’re phoning in— but don’t “phone it in”
4. You need a reliable phone
This means a full battery and a good signal — maybe you’ll even need to drive an hour into town for better reception. Cordless landlines tend to have the most problems with connection and battery life, so avoid using one of those, if you can. If you don’t have a phone that will do the trick, ask a friend or family member if you can borrow theirs.
5. Never put yourself on speaker
It’s crucial that you’re audible to the other side. If you’re unable to hold a phone for an extended period of time, buy or borrow a headset. Putting yourself on speaker will cause problems with rustling and white noise. You might inadvertently turn away from the microphone. All of this puts you at risk of sounding unprofessional.
6. Find a quiet, professional environment to take the call in
This means no pets, no kids, no spouse — no distractions. If you’re able to do it at home but there will be family members around, be sure they know how important this is. Sit in your car and drive two blocks away if it’s the only quiet place you can think of.
7. No unauthorized people can listen in
No well-meaning family members or friends allowed. You have to be in a secure room; this is not the type of call you can take at Starbucks. Other than an authorized representative, nobody can be present to coach you. The judge has to know about everybody who’s in the room; if it becomes apparent that someone is present who shouldn’t be, this will reflect very poorly on you.
8. Test the phone line ahead of time
This will help you be sure that you have all of the correct numbers to dial. You’ll be sent all the information ahead of time — phone number, conference ID number, and sometimes a numerical password. They typically recommend that you phone in 10 minutes prior to the start time, but it never hurts to double check and practice dialling in even before that.
9. KEEP some water nearby
This might seem like a given, but it’s important. A court hearing from the comfort of your own home is still a court hearing, and you have to be professional and prepared. The last thing you’ll want to do is excuse yourself for a glass of water when you get nervous and your mouth gets dry.
Even though you won’t be stepping foot into a courthouse, this is still a court proceeding and you have to respect the process. The judge will be able to tell if you’re not taking it seriously, and you’re more likely to get denied if you don’t. While in theory you could take this call from your bed, in your pajamas, you will be doing yourself an incredible favour when you take it seriously and put your best foot forward.