June 2014 – What do you think of when you hear the words conference call? People showing up late at the meeting? Those people becoming a distraction by forgetting to put their phone on mute during the audioconference? Or may be the ones having sidebar conversations with others not on the call? Sounds familiar? We all follow a few etiquette rules at the dinner table, but what about etiquette protocol for conference calls? Here are some pieces of advice you should strive to follow when attending a conference call.
Keep in mind conference call dates/times
Make sure you remember when your conference call is, and keep the conference call number and pin handy so you are not searching for it at the last minute. You shouldn’t be reminded about your conference by a call or email from someone who is on the meeting when you aren’t.
Join the conference call in advance
Don’t be late, especially if you know you will have to participate in the discussion. You don’t want to be the reason why the conference call discussion is suspended, because everybody is waiting for you to arrive.
Mute your phone when you are not speaking
Muting your line will help you avoid distracting sounds, conversations, or noises. No more embarrassing sighs, munching noises from eating your lunch, or other background noise in the conference call.
Introduce yourself before speaking
Since the conference call participants are not all in the same room, it is important for others on the line to know who is speaking so that they can better understand the context of your comments. Sometimes it’s also useful to state your role, company, or location after your name; especially when your conference call includes people from other companies that have never met you face-to-face.
Be prepared to discuss the topic of the conference call
Approach your conference call like an ordinary meeting, prepare for it and, if needed, write down topics or questions that you would like to discuss during its course. It will make your conference more productive and will help you to avoid organising further meetings because of lack of preparation.
Reduce background noises
Turning off mute mode to speak, make sure that you are not distracting the other participants. This noise may be caused by standing outside in the wind, typing on your computer, kids running around, pets barking, side conversations with people in the office, Skype alerts, etc. Try to find a quiet location for your conference call.
Don’t get distracted
When you are in a conference call there are lots of distractions around you: emails in your inbox, colleagues asking questions, documents piling up on your desk, office chat, etc. If someone asks you a question and you don’t realize they are talking to you until the end of their question, you’ll make a bad impression. Don’t be the one who always asks others to repeat their question because of lack of attention.
Make sure to have a good mobile phone reception
A bad cell phone connection could make your voice break up when you speak, making your input to the conference call hard to understand. Sometimes it can lead to a dropped call, in which you have to call back into the meeting.
Keep on track
An agenda should be provided before the conference call. Be sure to stay on topic (usually it is the leader of the conference who is responsible for making sure everybody follows the agenda). If you need to have some additional discussions that are not related to the topic of the conference call or you want to discuss something in greater detail, do it offline. You can also organise a separate conference for further discussion of the topic with only the people concerned.
Define a leader
Every conference call should have a clear, defined leader. The leader emails out the agenda ahead of the call, directs the conversation, makes sure everyone sticks to the agenda, pays attention to time, and sends any follow up emails or additional meeting invites.
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