Conference Call Etiquette

This seems basic, doesn’t it? As professional adults, we should know what to do and what not to do. As businesses embrace teleworking and alternatives, conference calls become a way of life. I spend a great deal of time on conference calls, with several organizations and NGO boards, and I’ve noticed a few patterns that are annoying to the other callers, and even rude.

  1. Be on time, and preferably even a minute early. The chiming of callers coming on after the call has started is disruptive and it is disrespectful to the call organizer. Call in a minute or two early, then get your coffee or whatever you want to do. Our phones are generally portable, so we aren’t tied to our desks as we were 10 years ago. We can walk around and carry our phones with us.
  2. Mute your phone!  I can’t emphasize this enough. Your background noise is distracting to everyone, and it can even escalate beyond a simple distraction to a rude interruption. A colleague and I were conducting our monthly call when one of our participants decided to call someone else, on another phone. All 90 participants on our call heard one side of the conversation. We once heard someone snoring, and that is not even the most embarrassing noise we heard. You can imagine the chatter going on in the text box!
  3. Pay attention to what’s going on. If there is an Adobe Connect (or other) room, also know what is going on in the chat box. This helps you in several ways. This will help you avoid asking a redundant question, and may also provide important clues on the topic and the culture of the group you’re working with. If the person carrying on a separate conversation on another phone had been paying attention to the chat box, he or she would have known that everyone was listening to the conversation!
  4. NEVER interrupt the conference host. I had recently organized a conference call between three people. Five minutes before the call, I got a text from one of the participants that he could not make it, that he had another meeting. I told him I was unable to reschedule at this late schedule, but perhaps he could speak with this person at a later time. It would have been convenient for us to be on the call together, but it was not essential. I proceeded with the call, explained my colleague’s absence, then began going through my agenda. About five minutes into the call, my colleague dialed in and interrupted our conversation. He didn’t listen for a break in the conversation; he jumped in and talked over me, seemingly not even taking a breath. When he finished his seven-minute bombast (yes, I timed it!), he said he was done and was going back to his meeting and abruptly hung it. The conversation was thrown off tempo and the late caller’s behavior can only be described as rude and even arrogant. I was dumbfounded that a professional would treat a colleague with such disrespect.

Our global society has made conference calls and meetings via Skype a necessity. Following these few simple guidelines may help demonstrate your respect for your colleagues and can make these calls go more smoothly.

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