Top Five Common Courtesies on a Conference Call

In line with last week's post on reducing background noise on a teleconference, we know of some common courtesies that help conference calls go better. These are simple, easy to remember tips that improve time management, team building, tolerance, and communication while on a weekly or even daily call.

1. Try not to hog the speaking time. We all know that one person who just has a lot to say (either from too much coffee or too much solitude; one can't be sure of exactly what is the cause) and they just go on and on about little details (or perhaps even needless gossip) that everyone feels is a waste of time. Try giving speakers time limits—say for presentations, ten minutes, for adding something to a conversation, two minutes - and then it is someone else's turn. This usually is only necessary when you have multiple talkers on a call. I know some non-talkative teams using conferences that would love to get anyone to talk for more than ten minutes!

2. Don't react rashly. Sometimes hot topics come up while on conference and the responsibility of everyone on the call is to not get offended and react. True, some jokes are really quite tasteless and some political comments are uncalled for (and quite out of place) but reacting to such things only escalates the drama. Let the team lead handle it or be decisive and gracious if it falls on you to reroute the conversation back to the right topic. Reacting is really not even fair; on a call, you can't see how the comments were said and you can't see body language of the person making the comments.

3. Try to speak to everyone. Sometimes a conference takes place in a conference room full of people while several members dial in. In those occasions, it is really hard for those on the phone to hear if a conversation goes on far away from the speaker. If you're ever in a conference room with people on the phone, try to make sure everyone can hear the person speaking. If that just isn't possible, have someone repeat what was said or send transcripts so that those dialing in are not left in the dark.

4. Communicate conference changes and updates. I can't tell you how many times I've dialed into a conference only to find the room had changed or the time had changed or even the day had changed. Make sure everyone attending the conference knows ahead of time if changes have been made. Sometimes it may become necessary to get replies from team members agreeing to the changed time, just to make sure. Also, if you're sending out relevant handouts that are needed during the conference, make sure to do this well enough in advance that everyone can access them easily for the call.

5. End when you promised. Employees appreciate respect for their time (even if they're on the clock working for you) as much as you appreciate them showing up to work on time each day. As much as you need the conference to begin on time, your team needs it to end on time. Days are busy and people plan other work, out of office appointments, and other calls around these conference calls. The ability to stick to a timed schedule is appreciated and a sign that you take everyone's participation in the call seriously.

These common courtesies are really simple (shows a little can go a long way), but as a manager, nothing is simple (probably because human beings are involved). Managers appreciate employees who are courteous and employees love managers who return the favor.

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