Conference Call Etiquette: More Do's and Don'ts

People are funny. Things they would never do in public, they have no compunction doing in private; and this applies to conference calling as well. Almost without exception, people who end up being disruptive in conference calls are completely unaware of what they are doing and would be appalled if they knew the negative impact they were having. As we noted previously, good conference call etiquette requires you behave on a teleconference as you would in a face-to-face meeting.

The list of unintentional but annoying behaviors you can experience (and have probably done yourself) on a conference call are legion, but most boil down into three categories. Good conference call etiquette and maintaining that all-important professional image requires the following.

  1. Do not do other work. It is always a great temptation to multitask when no one can see you. A conference call needs your undivided attention and your respect for the other participants just like a regular face-to-face meeting does. If you are shuffling papers, or typing, or distracted by doing other things, other people on the line can hear it and from your responses tell you are not paying full attention. It is best to keep the meeting agenda in view and take notes on what is being said to minimize having your mind wander.
  2. Do not eat during the call. Few things are more off-putting than hearing someone chewing, smacking their lips, or swallowing over the phone. Resist the temptation to eat or drink through a straw just because you think no one can see you do it. One way or another, you will give yourself away and this will not project the kind of professionalism or respect for your colleagues that you need to. There will be plenty of time to eat after your call is over.
  3. Wait your turn. Interrupting people is the bane of conference call etiquette. It is not only rude, but on a teleconference, it is confusing to others who are listening because it makes what both people are saying unintelligible. Wait until the other person is done talking before you speak, or wait until you are called on by the host before expressing your opinion.

By following these and the other rules for good conference call etiquette we discussed previously, you will improve the effectiveness of any call you participate in, as well as project the respect you have for your colleagues and their time, as well as the kind of image you want the other people on the line to take home and remember you by.

Conference Call Etiquette: Making the Right Impression

Conference call etiquette is as important as conference room etiquette. Everyone knows that in a meeting with their colleagues, manager, or customer in the conference room, they need to pay attention, be polite, participate, and not do anything disruptive. The same holds true for conference calls.

Below is how you can insure you have good conference call etiquette during a teleconference so you and the other people on the call get the most from the conversation and so you project the same profession image you would if you were in a face-to-face meeting with a room full of important people.

  1. Be on time. No one likes latecomers, their late arrival disrupts the conversation and commonly someone needs to recap where the conversation is to get the person up to speed. Being late is one of the most egregious of all conference call etiquette faux pas.
  2. Do not participate in or listen in on a call unless you are officially invited. The presence of “mystery guests” or uninvited participants is the second biggest breach of conference call etiquette. Because no one can see who is around and listening to what they are saying, participants need to trust that they are only talking to the people they know they are supposed to be speaking with. Just as people might not talk to a customer the same way they would talk to the team or their boss, participants have to know who it is that is listening and talking so they can express themselves appropriately and speak as frankly or diplomatically as required. Trust on the part of all participants in a teleconference is a MUST and you need to respect that.
  3. Introduce yourself at the outset. Tell people (a) your name, so people will know who you are. (b) Your location, if you are in a different building or city or what your department is, so people can visually place you. (c) Your role: salesperson, accountant, public relations representative, so people know your expertise, what you do, and what you bring to the table. And, last but not least, (d) your reason for being the conversation: e.g., "to help solve our marketing problem" or "to learn about what the problem is and try and get the project back on schedule". Conference call etiquette requires that other people on the line know who they are taking to and why.
  4. Tell who you are each time you speak. Another important part of good conference call etiquette is to remind other participants of who you are when you have something to say. Unless the conference call host has already called you by name, when you speak you should mention your name and something else about you to help people remember you (e.g., "This is John in sales and I feel that…." or "This is Simone in London, my perspective is…").

By following these four rules for good conference call etiquette, you will improve the effectiveness of any call you participate in, as well as project the kind of image you want the other people on the line to take home and remember you by. Common pitfalls that too many of us have experienced and that you need to avoid are discussed in our next blog.

Conference Calling: The Hardware Makes All the Difference – Part 2

Given the demands of the modern business climate and our fast-paced 24/7 society, sometimes you just can't control where you are when you have to attend a scheduled conference call. Here are important tips to let you maximize your effectiveness and cause the least disruption when you can't be in the best of locations for that all important teleconference.

  1. If you're on the road and must use a cell phone, find a place where your signal is strong and pull over and don't move the car until the call is over.
  2. If you are in an airport, find a bank of land-line phones and handle your call from there. That way, if the phone you are on is having problems, you can switch to another one in the matter of a minute or less.
  3. Use the mute button on your phone or the teleconferencing mute function to mute your line when you are not talking. It is best to eliminate the sound coming from your phone voice transmitter unless you are speaking. Using the mute eliminates any distracting background sounds from the place you are calling from or that you might make inadvertently. The only time you need to be heard is when you are speaking.
  4. Do not use your phone in speakerphone mode unless there are other people in the room that need to be in on the conversation. Speakerphones pick up all kinds of extraneous noise and have bad sound quality. Also, if you are in a room with others and sitting far from the phone, be sure to speak loud enough to be heard. This is particularly true for men. Men's voices tend to be lower in frequency than women's voices and not carry as well when there is background noise.
  5. Also, if you are in a teleconference where a number of people are in the same phone and you are speaking over a speakerphone, make sure not to carry on any side conversations during the call. No matter how quietly you think you are talking or whispering, other people in the room and on the conference call will likely hear what you are saying.

Conference Calling: The Hardware Makes All the Difference – Part 1

Good conference call etiquette requires not only that, as a participant, you comport yourself in the discussion in a professional manner, but also that you show you're a pro by not being the cause of any unnecessary hardware disruptions. You can always control your own behavior, but what about that of the equipment you're using?

In terms of hardware, there are always going to be things that are out of your control. You may not always be able to be alone in a nice quiet office with the door closed, you might have to be on travel, your phone might be on the fritz, or you might be in a large group clustered around a speakerphone.

Whatever the case, with some thought and knowing what the most likely problems are, you can minimize a lot of the distractions on a conference call that come from what you're using, as opposed to what you're saying or how you're saying it. Below are two things to keep in mind for your next teleconference.

If at all possible use a telephone with a land line, not a cordless phone, cell phone, or computer telephony (i.e., a phone that used Voice Over IP). The reason for this is that a land-line telephone has the highest quality sound with the least amount of static, cutting in and out, latency, jitter, echo, or other issues that degrade voice quality and the ability of others on the call to understand you. You can't leave a good impression if your phone is the one causing a lot of technical problems for the group.

If you get a bad connection, tell the host you're going to hang up and call in again to see if you can get a better connection. Nine times out of ten, this corrects any problems. Nothing is more annoying or distracting than to be stuck in an hour long teleconference when one person's phone is generating a lot of static or when there is an echo every time you speak.

Web Out-Dial Now Available:

You're about to start a conference call and "Forgetful Frank" still hasn't arrive. Usually you call to remind him but this time it's different.

You look at the live call screen and notice an inconspicuous box located on the left hand side. It's the web out-dial box and you intuitively know what it's for. You type in Frank's phone number and click "GO" to see what happens.

You continue talking as if nothing has happened. Seconds later, Frank's bellowing voice greets everyone on the call. Amazingly your meeting starts on time.

Allow me to explain this time-saving feature.

The AccuConference Web Out-Dial is an automated calling application that is controlled by your computer that invites participants to join a conference call.  The system can dial your entire contact list separately or all at once.

When your participants pick up their phone they receive three options:

Press 1 > to join the conference
Press 2 > to be called back in 5 minutes
Press 3 > to decline this invitation
The Web Out-Dial is like conference call cruise control… simply hit the button and then sit back to relax. No longer will your participants need to remember the exact time or codes for your call.

Bo ost your conference call attendance and save time. Visit our conference call features page to find out more about Web Out-Dial.

More ways to make (and save) money with conference calling

1. Sell your consulting services – meet with multiple people at the same time to maximize your time. Provide exclusive access by creating customized passcodes that expire after every use.

2. Host a special event – find a guest speaker that your customers would pay to hear. It could be a sales guro or motivational speaker, an author, politician, or industry spokesperson. Use online registration pages to track attendance and to distribute codes.

3. Record your calls – download your high-profile conference call recordings and make them available on CD for a price. The CD could contain sales and marketing strategies, industry-specific consulting, or be a recording of a popular guest speaker.

4. Blast-dial an important announcement –coming soon, this feature will automatically dial a list of phone numbers. This will let you pre-record important announcement and mass distribute them to current or prospective clients. This in turn will boost your inbound call volume and generate traffic to your website.

5. "Cold-Conference" prospective clients – Invite a list of prospective clients to an exclusive conference call. Provide them valuable information and then top it off with a lucrative sales pitch.

6. Reduce unnecessary business travel – Avoid paying for accommodations, transportation and eating out.

7. Use 800 forwarding – toll free forwarding ensures you never miss an important sales call.  Having a toll free number will also increase your call volume and give your company a larger geographic reach.

8. Increase sales – connect with your sales force, regardless of location. Use conference calling to follow-up on prospective leads. Record your sales pitches for training and customer quality.

Why don’t we Telecommute!?

Have you considered how traffic affects your personal productivity and our nation's economy?

Here is a segment from Wikipedias page on traffic congestion:
"The Texas Transportation Institute estimates that in 2000 the 75 largest metropolitan areas experienced 3.6 billion vehicle-hours of delay, resulting in 5.7 billion US gallons (21.6 billion liters) in wasted fuel and $67.5 billion in lost productivity, or about 0.7% of the nation's GDP."

Call Scheduler Updates

We've updated your online call scheduler.

  1. When you schedule a start time for your conference calls, the moderators can call-in 15 minutes beforehand. Participants can call-in 5 minutes beforehand.  This will protect you from being overcharged accidentally.
  2. If you are a moderator and you’re waiting for others to arrive, you hold 15 minutes before the system bumps you off if no one else joins.  Again, this will protect you from being overcharged accidentally.
  3. If you schedule a reoccurring conference (i.e. 3:00PM every Wednesday) then the codes will only work for that specified time. The codes will not be active until the following week on the same time and day.
  4. If you setup dial-in playback, the codes will still work regardless of the time stamp unless you make the conference inactive.

Call us if you have any questions. And if you're unsure about anything, we will happily walk you through the process.

The Five Minute Rule

What I'm about to say probably won't surprise you… are you ready?

People arrive late for meetings.  

The other night we were monitoring our call volume and it peaked at 7:05pm. With the hundreds of meetings that occurred last night, the majority had late arrivals. Specifically, we found that 12.1% arrived early and 87.9% arrived within five minutes of the start time. This isn't bad considering they could have arrived a lot later.

Judging by these statistics we've all arrived late one time or another.
So what can we learn from this? The next time you start your meeting, begin on time but don't give out the "meat" of your presentation until five minutes later. And your participants continue to be tardy, have them read Penelope Trunk's blog titled 5 ways to stop being late.

Party Line

Conference calls are most commonly used by businesses, but they can also be used for social and entertainment purposes. This is sometimes referred to as a party line.  Many of our clients use our conference call service to host mini family reunions or to connect with long-time friends. There are other companies who use our lines as a telephone dating service.

The term “party line” dates back to the early / mid 1900’s when multiple residences would share a phone line to save on expense. As a result, people could listen to their neighbor’s telephone calls! The comedic movie classic Pillow Talk, with Rock Hudson and Doris Day, is about a man and woman who share a party line, but they despise each other.  Rock’s character decides to disguise his voice to romance her but when she discovers that she’s been tricked, she seeks payback.

Movie tangent aside… if you’re not able to see your family or friends this Memorial Day weekend, try hosting a conference call. And don’t worry, our call security is much better than it was in 1959 so you won’t have any Rock Hudson’s or Doris Day’s on the phone (though some of you might like that!)