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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.