I think we have all experienced horrendous in-person sit-down meetings that were a nightmare to get through. They seemed to go on and on with no end in sight. One meeting after another held without any outcome or forward movement on objectives. We walked away from the meeting thinking it was a complete waste of time!
In today’s ever increasing virtual workplace, with small businesses that are operated from home and larger corporations having satellite offices, throw the conference call meeting into the mix, and some people may be ready for a straight-jacket by the end of the call. Let’s face it. Some conference calls can suck the life out of you! It’s time to dust off our conference call etiquette handbook and relearn some of the do’s and don’ts to holding highly effective meetings.
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Conference Call Etiquette Do’s
- Send out an invitation to the meeting with sufficient amount of time for individuals to respond and coordinate their calendars. Make sure there is a clear agenda and purpose for the meeting, which will allow all attendees to fully prepare. Include the call-in details and instructions on how to connect to the conference call and who will be on the call. Make sure the meeting is blocked on your calendar to avoid any future scheduling conflicts. If you are the organizer of the conference call, send out a reminder e-mail the day before or the day of the call and once again, include the agenda for the call.
- Prepare for the meeting. Have any documents or files you need for the meeting readily available. If your conference call is being held as a web-conference in which you will be presenting, make sure everything is open on your computer that you will need and you have tested the presentation on the platform you are using.
- Show up for the meeting three to five minutes early, which will help ensure the meeting starts on time. If you are the one leading the meeting, be online at least five minutes early. If it is a web conference, be online 15 minutes early at a minimum, so you can set everything up and test the system before going live.
- Make sure you are in a location where there are no background noises. If there are other colleagues that might walk into your office while you are on the call, inform them you are about to get on a conference call and cannot be interrupted. Make sure the office door is closed. IF needed, put a sign on the door not to be disturbed.
- If calling via your computer VoIP (Voiceover Internet Protocol), use headphones rather than your computer’s speakers to eliminate or cut down on audio feedback.
- Be focused and committed to the call, and nothing else.
- As you come into the call, state your name clearly. If there are more than three (maybe four) people on the conference call, state your name each time you start to speak.
- If you are leading the meeting, start the meeting on time. Right before starting the meeting, turn off the ping sound that indicates when someone has joined the meeting. If someone is late to the meeting, you don’t want the pinging to interrupt the meeting. State the purpose of the meeting and the agenda. Remind everyone of some of the etiquette rules, how to mute if needed, using headphones, stating name before speaking, etc.
- Make sure to take notes during the call.
- If you are the organizer of the conference call, after the meeting, write a short synopsis, any agreed to assignments or tasks, deadlines, and next meeting date and time (if one was set), and e-mail to all the conference call meeting participants.
Conference Call Etiquette Don’ts
- Don’t send out a last minute request for a conference call meeting happening today. Last minute conference calls are usually not efficient or effective.
- Don’t hold a meeting that doesn’t have a purpose and an agenda.
- Don’t show up unprepared.
- Don’t get on the call with a lot of background noise. Actually, avoid any noise in the background. The other participants do not need to hear your kids playing or screaming, dogs barking, dishwasher washing, you talking to someone else in the office, wind blowing up a storm… well you get the picture.
- Don’t get on a conference call while you are driving. First, it tells the other participants you are not fully committed and prepared for the meeting. Second, no one wants to hear you get into a car accident because you were paying attention to the phone call rather than your driving.
- Don’t use your cell phone if at all possible. The audio quality will be better on a phone connected to your computer using VoIP (or use a landline phone, if you are still in a place that uses landlines).
- Don’t use your computer’s speakers. Always use headphones or ear buds as this will eliminate or cut down on audio issues.
- Don’t show up to the meeting late. It’s rude and gives the appearance the meeting was not important to you. If you are the leader of the meeting, avoid acknowledging late comers as each one comes onto the call. Avoid at all costs the words, “Who just joined?” Definitely don’t go over what was already discussed. By acknowledging the late comers and bringing them up-to-speed on the meeting, you are telling everyone the late comers are more important. The people who arrived on time are learning it’s really not important when they show up. Technology glitches do happen, which is why it is important to call into the meeting early.
- Don’t get off topic, stick to the agenda.
- Don’t talk over and interrupt another speaker. Avoid hogging the conversation to ensure others have the opportunity to speak. If you are the organizer of the conference call, it is your responsibility to help ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak.
By following these conference call etiquette do’s and don’ts, you will be able to consistently hold highly effective meetings. The bonus is there will be fewer meetings because of your effectiveness. Fewer meetings can be a good thing!