Uttering the phrase “conference call” can cause a visceral reaction in the minds of many office workers. No matter what industry you find yourself in, engaging in multi-person calls is a necessary evil. Whether it’s on a subway platform or in the middle of dinner date, we’ve all had to take conference calls in less than ideal situations. But some conference call sins are decidedly worse than others.
While conference calls are beneficial for a variety of reasons, the annoyance factor increases by leaps and bounds if one of the following five conference call personalities is on the call.
Persona #1 – The Technology Novice
The technology novice is one of the conference call personalities we encounter all too often. Joining conference calls can be annoying, but how hard is it to mute your line when you’re doing something else on the call? Apparently, for some people, muting a call is harder than it looks!
How many times has this happened to you? You’ve signed into the conference call and patiently wait as the multitude confirms their entry. After muting your microphone as the instructions direct, the sound of chatter and random clanging echoes in your receiver. Charles, the accountant, can’t figure out how to mute his microphone. The next five minutes involve guiding this poor man through the simple task of pressing the “mute” button.
Then, halfway through the call the questions turn to accounting and you desperately need Charles to chime in about something only he has the expertise on. “Charles? Charles?” Silence. “Charles, you’ve got to unmute the call if you want us to be able to hear you.” Silence. “Charles, remember before when we walked you through how to mute your line? You’re going to need to do that same thing again before answering the question.” Silence. “Charles? Okay, fine, let’s just move on.”
If this conference call personality sounds like you, consider pressing “mute” upon entry and unmuting only when you need to contribute to the call. If you don’t know where the “mute” button is, join the conference call early to locate it or ask one of your colleagues to point it out to you prior to the call. Don’t be a Charles!
Persona #2 – The Cougher
Colds are terrible. They unwillingly disrupt not only your life but also the lives of those around you. Nonetheless, when it comes to conference call personalities don’t let that tickle in your throat cause tension between you and your co-workers. There are few sounds more jarring and unpleasant than that of a cough over a conference line at full volume.
If you are really sick, the best plan of action is always to reschedule your call. Having to talk with a sore throat only makes the cold or sickness last longer, so it’s best to refrain from speaking entirely if possible. Plus, continuously popping cough drops, coughing, and having to repeat yourself because everyone on the call is struggling to hear you only serves to frustrate your colleagues and clients more.
If you absolutely have to take a conference call when you’re sick, keep your phone on “mute” for as long as possible. If you know you’ll need to speak, take a cough drop, have a steady supply of tea or water ready, and make sure you’re in a quiet area so you don’t have to strain your voice.
Persona #3 – The Popular Guy
Having friends is wonderful. A blooming social life is a beautiful thing; however, when it comes to conference call personalities showcasing your popularity on a call can be a problem. We’ve all been there—how annoying is it when you can hear someone on a conference call having another conversation? Or their phone keeps buzzing with texts and notifications?
Background noise of any type is disrespectful and distracting. The disruption level is raised if the noise is laughter or your cell phone constantly dinging from texts. During conference calls, move away from your friends and silence your cell phone to erase any possibility of annoying your coworkers.
Persona #4 – The Space Cadet
Ultimately, conference calls are designed to increase productivity. They are often used in place of an in-person meeting because it’s easier and more efficient to hop on a phone call than have everyone take extra time out of their day to travel to a single location. With that in mind, no one wants to be stuck on a conference call for any longer than they absolutely have to be. If everyone kept this in mind, no one would ever have to deal with conference call personalities—like the space cadet—that waste time by needlessly extending the length of a phone conference.
Quarterly reports, market data, and other riveting conference topics may not keep you on the edge of your seat, but at least try to pay attention. Not many people want to fully focus during these calls, but don’t disrespect the rest of the meeting members by not answering when your name is called. Try to keep yourself engaged and ready to contribute by taking notes throughout the meeting. Be prepared to answer questions and ask some yourself. Remember: the higher your focus, the quicker the call ends.
Persona #5: The Flusher
It’s sad, and this one should go without saying, but it still happens too often to not mention on this list. When it comes to this conference call personality, even one-time perpetrators are marred for life.
Nothing causes listeners to cringe to such a degree than the sound of a toilet flushing. When nature calls sometimes you must answer, even during a conference call. While this is a part of being human, so is courtesy.
If you are at all worried that nature will call in the middle of your next phone conference, take the time before joining the call to use the restroom one last time. In scenarios like this, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you know you’re going to be in a longer conference call (longer than an hour), avoid drinking too many liquids before the start of your call and give everyone a bathroom break at the meeting’s halfway mark.
If you absolutely must relieve yourself during an ongoing conference call, do so in private. Mute your phone or be brave and step away from the call. Spare your coworkers the intimate details of your life and keep the flushing to yourself.
Conference calling doesn’t always have to be boring! If you’ve dealt with more than one of these cringe-worthy conference call personalities this week, there’s nothing like conference call humor to brighten your day. Happy conferencing!
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