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Conference Call Etiquette You Need to Know

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Happy businesspeople on a phone conference call

Phone conference etiquette is easy to grasp once you know what to do. Since conference calls are an important part of doing business for many companies and industries, it’s well worth your time to make sure you understand the unspoken rules of a conference call before attending or hosting your own.

Conference calls can be intimidating, especially if there are a lot of people on the call, you need to impress a potential client, or you’re hosting an international conference call.

The best way to ensure that you and your company come across in a positive light during a conference call is to follow simple conference call etiquette.

If you’ve ever been on a phone conference before, you’re likely aware that there’s an unspoken code of behavior that is very different from regular calls. The introduction of additional callers plus the potential complications from today’s phone conferencing technology can make things complicated.

Whether it’s your first conference call or one-thousandth, you should be familiar with the basics of conference call etiquette. Here are a few tips to make sure your conference calls go off without a hitch.



Don’t Be Late

Everyone is busy— even if you have 100 things to do, phone conference etiquette requires that you be on time to the call. Though this tip is important, over time it can get overlooked. If you are responsible for leading a call, make it clear to the other participants that you plan to start exactly on time.

An easy way to discourage conference calls from starting late is to move forward with the conference call agenda even if all the participants aren’t on the line. Sticking to your schedule will make it clear that your calls start when they’re scheduled.

One thing to consider when you are joining calls is the time it takes to dial-in. Most conference call providers require you to dial an unknown phone number in addition to an access code and possibly a host PIN—give yourself ample time to navigate those menus. Alternatively, if you are hosting the call, you can choose a conference call service like Branded Bridge Line that offers PIN-free dial-ins for everyone’s ease of use.

Conference Call Etiquette Pro tip: If someone joins a call late, kindly let them know that they can catch up on what they missed with you or a colleague at the end of the call or send your participants a recording afterwards. By utilizing this tactic, latecomers won’t miss important information from the call and you also won’t have to hold up everyone else waiting for them to join.


How Long Should I Wait for Others to Show Up on a Conference Call?

When it comes to phone conference etiquette, there’s not one single answer to how long is too long to wait for other participants to join a conference call. In general, it depends on your schedule and what the nature of the call is.

For example, if it’s a qualified prospect for a sales call, you might give them 5 to 10 minutes, and send a quick email after 5 minutes asking if the other participant(s) would like to reschedule, or if they’ll still be joining. Remind them of the dial-in number and PIN, if applicable.

If your call has many participants from different departments, you might want to be a little more flexible as you’re dealing with multiple people and their busy schedules. Ultimately, if you’re hosting the call, it’s up to you to decide how long to wait. If it’s unlikely that you’ll find a new time that reasonably works for everyone on the call, it might be worth it to wait 15-20 minutes in order to complete the call in the first place. However, if the main stakeholders for the call are already present, you can probably begin the meeting without issue.


Be Kind

The first rule of phone conference etiquette is the most important one: be kind. Treat others on the call the way you would like to be treated for a harmonious and productive meeting every time.

Think about the other people on the call and take their needs into consideration. This step may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people prioritize their own needs over the needs of other conference call attendees. Remember, conference calls are designed to get things done and often, everyone wants to get off the call and get back to work. The more pleasant and accommodating you can be, the better! This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t voice your ideas and opinions; it just means you should do so with poise and kindness.


Don’t Interrupt

If you remember the fact that conference calls are just big conversations, it’ll be easy to have good phone conference etiquette. As with any conversation, it’s best to always wait for someone to finish before speaking. If someone else is talking, actually listen to what they’re saying instead of thinking about what you’re going to say afterwards. You might be surprised by their contribution, allowing the conference call to take a new and productive turn that you didn’t expect.

Interruptions can totally derail a conference call and leave a lasting bad impression. If you interrupt someone on accident, simply apologize and allow them to finish their thought. If you’ll have a larger group of people on the call, it’s easier for interruptions to get out of hand. Prepare for larger groups by setting ground rules in the beginning. Maybe you all decide on an order in which to share your opinions, or maybe you select a discussion moderator to choose who will speak next.

One of the most important features of a conference call is to provide an easily accessible space for lots of people to contribute ideas. Just like regular meeting etiquette, not interrupting others is an important part of conference call etiquette.

To further illustrate the point, if you start interrupting other people on the call it only encourages others to do so. Interruptions can make people flustered or upset. People are less likely to participate if they are flustered or feel like they won’t be able to finish a thought without getting interrupted. By following this one piece of phone conference etiquette, you can expect increased participation and more successful calls.


Make Sure You Know How to Mute

Do you know the biggest mistake novice conference callers make? Not putting yourself on mute. It’s a common one because it’s not immediately apparent when you’re doing it – but it’s definitely a violation of conference call etiquette.

It’s common phone conference etiquette to put your phone on mute when you aren’t talking on a call. This is for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is that you might be in a noisy environment like a coffee shop or walking down the street and even though you can hear everyone on the call just fine, they won’t be able to hear anyone else talking because of the noise coming from your phone.

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Happy businesspeople on a phone conference call

Always Announce Yourself when Joining (the Call and the Conversation)

The more participants on a call, the more important it is to announce yourself when you join. This is common phone conference etiquette. Without the advantage of face-to-face communication, it can be impossible to keep track of who is on the line.

Furthermore, if you don’t know everyone on the call – and especially when it’s a big call – you should even announce yourself when you speak on the call. It doesn’t have to be an in-depth introduction each time, but a quick, “Hi this is so-and-so from such-and-such department,” will help everyone on the call better keep track of the conversation.

Is it Rude to Stay Silent if You Join a Conference and You’re Waiting on Colleagues?

Yes, it’s rude! The conference host can see that you are on, so just say hello and something like “I’m expecting Joe to join soon, I’m going to mute for a moment and make sure he’s on the way.” No matter what kind of conference call, it’s always best to be upfront and make your presence known when you join the call. That way, folks know you’re there and ready to participate. By knowing who is already on the call, the host can decide whether or not to start the meeting, wait for others to join, or postpone the call altogether.

Come to the Call Prepared

There’s nothing worse than a silent conference call. Bueller? …Bueller? Luckily, following some simple conference call etiquette can help you avoid that!

If you’re on a call with a lot of people you don’t know personally, it can be intimidating to contribute. Coming to the call prepared with data, observations, conclusions, and insightful questions for other departments is the easiest way to ensure you have a great conference call. Plus, it will make the call go by quicker since the host won’t have to work as hard to pull out answers and contributions.

The call leader likely prepared an agenda ahead of the call… take advantage of it! Use the agenda as a roadmap to prepare some questions. Also, if you know you’ll be expected to contribute, make sure you’re prepared. Conference calls are best when there are a lot of interactions, so always be sure to ask for thoughts, reactions, and feedback.

This Conference Call May Be Recorded…

Remember, most conference calls can be recorded. Conference call recordings are great reference points for reviewing meetings and holding people accountable. Depending on the state you are conducting business in, many do not require consent (one party consent is enough in many states, which means you consent as a participant, and that is enough). A recording can be circulated and live on long past the conclusion of your meeting, which means you should always be mindful (and kind!) whenever you’re on a call. If you keep the above phone conference etiquette tips in mind, you should have nothing to worry about on a recorded call.

If you’re the one recording the call, common conference call etiquette dictates that you inform your conference participants that the call is being recorded. Some conference call service providers may automatically notify participants, but others will require that you verbally communicate the recording with the other meeting members.

Conference with Confidence

Phone conference etiquette isn’t complicated! Following a few simple guidelines can help anyone have successful conference calls. Whether you’re an experienced conference caller or leading your very first conference call, the conference call etiquette covered here will keep calls productive and efficient – all while making sure everyone is heard and respected.

Think you’ve mastered conference call etiquette and want to level up your phone conferencing? Check out Branded Bridge Line’s conference call features today!

What’s the standard “wait time” for others to show up in a conference call?

It depends on your schedule and what the nature of the call is. If it’s a qualified prospect for a sales call, you might give them 10 minutes, and send a quick email after 5 or 10 minutes asking if the other participant(s) would like to reschedule, or if they’ll still be joining. Remind them of the dial in number and PIN if there is one set for the conference line.

Is it rude to stay silent if you join a conference and you’re waiting on colleagues?

Yes, it’s rude! The conference host can see that you are on, so just say hello and something like “I’m expecting Joe to join soon, I’m going to mute for a moment and make sure he’s on the way.”

Can I record a conference call?

Yes, conference calls can be recorded, and depending on the state you are conducting business in, most states do not require consent (one party consent is enough in many states, which means you consent as a participant, and that is sufficient.)

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