Conference calls can be intimidating. Especially if there are a lot of people on the call, you’re trying impress a potential client, or there are language barriers between international participants of the call.
The best way to ensure that you and your company come across in a positive light during a conference call is by following 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 adding phone conferencing technology into the mix can make things complicated.
If you haven’t done a conference call, however, then you might not know about the commonly agreed upon set of rules that accompany them. And it’s not your fault! These guidelines aren’t formally taught in any school, even though everyone seems to know them. Here are a few tips to make sure your conference calls go off without a hitch.
The first rule of conference call etiquette is the most important one: be kind. Think about the other people on the call and take their needs into consideration.
If someone else is talking, listen to what they’re saying instead of thinking about what you’re going to say. You might be surprised by their contribution, allowing the conference call to take a new and productive turn that you didn’t expect.
Always wait for someone to finish before speaking. Interruptions can totally derail a conference call. And, the more people there are on the call, the easier it is for interruptions to get out of hand. One of the central purposes of conference calls 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 – not interrupting – 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 considered common courtesy 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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Don’t be Late
Everyone is busy. And even if you’ve got 100 things to do, or just need to finish up one unrelated task, conference call etiquette requires that you be on time to the call. Though this one 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 and don’t waste any time. 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.
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. Though not an official part of conference call etiquette, by utilizing this tactic latecomers won’t miss important information from the call, but you also won’t have to hold up everyone else waiting for them to join.
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 conference call etiquette. Without the advantage of face-to-face communication, it can be impossible to keep track of who has joined the call.
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.
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!
The call leader likely prepared an agenda ahead of the call… take advantage of it! Use it as a roadmap to prepare some questions. Also, if you know you’ll be expected to contribute, make sure you’re prepped. Conference calls are best when there is a lot of interactions, so always be sure to ask for thoughts, reactions, and feedback.
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 conferencer 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.
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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.)