Conference Call Etiquette Tips

Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

Whether you use video, audio, or the old-fashioned phone call, here are etiquette tips for conference calls to ensure that you and your team are productive.

1. Set an Agenda

This sounds obvious and yet, bears repeating: if you’re the one running the meeting, set an agenda.

Agendas don’t have to be long, involved, or even particularly detailed. A brief outline of what topics the meeting will cover is usually good enough. They let attendees know what to expect, estimate how long the meeting will take, and gives them the chance to prepare their talking points.

2. Report Your Absence

Sometimes conference calls are held up because everyone is waiting “a few more minutes” for more attendees to arrive. That’s fine. However, those few minutes can quickly add up if people aren’t careful.

If you know you can’t make the meeting, let someone else in attendance know. A quick text or chat message should do the trick. This way, even though you aren’t there, you aren’t holding things up! And if you have important updates but can’t be present, communicate them to a trusted team member.

3. Prioritize Your Updates

In larger meetings (say, anything over eight people), prioritize what you will and won’t talk about. Limiting what you discuss gives everyone a chance to talk about whatever is important to them and helps caps the overall time the meeting takes.

If you’re not sure what to keep and what to eliminate, a good rule of thumb is that you should only talk about a topic if it involves, or is important to, at least three members of your meeting. Otherwise, save it for an email or a smaller meeting. Being mindful of time is key to conference call etiquette.

4. Test Your Equipment

No matter how you connect to the meeting, make sure you can connect. If you’re calling in from your cell phone, make sure you’re someplace with a strong signal and no interference. If you’re using your computer, try to connect via a wired connection over wifi.

And, make sure your speakers and microphone work, too. Just because the platform says you’re connected, doesn’t mean you are. There should be a way to test your video and audio before the meeting starts, so take advantage of that time and make sure you can fully connect to the meeting.

After the first meeting, future ones should be a snap. And, just like the video above says, allow extra time to download and install those unexpected updates!

5. Don’t Sneak Out

Sometimes a meeting just doesn’t fit into your schedule. The fantastic thing about a conference call is that with a little bit of flexibility, you can be present for some of the meeting. The other fantastic thing about conference calls is that it’s easy to sneak out (just hit “end” and no one’s the wiser!).

However, just because you can sneak out early doesn’t mean you should. Just like in a face-to-face meeting, let everyone else know at the start of the meeting that you have to leave early. That way, you have an opportunity to make your points and share your updates first. And, when you’re gone, no one is asking you a question then thinking you’re having technical difficulties when you don’t answer!

6. Be Prepared

Getting called on during a meeting only to be caught unprepared is not only bad conference call etiquette, it’s a missed opportunity. So prep for a conference call just as you would any other meeting. Have notes in front of you, and clear your computer screen of any unnecessary tabs that might prevent you from navigating to the information you need to access.

Talk about important projects you’ve been working on, or your recent successes or accomplishments. Be clear and concise (practice ahead of time if you’re nervous) and then confirm with the group that what you’ve said makes sense. Something like, “If anyone has questions, I’m happy to answer them.”

7. Find a Quiet Location

Sure, you may be used to the sound of the snow plows barreling down your street, but your co-workers on the conference call aren’t. When people are focusing solely on your voice, it’s important to make sure that your background noise is kept to a minimum. So if your home office for the day is your local coffee shop, you may want to consider changing your location, especially if you need to speak during the conference call.

8. Secure Your Pets

Your Rottweiler puppy Jake may be your faithful work-from-home office mate, but that doesn’t mean your colleagues want to hear him barking at the mailman when it’s your turn to speak. Make sure that your pets are secured (read: inaudible) before you dial in to your meeting.

9. Stay Focused

It goes without saying that you should be 100% focused on the call. But let’s face it: your mind can (and will) wander. Keep yourself motivated—and your energy up—by standing while working and speaking during your meeting. You can try doing stretches and lunges to keep your mind alert and prepare yourself both physically and mentally should you get called on by your boss to give an update.

And, as tempting as it might be, don’t check social media, or anything else that can be a distraction. Sure, no one will see what you’re doing. But you never know when someone will call on you, and the last thing you want is to answer with, “What?”

10. Speak Up

Not everyone on the call will have the same connection as you. You might be able to hear everyone loud and clear, but the same may not be true in the other direction. Speak loudly and clearly and ask if everyone can hear you. You don’t have to yell, but you don’t want to use your inside voice, either.

11. Use Your Name

This is especially important if you’re on a call with a large group of people, and it’s hard to keep track of who is saying what. When you start speaking open with, “This is Jane, and I have a question for you,” or “Hi there, it’s Joe, I have something I wanted to add to that point.” That way, your contributions to the conversation is noted, and no one is left wondering who the genius with the awesome comments is.

12. Hit the Mute Button

While it’s important to speak up, it’s just as important to quiet down, too. If you aren’t speaking for long periods, consider muting yourself even when you’re in a quiet location. Your chair may squeak when you least expect it! This is an important part of conference call etiquette because these subtle distractions can cause somebody to lose their train of thought, or disrupt the conversation.

On that same note, mute your phone. There’s nothing more distracting than the incoming message, text, voice mail, or phone call notification when you (or someone else) is speaking.

13. Know When It’s Too Quiet

When someone asks you a question, and you answer, it’s easy to forget you’ve left yourself on mute. Fortunately, someone will probably speak up and say, “We can’t hear you.” Then everyone laughs, you unmute yourself, and the meeting continues.

But sometimes, it’s not the mute button. Sometimes you’re reacting or looking for information before you answer. Especially if it’s an audio call, it’s easy to forget that no one can see you nodding in agreement or looking up the information from last quarter’s report.

To help people “see” what you’re doing, and so they don’t assume it’s a technical issue, narrate what you’re doing. “I’m looking for that report right now,” is an example. This way, people know you’re searching for the right information, and you’re still connected to the call.

Make Meetings Better

Love them or hate them, meetings are a part of almost every job—even remote ones. Fortunately, technology gives us a way to join in from where ever works best for us. However, what’s best for us may not be best for everyone on the call. Think wisely about how and where you conduct your conference calls, and be sure to exercise good conference call etiquette. Your coworkers and clients will thank you.

reprinted with permission From Flex/Jobs