Conference Call Etiquette

With more employees working remotely or in satellite offices, group conference calls are becoming even more common – between customers & suppliers as well as internal meetings. How many have you attended where you wanted to strangle someone?

It’s very difficult to manage many people on a phone line. Here are some etiquette tips for both attendees and the hosts that will help save your sanity and make for a more efficient meeting:

  • call in a few minutes early. Assume that the host will start on time and be ready to start the call at the assigned time. Most conference call systems announce each participant with something like “Joe Smith has joined the call”.  This is very disruptive as multiple people join the call after the start time.
  • if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t say anything! There’s always a couple of people who need to put their 2 cents in even though there is no substance to their comment or they are echoing a previous comment by another person.  And we all know the person who thinks they are really amusing and need to share funny tidbits throughout the call. Not the venue!
  • mute yourself. If the host doesn’t mute everyone for the presentation part of the call, please mute yourself. There is nothing more annoying than someone chewing or coughing into the phone, background office noises or outdoor noises, etc.  You can quickly unmute yourself when you have something to add to the conversation.

For the host:

  • begin the meeting at the assigned start time. It’s unfair (and won’t reinforce promptness in the future) to those who called in on time to hear that you’d like to “give everyone else a few more minutes to call in”.  Attendees will quickly learn that you will start conference call meetings promptly.
  • do not recap the meeting for those who call in late.  They don’t get to hear what they missed.  You snooze…you lose.
  • send an agenda for the meeting and stay on the agenda. Keep the conversation limited to the agenda items and make notes of new subjects for future calls.

Are offenders intentionally rude or just clueless? (But I’m not bitter!) Either way, a little common sense and consideration for your fellow conference callers will go a long way toward more efficient meetings (and will get you off the phone sooner!).