7 Tips for Minding Your Manners During Conference Calls
Basic etiquette in today's digital, global era can be a challenge, especially when you only have one form of communication to rely on. During a conference call, you have your voice—and your voice alone—to relay your thoughts, questions and input. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on where your etiquette stands.
Conference call etiquette is different than "regular phone" etiquette It becomes increasingly important the more people there are on the call, and even more important when there are cultural and language barriers. You don't want to make a faux pas simply because you were uninformed about this type of call etiquette. However, since it's not something you're taught in business school (or any school!), how can you be prepared? Just like any other type of etiquette, start with the golden rule: Treat others how you'd like to be treated.
Hopefully, there's a manager who's established a set of guidelines so nobody monopolizes the conversation or gets lost amidst other voices. If not, the best you can do is make sure you're following social protocol (even if it seems nobody else is). Here are the basics of conference call etiquette. Consider it your cheat sheet to a fast, flawless virtual meeting:
1. Be on time.
This should be easy, right? However, for many people, joining a conference call can be a laborious process. Some have been "burned" by sitting on conference calls waiting for up to 30 minutes before the rest of the attendees call in. You want to be timely, but you also know your time is precious. Luckily, there are conference call options like Hip Dial which will send you a text when participants are ready. It's an easy way to do group calls for people on the move and not tied to their desks.
2. Announce yourself.
Don't assume that everyone knows everyone else, or that anyone knows you've "arrived." A brief introduction like, "Hi, this is Jim," succinctly notifies other attendees. Saying hello when you enter a room (or phone call in this case) might be incredibly basic, but it's still often overlooked. A lot of conference call attendees are wannabe lurkers who prefer to keep mum.
3. Don't eat or drink anything.
Again, this should be obvious but it's unfortunately not. Eating and drinking during a meeting is rude enough (assuming it's not catered like many in-person meetings are). However, eating and drinking on a conference call can be maddening. There's no call too long that eating before and/or after isn't suitable.
4. Mute yourself.
There's a mute button for a reason. It might not seem like it, but there's a lot of background noise even in the quietest of offices. There may also be feedback you can't hear, but everyone else can. Unless you're speaking, keep your phone on mute. However, don't use this feature as an excuse to sneak a snack. Refer back to the last point for a reminder.
5. Take notes if necessary.
There may very well be a recorder, but if there are notes that you'll need to do your job better, take charge and jot them down yourself. Some people also record conference calls so they don't miss anything. However, if that sounds like a plan for you, make sure to ask a manager in advance. Some people may not want their voice recorded for whatever reason, and respect trumps convenience.
6. Have a list of input/questions ready.
If you already know you have questions or input, jot them down beforehand. You don't want to be hemming, hawing and peppering in a lot of "uhms" when everyone is waiting for you to speak. Preparation is key
7. Be pleasant to the end.
Finally, make sure to say good bye, and do so with a smile. Politeness can go a long way in business, especially when you're relying solely on your voice. There's only so much you can do to make a good impression. With prep work and basic etiquette, you can show you're polished, respectful and genuinely interested in the call. That's what will stand out in the eyes of managers and investors, and it takes minimal effort on your part.
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