By Teresa Meek
In our age of connectivity, conference calls are more important than ever. They let whole teams of people who may never have the opportunity to meet in person come together. It can be a great exchange, but it can quickly go sour if you don’t observe some important business etiquette rules.
Remember, though you may be sitting on a sofa at home or lounging at a Starbucks sipping a latte, you are still at a business meeting. Here are some common problems that arise during a conference call and what you can do to make sure you’re not the cause.
Sorry I’m late!
Others are sorry too, especially when they [BEEP!] are interrupted by your [BEEP!] entrance and your lame apology. Being late to a conference call is worse than arriving late to an in-person meeting because the very act of entering the room causes an annoyance. Give yourself a few extra minutes to dial the number and the code to get connected before the meeting starts. If you are late, don’t compound the error by interrupting the conversation with an excuse. You can explain later, but if you don’t say anything, people are more likely to forget about it.
I’m starving! No one will know if I eat this hamburger.
Don’t count on it, especially if your food is enclosed in a paper wrapper (crinkle, crinkle), is crunchy, or requires utensils to eat. When in doubt, hit the mute button.
I’m driving, but I have Bluetooth. Can I join the call?
Not a good idea. Even if you mute the call to avoid traffic noise and the swoosh! of air passing as you drive, chances are you will lose your connection several times and have to be reconnected, which causes a disturbance to the room every time (see Sorry I’m Late!).
I’m sorry, could you repeat the question?
Listening can be hard when you’re surrounded by visual distractions, or if you’re multitasking by checking your apps. Make a point of paying close attention so you won’t be embarrassed if someone asks you a question.
It’s hot in here! I’ll sit next to the air conditioning unit.
Don’t do it! Though you may not hear any sound at all, the sensitive conference call equipment will pick up a hissing/gushing noise like a vacuum cleaner in the distance that everyone will hear when you talk. I’ve been on the receiving end of this, and it makes a conference call a real drag.
What is the point of this conversation, anyway?
Didn’t you read the agenda? Every conference call should have one, provided by a leader or moderator who keeps track of minutes and steers the audience from topic to topic.
Sorry, you go ahead.
No, that’s OK, you go ahead.
No, you go.
[Pause. Then both start speaking at once.]
Drop out immediately if someone starts speaking at the same time as you. Don’t apologize, just wait quietly until the speaker is done before you start talking.
Simple courtesies, simple rules. It’s amazing how many people don’t follow them.
Break the rules, and you draw negative attention to yourself. Follow them, and everyone will remember you for what you say.