Saturday, November 1, 2014

Conference Call Etiquette

A conference call is when one or more of the parties are in different locations and situations. We have all been on a conference call where people show up late, become a distraction by forgetting to put their phone on mute, or have sidebar conversations (we hear) with others not on the call.

Here are a few guidelines you should strive to follow when attending a conference call.
Set the Ground Rules
If you are the one that initiated the conference call, let the others on the call know some of the basic ground rules pertaining to etiquette. Ahead of the call, provide the meeting start time, duration and agenda. You can also identify what will not be discussed on the call.

Keep Track of the Conference Call Start Time
Make sure you know when your conference call begins, and be sure to keep the conference call number and pin handy so you are not scrambling to find it at the last minute. Your meeting reminder should not come from a call or email from someone who is waiting for you to join the call.

Never Put Your Phone on Hold
If your hold feature plays background music it will play into the conference call and make it very difficult for the other participants to continue the meeting in your absence.

Mute Your Phone When You are not Speaking
Mute your phone to avoid distracting sounds, conversations, or noises that are not applicable to the conference call. Muting your phone will help you avoid embarrassing sighs, munching noises from eating your lunch, sidebar conversations, or other background noise.

Be Prepared
Like with all meetings, you should do some prep work or write down questions that you would like to address on the conference call. Like any meeting, you want the conference call to be productive and not spawn other calls/meetings because of lack of preparation.

Pay Attention
When you call in to a conference call there are other distractions in front of you: emails in your inbox, coworkers asking questions, work piling up on your desk, etc. If someone asks you a question on the call and you do not realize they are talking to you until the end of their question, it will be obvious that you were not paying attention. Don’t be the person who always has to ask others to repeat their question.

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David Schuchman


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. David, one of my clients got a job at the United States Postal Services in Washington, DC. Periodically he is sharing with me about what is going on in this governmental office environment. Based on his stories I am surprised every single day that in fact I get something in my mailbox. He tells me that they have lots and lots of conference calls. Department heads are being asked to participate. But, there is no coordination of these conference calls. So he tells me that often when he goes to see his boss she is on TWO conference calls at the same time -- one via each ear AND,..talking about multi-tasking she is also reading her email at the same time. He tells me that these conference calls are long, not well managed, boring and ineffective. This is only one facet for working for the USPS. The culture is worse than horrendous and the waste of tax dollars is unimaginable. David, would you like to work for USPS?

    1. Thank you for your comment, Alex. I have not previously looked at positions at the USPS. But yes, I would consider working for the USPS. However, I would investigate office culture as best as possible before accepting any position.

  3. Dave, thank you for the article! I have held and attended conference calls and the guidelines are good to have. It also brought to mind a funny video called "Conference Call in Real Life":


    1. Thank you for your comment, Shirley. That was a funny parody video. I liked when Tyler lost the call.

  4. Thank you for this post, David. I find it is also helpful to use a headset or other hands-free device for the call if I'm the only one in my location on the call. That leaves me free to type notes without typing noise interfering with the call. In some of my conference calls I type notes in a Google document that has been shared ahead of time with the other participants. That helps to capture a more accurate record of the discussion. Best wishes.

  5. Thank you for your comment, Patrick. You offered some wonderful suggestions, both from the perspective of good etiquette and to effectively sharing notes.


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