Holding meetings via telephone can seem a bit daunting to the uninitiated, but conference calls deliver real savings on time and travel. From better team meetings and training sessions to communicating with telecommuters and customers, conference calls are definitely becoming a commonplace component of doing business. Despite all their upsides, though, they can still be problematic if participants don’t have a grasp on basic conference call etiquette.
The good news is that conference calls can be highly successful. Here are the basics of minding your conference call Ps and Qs.
Confirm the Time, Date and Time Zone
There’s nothing worse than dialing into a meeting at 2:00 PST when the meeting was at 2:00 EST!
Make Sure You Have an Appropriate Phone
Voice quality is a big factor in the success of any conference call service. Using your cell phone on speaker in a loud room is equivalent to having a conversation in a crowded bar. You’ll want a phone that delivers high quality audio and has a mute button so other participants don’t have to hear your background noise. The Polycom SoundStation IP 6000 offered by RingCentral is a great solution for small businesses. Advanced features include acoustic clarity technology that virtually eliminates drop-outs, a 12-foot microphone pickup (ideal for small to mid-sized rooms) and technology that resists interference from cell phones and other wireless devices.
Prepare Yourself Ahead of Time for the Call
Find a quiet, undisturbed room if possible, and let others around you know that you’ll be on a conference call. Have everything you need for the call readily available, and turn off cell phones, pagers and anything else that could be distracting to the other participants. By minimizing noise, you can do your part in keeping distractions to a minimum.
Dial in Early
Don’t wait until the call start time to dial in. You’ll want enough time to redial if the line is busy and to get comfortable and organized before the call begins.
Once you’ve dialed in, let the other participants know who you are and find out who else is on the call. If you’ll be on the call with individuals who you have never met before, introduce yourself by first and last name and tell them your company name and job title. You don’t want participants trying to guess who you are because you jumped onto the call without identifying yourself.
Mute Your Phone When You’re Not Speaking
Don’t be the person who distracts the conversation by talking to coworkers not on the call or typing on your computer. And be careful about placing your call on hold if you have to step away. The others probably don’t want to hear your on-hold music!
Make Sure You’re Heard Loud and Clear
Speak slowly and loud enough to be heard. Don’t chew gum or eat while talking. Also, be careful about shuffling papers, tapping pencils or participating in other noisy and irritating activities.
Try Not to Let Topics Wander
A conference call is not the time for a rambling monologue about what you did over the weekend. Don’t monopolize the conversation, and give everyone else a turn to speak. Stay focused on the agenda and be respectful of others’ time. While you may have the time to chat about the hot new technology you just discovered or the big play in last night’s game, others may be on a tight time schedule and won’t appreciate having to sit through drawn-out banter when they’re focused on discussing the agreed-upon topics of the call.
Close the conference call formally by thanking everyone for their participation. If you have to leave the call before it concludes, make sure to announce that you’re hanging up so everyone is aware that you’re no longer there.