Common breaches in conference call etiquette

By Robert Half on 15th April 2020

Whether you’re a manager or employee, there’s a good chance conference calls are a weekly, if not daily, occurrence. How you handle them can have a big impact on your career and business.

Showing good manners in the workplace, even when you think no one is watching, can enhance your professional image. Conversely, displaying bad habits can irritate coworkers and undermine your credibility. While it can be tempting to let your guard down during conference calls, it’s important to approach them with the same level of care as in-person gatherings.

Observing the rules of conference call etiquette will help you build more productive work relationships, promote teamwork in the workplace and make the most of virtual meetings.

We’ve all encountered someone who lacks conference call etiquette: a colleague who always joins late, a boss who constantly interrupts, a caller who blabbers. (It’s likely one reason people play conference call Bingo!) Don’t be that person by avoiding these common breaches:

1. Being tardy to the party

Wait until the last minute to prepare for a conference call and you’re asking for trouble. Do yourself a favour by making sure you have the necessary hardware and software up and running and gathering any reference materials in advance. It doesn’t hurt to dial in a few minutes prior to the meeting, too, so you won’t be scrambling. If you anticipate being late, let the host or participants know.

2. Causing a commotion

Nothing interrupts the flow of a conversation quite like a ringing cellphone, barking dog or wailing siren. If possible, find a quiet location for conference calls and mute the line when you’re not speaking. Just remember to unmute yourself when you have something to say.

3. Multitasking

If you’re checking email or surfing the web, you’re not paying attention to the discussion at hand. To fully participate in online events, eliminate all potential distractions. There’s nothing worse than being caught off-guard because you were busier reading a report or finishing a workout than actively listening and engaging.

4. Dominating the conversation

It’s easy to ramble when you can’t pick up on your colleagues’ body language and non-verbal cues. Unless you’re delivering a presentation, refrain from monopolizing the discussion. Contribute your thoughts succinctly and then give others time to chime in. Since there may be audio delays, wait a beat before resuming to avoid talking over someone.

5. Staying silent

Virtual meetings aren’t an excuse to sit back and let others do the talking. If you want to be a valued team member, speak up. But don’t pipe in just for the sake of it; keep your comments on target.

6. Ignoring the atmosphere

If you’re participating in a videoconference, don’t let your attire or backdrop be a distraction. Dress as you would for a regular day at the office. Clear your workspace of clutter and ensure proper lighting. When available and appropriate, take advantage of video conference filters.

7. Running long

This is one for the conference call administrator. Time is precious, so don’t waste it. Promptly starting and ending conference calls demonstrates respect for attendees’ schedules and makes for more productive business meetings. If you get through the agenda quicker than expected, end early.

8. Being quick to judge

Mistakes happen to the best of us. When colleagues commit a breach of conference call etiquette, practice patience and forgiveness. Some factors may be out of their control and there’s a good chance “offenders” are aware of, if not embarrassed by, the blunder. That said, it’s important to address recurring issues to optimise future virtual get-togethers.

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