Almost one-third of people who participate in conference calls say their biggest pet peeve is many people talking at the same time, according to a survey developed by OfficeTeam, a subsidiary of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Robert Half International Inc.
Conference calls are becoming more frequently used communication tool as more people work from home or in locations worldwide, says Shelley Passingham, branch manager with OfficeTeam in Toronto.
However, as conference calls become more popular, not everyone knows the rules of etiquette governing these telephone meetings.
Here are five common conference-call mistakes to avoid:
1. Showing up late
When you dial in late to a conference call, you not only miss important information, but also disrupt the flow of conversation for everyone else.
Have your dial-in details prepared a few minutes prior to the call so you won’t be scrambling at the last minute to sign on. If you know you’re going to be late, inform the host in advance.
If you are hosting the call, ask for everyone’s availability before setting a date and time, Passingham says. Not everyone may be able to join the call at the same time, especially if participants are in various time zones.
2. Making too much noise
Loud typing, a barking dog or other background noises can disrupt a conference call. Ensure you’re in a quiet location when joining the call, and mute the line when it’s not your turn to speak.
Also, consider recording the call, Passingham adds, so if you have trouble hearing the conversation, you can play the recording afterwards.
Some participants may try to juggle lunch, email and paperwork while participating in a conference call. Avoid falling into this trap by eliminating any potential distractions. You’ll want to be able to keep up with the conversation and be ready to voice an opinion if called upon.
If you’re leading the meeting, keep it as short as possible, so people won’t feel squeezed for time.
“Ideally, your conference call should be no more than 30 to 45 minutes, to keep people engaged,” Passingham says.
4. Tinkering with technology
“Tech transgressors” usually have trouble getting on the conference call, whether it’s by inputting the wrong access code or accidentally putting the line on hold.
If you are unfamiliar with the technology and think you’re likely to fumble with it, ask for help and practice using the call system before the phone appointment.
5. Monopolizing the discussion
“Scene stealers” interrupt other people or spend too much time expressing a single idea. The group will want to hear your thoughts, but don’t forget to share the stage with others.
“Since there may be audio delays on the phone, wait a beat before speaking, to avoid talking over someone,” Passingham says.
To minimize distractions, invite only people who need to be on the call, she adds.
It’s also useful to create an agenda and email it to the group in advance. This step will keep the conversation on topic and help regulate who speaks, and when.