Know The Rules Of The Road For Conference Calls

By Stephanie Ritenbaugh
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Just because you can’t be seen doesn’t mean you can’t be heard. The concept may seem simple enough, but some folks seem to forget that on conference calls.

In fact, multiple people talking at once and excessive background noise are the top annoyances on conference calls, according to a recent survey from OfficeTeam, a subsidiary of the California-based human resources consulting firm Robert Half.

OfficeTeam specializes in office staffing issues.

“It’s tempting to let your guard down on conference calls because participants can’t see you, but basic meeting rules still apply,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, in the survey results.

Conference call skills will continue to be important as more companies turn to telecommuting, aided by better technology and attempts to save money by reducing travel.

“It’s an easier use of people’s time and budgets if you can have conference calls,” said Carrie Haglund, branch manager for Office Team in a phone interview. “Telecommuting is becoming more common, and so there are more opportunities for problems to occur.”

OfficeTeam identified these five types of conference call etiquette offenders:

-The Late Arriver disrupts the flow when joining after the call has started.
-The Noisemaker causes a commotion with loud typing, a barking dog or other background sounds.
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-The Multitasker is too busy eating, checking email or reading a report to pay attention to the discussion.
-The Tech Transgressor is prone to technology faux pas, whether it’s misusing phone access codes or a headset, or accidentally prompting music by putting the line on hold.
-The Scene-Stealer is known to interrupt or monopolize discussions.

The best way to avoid these behaviors is to make sure you’re prepared for the call. Find a quiet spot away from background noise, and put your phone on mute when you’re not talking. Make sure you know your way around the conferencing equipment.

Also, show respect to others by actively participating in the meeting while also allowing others to speak, the firm recommends.

Of course, there are those who may not realize their behavior is disruptive. That’s where it’s important for the person responsible for the call to step up.

“It’s important for whoever is orchestrating the call to be proactive,” said Haglund. “Make sure you have a clear agenda and that the meeting is relevant for all the participants invited. They need to know what their role is if they’re asked to participate and have time to prepare for the call.

“As individuals, whether we’re the ones holding the conference call or a participant, we need to be cognizant of how our actions impact the call,” Haglund said.

“Be respectful and treat it like any other meeting.”

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