Everyone has conference call horror stories, including me. Last week, I was on a conference call with a team of people traveling in a car that got lost and spent most of the discussion time asking for directions. I was recently on another call in which one participant purchased fertilizer at Home Depot while on the phone. I am not even talking about the dropped calls, failing technology or the humming background noise from an unmuted phone. Let’s face it, conference calls can be painful, and we seem to have forgotten their purpose. Here are a few reminders for how to host and participate in effective conference calls:
- Conference calls ARE meetings
If the call wasn’t important, then it shouldn’t have been scheduled in the first place. A conference call is a meeting with two or more participants who couldn’t interact in person. A conference call should have a purpose, a shared agenda and full participation and attention by attendees. If you’re the host, set this expectation by sending out the agenda prior to the call. Video calls are also a great option.
- Focus on the call and nothing else
We’ve all been on calls that are tedious, but it’s not the time to start our taxes or run an errand. If you find your mind wandering, take detailed notes, ask questions and try to steer the discussion back to the call topic if it waivers.
- When not talking, mute the phone
It never fails that when your call is due to start, the UPS driver will drop off a package and send your precious pup into a barking frenzy. Loud background noise can become a distraction and removes the focus from the call.
- Start the call on time (or two minutes late)
As participants join in, they can pick up the call where it is. There is no need for another round of introductions. If the tardy guest is the client or other VIP guest, it is ok to wait to start the call until they arrive.
- Take the phone off speaker
If you want your co-workers to like you, do not use the speaker setting while on a call. Find a quiet space where you won’t be distracted and won’t anger your officemates.
- Remember WWGD (What Would Grandma Do)
Grandma would not be rude, so you shouldn’t be either. Avoid eating popcorn (or any food) while on the phone. Wait until the person completes their thought before talking. Most importantly, don’t take the call to the restroom under any circumstances.
Of course, real life does happen and sometimes interrupts our calls, but the fertilizer purchase can wait. Set your conference call expectations high, so that they are the effective tool they were meant to be, instead of a horrifying waste of time.
Author: Nicole Lillis