Rules of the Conference Call Road

Conference call etiquette is essential to keep your conference phone call productive, engaging and on schedule. Some conference call services will help you with some of these etiquette-based tasks.

Here are some general conference call etiquette tips, for the moderator as well as participants.

It is important, first off, that the moderator or presenter becomes as comfortable as possible talking in front of a group she or he cannot see. It might be good to practice this. We don’t realize until it happens, just how much we rely on visual feedback when doing a presentation.

The right phone in a quiet room that won’t have any disturbances is an essential part of conference call etiquette. Cell phones are not good for conference calls. Knowing how to use the mute button so that any hesitation or asides on your part are not a part of the conference all is important. Participants should really have their mute buttons on at all times except when they plan to speak to others on the call.

Conference call etiquette requires plenty of notice to participants, prior distribution of the call in number and pass codes and careful consideration of time zone differences. Remember daily savings time changes as well. What you don’t want to do is invite your overseas participants to some 3am call. Plan carefully.

Starting the call on time is an essential part of conference call etiquette, even if several participants have not arrived. Don’t punish the punctual ones by waiting. Take a roll call, note the participants not yet arrived and start the conference call. Even though it’s a conference call it’s still a meeting and should be treated as one. Follow the agenda which you should have distributed prior to the conference call.

Conference call etiquette suggests that, unless you have an unwieldy number of participants, you ask each participant to introduce him or herself. Mention a time limit on this, though. “Let’s go around the room and give each of you 30 seconds to say your name, your position, company name and what you expect to get out of this meeting.” Remember these may be folks who want to take every chance to market their own products and services. Don’t let anyone spend 5 minutes talking about their new product.

Participants should introduce themselves any time they speak and limit their questions to things that may be beneficial to the group in general. If a question is specific to your industry or your particular issues, save it for a later call or e-mail to the presenting firm.

Guest speakers and variations in speakers are both good ideas not only in terms of conference call etiquette but as attention getting and attention keeping tactics. One person speaking for an hour can become boring and tedious, and that person may suffer from throat strain, giving a hard-to-listen to raspy quality to the vocal presentation.

The moderator should never allow the conference call topic to wander. Keeping an iron fist on the agenda and discussion is part of conference call etiquette. Participants came to the meeting for a purpose. Wasting their time is rude.

Another idea for keeping the attention of participants is by directing questions to specific people by name, especially those who haven’t spoken as much as some others. This is good conference call etiquette as it keeps a certain few folks from dominating the meeting.

Participants should not rattle papers, tap their pencil, drum their fingers, hum or move their squeaky chair around. These all come through noisily and disturb the conference.

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