Dos and Don'ts of Conference Calls
By Hayley Shaughnessy
If you ask around the modern workplace, most people are bound to agree that there are two different kinds of colleagues: those that can be effective on a conference call and those that just can’t seem to get it right.
If you’re in the early stages of your career, you may or may not have already been exposed to many conference calls. And as you advance in your career and take on more responsibility, you may need to take a more active role on them. You might also have more senior leaders or colleagues on the other end of the line.
They’re a unique type of communication to master – and unfortunately, acronyms and emojis just won’t cut it when you have to clearly communicate to a group over the phone.
When it comes to conference calling, your job likely won’t come with a list of accepted and expected behaviours to refer to – but we’ve got you covered. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep close by as you participate in your first conference calls.
Do: Arrive early or on-time
Being late for a conference call is a little bit different than showing up late to brunch with your friends on the weekend. You can’t always slip in late without detection, as your addition to the call may be accompanied by the dreaded ‘beep’ signaling a late arrival.
To avoid this, it never hurts to arrive a minute or two ahead of schedule to settle in. This is also the case if you’re on a large conference call and your role is to listen in. Make sure you give yourself enough time to log in to the conference line before the call is set to begin.
Don’t: Forget the log in details!
You know that moment when your cell phone dies and you don’t have any of your friends phone numbers memorized? Similar scenarios can happen in the workplace too.
Even if you’re a few minutes early for a conference call, you won’t necessarily be on time until you’re signed in on the line. Keep any important login and password details at the front of your notebook or easily accessible on your phone so you won’t be scrambling to find the credentials.
And if you are early, don’t sweat it! This is a good time to practice your small talk skills and informally catch up with colleagues you don’t regularly communicate with.
Do: Announce yourself when speaking
If you’re newer to a team, your colleagues or clients may not recognize your voice over the phone just yet. Don’t fret or feel offended. For the first few times, and even times down the road where there is a large group of people on the line, briefly announce yourself before adding in your insight and two cents.
Don’t: Use slang or short-forms
One of the greatest lessons for communicating with people is to know who your audience and how they prefer to be addressed. This may take some rounds of trial and error, but it’s highly likely your colleagues won’t be using much of slang and short-forms on conference calls.
Although it’s important to be clear and concise, avoid the IMO (in my opinion) and BRB (be right back) moments as much as you can. Speaking on a conference call is a different, more professional kind of slang – keeping it brief and to the point to ensure your message is conveyed. Because you aren’t typing out what you say, and don’t have control on a delete button, consider practicing your talking points.
Do: Learn the technologies and know where the mute button is
As millennials, we’re often named the in-house tech expert faster than we can say it. Tech problems are no stranger to conference calls, so get familiar with the phones, networks and buttons as soon as you can.
Another important tip: know where the mute button is! This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often background noise interferes. This is especially true if you work in an open-concept environment and must take your conference calls from your desk. You’ll want to avoid sharing any added noises with other call participants, such as the conversations happening one desk over.
What is just as important as knowing where the mute button is? Knowing where the unmute button is, so you aren’t inadvertently responding to a question with a stretch of silence!
Don’t: Talk over people
This is, by far, the hardest form of conference call etiquette to master, and it can be the most jarring when you’re in the early stages of your career. Conference calls differ from a group chat on your phone. Before you know it, multiple conversations unravel at once over text messages, but this can get even more confusing and noisy over the phone.
Given that you can’t see other people on the line, it’s hard to predict when they’re about to speak. It’s even more difficult when you have a large group of people on the line and questions are more open for any and all input.
As a newcomer, if you find yourself talking over people a few times, that’s completely okay. Don’t shy away from speaking next time. When you find yourself talking at the same time as someone else, always offer for them to share their words first. You’ll be able to comment afterwards.
Do: Have fun!
Conference calls are ultimately meant to be stress-free and a more convenient and efficient way to communicate with people – something we millennials love. Once you make it through your first couple of calls, the next couple will be that much more enjoyable and soon enough you’ll be leading the calls amongst your colleagues.
For more tips on conference calling, including fun ideas and creative techniques, visit career-advice.monster.ca