Conference Call Etiquette

Conference calls are an important business tool and so it's imperative to get the best out of the service. A conference call with poor etiquette - where people are late, talking amongst themselves, eating food, off agenda - is a waste of time and money. To make it more efficient and bring results, you need to follow good conference call etiquette. This article provides the low down on what not to do and what to do.

By Arindam Chattopadhyaya

Here, I will share my experience with you on the decorum required for conference calls. I learnt what not to do from my first conference call and what to do from the second.

Experience One
My first experience with a conference call was on sales strategy with the corporate office. I logged into the conference bridge as per the agreed schedule, but soon realised that most of the other attendees were late. Some people I could not identify were talking, adding to the noise in the background. Some were even eating and drinking perhaps tea or coffee, making the environment less than business-like. To top it all off, I found the leader had no control over the proceedings.

Needless to say, there was no outcome of the conference call. The whole session was disorganized; there were unnecessary arguments and misunderstandings and no decision could be taken.

Soon there was an email from the VP of Planning's office, rescheduling the same conference for a week later. This time, there was a clearly listed seven-point agenda for the conference call, along with the expected duration of the call.

Experience Two
My second experience, on the same issue with the VP of Planning as host, went very differently. The VP logged in on time and he introduced himself first along with the other people who were with him. Surprisingly, people from other offices were also logged in on time. I understood the role of punctuality in a conference call.

The secretary to the VP presented the agenda of the meeting, mentioning that she was going to be the timekeeper and that she was also responsible for circulating the minutes. Everybody in the meeting this time was extremely well mannered, starting to talk only after stating his/her name. There was no background chattering. I realised that a quiet background is the key to good conference call.

Before we moved to the next topic on the agenda, the VP summarised the decision taken, issues still open for that topic, and clearly mentioned who was responsible for closure of a particular open issue. Thus, we agreed on several issues in a short time span. I learnt that organising and controlling is the basis of a successful conference call.

I noticed some people were going offline for few minutes after pressing the mute button in the conference bridge. This way, they were part of the conference call and yet able to discuss internally without disturbing others. This helped us to take clear decisions.

This time around, we were able to meet the agenda of the conference call. After two days, I got an email from the office of our VP of Planning along with a small note on conference call etiquette.

    Here are these helpful tips:
  • Please participate in a conference call from a quiet room; there should not be any other surrounding noise.
  • You should use good telephone equipment and should familiarise yourself with it.
  • You should log in on time and introduce yourself.
  • Conference calls are a paid service and a number of people attend the call, so make optimum use of the time by remaining focused on the agenda.

Arindam Chattopadhyaya is a business strategist in a large IT company. On his website you can find a wealth of information on conference call pricing and etiquette.

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