5 things not to do on a conference call

Conference calls can be a wonderful and deeply beneficial tool for your business, helping things run more smoothly and efficiently. They can also, however, be hugely disrupted by certain bad habits and common mistakes that many frequent users will be familiar with. To help you out, here is a list of 5 bad conference call behaviours to avoid on your next audio conference.

1. Not muting yourself when you should

The mute button is so beautifully simple, so wondrously easy to use and so woefully neglected by many. It’s there for a very good reason. If you’re conference calling from home, travelling, or even just in a bustling office, it can be a really good idea to mute yourself while you aren’t contributing to the discussion. The sounds of wailing children, barking dogs, chugging railways lines and your midday meal deal going down are not only going to interfere with the attention you pay to the call, but distract and irritate all the other participants too. Make sure you choose your environment wisely, and if it’s not possible to be in a quiet area, make good use of the mute button – it’s your friend, and everybody else’s.

2. Muting yourself when you shouldn’t

Conversely, being a little trigger-happy with the mute button can also be a problem. If you keep switching it on and off every time you pause for office chit chat or take a slurp of your tea, you could very easily accidentally leave yourself muted without even realising it. This, of course, can be extremely disruptive and distressing for you and others. All your best ideas could be missed, and a great deal of confusion and frustration created. Make sure that before you try to speak, you check your mute button is not turned on.

3. Wasting time on small-talk

These are professional people who have given up their time to attend your teleconference. Leave your pleasantries and platitudes at the door, because this is business time. Spending a great deal of time on idle chit chat and rambling introductions can be excruciatingly frustrating and mind-numbingly boring for participants, particularly those with a lot to do, and can cause them to instantly switch off and divert their attention to more important, interesting matters before the discussion has even begun. It can also mean that those on a tight schedule end up having to leave the call before you have completed everything on the agenda. Make sure that your introductions are polite and efficient – you don’t want people unsure of who else is on the call – but don’t spend half the call on them. You can also make great use of Announcement services some conference call bridges offer, to save you some of the trouble and help avoid confusion.

4. Getting distracted

It’s easy enough to do when you’re sitting at your computer. You probably have a lot of work to be getting on with, a lot of Internet to be browsing. But it can cause a great deal of disruption, particularly when you realise you’ve completely lost the thread of the conversation and have to backtrack and cause people to repeat themselves so that you can make your contribution. Again, this will cause frustration and boredom among other participants, and leave you confused and unhelpful to the discussion. So try to make sure you constantly pay close attention, and if you feel distractions and disruptions might come up, turn on a call recording function. That way, you can listen back rather than making people repeat themselves and leave participants wasting time listening to things they have just heard. A good way to keep yourself engaged with the call may be to take notes as it is happening, keeping your hands and eyes busy as well as your ears and brain, making you less likely to click aimlessly away on your screen.

5. Arriving late

Just as with a real meeting, punctuality is absolutely key, and basic good manners. If you arrive late, you cause a disruption to the discussion, as everybody has to stop, introduce you and fill you in on what you’ve missed, again causing boring repetition for everybody else. Moreover, if you are a particularly important person in the call, you can stop the discussion from going ahead at all, as people may have to wait around for you to join and introduce the topics or provide crucial information. Make sure that you are on time; teleconferences, like real meetings, are scheduled. Some conference bridges even send out email invites and calendar attachments to help avoid forgetfulness and lateness. If you think you might be late, as if it can be pushed back a little, or try to rearrange your prior appointments. If necessary, use a conference call bridge which allows you to easily dial in from a mobile, so that teleconferencing on the go is always an option if you do end up getting held up somewhere.

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