How To Act During a Conference Call – 101


When I was a Certified Project Manager, I was required to be on several conference calls a day.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the drill:

  • You receive an invite scheduled on your calendar by someone, or perhaps you are the facilitator of the call which requires at least ten participants (because ya know, too many chefs in the kitchen only make the stew better, not spoil the pot).
  • You accept said invitation with a sigh in knowing that it will be another hour or two of your life you will never get back.
  • You attend the conference call either in a mutually agreed upon conference room and confcallsit next to someone who doesn’t have a persistent cough, or you stay at your desk, committing to be “germ free” for the next few hours while you multi-task doing other items while listening to the call if you are not a main participant. Psssst. Everyone’s a winner. No one is a loser. We all have a stake in a conference call. Let’s not leave ANYONE out.

C’mon. We’ve all done it. Being on a conference call with five participants or more does not require your full attention. Unless you are the facilitator, which would then require your undivided attention and ensure you are holding the conference call in a place where said conference calls are appropriate.

Please. Let me explain.

This is called Conference Call Etiquette. If you want to place a “101” after it, be my guest. However, if you’ve been on the career path to employee of the month stardom for the past ten years, I think you can figure out what conference call etiquette requires. Some do not. This includes people that have been in business for thirty years.

Maybe it’s because they just don’t care. Maybe it’s because they’ve been on so many damn conference calls they authentically lose whatever facilities their bodies have rendered as being a requirement for conference calls and have turned into laziness instead.  Complacency? Whatever. This person enters the danger zone of conference calls. They do not realize what they are doing which could lead to the demise of the deal of all deals of conference calls.

The “Mother of all Conference Calls.”

I’ve been on a few of them. I’ve been victim of and accomplice to the following faux pas of conference call blunders. Avoid the following at all costs:

  • Eating. Chewing, licking, sucking, gnawing or talking with your mouth full. This is bad. ALL BAD. Whenever I hear someone on a conference call eating something all I can think of is the hand receiver and what it looks like: crumbs in the little holes on the receiving end, drool and possibly guacamole.
  • Bathing and/or releasing bodily fluids. I was once on a conference call where a guy was in the middle of talking and he actually flushed the toilet. The room fell silent. You could hear crickets chirping. Finally, the facilitator of the call proceeded to continue on with the conference call after he had a hearty laugh while pressing the mute button.
  • The Famous Mute Button. Aaaaaaah. Sometimes you think you press it. Sometimesmutebutton you don’t. Lesson learned on that one, huh?
  • Screaming. I once got into a shouting match with a salesman on a conference call. There were about 15 people in my conference room and about 5 others who were on the call remote. This guy was giving everything under the sun to keep this customer happy, yet the customer wasn’t paying his bills. I received the “OK” from my supervisor to not proceed with any other work until we received payment for work already done, or at the very least, a signed document  (sort of a promissory note, but it wasn’t called that). We spent the next ten minutes yelling at one another  because he said I was “nit-picking.” I said that his client owed us over $100,000 in services and we had yet to see a payment. After that debacle I was sent to Anger Management Classes. Geeeez…..What-EVER.
  • Talking during a call while you are at a concert. Not specifically a concert, but in a very loud environment. Yeah, there’s a mute device on your phone so you can remove all that extraneous noise, but some people are too lazy to use it. (See paragraph 5 above). Half the crap they say can’t be deciphered even with the sharpest tools in the shed because there is just too much noise going on around them.
  • Sick. Being sick on a conference call isn’t cool. No one wants to hear you sneeze, blow your nose, cough up a lung or wheeze into the receiver. It’s just as bad as eating, only it makes you feel like you’re getting sick from 3000 miles away.

So, next time you are on a conference call, do us all a favor and abide by conference call etiquette. It will make us all feel like we haven’t been abused or subjected to bodily fluids.

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