Who would’ve thought that two decades into the digital age we would rely on conference calls more than ever to do business? Turns out, the convenience and succinctness of email just can’t replace the pacing and participatory nature of the good-old-fashioned phone conversation. Still, the modern conference call has an implied set of parameters that need to be followed in order to eliminate distractions and render it effective. The following 12 tips are your guide to best practices for business phone conferences. Live by these, and you’ll have mastered yet another chapter in the art of conversation. Also, please help us out by adding your own suggestions to the list.
When You’re The Moderator:
1. Distribute the Agenda or Mission of the Call
This prerequisite for each call will put everyone on the same page, and assure a smoother discussion that will end on time.
2. Appoint a Scribe
It’s a good idea to have someone take notes during the discussion. Sort this out in advance, and be sure to remind the individual at the onset of the call.
3. Seek Feedback from Those Not Speaking
As call participants are giving feedback, others on the call may feel drowned out by the extraverts. This is your cue to chime in and provide space for each participant to get some words in.
4. End by Summarizing
As the mission discussion concludes, be sure to review with everyone what the next steps will be, assuring each understands their personal follow-through duties.
When You’re a Participant:
5. Call In a Bit Early
Assume the call is going to begin at the stroke of the specified hour. Calling in even one minute late would interrupt the discussion with the “ping” announcing your entry. It’s best to dial in early, mute your phone, and work until all the others have entered in.
6. If You Join the Call Late
Just silently connect. The “ping” is disrupting enough to the conversation; there’s no need to mention that you’re sorry.
7. Be as Unobtrusive as Possible
If you’re taking the call at your desk, have mercy on your office colleagues: Don’t use a speaker phone! The headset is the appropriate and more polite hands-free substitute.
8. Mute is Golden
During the call, when you’re not speaking, keep your phone on mute. This will eliminate any background noise in your vicinity from adding clatter to the line.
9. The Cell Phone is Tricky
If a cellular is your only option at the time of the call, try to plan your location diligently. Be mindful of background noise like trucks passing, motors running, and wind. The integrity of your line connection should be considered before you speak. Likewise, avoid being that disruptive person who takes part in the call while on the train or in a crowded public space.
10. Identify Yourself
Each time you’re ready to chime in with a response, start by stating who you are. It’s not as simple as you might think for others to identify your voice when more than 3 people are in the discussion.
11. Lunch Can Wait
Try not to eat during the call, or worse, while you’re speaking. If it’s your only opportunity to have lunch, have the courtesy of muting your phone!
12. An Early Departure
If you need to duck out early from the conference, announce it at the beginning of the call, and just quietly hang up when you need to go.