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​Top 6 Ways to Ruin a Conference Call

Stacy Robb

Ignore the mute button. 

Yes, it can be difficult to remember to take yourself off mute when you’re ready to contribute to the conversation, but it is the single most important feature of conference calling. Every noise you make is amplified with a headset, and every noise you hear is also heard by the call when not using a headset. Think drinking, coughing, shuffling papers, typing on keyboard, breathing, and even clicking the mouse buttons. Be kind. Mute yourself when not speaking.

Have your lunch/snack/coffee cake during a meeting. 

If may seem like a win-win: you’re seated at the computer anyways, not typing as you listen to the others. You’re religious with muting yourself when not speaking. Why not eat your mid-afternoon apple during the team call? The reason is that even though you may try to plan when you are talking, others may have different ideas, and if you’re pulled into a conversation mid bite/chew...well let’s just say it's unpleasant for the rest of us.

It’s only fair that since you set up the meeting your opinions are the ones that get heard. 

This one should be self-explanatory, but just in case: treat everyone with respect - don't hog the line or speak over others. An extension of common courtesy from the physical meeting room; let everyone have their say, and just because you are running the meeting doesn’t mean that you can cut over those whose opinions you don’t agree with. Let everyone have their say, and if agreements cannot be made, use the proper governance and escalation paths.

Ask questions or for feedback and then quickly change subjects. 

Remember, there will usually be a small delay on the line. People need time to digest what has been said/asked and might not open up as quickly as in the physical meeting room. Also, they won’t want to jump in too quickly and may be allowing others the chance to speak up. Give them space...but also know when to move on. An awkward silence can sound louder than a freight train on a call, so if you aren’t getting a response offer the opportunity for attendees to contact you after the meeting and move on to your next topic. 

Keep your call running for hours without a break. 

We’re all adults, we know when to step out to the toilet, don’t we? Actually, we don’t. People are afraid they will miss something or be asked a question, or that it might just be seen as rude if they step away. If your conference call lasts longer than 1.5 hours, factor in at least a 5 min comfort break.

Panic or become defensive when the tech fails. 

It’s going to fail. At the most inopportune moment and with the most senior of stakeholder audiences. Without question. Make your peace with this now and get your backup plan sorted, so that when it does happen, you handle it like a pro.

PS: Only use video when it adds something. If sharing screens, there’s no need for video! Think of all the bandwidth you’ll save...not to mention the embarrassment of having forgotten to wash your hair...again.