Here in St. Petersburg, it’s no different.
And why not? On a warm, sunny day, who wants to be cooped up in an office?
Still, just because you’re not technically in the office, there are certain conference call rules and etiquette that you need to consider.
Conference call rules aren’t just about being polite, but ultimately they’re set up to maximize productivity.
With gaps in communication and people in the conference being in so many separate and remote locations, things can get confused and disorganized quickly.
Pretty soon, the left-hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. In fact, all the body parts get jumbled.
When this happens, it’s not only a major waste of time, but it also reflects poorly on you and your colleagues in terms of your clients.
1. Who’s calling whom?
Long before the call, it should be established who is calling whom and at which number.
Generally, if you are the one calling the meeting, you should offer to call him or her. If on the other hand, you’re the one being summoned, then ask that person to call you to avoid having to chase anyone down.
It’s embarrassing to find yourself emailing three or four minutes into the meeting with the query, “where should I call you?”
Plus, it’s a waste of time.
2. Keep track of conference call dates and times.
You’ll want to know all of the times and dates of upcoming conference calls. This conference call gives you the opportunity to practice good organizational skills too.
If you’re on the scheduling end, schedule the call for the length of time you need. This doesn’t necessarily mean 30-minute increments. You can schedule a meeting for five, 10, or 20 minutes.
If you don’t have the conference line number in your contacts on your phone, be sure you know what the number is.
Also, if a PIN is required, write it down somewhere you can easily reference. Otherwise, you’ll be getting that reminder call from someone who’s already in the meeting.
Furthermore, if you’re calling from an unfamiliar phone, make sure you know how to operate it. This is especially important when using an unknown office phone system.
3. Call in early.
Calling in to the conference line a couple minutes early is a conference call rule you’ll want to make a habit.
You don’t enter the meeting in a hurried state. And if you’re to be a main contributor to the discussion, you’ll definitely not want to be late.
Do you really want to be the reason that the conference call discussion is held up?
There are, of course, times when circumstances may rise up against you and cause you to be late. By all means, let the other participant(s) know of your tardiness. Apologize and let them know via email that you will call when you are ready.
4. If there’s no answer, wait before leaving a message.
If by chance the person you are calling does not pick up, hang up and try again in a minute or two.
But if there’s no answer on that second try, simply leave a message and send an email letting him or her know that you called. Include how much more time you’ll be available.
If the situation isn’t urgent and you still receive no response, conference call rules dictate to let it go.
5. State your name before you speak.
Sometimes etiquette figures into conference call rules.
Since everyone is all over the place, it helps to announce yourself before you speak so everyone can better understand the context of your comments.
If the situation calls for it – for example, your call includes people from other groups or companies whom you’ve never met – you may also want to state your role, company, or location after your name.
There’s really no need to go around doing individual introductions unless it will help business get done. If not, it’s a waste of time.
6. Get familiar with the mute button.
It’s best to find a quiet place for your meeting. There are times when this won’t be possible, though.
If you can, keep background noise to a minimum. Those seemingly little things like the wind, typing on your computer, or even the kids or pets outside can sound far more magnified when coming through a phone.
Also, let the others in the meeting know that you are in a louder space so that when you speak, they won’t be thrown off by the background sounds. Then, to avoid those distracting sounds or conversations that are not applicable to the meeting, mute your phone when you’re not talking.
Bonus? Muting your phone can also keep you from revealing embarrassing sighs, munching noises from eating your lunch, or other inappropriate sounds.
7. Pay attention.
Of course, this conference call rule should be a life rule as well.
Either way, you’ll want to try to keep the call to as few people as possible.
The more people on the line, the less everyone pays attention.
When you call in to a conference call there are a million things to distract you – emails in your inbox, texts, and questions from coworkers, that gorgeous sunny afternoon out your window, etc.
And if someone asks you a question on a call and you don’t catch it, it will be obvious that you weren’t paying attention. Asking someone to repeat a question because you weren’t listening is awkward.
If you really want people to pay attention, you might want to consider video conferencing. But if you’re using a screen sharing service, check to be sure it works before the call starts and that everything needed is installed ahead of the call.
8. Be prepared.
Just as you would with a sit-down meeting in a conference room, you’ll want to do a little prep work or jot down topics or questions that you would like to bring up on the conference call.
Also, although we recommended the mute button earlier, this conference call rule now asks that you use the mute button strategically. Because if you’re muted for 90% of the call, you may be filing your nails or cooking dinner and you likely aren’t fully paying attention.
A lack of preparation is likely to spawn other meetings, so being prepared is one of the vital conference call rules.
9. Don’t bogart the meeting.
If you’re talking 70% of the time and you’re not sharing your expertise, put a lid on it. If many people are on the line, that number should linger closer to 25%.
Also, if you are the main talker, keep your sentences short and give pause between ideas so that people can jump in or ask questions.
10. Maintain good phone reception.
A land line is ideal, but those are going the way of the dinosaur.
There’s something singularly irritating about bad cell phone connection. It’s not particularly enjoyable to experience the sound of static through the phone. Nor does everyone wish to piece together the words from a voice breaking up to decode what’s being said.
And let’s not even talk about the inconvenience of a dropped call.
11. Define a leader.
This isn’t some heavy duty status thing.
But the conference needs to stay on task and for that, you need a leader.
The leader will:
- email out the agenda ahead of the call
- direct the conversation
- be sure everyone sticks to the agenda
- pay attention to time
- send any follow-up action item emails or additional meeting invites
If you are the call leader, it is also your job to call on the quiet people who are not participating or to pull back the reins on someone who’s monopolizing the conversation.
Keeping order in the meeting is key to keeping it productive, so establishing a leader is among the more important of the conference call rules.
12. Keep an agenda.
Not only is it crucial that an agenda is created, but it should also be provided before the conference call.
The leader will be held responsible for keeping everyone on task with the agenda.
Yeah, sometimes there are additional items that need to be discussed that are unrelated to the reason for the conference call. (It should be noted that discussing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the best restaurants in St. Petersburg do not qualify as items that need to be discussed.)
Or perhaps the discussion around a particular topic is dragging on far longer than the time allows.
Those conversations and discussions are best taken offline. You can always call the individuals to discuss those topics following the conference call.
12. The five-minute warning.
If you’re the leader or organizer of the call, then give the five-minute warning to let people know that the meeting is coming to an end.
Ask if there are any questions and do your best to be sure that the meeting doesn’t run over, as it’s disrespectful of other people’s time.
And finally, ensure that either you or some else is keeping track of what should be the next steps. Then either you or that assigned person will send them around via email afterward as a reminder.
It’s a great time to take advantage of being able to work remotely in St. Petersburg. It affords you all sorts of freedoms and flexibility. But don’t forget that you’re still a viable member of the human race and have an unspoken social contract to follow.
These conference call rules are just another part of that contract.
Do you have any other conference call rules that you think should be mentioned? Let us know.