Gone are the days when a round-table discussion actually needed a round table and a bunch of people sitting round it, in the same room. Telecommunications have evolved to the stage where conference calls pulling in delegates from across the globe may be conducted with great clarity.
For businesses with a widely dispersed or international workforce, or for those looking to cut down on travel expenses, staging, and accommodation fees when holding meetings, workshops, or seminars, conference calls are a sensible and cost-effective solution.
Conference Call Etiquette: 12 Essential Tips to Do
Staging the call is one thing – having a successful meeting is another. Here are some etiquette recommendations to get the most out of your next conference call.
1. Create an agenda
To help maximize the time spent on important issues, draw up an agenda of the various points that need to be covered. Bearing in mind the projected duration of the total call, you should also set up a time-frame allocating a greater proportion of this time to the priority issues.
A few days before the call is scheduled to take place, circulate this agenda to the invited delegates via email, text message, or other means. This will give participants time to prepare, and also allow for any feedback from them which might alter or affect the agenda.
2. Spread the word
You should distribute this agenda in advance of the call to all the conference participants. Printed documents for people at your site and email messages for distant delegates are options.
If you use modern business communication solutions, you can send out notifications via the platform’s integrated mobile apps.
3. Prepare your own space and the necessary material
Before the call, spend some time to prepare notes, images, sounds, and video relevant to the discussion topic – so long as they help to advance the point, rather than distracting from the conversation.
Set yourself up in a quiet space with good insulation against outside noise, and no visual or other distractions. This will enable you to focus your full attention on the call.
4. Be on time
As the host of a conference call, you should check into the virtual venue as early as possible. This will give you time to check that all the required technology is in place, and allows you to see your conference guests as they arrive.
If you’re a conference delegate, you should endeavor to be a little bit early (five to ten minutes will usually suffice). At least be on time – but if you have to be late for any reason, try not to disturb the flow of the discussion, and use whatever channels are available to catch up on what’s been said.
5. Do an introduction round
When the call starts, check in with all the delegates to get their names and to verify that their phone lines are clear. If there are numerous participants, consider asking them to identify themselves by name each time they make a comment or ask a question.
6. Give everyone a chance to contribute
Before moving on to new points of discussion, allow some time for comments or queries. If collaboration or input from all departments is part of the program, your moderator should check in with those participants who may not have been heard from for some time.
7. Have a timetable
Your schedule of points drawn up before the call should guide its progress – but if sticking points occur requiring a fuller discussion, or if certain issues are resolved quickly, your time-frame can be adjusted as required. If the conference wraps up early but still manages to cover all essential ground, so much the better.
8. Stay on message
Try to keep the discussion focused on the conference agenda and its relevant points. Don’t allow delegates to wander off on irrelevant tangents – and resist the urge to do so yourself.
9. Use appropriate technology
Business phone systems with Unified Communications (UC) capabilities give you access to whiteboards, screen-sharing tools, video conferencing, and various other VoIP features to assist in demonstrating important points, and providing tools for discussion, questions, and collaboration.
10. Keep a record of what’s said
You can ensure that all the scheduled topics are covered and memorable ideas and observations are archived by keeping written notes of important points and comments as they occur. Modern teleconferencing platforms using VoIP technology often provide call recording software as standard – and these transcripts can serve as the “minutes” of your meeting.
Related: VoIP Technology Guide
11. Make notes and do a recap
As conference host or participant, have a pen and paper or digital notepad handy to jot down interesting points or issues that need clarification.
To round up the conference call, give a recap of the salient points. This will help clarify what’s just been said and catch up with any latecomers on what they might have missed.
12. Follow Up
After the conference ends, an email follow up to the participants can provide a summary of what was covered, and gives them an opportunity to come back with questions or issues they might have. MP3 audio files or documents transcribed from the voice recordings may also be circulated to the delegates at this time.
Related: 14 Essential Do's of Video Conferencing Etiquette
Conference Call Etiquette: Things to Never Do
Don't interrupt others while they're speaking
Interrupting others while they're speaking can be seen as disrespectful and can disrupt the flow of the conversation. Wait for your turn to speak and be patient.
Don't multitask during the call
Avoid doing other tasks like checking emails or browsing the web while on a conference call. It shows that you're not fully engaged in the conversation and can be distracting to others.
Don't use speakerphone unless necessary
Using speakerphone can make it difficult for others to hear you clearly and can cause echoing or feedback. Use it only if you need to involve a group of people or if you're in a noisy environment.
Don't eat or drink loudly
Eating or drinking during a call can be distracting and can make it difficult for others to hear you clearly. If you must eat or drink, mute your microphone to avoid any unwanted noises.
Don't use inappropriate language or behavior
Maintain a professional tone during the call and avoid using any inappropriate language or behavior. This includes making inappropriate jokes, using offensive language or gestures, or discussing sensitive topics that are not relevant to the call.
Don't arrive late or leave early without notifying the host
Be punctual for the call and notify the host in advance if you need to arrive late or leave early. It shows respect for other participants' time and allows the call to proceed smoothly.
Get the Most Out of Your Next Conference Call with net2phone
Taking the time to prepare and adhere to conferencing best practices shows your participants you care and respect their time. Contact one of our UCaas experts to get all the benefits of VoIP technology and conference calls.