How to Conduct Better Conference Calls | Six Tips for Better Conference Call Etiquette

11 tips for a better conference call 

Whether you’re hosting a conference call or taking part, these tips will help you make the most of your virtual meeting.
  • Dial in on time or a few minutes early, if you are the organiser. A lot of conference calls waste the first 5 minutes with constant beeps and interruptions from latecomers. Try InstantMeeting from Plantronics.
  • Think about your background noise. If you can’t take the call from a quiet place, use a noise-cancelling headset for when you are speaking and put it on mute when you are not.
  • The power of your voice. Stand up for important discussions, this will help to project your voice.
  • Don’t ever put your phone on hold. You will probably subject the rest of the call to your hold music or beeping.
  • Remember to un-mute your headset when you want to talk!
  • Send a pre-call email to all participants outlining the agenda, dial in details and any material they need to read.
  • Keep to the agenda and on time as much as possible
  • Participants should keep contributions as concise as possible. No one appreciates a rambling monologue!
  • If you want everyone to follow the same presentation – try screen sharing.
  • Focus on the conference call. It is easy to be distracted with emails/Facebook/online shopping, etc.
  • Close the call with a clear summing up of next steps and follow up with an email with action items for participants.

Q: I do a lot of conference calls, and I find it hard to speak up and be heard. What can I do to be a more active participant?

A: Like so many things, a successful conference call requires planning and careful execution. The success of the call depends heavily on the organizer, but often, no one takes the time to plan the call.

Since many people work remotely or—especially in associations—interact with volunteers or other external team members, conference calls can be daily occurrences. Sometimes they even happen spontaneously. I've been in situations where a few people are meeting and suddenly decide to conference in another team member who has no idea the call is coming or what it's about—making it much harder for that person to contribute and for the call to be productive.

Ideally, just as if you were planning an in-person meeting, you should create an agenda, set timeframes for agenda items, and make sure the right people are on the call. Four is the optimal number of participants, but that may be unrealistic if you have a large team.

Even if you're on a call with a large number of participants and the organizer has done little or no preparation other than to set up the call, there are some things you can do to model good conference call behavior.
  • Call in a few minutes early, just as you would get to the meeting room a few minutes early if the meeting were in person.
  • Introduce yourself when you dial in. You can use just your first name if you know everyone, but if the call includes people you don't interact with often, give your full name and mention your department and title.
  • Wait a second after someone else finishes talking before jumping in. This small pause helps prevent you from talking over the other person. Hopefully, the call moderator will notice if multiple people are trying to jump in simultaneously and will call on people to speak in sequence. If that doesn't happen, be patient, but don't give up.
  • When you do get the chance to speak, announce your name again before asking your question or making your comment. If you do this, others may follow suit. This helps keep the call on track.
  • Mute your phone when you're not talking to keep background noise (people entering your office, dogs barking if you're working at home) from disrupting the call. Do your best to call from a quiet place, which is probably not your local coffee shop.
  • Pay attention to what is happening on the call—being on a conference call is not the time to check your email. No matter how boring the conversation may be, do your best to stay engaged.
Speaking up to get your point across takes courage and some practice, but if you follow these tips you should find that you’ll have more successful conference calls.

How to Conduct Better Conference Calls

Conference calls are notoriously awkward, full of goofs and potentially unproductive, but they’re also a vital component of company communication both internally and externally. When everyone can’t be in the same room, you need a tool to bring them together for discussions and collaboration.

However, attendees on your conference calls aren’t paying attention, and they may even be focusing their attention on other work. Hiding behind the facelessness of audio conferencing, attendees can multitask or mentally check out without ever being seen—missing out on the important message you’re delivering and not offering new ideas to the conversation.

So how do you conduct better conference calls? Here are three ways you can do less and get more out of your calls:

1. Meet less frequently. Our work culture often confuses time and meetings with productivity. Holding lots of conference calls is an easy way to “show your work” as proof of progress and time well spent. However, conference calls that are too frequent are one of the key causes of your attention deficit. Instead, save meetings for when you have completely new, urgent information to share or when you need participation and feedback from others. Save the recaps, alignment and previews for emails.

2. Meet with less people. Only the key players involved in your project or message should be invited to your conference calls. Anyone that’s only loosely affiliated will zone out and feel that their time is wasted, so just include them on your meeting recap emails. Additionally, this will help those actively participating feel more comfortable asking questions and chasing new ideas without worrying about taking up too much time.

3. Limit meetings to less topics. Conference calls are already full of lost and confused attendees between messy dialogues, unclear agendas and repetitive questions (and add to that the nuances of joining and staying connected for mobile callers). Don’t add to the confusion with too many topics of discussion. And if you can say it in less words, do it. Put your stats and facts on paper or slideshows, send them prior to the meeting and resist the urge to read through them word for word.

Sometimes it’s not you, though. Sometimes it’s your technology that holds you back from productive calls.

17 Tips For More Productive Conference Calls – New Bonus Tips!

Conference calls have become an important part of corporate business life and yet they are not always used to their best advantage. The world of telecommunications has traveled light years since the old days of the traditional party line, but the modern conference call is really just an expansion of that retro concept. Today, most companies use a specialized service provider for conference calls and they are being used more and more in conjunction with web conferences. These service providers maintain the conference bridge and provide the phone numbers used to access the meeting or conference call.

How can your business better utilize this service? First, let us define exactly what service we are talking about. What is meant by the term, conference call? This is a telephone call in which the caller wishes to have more than one party listen in to the audio portion. Calls may also be designed so that the called party can participate during the call or so that the called party merely listens in and cannot speak. A conference call is also sometimes referred to as an ATC (Audio Tele-Conference).

In a book called “Death By Meeting” author, Patrick Lenzioni, argues that conference calls really should be more fun. He says: “If I didn’t have to go to meetings, I’d like my job a lot more.” According to Merlin Mann and his fascinating, irreverent and very witty family of websites dealing with personal productivity known collectively as 43 Folders, the following ideas have helped to make his life in general and conference calls in particular, easier and more productive. Also check out this interview with Al Pittampalli, the author of the Modern Meeting Standard. Consider them the next time you schedule a conference call. Read on and hold that call, please!
  • Circulate an Agenda.  Don’t do a conference call without first circulating an agenda to all involved parties. An agenda helps to structure the conference and helps members to prepare by providing in advance the type of information they will need in order to effectively participate in the discussion.
  • Get familiar with each other. Have everyone in attendance introduce him or herself up front. In fact, make that the first thing on your agenda. It is important for people who don’t know each other’s voices especially well to become familiar as quickly as possible.
  • Have conference calls only when you need to. Many are unnecessary and could be avoided with either a one-on-one call or a focused e-mail exchange. Group calls should only be made when either in-depth dialogue or brainstorming is required.
  • Establish meeting timing. This includes when the meeting will begin, break and end ahead of time. Provide a time structure, which all participants must adhere to and matters will flow smoothly.
  • Focus on the conference. Limit “electronic grazing” to during the conference call. Set it up like they did in the old frontier days at the saloon with all who enter checking their guns at the door!! The equipment is different; phones and laptops to be exact, but the attitude is the same. No multi tasking while the meeting is in session. This means no email, no phone calls and this means you! Attending the meeting is like being pregnant; one either is or one isn’t present at the meeting. If an emergency occurs and a call needs to be made, then the person should leave the room to make the call and not tie up the meeting.
  • Schedule guests and make the best use of everyone’s time. Use your agenda to indicate when people will be needed to present their arguments and avoid the traffic jam of having thirty people in a room for three hours, twenty of whom will have nothing at all to do or say until the last 15 minutes of the meeting. Tick off items on the agenda as they are covered.
  • Delegate roles. Don’t wear too many hats at your own meeting. Employ someone to keep track of the time so that you as the leader are free to focus on the matters presented in the agenda and keep the meeting rolling along at an even pace.
  • Stay focused on your time element and subject matter. Not all issues require the same amount of time to settle and any issue that can be resolved offline or does not require the input of the majority of the group should be dismissed as quickly as possible and ticked off the mighty agenda.
  • Meetings won’t run themselves. Be aware of which tips work best for you and remain consistent in their use. Meetings have never been able to run themselves, and you as the leader, must always think things out thoroughly so that people attending do not feel they are wasting their time. After all, that is the one commodity that we never seem to have enough of and that waits for no one, as the old saying goes.
  • Stick to the point. Keep conference calls short and very sweet. This way, each participant knows what to expect, more or less, in terms of why they are there and what they are supposed to do. There is nothing more boring than a rambling speaker and nothing that will lose a listening audience more quickly, except maybe a sudden office fire.
  • Get through the agenda first. Consider dealing with any matters that are not 
  • on the agenda last even if they are brought up at the beginning of the conference. This prevents sidetracking and losing precious time in covering the more pertinent issues at hand.
  • Invite only the people that need to be on the conference. Don’t call bosses and technical experts to attend the conference unless you know in advance that their advice will be needed. Regardless of the outcome of the conference, they will definitely owe you one and be eternally grateful.
  • Limit the Chaos. Limit the number of people on the conference call to four or at most five. Chaos is sure to follow if there are too many opinions circulating at the same time. Problems are likely to occur because the more opinions, the harder it becomes to keep track of who is speaking and a common reaction is to go on automatic pilot and “leave the meeting in your mind.”
  • Wait your turn to speak. Try not to interrupt when others are speaking and wait for the appropriate moment to jump in. One has to listen and concentrate much more acutely over the phone than is necessary in person.
  • Summarize and follow up on meeting proceedings. This can either be done by you or by a project manager, if one has been so assigned. Take a few minutes at the end of the conference to review any major new projects that were generated in the meeting and email the list of resolutions to all participants. Also, take a minute to identify those issues or questions that must be explored further. Don’t forget to thank everyone for his or her participation and say goodbye.
  • Practice makes perfect. Familiarize yourself with the conference call service before you use it.  You’re going to want to know how to use the conference call service so that you can use your mute functions and any of the moderator controls.  You should be able to call the conference company and get a quick overview of the different commands that you can use. 
  • Start the conference on time.  You’ve sent out a lot of invitations that have a specific date and time provided to the other participants.  Start at the right time so that the conference will begin for those who showed up at the right time. Participants who are late will just have to miss the introduction. 

Four Incredibly Helpful Bonus Tips! 

  • Pay attention. As a participant you should take good notes. This will help you retain information and it will encourage you to pay attention, rather be distracted by your cell phone, email, or social networking. 
  • Use visuals on conference calls that require them.  Not every conference is going to require them, so use them only in situations that call for the visual representations. 
  • Know what your purpose is.By knowing the purpose of the conference call, you can breeze through the information. Sometimes a more informal and open conference suits the needs of the host, but sometimes, it’s more about getting on the line and saying what needs to be said.
  • Use tools at your disposal. I know it may seem “rude” to mute everyone on the conference and manage Q&A on a one by one basis, but it does help to keep everyone moving along. Don’t be afraid to use the conference call features that you have available.
The mercurial business world of today demands quick decisions based on as many facts as possible. Aided by the cold hand of technology, telecommunications has made the transfer of information an instantaneous and ubiquitous affair. Take advantage of this process. Wasting time hurts business and morale on many levels and it is something that can be avoided by planning ahead all the details for your next conference call. Follow these tips and you are sure to have more productive conference calls. Perhaps not all of these ideas will work for you, but many of them will.
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