Conference calls are a part of daily work life for numerous people, but there are still individuals who haven’t quite figured them out yet. You wouldn’t rustle your papers or talk over your shoulder during an in-person meeting, so why do some folks think it’s appropriate to do so during a virtual gathering? They are not less important than traditional meetings—arguably, the opposite—only more convenient. If you’re unsure about proper conference call etiquette or have someone in mind who could benefit from a few tips, here are nine pieces of advice regarding virtual meeting manners:
Test The Technology Beforehand
Dropped calls, static, and other technical difficulties can result in awkward moments and impede a meeting’s momentum. It’s embarrassing if your call drops while speaking, or if you are listening and have to ask someone to repeat themselves later.
Make sure that the technology you are using works. Test it out before the meeting begins: do you know how to operate it? Is it running efficiently? There are many self-explanatory platforms available that can aid an online conference call, so make sure everything is up to speed on your end, and select a platform if it’s your turn to facilitate a meeting.
Make It Clear Who’s Participating
Are you gathering with people your colleagues don’t know very well, such as representatives from another business or a new client? Introduce everyone when the meeting begins so that everybody knows who is participating (it’s also practical for avoiding comments about individuals that aren’t present).
Conference calling platforms provide a list of everyone present, but it’s useful to establish who is in attendance even if it’s an inter-company meeting (if it involves too many people to list, you can say something general like, “everyone from the marketing department is here”).
Introduce Yourself When You Speak
Similarly, introduce yourself before you speak. This is a constant in any meeting you attend where there are people who do not recognize your voice or face: if you’re going to say something and the speaker before you did not address you by name, make sure everyone knows who you are.
You don’t have to worry about this if the call is audio-only but dress appropriately if the meeting involves video. You don’t have to dress nicely if the situation doesn’t demand it, but it’s nice to look presentable, even if you are taking a call from your kitchen table. If you are presenting information and everyone’s eyes are going to be on you, though, then feel free to step it up a bit.
Stay On Topic
Some meetings benefit from a bit of personal conversation before they begin. Especially with remote teams, everyone taking turns to share something about their weeks can foster team building. If meetings are more common than weekly, though, everyone appreciates when they are as short as possible.
You cannot control what other people say, but you can do your best to stay on-topic and save private conversations for later. Don’t veer away from the agenda. If you are the meeting’s leader or facilitator, then it’s your job to keep everyone else focused on the matter at hand. Steer people back to the schedule when they begin to stray and make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to speak.
Narrate What You’re Doing
Silence can be confusing on a conference call. Is the meeting over? Did the speaker experience technical issues, or did you? Is someone being rude? If you are in a situation where you are preparing to answer someone’s question, just not immediately, narrate what you are doing so that people know how far along you are in the process. Are you looking something up online? Searching for a specific email from a coworker? Say so out loud, or else the dead air will be off-putting.
Schedule Accurately—Don’t Round
Everyone invited to a meeting has to carve out time from their days to attend. It’s obnoxious when you prepare to engage in an hour-long conference call, but it only takes 35 minutes. It’s even worse if you are prepared to participate in an hour-long call… and it lasts 90 minutes. If it’s your turn to put a virtual meeting on the calendar, schedule it as accurately as possible instead of rounding too high or too low.
Be Aware Of Distractions
Be mindful of distractions. Move to a quiet area where there are minimal background noises and visuals that will sidetrack other callers. Remember to keep your microphone on mute when you are not speaking.
Of course, be attentive during every meeting. It’s tempting to doze off when no one is paying attention to you, but it will be embarrassing if someone addresses you and you didn’t hear what they asked.
Listening carefully to everyone else is also a respectful thing to do, and you don’t want to have to ask someone else later what the meeting covered. Conference calls are a common aspect of business, so it’s crucial to practice proper etiquette. What are some helpful manners tips you would like to share?
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