Tips for Minding Your Manners During Conference Calls

Most people know to be on their best behavior during in-person meetings. With so many eyes watching, no one wants to be obnoxious where people can easily call them out on it (though there are always exceptions, of course). Conference calls, however, are another matter. What is a proper conference call etiquette? How can you make sure you are as polite as possible so that the meeting goes smoothly? Virtual meetings can be either audio-only or include visuals, so they are a bit of a gray area. Here are a few tips for minding your manners on a conference call, and hopefully everyone else follows suit:

Be on time, of course
It's rude to be late to an in-person meeting, and it's rude to be late to a virtual one as well. Your entry onto the call could cause a disruption that interrupts a speaker's flow. Being tardy sets a poor impression of yourself if people notice, and if not, someone might ask you a question pertaining to your absence—then everyone is uncomfortable when you are unprepared.

Remember, though: don't ask someone to catch you up on anything you missed if you are unavoidably late. Ask someone privately once the meeting is over to fill you in.

Keep your mic on mute
Whether it's a video or audio call, it's polite to keep your microphone muted when it is not your turn to talk. Doing so allows presenters or other speakers to communicate their messages without distractions or interruptions. Even if you are not intentionally making a sound, there is background noise in the quietest of places, such as papers ruffling or technological feedback that your speakers are not relaying.

Be pleasant
This one should be obvious, but in case not: be as pleasant as possible. Do not sound bored and disinterested when you have the opportunity to chime in. Yes, you might feel like you have something better to do—but it's disrespectful of everyone else on the call if you sound like you wish you were anywhere else. It's not just good manners; the meeting's success may depend on it. Would clients or customers want to do business with someone who doesn't seem to care? Professional relationships might be at stake, and sounding pleasant is easy.

Keep distractions to a minimum
On a related note, keep distractions to a minimum when it is your turn to say something. You don't want chattering kids in the background, or barking dogs, honking horns, or anything else. Do not eat or drink anything besides a sip of water if necessary—you would think this is self-explanatory, but it's worth reinforcing. If you are on-the-go and the sounds of traffic or crowds are unavoidable, be upfront about it and tell everyone where you are and ask them to notify you if you are too difficult to understand.

If you are going to use video conferencing, make sure there are no visual distractions either. Sit at your desk and be attentive; you may think that no one can see you if your icon is small, but walking around your office (or home) doing other things when your camera is on lets people know that you are not fully invested in the subject at hand.

Limit distractions for yourself, too. Do not be the person who is checking social media while someone is speaking and needs a question repeated. If someone sounds bored or the call is lasting too long, that is feedback you can (and should) give the speaker or call organizer later.

Notify people what's going on
It's also good manners to narrate what you are doing during moments of silence but do not want to surrender your speaking time just yet. For example, if you need a moment to look something up, say, “I'm logging onto my computer… I'm googling the answer… Here it is.” This way, people won't assume you've finished and steer the conversation away or think that you are experiencing technical difficulties. Awkward silences can kill a call's mood.

Practice the art of conversation segues
Calls flow more efficiently when everyone understands how to segue from one topic to another or how to signify when it's someone else's turn to speak. To avoid other participants clamoring over each other when you are finished, introduce the next speaker with something like, “Tasha has the numbers to share with you.”

It's also proper etiquette to ask direct questions and address people by name. Doing so avoids confusion, and though it's small, it's a gesture that makes a difference in your relationship with the other person.

Conference call manners are not as well known as manners in other scenarios, so it's good to be as polite as possible and be an example for everyone else. How do you remember to mind your manners during conference calls?

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