Minding Your Manners: Teleconference Etiquette
In order for a teleconference to run smoothly, participants must follow certain rules of etiquette while on the call. Follow these guidelines whenever you're involved in a teleconference, and consider distributing them to the participants of any teleconferences you plan (particularly if it's their first teleconference).
Be on time, and stress the importance of being on time to other participants. When someone does arrive late, don't immediately cut into the conversation to introduce the latecomer. Wait until there's a pause, and then simply say, "Sorry for the interruption, but it appears that John Duggan from New York has joined us."
However, you show respect to other participants by letting them know that the CEO of your company has stopped by and is eavesdropping on the conversation, using your speakerphone. You can handle this tactfully with a simple, "It appears that Jim Brown has joined us. Please continue."
Choose a location with little background noise. If some background noise is unavoidable, use the mute button on your phone when you're not speaking. Simply turn off the mute feature when you want to contribute to the conversation.
Select a phone with the handset attached. Cellular and cordless phones often add annoying static to the call. Speakerphones are a pitfall because they pick up a lot of background noise. In addition, when using some speakerphones, you sound as if you're speaking in a tunnel, adding to the remoteness of this communication medium.
Turn off your call waiting. Everyone on the teleconference can hear the beep as someone tries to reach you on another line, which is distracting and annoying.
Identify yourself before speaking. The lack of visual cues makes this practice essential.Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/Gene Chutka
Address people by name when you speak to them. Again, because you have no visual cues, if you simply ask a question or make a remark without indicating to whom you're speaking, other participants may have trouble determining who's being addressed.
Direct questions to a specific person instead of posing them to the audience at large. Doing so helps prevent confusion and helps ensure that your question is met with an answer rather than just silence as everyone tries to figure out who is going to respond.
Never, ever put your phone on hold during a teleconference. Doing so forces the participants left on the call to listen to the music your telephone system plays to those on hold, effectively ruining the discussion. If you absolutely must step away from the call, put the phone on mute and set it on your desk instead.
Do your best to avoid stepping away from the call, because it creates a problem when people try to address you without realizing that you're not there. The most polite thing to do is to let the other participants know that you need to leave the call momentarily. However, you should leave only in an absolute emergency.