By signing up you accept the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
Career and Interview Tips

How To Run A Conference Call Without Driving Everyone Else Crazy

Conference calls are a fact of life in a distributed team environment, Robert Duffy VP of Engineering at Time Inc. talks to PowerToFly about how to survive them.

With a team distributed across three continents, we make heavy use of audio and video conferencing, it’s part of the daily rhythm of business. In any meeting that requires a group of people gathering you want to make sure that things go smoothly, and that the least amount of time is spent messing with technology or running the meeting. Conference calls are no exception and there are a couple of things you can do to help.

Equipment is key.

Buy the best audio equipment you can afford. Conference calls are about audio and the difference it makes being on a good line vs a bad line is well worth the extra spend. If you are hard to hear it can lose you business or credibility. There is nothing more frustrating than someone on a conference call that sounds like they are talking to you from the inside of a potato. If you are calling from a cell phone the biggest difference you can make is just using the manufacturer’s supplied headphones that have a mic built in.

Trial Run New Technology.

Always do a dry run of new technology before your calls. You don’t want to start using something and have it not work. If you are switching any piece of technology like a new phone, new headset or new conference line, get with a friend or colleague before your calls and try it out. It’s important to find out how you sound using the new equipment, so compare it to the old equipment. We’ve found that different voices work better on different devices, so even if a piece of technology is working for one person it might not work for others.

Speak up, and stay close to speaker phones.

Only use the speaker-phone on your cell phone as a last resort. It’s hard to listen to in a group setting and the microphone doesn’t pick up nearly as much of the conversation as you think it does. If you are going to be on conference calls frequently invest in some of the polycom gear, it’s really good.

Call Etiquette

Know Who is Driving

If your conference calls are anything like mine, you have a short time to get a lot done. It’s important to quickly identify who is driving the call and who will keep people on track. The leader should tell everyone what is going to happen, the call should happen and then the leader summarizes the actions.

If you are the leader, be early and take roll call. Know in advance who needs to be on the call to get the outcome you need. Wait for a quorum but then know you can get started early. If you have enough people on the call, ask someone to chase late-comers down while you make small talk.

Always summarize the next steps on the call and in a follow up email and make sure every action has an owner.

Have Your Intro Nailed.

Most conference calls with new people meeting each other start with “a round of intros”. Have a quick (less than 30s) intro in your back pocket and you’ll be prepared for this if it comes up. Keep your intro short and tailor it to the audience and project. I always like to let people know why I’m interested in the meeting and what I’m looking for.

Stay on mute, until you don’t need to.

Remember to place yourself on mute. There is nothing worse that trying to listen to someone speak while some other caller is typing, driving or trying to eat lunch. If someone else doesn’t mute and disrupts the call, it’s perfectly OK to say “can everyone go on mute when they are not talking”. Remember to take yourself off mute and don’t disrupt the flow of the call by fumbling for the unmute button.

Learn how to Interrupt, Let Others Interrupt You.

Interrupting in person is a bad thing, on the phone it’s a necessity because you can not always read the other person’s body languages. If you are speaking pause often enough for questions so people can ask them.

Beware of group questions.

As a rule of thumb don’t ask group questions when there are more than 5 people. Group questions, that require a round robin response are difficult to coordinate. If you do want to do this, pay attention at roll-call and ask specific people questions rather than “is everyone OK with that plan”, “how is everyone doing this morning”, etc.

Smile, Even When Not On Camera

If you are on an audio-only call it’s even more important to smile. Smiling has a surprisingly large impact in the way you speak. Get in the habit of smiling on the phone, even when you are off camera, haven’t had coffee and it’s 5am. Others on the call will subconsciously hear the difference and perceive you as being friendly and collaborative.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask

Always ask people to speak up, stop having side conversations or stop typing. I once asked a group of executives to spend the next 30 seconds clearing their lunch rather than have the call be disrupted by people shuffling sandwiches and chip bags. Don’t be afraid to ask people to stop doing something or start doing something else — of course do it politely with a smile on your face.

Make Notes of Questions You Have

Cross them off if they are answered so you don’t repeat questions. The odds are high that other people listening on the call will have the same questions as you.

And as always, have fun!


How These Companies Are Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.


[VIDEO ▶️ ] 3 Tips to Develop a Growth Mindset at Work

💎 Looking to boost your career growth? Tune in to catch 3 top tips to develop a growth mindset at work!

📼 Press PLAY to hear tips from Haley Wolf, Manager of the Sales Development team at Lattice. These 3 tips that she's learned throughout her own career, as well as her experience with colleagues, will help you develop a growth mindset at work.

Facebook, Inc.

How to Approach Career Development in a Remote Environment: Insight from Facebook’s Syamla Bandla

Most people have one home town. Syamla Bandla has 13.

With a father serving in the Indian army, Syamla got used to adapting to a new environment every time his role changed and her family moved to a new city.

Diversity & Inclusion

How This Analyst Learned to Serve — and Lead — at NGA

Anne Do was recently visiting her cousin in San Francisco, California, for less than 48 hours. In that time, she made two cakes and a dozen French macarons.

"I told my family, 'You won't be seeing me for a while!' and packed up what I could for their freezer," says Anne, smiling.

Procore Technologies Inc

[VIDEO ▶️ ] Diversity at Work: Procore’s Approach

💎 What does a recruiting process with "diversity at work" in mind look like?

📼 Press PLAY to hear some insights from a recruiter at Procore into what it's like to work at a company that encourages diversity. Cynthia Griffin, Senior Talent Operations Specialist at Procore, shares some tips and tricks to stand out in the recruitment process at Procore.

© Rebelmouse 2020