For my day job, I spend a lot of the time on various calls throughout the day. I could be talking with a client, I could be talking with my coworkers, or I could simply be listening in on a call. No matter the flavor, I’m on the phone a lot.
During my (endless) hours on the phone, I sometimes forget that not everyone’s jobs require them to be on the phone as much as mine does. And thus, I forget that how to take a conference call is not a skill everyone automatically has.
Good news! I’ve decided to share the wealth! Regardless if you are on the phone constantly, occasionally or never while at work, the following tips on how to take a conference call should serve you well.
Be on time (or, better yet, early)
If you’re dialing in to a conference call, chances are that the people you are meeting with are not in the same location as you. It’s easy to tell someone who is in the same building that you’ll be a couple minutes late, but it’s definitely not the same if you are calling in remotely. To be a courteous and respectful conference caller, be sure to dial in exactly on time or a minute or two early. If you’re going to be late (which you should avoid at all costs), email the person leading the call to let them know as soon as you know you’ll be late.
When you join a conference call, your presence is typically announced with a ding or bell on the conference line. Sometimes, you must announce your name before entering the call, but that is not always the case. Whenever you finally reach the line where people are (virtually) congregating, announce your name and, if applicable, your company. If you don’t announce yourself, people may not realize you’re there!
The sound quality of conference calls can be like the wild west. Some phones, speakers and connections are excellent. However, you can’t always depend on yourself or the other people on the call having that luxury. You or they may be on a cell phone with a less-than-stellar connection. Or some participants may be in a conference room with a lot of background noise. Regardless of where you or the other conference call attendees are, speak up! Speak clearly, audibly and annunciate as much as you can in order to ensure that the others can hear you.
Invest in a headset
I’ve tried (and failed) at attending conference calls with just my cell phone or regular phone being held against my ear. Taking a conference call for work is completely different from talking on the phone with friends or family. With friends or family, you can relax, sit back, and enjoy the thrilling conversation. However, on a conference call, you need to be in business mode. This may mean referencing materials, joining a screenshare, taking notes, or shooting off emails while you’re on the call. All of those activities are nearly impossible if you are using one of your hands to hold up the phone. To solve this problem, invest in phone compatible earbuds or a headset.
Do not multitask
I repeat: do not multitask. While an occassional side conversation with a coworker over IM (about the call at hand) may be necessary, do everything in your power not to multitask while on a conference call. This means avoiding email, browsing the internet, chatting with coworkers, or any other thing that might take your attention away from the call. You do not sound professional or intelligent when asked a question right after you’ve been doing some other task while on the phone. My brain literally shuts down when I try to talk on the phone and chat online at the same time, so I’ve stammered over many a questions directed at me, no matter how much I try to avoid the multitasking. Learn from my mistakes!
Ready, set, go!
Once you’ve mastered these tips, you’ll be set to conference call like a boss, even if you aren’t the boss. The more we go digital and the more we don’t need to work in the same physical space, the more likely you will find yourself conference calling. Keep this skill in your back pocket and you’ll be conference calling like a champ at the drop of a hat.