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Please Hold: 5 Conference Call Blunders to Avoid

Please Hold: 5 Conference Call Blunders to Avoid
Credit: RawPixel/Shutterstock

Failure to engage in proper etiquette during a conference call is likely going to make your colleagues want to hang up on you

Talking over others, not paying attention and making too much noise are among the biggest breaches of conference call behavior, according to a new study from the staffing firm OfficeTeam.

Nearly 40 percent of employees in the study said multiple participants talking at the same time is the most distracting behavior on a conference call, while one-quarter said callers with excessive background noise are the most irritating.

Attendees who aren't paying attention, participants who set off on-hold music by putting the call on hold and callers who think they're talking when they are on mute are the among the other top conference-call annoyances. [How to Choose a Conference Calling Service ]

"It's tempting to let your guard down on conference calls because participants can't see you, but basic meeting rules still apply," Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, said in a statement. "To get the most out of these discussions, join on time, offer your undivided attention and be respectful of other attendees."

To help workers exhibit better conference-call behavior, OfficeTeam identified five types of etiquette offenders and how to avoid these labels:

  • Late arrivers: These employees throw off the flow of the conversation by joining the call after it's already started. To make sure you're on time, get the dial-in information in front of you a few minutes before the call is supposed to start. If you know ahead of time you're going to be late, definitely let the hosts know, so they aren't wondering where you are.
  • Noisemakers: These attendees distract other callers with their loud typing, a barking dog or myriad other background sounds. Avoid this label by taking the call in a quiet location and muting the line when you're not speaking. However, be sure to unmute the call when it's your time to talk.
  • Multitaskers: These callers aren't focused solely on the call. Besides trying to listen to what's going on, they're also eating, checking email or reading reports. It's important to put other work away and eliminate distractions in order to actively contribute to the discussion.   
  • Tech Offenders: You don't want to be the caller who regularly makes technology faux pas, such as misusing phone access codes or accidentally prompting music by putting the line on hold. In order to avoid irritating others, familiarize yourself with the conference-call system and equipment before dialing in.
  • Scene Stealers: These callers constantly interrupt the conversation to interject their thoughts. You never want to be the one to monopolize the discussion. While it's important to contribute, don't forget to give others the opportunity to do so as well.Since there can be audio delays on conference calls, try waiting a second before speaking in order to avoid talking over another attendee.

The study was based on surveys of more than 1,000 U.S. workers over the age of 18 and employed in office environments. 

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.