Undoubtedly, the age of technology has made our lives and jobs easier, and it’s made meetings much more convenient. However, it’s also easier to let your guard down during virtual conversations and assume that because the other parties aren’t in the same room, you can take a more relaxed approach.
But that’s a dangerous thought. Conference calls — audio or video — should be given the same level of thought and awareness as face-to-face meetings. Whether you’re a manager, employee or job candidate, observing these rules of conference call etiquette will help you maintain a consistent level of professionalism regardless of the meeting format:
Conference call etiquette rules for managers
1. Set up in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare for the conference call. Make sure all the necessary equipment is in the room and properly working. Also gather all of your documents – digital or physical. It’s rude to start the call late because you can’t find a file that you knew would be critical to the meeting.
2. Monitor the audio. If most of the participants will be together in a conference room, another part of conference-call etiquette involves making sure the microphone is ideally placed and audio is set at the proper level. This could entail having a long enough cord to move the mike to and from various areas of the conference room table. Also, be aware that talking while you’re turning around, looking down or leaning over will change the volume and tone of your voice.
3. Avoid interruptions. Anyone who has the potential to barge in and interrupt your conference call should be notified of the meeting so they won’t interrupt you. Also, turn off your cell phone and any other devices that produce disrupting sounds.
4. Unclutter the room. If you’re leading a videoconference, don’t let the background be a distraction. Participants don’t need to see the sales goals on the whiteboard behind you, the teddy bear from Valentine’s Day on your bookshelf, or the empty Chinese food container from lunch.
5. Light the room. Videoconferences also require adequate lighting. Experiment to find the right balance, and if the room is too dark, you may need to bring in a lamp or some other additional source of lighting. Also, some light sources behind you — like a window — create a shadow or halo effect. If you can’t close the blinds, place a desk lamp on your right or left side to counter the backlight.
6. Be inclusive. Unless you’re making a presentation, don’t monopolize the conversation, and don’t allow anyone else to, either. Everyone involved in the call was invited for a reason, so give them time to voice their opinions.
Employers: See our Work Culture & Training Tips for additional advice on creating successful teams.
Etiquette rules for employees/job candidates
For audio calls, employees and job candidates should follow the conference call etiquette outlined above. If your call will involve video, here are some additional tips:
1. Dress to impress. Your attire should be consistent with what you would wear in a face-to-face meeting. Even if you’re at home, don’t shock meeting attendees with your brightly colored Hawaiian shirt. And don’t assume that only the top portion of your body will be seen. More than one individual has been embarrassed to find out later that attendees could see their boxer shorts.
2. Take care with the “set.” Your backdrop is a part of conference call etiquette. Choose a neutral location that does not display personal items. Managers or hiring managers should not be distracted by cluttered desks or dirty laundry.
3. Silence is golden. Even if the main focus is video, remember that your mike could pick up unwanted sounds, like children playing in the next room or TVs and radios playing in the background. Take the necessary steps, including muting the sound when necessary, to ensure that you’re remembered for your responses and not your Golden Retriever’s barking.
4. Mind your manners. Tapping nervously or impatiently on the desk, looking at your watch, checking email, and other types of behaviors can be heard, as well as seen, by the other conference attendees. Make it a point to remain alert and pay attention.
Even when conference call attendees are not in the same room with you, today’s technology can still reveal background sights and sounds. Observing the rules of conference-call etiquette can help you err on the side of caution and project a professional image.
Job seekers: Get more interview tips at our Accounting Careers Center.
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