More than likely, you have been a participant on a conference call where you have been unable to catch the full depth of the conversation because of background noise, static on the line or some other type of disruption from one of the other callers. This can be incredibly annoying, (and also certainly validates recording conference calls so that you can play it back and hear what you might have missed), and at times detrimental to the entire call, depending on where the disruption occurred during the call.
Conference calls are extremely important to businesses, and they assist in keeping down costs, so it is important that all participants on conference calls follow "conference call etiquette" in order to ensure that all the business that needs to be conducted during the call can be done in a quick and efficient manner, and that all participants are able to hear and be heard clearly.
For many people who are accustomed to seeing the people that they are speaking to, a conference call will be an experience that is entirely new to them. They will have to take their cues from the verbal interaction of others rather than from expressions and body language. As such, it is important to know what you want to say and perhaps even practice so that you know how you sound when you are proposing your idea or presenting to a group.
If you must temporarily leave a call, it is better to place a call on mute rather than on hold, especially if your company has hold music that will disrupt the call for the entire period that you are away. In fact, it is often a better practice to place your phone on mute for the entirety of the conference call unless you are speaking, as noise in the background of your office might also disrupt the call. This is especially important if you work at home and your children or pets might interrupt during that very important call with clients.
If at all possible, it is always preferable to use a landline rather than a mobile phone or VoIP connection. While mobile phones and VoIP connections are certainly acceptable, there is always the chance that these will drop out, requiring you to dial back in. They also have a higher incidence of background or line noise which can be distracting to the other participants.
It is important to treat your conference call much like you would any in person meeting. This means making sure that all participants are aware of the subject and expected outcomes of the conference call, as well as taking notes and sending a summary to all participants so that everyone has this in hand.
If you are participating in a large conference call and wish to make a contribution, it is polite to introduce yourself before you speak, and perhaps to do so each time you speak, so that other callers can identify you.
Most importantly, if you are conferencing with people in varying time zones, it is important to establish the time of the conference call very clearly, i.e by saying that the call will begin at 3 PM EST.
Conference calls are becoming vital to the day to day running of a business. When used effectively they can increase business, improve productivity and save money for any business.