Ahhh… the conference call.
If you’re like most of us, you probably find yourself hosting one—or dialing in to one—about five times per week, maybe even more. And with a majority of small businesses reporting that they operate out of their home, distractions during conference calls can be major hurdles to overcome. Whether it’s kids and pets, or loud TVs, and other background noise, conference calls and working remotely don’t always mix.
So, just how important is it to have distraction-free calls? Consider this: not only are they stressful for you, a recent survey found that they can be downright irritating for those on the receiving end—in other words—customers or clients.
When asked to pick the most annoying or distracting things about conference calls, survey respondents named these as the biggest offenders: people talking at the same time (37%), too much background noise (24%), meeting-goers not paying attention (9%), music triggered by someone putting the call on hold (7%), and people talking while thinking they’re on mute (7%). But these distractions are more than just annoying, they can kill productivity.
So, what can we do to make these much-needed calls less frustrating and more productive?
Here are some phone conference etiquette tips that’ll help cut down on the aforementioned annoyances, as well as a few others, so you can take care of business quickly and efficiently:
- Make sure you’re on mute. A recent survey found that more than 85% of respondents experienced a negative impact on their meetings due to noisy distractions, including the inability to get through an agenda, lack of concentration, and lack of enthusiasm about participating. By staying on mute except when talking, this eliminates background noises and also takes care of any potentially embarrassing sounds. It’s bad enough on a call with contractors and peers, but when it happens on a client or customer call, your business image may suffer due to lack of professionalism.
- Never put the call on hold. If you absolutely must step away, which should be done in emergency situations only, just put the phone on mute and go. This takes care of the elevator-music serenade that’s all-too-often inflicted on fellow conference callers. (Be sure to turn your call waiting off, as well, to eradicate those bothersome beeps.)
- Don’t talk over others. With more than a third of respondents reporting multiple people talking at the same time was the most distracting behavior on a conference call, too much jabber is not only annoying, it’s counterproductive. In order to prevent this from happening, wait for an obvious opening, and then identify yourself as you begin talking. Be sure to direct all questions or comments toward a particular person (by name) when possible. This will cut down on any confusion about who is supposed to chime in and when.
- Call in early. We’ve all been on calls in which the organizer stops what they’re doing to announce that someone (or several people) just joined. By being on time, that eliminates the interruption and the embarrassment of being late. If you’re hosting and someone calls in late, don’t stop the meeting to announce their arrival. Instead, wait for a conversation to finish before mentioning that someone new has just joined.
- Send out meeting materials ahead of time. How many times have you waited and waited for the meeting organizer to get their screen-share going? While technical difficulties are sometimes unavoidable, there’s no excuse not to be prepared. Sending out meeting materials to clients or other attendees ahead of time allows for forward momentum until the problem is solved.
- Choose the best online meeting tool for your small business needs. A good conferencing solution should cut down on these potential distractions by including features such as:
- Clear displays indicating whether you’re on mute or not.
- Scheduling assistance, note-taking, desktop sharing, simple file uploading, and chat messaging.
- Ability to host audio, video, and web conferences with anyone inside or outside your organization.
- Control over meeting entry and exit notifications.
- A solution that networks with many partners to create a system of apps and collaboration tools that enhance productivity.