Why People Hate Conference Calls

Does anyone like conference calls? These oddly disconnected get togethers have become a staple of business life – and yet you’ll hardly ever hear anyone say, “Gee, that was a great conference call. We really got a lot done!”

Some new research from the staffing pros at OfficeTeam aimed to find out just what makes some conference calls a miserable experience. Their top findings were:

Multiple people talking at the same time — 37%

Excessive background noise — 24%

Attendees not paying attention — 9%

Attendees putting the call on hold (and prompting hold music) — 7%

Attendees thinking they’re talking when they’re on mute — 7%

Most of us have experienced one or more of these breaches of conference call etiquette. They serve to frustrate everyone participating, and to break the flow of communication.

To avoid – or at least minimize – conference call misery, OfficeTeam identifies some common culprits, and makes the following suggestions:

  1. The Late Arriver disrupts the flow when he or she joins after the call has already kicked off. Have the dial-in details ready a few minutes prior to the start time so you won’t be scrambling at the last moment. If you anticipate being tardy, let the host know.
  2. The Noisemaker causes a commotion with loud typing, a barking dog or other sounds that can be heard in the background. Find a quiet location for calls and mute the line when you’re not speaking. Just remember to unmute yourself when you have something to say.
  3. The Multitasker is too busy eating, checking email or reading a report to pay attention to the discussion at hand. Put your other work away and eliminate potential distractions so you can actively participate in the conversation.
  4. The Tech Transgressor is prone to technology faux pas, whether it’s misusing phone access codes or a headset, or accidentally prompting music by putting the line on hold. Familiarize yourself with conference call systems and equipment before dialing.
  5. The Scene-Stealer is known to interrupt or monopolize discussions. Contribute your thoughts, but don’t forget to share the floor. Since there may be audio delays on the phone, wait a beat before speaking to avoid talking over someone.

Of course, one other good suggestion is that companies invest in decent telecommunications equipment and services. They may also consider videoconferencing, (which can be slightly less disembodied and annoying than voice calls).

But these are nonetheless excellent suggestions for how people should comport themselves during conference calls. Our business lives would be greatly improved if conference call participants would just show a bit more courtesy.

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