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Conference call annoyances and how to avoid them

[1]Conference calls are part of many organizations’ business routines.  And, sometimes, part of conference calls are routine annoyances: interrupting co-workers, background noise or the awkward silence that comes from waiting on a caller to speak, only to learn the caller was talking but had been on mute.

Establishing a few essential rules at the start of each telephone or web-based meeting can eliminate many of the issues faced by callers.  Setting expectation involves leadership and follow-through.

There’s a difference between running a meeting and leading a meeting.

Some difficulties in telephone meetings were highlighted in a recent survey by administrative staffing service Office Team.  It found that 37% of office workers said multiple people talking at the same time was the most distracting behavior on a conference call.  Next was excessive background noise (24%); attendees not paying attention (9%); and attendees putting the call on hold and prompting hold music or attendees talking when on mute (7% each).

Up to two-thirds of time in virtual meetings is wasted.  Here are a few simple steps to have more productive meeting by phone or other virtual method:

Know the tools. The meeting leader should be familiar with the teleconferencing platform’s features in advance.  For instance, knowing how to mute callers who are especially background noisy can be critical to having an efficient phone meeting.

Set ground rules.  The meeting leader should, in communication before the meeting or at the start of it, pass on rules such as reminding people to mute their line when not speaking.  Most of the problems with conference calls occur because nobody is setting ground rules and holding people accountable.

Direct traffic.  The call leader should be more than just facilitator.  The person should listen closely, asking callers to repeat words that might have been unclear because of bad reception or background noise.  Also, if the call leader hears multiple voices trying to respond at the same time, the leader should ask one person to talk and then get back to the other person so that all participants are heard.

Use a landline instead of a mobile phone for conference calls.  It is difficult to be persuasive, and irritating for other callers, if you are talking on a mobile phone and not coming through clearly.

Introduce everyone on the call.  That introduction helps to set the agenda for the call and give other an idea of the stakeholders who are taking part.