Conference Call Etiquette

With all the precautions being taken right now as the Corona virus spreads across the nation and the world, businesses who can afford to do so are asking their employees to work from home.  Doing so comes with a host of challenges, not the least of which is how to communicate with coworkers, colleagues and clients.  At the moment I can’t think of any business whose success doesn’t depend on communication.

For those working from home and unable to meet face to face with their coworkers and the office team, the conference call is rising to new levels of importance.  What better time to remind everyone of how to be a polite and courteous participant?  Here are some guidelines to follow when taking part in a conference call.

  1. Keep track of the dates and times. Not only do you need to make a note of when the call is taking place, keep the call number handy as well as the pin number. You don’t want to be scrambling at the eleventh hour to find that information or have someone on the meeting email to find out where you are.
  2. Call in a few minutes early. Not only does that assure you that you have the call number and pin correct; it also means that you do not delay an on-time start.
  3. If you call in late (Heaven forbid), don’t interrupt the conversation by announcing your arrival. There is usually a ding to alert a new caller. The leader should ask at the appropriate moment who has joined the call. If not, wait for a pause to introduce yourself.
  4. Mute your phone when you are not speaking. You are working from home. Distractions like a barking dog, a crying baby, or the noisy kids who are now out of school should not be an issue for others on the call.
  5. Alert others if there will a distraction on your end of the call. Perhaps the lawn service is about to arrive and will be mowing outside your window during the call. Tell the others that you will hit mute and listen as best you can until noise subsides.
  6. State your name before you speak. You may know some of the people on the call, but don’t expect everyone to recognize your voice. When you are in conference with people from another company, it may alsohelp to state your role, company or location after your name.
  7. Be prepared. Review what is to be discussed so you are ready with points you want to make or questions you’d like to ask.
  8. Pay attention. When you call in, there are any number of distractions: your email, notes on your desk, even worries about what your families and the virus.. Stay focused. Don’t be the one who has to have the question repeated.
  9. Make sure you have good cell phone connection. When you are joining from home, cell phone reception may be iffy. Go to a location in your house where the connection is good or choose a place outside your home, perhaps another spot in the neighborhood.
  10. Define a leader. This should go without saying. The leader sends out the agenda, directs the conversation, keeps everyone on the agenda, monitors the time and sends out follow-up action items.
  11. Save private conversation until after the call. If you need to discuss special issues with another participant, do that after the call. There is no need to waste everyone’s time with a private matter.

Working from home has its challenges, but it is not without opportunities.  I am confident that we will all learn to manage and survive whatever comes our way during trying times.

Lydia Ramsey is a leading business etiquette and modern manners expert with decades of experience and thousands of clients. She offers keynotes and workshops both in-person and virtually. She is the author of several books including the widely-acclaimed Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits. She has been quoted or featured in such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Real Simple, Woman’s Day Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness and Golf Digest. She may be contacted at 912-604-0080 or at