Are you the Vader?  Conference calls and webinars are a mainstream in business and non-profit worlds, and if you are not participating in them now, you will be.  Here ere are a few conference call etiquette tips.

I attended an American Management Association (AMA) seminar on the topic of managing virtual teams.  The instructor provided a key piece of advice that applies to conference calls – do everything you would if you were in the office, but do more of it.  This is especially true for conference calls since you do not have any visual cues and attendees are subject to more distractions.  Each attendee needs to do this.  Therefore, if you are the lead, be sure that you create an agenda in advance, be sure that attendees have dial in information, and stick to the agenda.  If you are an attendee, your job is to minimize your distractions and be active on the call…in other words, no multitasking <grin>!

Ensure that you have a good sounding phone or headset with a mute button….and use the mute button appropriately!  I have been on countless calls where a question is asked of someone and the response is silence.  The individual did not realize they were “on mute.”  On the other side, you want to ensue you are “muted” when not speaking, especially if you are multitasking, in a noisy environment, tend to make comments about happenings on the call that you don’t intend people on the call to hear, or tend to do ‘the vader.”  “The Vader” occurs when “heavy breathers” appear on conference calls, interrupting the flow of the call and causing discomfort to attendees.  When someone asks who the heavy breather is, no one admits to it, but it magically stops!  “The Vader” typically occurs when someone is off mute and breathing over their microphone on the handset or headset.  It is more pronounced with headset users because the microphone is directly under their nose.

Finally, do not put the call on hold!  I was conducting a nationwide training that was going great.  People were engaged, there was a lot of discussion on the topic, and we were ahead of schedule….until someone put us on hold. The music was so loud that we could not continue the call until I muted all of the attendees lines.  I was lucky that the conference provider had the option.  Had they not, the training would have been a bust.

Keep these conference all etiquette tidbits and you too can avoid “The Vader.”  Check out Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business (J-B Lencioni Series) for practical suggestions that will make your conference calls or meetings great!  Also, check back soon for our webinar on leading effective meetings.