Tips, tricks, advice, and answers for the 21st century global workspace.
Q: Dear Baird’s CMC,
I work out of London, but my job involves weekly calls with my colleagues in India and the U.S. Do you have any tips on the proper etiquette for such conference calls
– Called Out
A: Dear Called Out,
Cross-continental conference calls, which form an integral part of today’s global workspace, are often rife with glitches and mishaps – dropped calls, bad connections, time and date mix-ups, etc. We checked in with our resident conference-call expert, Sam Combe. Sam regularly coordinates calls for our associates around the world, in many different time zones. Over the years, she has had a chance to see what works and what doesn’t. Here are her top 5 tips on pe
rfect conference-call conduct, whether you are the one organising the call or participating in it:
1) Do your prep. Who are the call participants, where they are based, and what is the best number to reach them at? Don’t rely on what you already have on file; oftentimes people are travelling, and the number on file may not be the right one to reach them at. Also, be sure to get an alternate number (preferably, you should have the cell-phone and landline number for everyone). Next, figure out the time differences (and take daylight savings into account). Assuming the call is at 12:00 pm GMT, what local time does that translate to for the participants in various countries? Good links for this are Time Zone Converter or World Time Zones. Lastly, does the call need to be recorded? If so, make arrangements for doing so.
2) Send out call invites and a reminder. Email all participants a calendar invite for the call, and include the conference call number, any codes, and the call time (including the various local times this translates to for each participant). Also provide a number people can reach in case they have any trouble dialling in. A day before the conference call, send out a reminder email.
3) Have an agenda and a call moderator. Select a moderator for the conference call and create a simple agenda for the discussion. Since conference calls don’t allow us the luxury of being in the same space at the same time (while it might be 9 am for one participant, it could be 9 pm for another!), it helps for everyone to have a clear sense of the issues up for discussion. This helps the call remain time-efficient and productive for everybody. The moderator can either email the agenda out to participants prior to the call, or can begin the call by briefly going over the discussion points. Usually, it is also helpful to select a note-taker (so that the main discussion points and next steps decided upon can be emailed out to everyone after the call, including any participants who were unable to attend).
4) Be in a quiet place. During the call, try and be somewhere indoors or noise-free. Being in the middle of a crowded street full of honking horns is not ideal for a conference call…just as it wouldn’t be for an important meeting! If your location is unavoidable, mention it at the beginning of the call and apologise for the inconvenience. Also, be sure to have on hand all the files/information you require for the call, as well as a notepad or laptop on which to take notes.
5) Remember your manners. Say hello, introduce yourself (the moderator can ask everyone to briefly do this). If you will have to leave the call early, mention this at the start of the call so as not to needlessly disrupt the conversation once it begins. Since conference calls don’t allow for visual cues, avoid un-intentionally interrupting others by leaving a few seconds of silence after each person speaks. The moderator can also help lead the discussion so as to minimise people speaking over one another or cutting each other off. Should the call drop off and you are patched back in, wait for a lull in the conversation to re-introduce yourself (though if it is a large conference call with multiple participants, it may be enough to just join back where you left off without further ado).