Are You Muted?

Tired of unproductive conference calls? Annoyed with disruptive participants? Well hold on to your chair because the disruption may be YOU! That’s right. Look in the mirror, my friend, before you point the blame on someone else.

No one enjoys a conference call that has no purpose, where one person does all of the talking, or that seems to go on and on forever. Check your own behavior with this list and Take responsibility!

Are you prepared? Have you read the agenda? Are you on the agenda? Have you written down what you are going to say? Do you know the expectations of the call? Not being prepared and making excuses just creates the need for yet another call. If you have a call on your calendar with no agenda, respectfully request an agenda from the discussion leader. If you are the leader, never send out a call request without an agenda.

Are you focused? If you are the call leader, it is your responsibility to keep the conversation on topic. If you need help with this ask a colleague to help facilitate the call. If you are a participant, take note of your behavior when you are not the one talking. If you are distracted, you may miss an important point and derail the conversation, force the facilitator to repeat the points, and extend the call longer than necessary.

Do you choose your interruptions wisely? Using twitter or chat as a back-channel for communication can be either productive or disruptive. Back-channel conversations may help keep the meeting on track by limiting verbal disruptions and minimizing the distraction to only a few people. Just remember that it takes two (at least) to have a conversation on the back-channel. You may be able to keep up with the conference call conversation AND the chat but the other person may not. Respect their need to focus as well.

Are you muted? Beware of the mute button. If you have not seen the Xerox commercial take a look (I’ll wait). You know now that putting the call on mute and then making snide remarks can be risky business – and a career limiting move. Not only for you if you are alone in the room, but consider if there are other people in the room with you. Just because you have a need to mute the call and have a sidebar conversation does not mean everyone else wants to hear it! Instead, if you feel a need to comment, write it down on a piece of paper and comment later – at a more appropriate time. Or use your back-channel communications. But be careful of your comments – everything is permanent. Consider this: if you need to mute the line before taking…why are you talking at all? If it is not constructive, appropriate, or valuable to the conversation, then what are you really achieving?

Dispersed teams, anywhere workers, virtual and mobil workers all utilize the conference call on a routine basis to collaborate, connect, and stay productive. Make sure the next time YOU are participating that you are contributing value and not just venting your frustration or being the class clown. Your teammates will thank you and you’ll spend less time on boring, non-productive conference calls.

What tips or tricks do you use to make your conference calls a success? Share your thoughts!