Monday, January 11, 2010

Common Sense in Conference Calls: Etiquette & Other Tips

I'm no Miss Manners when it comes to etiquette, but a couple of conference calls with groups of lawyers today reminded me that "common sense isn't common." (Will Rogers)

1. Identity Issues. Say your name before you speak. Say it every time until you are certain that everyone recognizes your voice. "This is Elizabeth. I understand that . . . . " "This is Elizabeth again. My question is . . . . "

2. Identity Issues II. If you welcome someone else to the call by saying "Hi Kathy!" be thoughtful. Identify yourself. "Hi Kathy! This is Scott. How is your new year?" If "Hi Kathy!" is followed by a pause then a "Hi", it's a sure bet Kathy didn't recognize your voice or wasn't certain.

3. Breathing Space. Give others on the call room to speak. Think of it as breathing space after they speak. Listen when others are speaking and don't jump in while they are still talking. You certainly notice when other people do that to each other. If you are actively listening, you'll hear what they are saying and know when they are done. You'll acknowledge what they said, add your thoughts and move the discussion forward. If you jump in the second someone finishes, you can be sure they know you weren't listening. Instead you were thinking ahead to what you want to say.

4. Noise. Put your phone on mute when you are not speaking, especially if there is background noise at your end. Be sure to do this if you can't break your habit of allegedly "multitasking".

5. Connection. Call from a land line whenever possible.

6. It's a Meeting. Treat the conference call like a meeting. Start on time. Sign in on time. Introduce yourself. Be gracious and professional with others. Assist the organizer and the note taker. At the end, if appropriate, be clear about who is going to do what by when. Thank people. End on time.

A tip for setting up conference calls: I like to use I don't have any affiliation with this company. I started using it a few years ago and it works for me. It doesn't cost me a thing. The call-in number and my access code always remain the same. I give out the numbers when I organize calls. No reservations are necessary. There is no charge other than each caller pays whatever cost, if any, their carrier charges them for the call. Since most lawyers and groups I work with have monthly calling plans that don't charge for individual calls, there is no separate charge for the call. I or the groups I'm part of don't have to pay an expensive conference calling service fee.

A tip for scheduling conference calls or other events: try or I've used and it has worked well to get lawyers to provide their availability for various potential event dates. As the event organizer, you state the potential dates and poll the participants on the dates. As the participants respond, they can see who is available on which dates and you can all identify the best date more quickly. It's easy, I promise.

Good luck with your conference calls.