Watch out! Common Conference Call Pitfalls

As in all types of virtual interaction, there are certain pitfalls in holding a conference call. Avoiding these common problems can make for a much more successful and productive conference call, with all participants having had a pleasant experience. Most of these pitfalls can be avoided with a little common sense and preparation, but participants may have difficulty in applying them, as the conference call does not have any visual cues.

As no one is physically present, there are no visible signs or signals to help people in an ongoing conversation. As there are no visual cues, there is a tendency to interrupt before someone has finished. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to discourage interruptions and also steer the conversation back on track, if it loses focus.

It is crucial that all participants are paying close attention to the proceedings and also actively engaged during a conference call. They must know that the speakerphone picks up sounds and amplifies them, and must be careful not to indulge in anything which can generate noise. If all are not engaged and involved in the call and are busy with their individual activities, the conference call achieves nothing.

It is important that distractions are minimized and participants are wholly interested in the discussion. Muting the phone when others are speaking is a good way of ensuring that no one is disturbed by any extraneous sounds.

Calls on Hold
This is something that happens quite often in any conference call. Someone has to leave the call for some reason and leaves the call on “hold”, which starts the music and seriously ruins the focus of the meeting. If the person is not back for some time, the music plays on and sometimes, someone else may pick up the call which would further disrupt the proceedings.

If someone has to leave the call mid-way, the only thing to do would be disconnect the call. This would ensure that there are no disruptions and when the participant returns, he/she can again join the conference call.

Excessive Noise Levels
It is vital to find a quiet room and use good equipment. Background noise and other distractions can kill the momentum of a conference call, as can equipment which can cause glitches in terms of vocal clarity and static. Constant interruptions due to faulty equipment can obviously ruin the interest and engagement of the participants and thereby completely defeat the objectives of the meeting. Using a full digital duplex speakerphone can reduce the “echo” effect and also enhance voice clarity. Cell phones pick up static and interruptions in service cannot be ruled out. The best phone to use is a normal landline connection with a set of headphones.

Lack of Experience
If hosting the conference call through on-premises equipment, the operator must be familiar with the technology to avoid errors or lost connections. On the participants’ end, speakers who are not aware of proper behavior and protocol can also seriously impede the call’s success. One way to avoid these common mistakes is to familiarize oneself with the technology, as well as expected protocol, before the actual call. Again, the initiator can distribute a list of tips on etiquette and behavior to the participants before the conference call, to help new employees and others to understand the protocol of a virtual meeting.

Ending on Time
Ending the meeting on time is important, otherwise the call tends to digress into irrelevant issues and may cost money for every minute that it goes on. When the conference cal is heading towards its end, the facilitator must say that the meeting is over and preside over the conclusion of the proceedings. He/she must be the last person to hang up, to ensure that there is no one still connected to the call.

Conference calls make for considerable reduction of costs and enable people from different locations to come together for a common purpose. Despite the drawbacks, they are here to stay as organizations become more conscious about cutting down unnecessary expenditure, but still wish to boost productivity and efficiency. If some common sense is applied and norms of etiquette observed, these calls would definitely be successful and become more popular as a method of communication.

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