How To Make A Successful Conference Call

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Successfull conference calls

Many of us can relate to this quote from Dave Barry: “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”

It’s quite the catch, we’ve all lost hours to wasteful and ineffective meetings, and yet we know that sometimes a meeting is the best way to accomplish our goals. It just can’t be avoided. And thanks to technology and today’s global economy, a new layer of complexity has been added to the meeting equation. Companies often have multiple offices, a travelling sales force, remote employees, etc., so the typical meeting is no longer a group of people in a single room. It’s a conference call.

If you’ve sat through a conference call, the chances are good that you’ve sat through a bad conference call.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Some guidelines and principles can improve these calls, significantly improving their effectiveness and efficiency.

Common Sense Rules

  • If a simple group email accomplishes the goal, don’t waste everyone’s time – don’t call unnecessary meetings.
  • Be on time, and start on time – respect others’ schedules.
  • Pay attention to the person speaking – don’t multitask.
  • Speak loudly enough to be heard clearly – don’t mumble, and don’t shout.
  • During the call – especially when it’s your time to talk – don’t eat.

These kinds of ground rules may seem obvious, but as we all know, sometimes, ‘common sense’ isn’t so common. Don’t be one of these annoying people who ruin Conference Calls for everybody!

Are You the Host of the Conference Call?

  • Keep calls as small as possible – only invite people who really need to be on the calls. For example, have managers on the call distribute the info to their people later. Bigger is not always better, as seen in our blog on the psychology of meetings.
  • Have an agenda – and stick to that agenda. Don’t be afraid to put the brakes on off-subject conversations.
  • Make sure you have a good, strong signal if you’re going to use your mobile phone – otherwise use a landline. Nothing disrupts the flow of a conference call quite like dropped calls from the host.
  • Use a headset or the handset – never a speakerphone. Feedback from speakerphones is annoying to everyone, and speakerphones tend to amplify all of the nearby background noise.
  • Test the conference equipment ahead of time – make sure everything works properly, that the conference call number is correct, etc.
  • The host is responsible for keeping an eye on the clock. Everyone has a schedule to follow – it’s the host’s job to make sure the calls end when they’re expected to end.
  • Have a plan for next steps. For example, end each call with a recap, and then send a short group email with a summary for those who couldn’t attend, along with a clear statement of expectations for what comes next.
  • Be sure to choose the best time and day to host your Conference Call. Different times of the day ad week can have varying impacts on how productive your meeting is, check out our blog on the best time/day to host a meeting.

Are You a Participant in a Conference Call?

  • Introduce yourself, and name those you address. Not everyone will recognise your voice, and the other callers can’t see who you’re looking at – so avoid confusion and use names when appropriate.
  • Speak one at a time. On older phone systems, if more than one person speaks at the same time, the entire conversation is cancelled out. On newer systems, both voices can go through simultaneously, making it impossible to understand anyone.
  • Beware of noise. When you aren’t speaking, mute your phone. Don’t use the speakerphone. Turn off your radio. Keep your pets and children away.
  • Don’t shuffle papers, or carry on side conversations, or type loudly.
  • NEVER put the call on hold. Nothing will ruin a conference call faster than on-hold music!

Let’s talk about the Golden Rule of Conference Calls:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

When you’re speaking, you want others to pay attention to what you’re saying. Give others the same courtesy. Don’t be the person who has to say “I’m sorry, what was the question again?”

It’s a matter of respect – you want it, give it.

Above all, stay calm, be courteous, and be professional. Conference calls aren’t the place for bickering, name-calling, complaining, and the like. If a disagreement can’t be immediately resolved, take it offline. Conversations that are best handled in a one-on-one or face-to-face situation shouldn’t be held during conference calls. Again, the goal is to have an efficient and effective call that is as short as possible – so everyone can get back to their work.

If we ignore guidelines like these, conference calls can be huge wastes of time, serving only to build resentment. But if we incorporate these kinds of ground rules, our calls can be what we need them to be: tools that help us do what we need to do. And isn’t that exactly what we’re looking for? Tools that make us more efficient, and more productive? For more tips on activities and strategies to produce more interactive and engaging meetings, check out our blog here!


Would you like to share these tips with your co-workers? Download our special poster and pin it in your meeting room!

What are your tips to contribute making your meetings more productive, while nicer for everyone?



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