7 Deadly Sins of Phone Conferencing

by Jennifer Miller on November 19, 2012

in Personal Effectiveness

woman talking on cell phone in cityI attend a lot of conference calls. The ideas in this post seem like common sense to me. Because I hear these infractions at least twice a week, it must not be common sense to everyone.

So, I’m spelling it out right here: Some of you are completely clueless about your phone conference ineptitude.

When you participate in a conference call your actions have an impact on the meeting’s effectiveness. Just because people can’t see you does not mean you are invisible. If anything, noise or disruption you make is amplified by the audio-only aspect of phone conferencing.

Here are my top seven pet peeves for phone conferencing:

1. GRPDSSDLDGGConference PhoneGG. That’s the sound of you dragging your Polycom SoundStation Conference Phone across the table because you’ve decided it’s not close enough for you to hear. Conference phones give “acoustic clarity for natural, simultaneous 2-way conversation”.  Well, maybe. They also give those of us on the call a headache if they’re used thoughtlessly. Adjust your con phone before you dial in.

2. Using speaker phones in conference rooms. Sure, it makes sense – get a whole group of you in one place, fire up the con phone and listen together. Here’s where it goes wrong: We can hear you, even when you think you’re being discreet. Your stage-whispering sounds like this:


And then, you add insult to injury by shuffling the papers Right. By. The. Phone.  Please don’t.

one-fte-a-decline-in-meetings3. Calling in from a loud place. I get it – this is a mobile society we live in. But if you call in from the [fill in the blank of obnoxiously loud venue] then you have effectively high-jacked the conference until the meeting leader stops the meeting and asks the person calling from the Blue Angels Air Show to mute themselves. Here’s the thing – you can’t be everywhere all at once. If the meeting is important enough for you to be there, then be there. If not, decline the meeting invite.

4. Not muting yourself. Why, oh why, don’t people use the mute button? If they did, sins 1 – 3 would hardly exist.

5. Not being prepared. If you are asked to do advance work, and you don’t do it, then please don’t torture us with “Um, I didn’t do that pre-work, so I’m not quite sure how to respond. But I have a few questions. What, those questions were answered in the pre-reading? Yeah, but like I said, I didn’t read it ahead of time . . .” This happens at in-person meetings too.  It’s worse on phone conferences, because there’s no way for the offender to see the eye-rolling and perhaps get the message to shut up.

6. Being late. A late-comer causes a small blip in the flow. We can deal with that. But when you are late and then have the audacity to ask questions about topics that have already been addressed? Bold and rude.

7. Multiple call-ins. If you are repeatedly re-joining the call because your cell phone keeps cutting out, you are annoying. At some point, you need to accept that fact that your cell service sucks. You’ll need to a) get to a land line or b)get caught up later.

If you know of someone who’s guilty of any of these sins, have a frank conversation with them before your next phone conference. Or, just send them this blog post.

Consider this my PSA for the week.

You’re welcome.



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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jennifer Miller January 27, 2014 at 3:56 pm


It’s disheartening to hear stories of team leaders who think they are “above” the rules. The irony is that if this leader followed the “rules” more closely, he would have led infinitely more productive meetings.

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