Conference Call Eitquette
By christophersaul on Aug 14, 2005
Conference calls are a necessary evil at Sun. I don't think anyone really likes hosting them or sitting in on them, but it's often the only practical way to update people or discuss issues with a geographically disparate team. I usually come off badly in terms of timing - Dubai is 11 or 12 hours ahead of California, depending on the time of year. This means I usually have the option of getting up for a call at 5 in the morning, or dialling in during the evening at around 7 or 8. This means that if I do have to be on a call, I want it to be worth it. Fortunately the desktop team conf calls are usually straight to the point and are 'well chaired'... For what it's worth, here's my conference call code of conduct. In no particular order, the rules that I try to follow and which I think everyone else should. Some of them are obvious, but that doesn't mean people follow them. If you do follow them I promise conf call nirvana for you and your colleagues. Conference Call Eitquette \* Mute your phone if you're not the one doing most of the speaking. I have no desire to listen to your breathing whilst I get a Tarantella business update, or hear your dog barking during a description of the features of SRSS 3.1, however thrilled Fido might be at the fact we will be supporting Solaris 10 x86 with the next release. \* Keep to the matter in hand. If the point of the call is to discuss Point A, let's discuss Point A and deal with minor details pertaining to a two seat deal in Country X later on. That way Chris can get the salient points, hang up and and go and have his dinner. \* If you dial in late, don't bellow 'HELLO' down the phone and interrupt the call. 'Hello, hello, is everyone there?'. Yes we are here, now please shut up so we don't have to be here any longer than necessary. \* Speak slowly and clearly. I'm bad at this one - I get excited and start rabbiting. This is all the more important when most of the callers don't have English as a first language. People at Sun generally speak excellent English, but using the phone makes understanding a lot harder. Personally I often find that Americans mumble down the phone and even I find it hard to understand them, let alone someone who isn't a native speaker. Or maybe I'm just going deaf. I speak ok German and worse French and would find the equivalent of our conf calls in those languages tough going. \* Be on time for the call. If the call starts at 9, dial in at 8.58, not 9.04. All the beeping you hear when people dial in late makes the call sound like an episode of The Osbournes. If you can make it for 9.04, why can't you make it for 8.58? Some people would be late for their own funerals. \* When asking a question, say the name of the person you're addressing it to. What usually happens is someone asks a vague question and 50 people start answering at once. What works is 'let's introduce ourselves, starting with the SEE region'. What doesn't work is 'Hi everyone, are you all there?' \* Have a 'chairperson'. The chairperson's job is to keep the call relevant and on schedule, even if he or she is not the one doing most of the talking. Rule the call with an iron fist. \* Avoid using speaker phones. If possible, use the handset as it cuts out external noise and increases the volume of your voice. \* Make it clear you've finished what you have to say. End your sentence/question/statement with 'over to you, Dave', or 'that's all from my side' - something to make it clear you've finished. Half the time on calls seems to be spent with people waiting for other people to speak, so you have a minute of silence before everyone starts talking at once. \* Timezones - they exist. It might be convenient for you to have your conf call just after you've got into the office at 9, had a coffee, done some email and chatted to your colleagues, but if hosting the call at 11 means someone's dialling in from their mobile during the beginning of their weekend, wife or husband glaring at them, you're doing something wrong. \* Summarise the key points of the call for those who couldn't attend. Granted, the danger of doing this is that everyone will stop dialling in altogether, thinking they can just get the summary after it's happened, but if people don't see the value of what's being discussed, your audience will inevitably slowly start to slip away over time and eventually you'll be talking to yourself. Over to you, Dave.